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Mr Alexander: One of the profound challenges facing the state of Israel is to recognise that in responding to its immediate security challenges in the region, it risks losing standing and authority in the international community. A younger generation of citizens in the United Kingdom have no memory of the experience of the Israeli state after 1948, when it was periodically threatened by invasion from powerful neighbours. Instead, they have seen in recent conflicts the overwhelming use of military force by the Israel defence forces, which shapes and affects their view of the conflict.

It is important for the Israeli Government to recognise that statehood for the Palestinians is not a gift to be given, but a right to be recognised. It is not simply that Israeli settlements on occupied territory lands are illegal under international law, it is that it is simply wrong to build on other people’s lands. That is why the most recent initiative is so wholly unacceptable, both because of the reality that Israel is building once more on other people’s land, with that land being occupied for military purposes, and because of the symbol that it sends about the seriousness of the Israeli Government to try to make meaningful progress on a negotiated solution. We must break the pattern of periodic conflict, permanent blockade, and episodic attempts at talks. In that sense, of course there is a heavy burden of responsibility on the Palestinians, but there is also a very heavy burden of responsibility on the Israeli Government. My genuine fear is that this latest step in settlement building will be interpreted as being far from positive as to the sincerity of the Israeli Government’s efforts in that regard.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): My right hon. Friend heard the Foreign Secretary say that simply wagging fingers would not contribute to meaningful peace in the middle east. Will he say what UK stance, either bilaterally or with our partners, could make any higher diplomatic or political case than wagging our finger?

Mr Alexander: My hon. Friend raises an important point. How does one effectively seek to influence the conduct of the Israeli Government? One truth that we in this House must confront is that Prime Minister Netanyahu—many of us have had concerns about specific actions he has taken—is probably more popular 10 years after taking office than when he first assumed it. The test for me is not, “Can we make headlines?”, but “Can we make a difference?”, and the test of that is whether actions taken in the United Kingdom, or at European level, strengthen the forces of progress in Israeli society, or strengthen the forces of reaction.

I fully understand the depth of feeling among many Opposition Members about the urgency of finding meaningful ways to influence Israel, and for it to adopt an approach that many of us believe better suited to its long-term interests. But in reality, if we were to take actions that strengthened a narrative in Israeli society that somehow the whole world is against them, that the only people they can trust to defend them are the IDF, and that they can have no security reliant on international agreements but must instead look only to themselves, I fear that far from that leading to the progress we all sincerely want, we would get a further reinforcement of the pattern of destruction and blockade that we have seen over recent years. I am conscious of the anger, urgency and frustration that so many people on both sides of this House feel about making progress, but our

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challenge is about what can make a difference given the discourse in Israeli society, the balance of forces in the Knesset, and the views previously taken by the Israeli Government.

Jeremy Corbyn: During the crisis of the last six weeks or so, American arms have continued to flow to Israel, the EU-Israel trade agreement continued unabated, and Britain, while not exporting a vast amount of equipment to Israel, has continued a military relationship with it. Does my right hon. Friend think that at the very least we should be supporting an investigation into war crimes and suspending military co-operation with Israel while that is going on?

Mr Alexander: We took a different position to the Government on the export of arms—once they managed to sort out what their position was—by saying that no arms should be exported during this conflict, and certainly that no arms should be exported where there were reasonable concerns that the consolidated criteria were not being adhered to by the end user, which in this case was the state of Israel. Of course any allegations of war crimes that are brought to the attention of the United Nations, and others, should be investigated.

On my hon. Friend’s substantive point, the nature of the military relationship between the United Kingdom and Israel is profoundly different to the relationship between the United States and Israel. It is important to nail the misperception that somehow the sustained military aid provided by the United States Government to the state of Israel, based on their long-standing strategic alliance, is comparable in a meaningful way to the export of arms to Israel under tightly drawn consolidated criteria and on a commercial basis by arms manufacturers in the United Kingdom.

