UK is presiding over a 'failed Iran policy' with no plan to deal with hostage-taking or nuclear threat, says senior Tory MP

Exchange comes after row with Tehran over jailed British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 21 November 2017 15:58 GMT
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Tom Tugendhat condemns government for 'lack of policy' on Iran

Britain is presiding over a "failed Iran policy" with no plan to deal with hostage-taking and the nuclear threat from Tehran, the chair of an influential Commons committee has said.

Tory rising star Tom Tugendhat mounted an outspoken attack on the Government's relations with Iran during Commons questions over the conflict in Yemen, where thousands of people have been killed in a civil war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition.

Tensions have also been ramped up with Tehran over the jailing of British nationals, including the case of British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been incarcerated in Iran for more than 18 months on spying charges.

The mother-of-one's fate is still in doubt after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson mistakenly claimed she was in the country "teaching journalists', prompting fears his comments would lengthen her jail sentence.

Mr Tugendhat, who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs committee, raised concerns about both issues during Foreign Office questions in the Commons.

Addressing Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, he said: "Would you agree with me that the situation in Yemen very much points to the fact we have a failed Iran policy?

"We have a capital in Tehran that is taking British hostages, developing missiles, that is threatening its neighbours, destabilising the region and our policy is what? There's none."

Mr Burt said there was "significant policy" in relation to Iran, adding: "Work is going on to explore what opportunities there are for Iran to play a more constructive part in the region, but in relation to human rights sanctions, in relation to criticism about their activities with terrorist groups in the area, and their ability to destabilise the region, the United Kingdom is very clear on its position about that.

"But there is engagement with Iran, which is important both for the United Kingdom and for others and I think the policy of that constructive engagement is actually very clear."

Downing Street said it would consider whether Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be afforded diplomatic protection while reports suggest the Government is considering settling a £400m outstanding debt to Tehran to secure her release.

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