18th January 2023. House of Lords.
My Lords, I add to the condolences and sympathy that others, including the Minister, have expressed to the family of Alireza Akbari and thank the Minister for the tone that he has struck in delivering the Statement and answering questions this afternoon.
Given the role of Iran in executing British and many of their own citizens, in torturing and in oppressing its own courageous people, especially women, and in sanctioning United Kingdom parliamentarians, I pursue the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Polak, as well as many others, and urge the Minister to convey back to his Secretary of State the widespread opinion in your Lordships’ House that the IRGC should be designated as a terrorist organisation. What must happen before that occurs? What must happen before the Iranian ambassador is expelled from this country?
Why have we not stopped the cuts to the BBC Persian service, as raised by the noble Lord, Lord Collins? I repeated many of the sentiments and remarks about this in a debate that we had in your Lordships’ House quite recently on the BBC World Service. As recently as today, I have been told that it will lose at least 2 million of its audience in Iran as a result of the cuts to the radio services to Iran. At this time, that is quite unbelievable. Will the noble Lord not call a meeting with Tim Davie of the BBC, bring people together and ensure that the decision is reversed?
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s first point, as I have already stated, the strength of views on the issue of proscription is very clear and I will take those feelings back to my right honourable friend. I assure all noble Lords that, on every element of the Iranian regime that is acting in this very oppressive manner to its own people and against dual nationals, the trajectory is clear to us. While the protests continue, we have seen ever-increasing suppression and, worse still, executions taking place. On the issue of the BBC, I commend the noble Lord for his persistence and, while we remain fully supportive, I am aware of the challenges that the BBC has faced and the operational decisions that it has made. Sometimes, circumstances mean that it is good to review things and I will discuss the suggestion made by the noble Lord with officials.