When I was Secretary of State for International Development under the previous Administration, I oversaw the largest ever package of aid to the Palestinian Authority. We do not provide any aid to the Israelis as they are a much wealthier nation. The reasons we sent that aid to the Palestinian Authority were twofold. First, of course, we had an obligation on poverty reduction to make sure that we were ensuring a higher standard of living for impoverished people, not just on the west bank but in Gaza. Critically, we also supported those aid payments because we wanted a credible negotiating partner for the state of Israel. If we are serious about matching our words about a two-state solution with deeds, we must continue to make what I recognise are often difficult decisions and choices to continue to support the legitimate voice of the Palestinian peoples, the Palestinian Authority. If we are to be questioned about our aid relationship with the region, the facts are that we do not provide aid to Israel, but we do provide hundreds of millions of pounds to the Palestinians—and rightly so—both in the service of poverty reduction and to ensure a capacity for meaningful negotiations in the future.

John Howell (Henley) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman’s analysis of the situation will come across as extremely one-sided, and as far too dismissive of the role of Hamas in this situation.

Mr Alexander: I am not entirely clear of the basis on which the hon. Gentleman makes his point, but let me reiterate for the record, and so that he can rest assured, that I am unyielding in my condemnation of Hamas,

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both for the indiscriminate killing of Israeli civilians and for the destructive role it has played when we have tried to secure the two-solution we want. Please do not be in any doubt as to where I stand on wanting a unification of the Palestinian community so that we can have that meaningful two-state solution, but I am also unequivocal in my condemnation of the use of rockets as a weapon of war by Hamas and other terrorist organisations operating out of Gaza. There should be no uncertainty or ambiguity about my position.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend say a couple of words about a matter on which I had hoped the Foreign Secretary would have accepted a question from me, particularly as I wrote to him about it only last week? It concerns the terms of the ceasefire agreement in Gaza. We all accept that a long-term solution requires a two-state solution, justice for the Palestinians, security for Israel and so on, but the ceasefire agreement is specific in requiring actions now. One of those actions is the cessation of hostilities, the other is at least an easing of the blockade. Last week the new DFID Minister—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I think the shadow Foreign Secretary has picked up the point. If necessary the hon. Gentleman will have to make another intervention.

Mr Alexander: I hope I have got the gist of my hon. Friend’s point about the lifting of the blockade. Of course we want that, but in reality it will happen only with the agreement of the Israelis, who are ensuring that the blockade is in place at the moment. That therefore requires it to be part of a process, leading to the kind of meaningful negotiations of which I have spoken. After a previous conflict, one reason why I travelled to Gaza and Israel was to urge the lifting of the blockade, which at the time was affecting humanitarian supplies—not just access for humanitarian workers, but the most basic essentials of life in Gaza. Similarly, we need a dynamic process whereby we can get the blockade lifted and return to a greater degree of normality in Gaza, while at the same time have the kind of meaning negotiations of which I have been speaking.

I wish to make some progress, because I am conscious that many hon. Members want to speak. As I said, the north African region was the birthplace of the Arab uprising, and across the region countries are still struggling to address the consequences. Of course, although some might face similar problems, each north African state is different and distinctive. In Tunisia, the Government and the people continue to work towards a political settlement that can move the country forward. High unemployment and sporadic violent clashes on the streets continue, but the prospect for long-term political reconciliation remains strong, and the international community must unite around supporting elections to take place later this year.

The situation in Libya stands in marked contrast to the story of Tunisian progress. The intensification of fighting near the capital Tripoli has led to calls for an urgent and immediate ceasefire and the Libyan Cabinet submitted its resignation en masse to Parliament, which is today taking refuge in a ferry in the city of Tobruk after being forced out by the Tripoli militias. The UK

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Government issued a joint statement on 25 August saying that outside interference in Libya would exacerbate divisions and undermine Libya’s democratic transition, but given the deteriorating security situation, I am sure the Foreign Secretary would agree that if the opportunity for real political reconciliation is to be seized, the UK, along with our allies France, Germany, Italy and the United States, have a responsibility and role to play. It is vital that international partners continue to encourage all sides in Libya to engage constructively in the democratic process, while continuing our active backing of the UN support mission there. The UN Libya envoy arriving in Tripoli on Monday said it was a society that was fed up with conflict. We know that the people of Libya want the fighting to stop; now we need to see Libya’s political leaders taking action to resolve this crisis.

I will speak briefly about Iran. In an already volatile region at a particularly perilous period, a nuclear-armed Iran poses a threat not only to its neighbours, but to the stability of the whole region, so the agreement in November 2013 to curb enrichment and grant greater access to inspectors was a significant step forward and one that we welcomed. As many Members across the House have acknowledged, however, the strength of the agreement will be tested through its implementation. In recent weeks, the talks between the P5 plus 1 have clearly stalled over disagreements on the purpose of Iran’s nuclear programme. The deadline to overcome these difficulties is fast approaching, so as meetings take place in New York later this month, the international community must remain focused on securing a comprehensive deal.

Until Russian troops violated the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine in 2014, no country had seized the territory of another European country by force since 1945. The recent ceasefire deal agreed last week was therefore a welcome sign of progress, but given the continuing potential for catastrophic misunderstanding or simply misjudgment on the ground, the priority must remain de-escalation. Russian troops must return to their bases, President Putin must cease his backing for separatist militias and the Kremlin must stop the flow of arms and personnel across the Russian border into Ukraine. Until then, Europe must continue to be explicit about the real costs and consequences for Russia if it fails to de-escalate the crisis.

Only a graduated hierarchy of diplomatic and economic measures can help President Putin to change course. That is why I welcome all the steps agreed last week at the NATO summit in Wales, specifically with regard to the reassurances given to NATO’s vital eastern European members and partners. In the face of renewed Russian aggression and the re-emergence of territorial disputes on the continent, the need for NATO to revisit its stated core purpose—securing a Europe that is whole, free and at peace—has been brought into stark relief.

This debate could not cover several other pressing issues that have rightly been the focus of the Foreign Secretary’s effort since his appointment. No doubt today the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary will cover in more detail some of the domestic aspects of security and counter-terrorism. As the Leader of the Opposition made clear on Monday, the Government must now demonstrate a clear-eyed understanding that

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wherever our interests lie, we need a strategy that combines military readiness with political, diplomatic and strategic alliances, and in their efforts to develop and advance such an approach, I hope they will continue to enjoy our support.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We will start with a seven-minute limit, which means we should get everyone in, but if we can help each other, it will make a difference. I call Sir Richard Ottaway.

2.4 pm

Sir Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the shadow Foreign Secretary—I agreed with virtually everything he said.

Originally, the NATO summit was primarily to deal with the future of Afghanistan after the withdrawal of ISAF forces, but two issues that threaten the world order dominated the agenda: first, the risk posed by Islamist extremism, and secondly the long-term implications of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The Syria vote last August left a vacuum in the world order, but no one predicted that ISIS would conquer large swathes of Syria and Iraq and impose terror, or that Russia would invade Crimea and directly fuel a bloody civil war in eastern Ukraine. Both crises, although unexpected, are not just regional conflicts and both threaten the security of Europe. The hybrid war led by Putin and the Islamist terror imposed by the jihadists cannot be tackled with traditional responses.

The Ukrainian crisis is a wake-up call for the west. Russian imperialism and revisionism are back. We have tried to address it with diplomacy, but clearly it has not worked, so we have imposed sanctions. However, not every country has complied with the new rules. Spain, for instance, is still allowing the Russian navy to refuel in Ceuta. The bans and asset freezes have now been escalated, but we must be ready to take more hard-line measures. Even France has decided to stop the delivery of the Mistral warships. The City of London and Russian transactions should be our next targets. As Edward Lucas, senior economist for The Economist and a witness before the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the other day:

“The City is a fifth column in this country and it lobbies very hard against restrictions on the import and laundry of dirty money here.”

This has to end. The City cannot be allowed to get away with it.

Sanctions only, however, will not deter an irrational and unpredictable Vladimir Putin, who reportedly said that

“if I want, I will have Kiev in two weeks”.

We must show more solidarity with countries in the vicinity of Russia, especially now that Russian forces have crossed the border and kidnapped an Estonian officer. I welcome the Prime Minister’s reassurance on Monday that Estonia is a red line for NATO.

Perhaps we should forget about the NATO-Russian Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Co-operation and Security and install permanent NATO bases in the member states that were once part of the communist bloc. Russia itself has breached that agreement by

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annexing Crimea and intervening in Ukraine. We must not forget about Ukraine. Kiev needs our reassurance, but mostly our money to contain a severe economic crisis. The freeze of the conflict in eastern Ukraine could end up in another no man’s land being influenced by Russia, like Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia or Moldova’s Transnistria and Gagauzia.

The second major threat is from Islamist extremism. ISIS is a manifestation of the brutal and poisonous extremism that has developed in the middle east, north Africa and the Sahel. It has been thriving on the sectarian violence triggered by the polarising Shi’a Government of Nouri al-Maliki. In addition, the fight against Assad has strengthened the jihadists. Islamist warriors from all over the world, including the UK, have joined ISIS in its crusade to topple the Syrian dictator. Cash, too, has flooded in from wealthy Gulf donors. However, I completely accept the word of Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al-Saud, the hugely respected Saudi Arabian ambassador to London, when he denies his Government’s involvement.

The suspicion remains, however, that shadowy middle eastern figures are funding terrorism, and the UK has been leading efforts to halt that flow. I welcome the UN resolution, drafted by the UK and adopted by everyone, threatening sanctions against ISIS financiers and weapons suppliers. However, ISIS does not rely solely on that money; it has been flourishing on smuggling, extorting taxes and ransoms, plundering and selling oil from invaded territories.

Sir Nicholas Soames: Is my right hon. Friend aware that at a meeting tomorrow in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, hosted by the Saudis, the Gulf states, with John Kerry present, are to decide how best to move forward in the fight against ISIS? Does he agree that they have a perfect chance to show, through bold and decisive action, that they will not tolerate what ISIS is doing and well understand the need to deal with it?

Sir Richard Ottaway: I completely agree with my right hon. Friend and I welcome that meeting. Indeed, he pre-empts my next remark. ISIS must be stopped and defeated, and I for one will support the Government’s plan to join the United States in air strikes if they decide to do so.

Rehman Chishti: On air strikes, ISIL and Syria, my right hon. Friend will be aware of the words of Robert Ford, the former US envoy to Syria, who said that the current international policy on Syria does not reflect the reality on the ground. That being the case, does my right hon. Friend agree that the international community now needs to review its policy on Syria?

Sir Richard Ottaway: I have to confess that I rather agree with the Foreign Secretary that Syria is very much a different case from Iraq. We have to be guided by those in the Foreign Office who are closer to the ground and to the intelligence that has been received on the ground.

The focus should now be on Iraq and then we can think about how to address the situation in Syria. However, to be frank, a western intervention will not magically solve the problems on the ground. There is a need for Arab countries to join the coalition of the

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willing to step in and confront ISIS militarily and politically. A huge rift has arisen between the Sunnis, the Shi’as and, to a degree, the Kurds. The ISIS surge is fuelled by a Sunni uprising, but in truth the Sunnis are not fans of ISIS. In my view, they would ditch the jihadists once a “Sunnistan” was established. As ISIS is hostile to everybody, I predict that it will have a relatively short life, but eventually I think these developments will result in a Kurdistan in the north, a “Sunnistan” in the west and a “Shi’astan” in the south.

However, the threats posed by a revanchist Russia and an extremist ISIS are not the only ones currently facing the world—although they are the most pressing. The internet and modern methods of communication have enabled local and regional extremisms to flourish. Thanks to them, we are witnessing a wave of global tribalism, starting with the Scottish referendum in our own backyard. In times like these we realise how much we depend on our international alliances to address present and future risks.

Over the summer recess, we heard a lot from bishops and generals, who gave us the benefit of their views. The Bishop of Leeds is a great friend of mine. Indeed, he was the best bishop that Croydon ever had, but to accuse the Government of lacking a strategy towards the Christians stuck on a mountain in Syria is, I think, the wrong approach. Our strategy is to have an Army, to be a member of NATO, to be a member of international institutions and then to react when the circumstances arise. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children wants children to be saved; Médecins Sans Frontières wants more health services. These are single-issue lobbying organisations. I think the Churches should recognise that. Again, that goes for the generals who on numerous occasions called for Parliament to be recalled to bomb anywhere they could think of. In this area the only people who can make policy are those who are prepared to seek election and to stand on a platform to defend it, not those who sit in armchairs.

2.13 pm

Mr Jack Straw (Blackburn) (Lab): I draw to the House’s attention the fact that I am co-chairman of the all-party group on Iran and also co-chairman of the British-Turkish Forum.

I begin by echoing the sentiments expressed by my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary to the Foreign Secretary—a great post that I hope he enjoys. I always felt it was living history, but I had echoing in my head the words of Henry Ford: history was “one damned thing after another”. So it was for me, and so I think it will be for the Foreign Secretary.

John Maynard Keynes famously said:

“When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

The information on Syria has changed. The Assad regime is not going to go and, with respect to the Foreign Secretary, I did not really feel that he was any more convinced than we were by the answer he gave. The situation has simply changed. I would not put any money on that regime now going, and if we want to deal with the greater evil, in my view there has to be communication—not a re-establishment of relations—with it. I firmly believe that those in the Government should follow up the entirely sensible suggestion from their hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) and many others in this House that we need to see a

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restoration of the Geneva arrangements and, critically, we need to see Iran brought into that process as well, because there will not be a solution to the problems of Syria—and therefore to the problems of Iraq—without that regional agreement, which yes involves Turkey, but also has to involve Iran. With respect to the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Sir Richard Ottaway), we will not get a solution in Iraq unless we solve Syria as well, because that border is so porous.

Iran has played a constructive part in trying to defeat ISIL and in securing the necessary change in Iraq. The US Administration, as is well known, have been in direct communication with the Iranians and, according to well sourced reports, are now doing all they can to reach agreement with Iran in the P5 plus 1 talks on the nuclear issue. I greatly welcomed the acts of the Foreign Secretary’s predecessor in agreeing in principle to reopen the embassies in Tehran, but those were promised for May. They were pushed back to August and they have now been pushed back to some other date, yet to be defined. I ask the Foreign Secretary: why is this? I know the Iranians are not the easiest partners—a feeling which, I should say, is reciprocated by them—but the Administration in Tehran are under domestic pressure. They have a population desperate for links with the west, and if we build a partnership with them, we can do a great deal more than we have.

I hope, too, that the British Government will abandon their view that we should try to punish Iran through trade. We are the only Government doing this. As US-led sanctions against Iran were being tightened, guess what? Hard-nosed as ever, the United States was increasing its exports to Iran, to the benefit of its farming and its pharmaceutical companies. In Britain, we have been punishing our own companies—nobody else—by ensuring that trade with the Iranians plummets.

Daniel Kawczynski: I completely concur with the right hon. Gentleman on that point. A Coventry-based company has worked with the Iranians in the past to produce their national state car. That company would like to do much more work with the Iranians, but because of these policies it is impossible to do so.

Mr Straw: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. The United States has gone out of its way to assist its own companies to ensure that they exploit, as widely as possible, the provisions in the sanctions regime—including those that were extended in the agreement with Iran of 24 November last year—and take up these opportunities, and western European countries are doing the same. Why is Britain failing to take these opportunities?

Alistair Burt (North East Bedfordshire) (Con): I will be very brief. Just before history gets completely rewritten, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he thinks that pressure on the economy in Iran played any part whatever in bringing Iran back to the negotiating table to talk about its nuclear file?

Mr Straw: I am absolutely certain that it did, but the sanctions, led by the United States, allowed for the export from the west to Iran of agricultural products, food products and pharmaceuticals. Those concessions were exploited by the United States and western European

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countries. It is only the United Kingdom that has added to those sanctions, through additional, gratuitous efforts that simply hurt United Kingdom companies, not Iran.

Let me now turn to Israel and Palestine. Like everybody else in this House, I have no brief whatever for Hamas. It was I who introduced the Terrorism Act 2000 and then, as soon as it was on the statute book, ensured that Hamas, along with 20 other terrorist organisations, was proscribed as a terrorist organisation. I was right to do that then and it is right for it to stay as a terrorist outfit. Hamas breached every rule in the book by launching rockets against the civilian population in Israel, but, as the Foreign Secretary said, that cannot conceivably justify the wholly disproportionate response of the Israelis in allowing 2,000 mainly innocent men, women and children to be killed in the way that they did. Whatever they say, they did not have a care for the civilian population.

Now, as we have heard, the Israelis have decided to annex over 1,000 acres of Palestinian land near Bethlehem. I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary on their strong words—this was “utterly deplorable”, according to the Prime Minister, and illegal under international law—but what I ask is, what are we going to do about it? I say, with respect, that the Israelis do not care what is said by any western European Government. I used to think something different, but it is not the case; provided that this more right-wing and more extreme Israeli Government have the United States Congress in their pocket, which they do, they do not care about sentiment here. They would care if we were to do what we should be doing, which is to ensure that goods produced in the occupied territories with the label of Israel are treated like any other counterfeit goods and subject to strict rules and additional tariffs.

I am not in favour for a moment of generalised boycotts or sanctions against Israel, but I am in favour of an EU démarche on Israel to get it to pull back—and if it does not do that, we should withdraw our ambassadors and temporarily downgrade our diplomatic arrangements with the country. I am also strongly in favour of recognising Palestine as a state with a formal status in the United Nations. All the things that Israel said would happen if we were to do this have happened anyway—and with a vengeance.

Let me turn to the issue of Russia and Ukraine. I support the approach that the Government are broadly taking in respect of Russia. The brutal truth is that, at the moment, Vladimir Putin believes that he is winning by his own calculus, because he has more to gain than to lose in the region than the west does. The annexation of the Crimea is now a fait accompli, but I believe that over time these sanctions will hurt Russia. It is significantly economically weaker than we are. Its economy is half our size for a population twice our size, and it is over-dependent on energy. As well as maintaining sanctions, we must work out what we can legitimately offer Russia in the final negotiation and, above all, we must start to reduce Europe’s over-dependence on Russian hydrocarbons. That is what lies behind Russia’s belief that it can win. It must not be allowed to do so.

2.22 pm

Mr Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): This debate covers four of the most complicated, most grave and serious threats to our well-being and security that this

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country has faced for a very long time. I congratulate those who spoke before me on their brilliance in covering all four topics in such restricted time. Three quarters of an hour is not really long enough to do so from the Front Bench. I know my limitations; I have strong views on all four, but I propose to confine myself to the problems in Iraq and Syria and to jihadist extremism, which is probably, in a competitive field, the most current and pressing problem and the most dangerous situation that we face at this very moment.

It seems to me that a great deal of attention is being paid, outside the House and in this debate, to whether or not the Government will be supported if they decide to use armed force and take part in the air strikes in which the United States is currently engaged. That is a very important question, but in my opinion it is somewhat putting the cart before the horse to make that the main question. An answer to that question depends on all kinds of other things being satisfied.

I suspect that my view coincides with that of the vast majority here—that we would of course support the use of British armed force if it was essential, unavoidable, in support of some crucial national interest and in pursuit of some well thought out and credible policy objective. We should have learnt in the last 15 years—when on the whole, American and western policy in the entire middle east has been a catastrophe—that leaping into military activity without a well-judged policy, a well-judged diplomacy and a well-judged strategy has contributed to the extraordinary state of anarchy that has now broken out across the region.

Those problems were not caused by our military activity or by our armed forces; they were caused by the disastrous politics of the decision to invade Iraq for rather naive ideological reasons as far as the Americans were concerned, and rather contrived and almost bogus ones as far as the British and some of our allies were concerned. We have not achieved striking success in the odd ventures we have made in the use of military power occasionally in north Africa and the middle east since. Before we use any armed force, we need to know exactly what medium and long-term strategy lies behind the politics of the immediate steps that we are going to take.

One thing I greatly welcome in the Foreign Secretary’s excellent speech was what I thought was his pretty clear undertaking that we would not take part in any military action without a debate and without the approval of Parliament. It is possible to contrive a rather childlike version of our constitutional position and say that the royal prerogative controls the use of military forces. That is very attractive to Governments who are a little uncertain of their majority in the House of Commons when they want to take action.

It is true that if there is a sudden surprise attack on a British possession or on the British military, the Prime Minister can use the royal prerogative to respond instantly, without having to wait to recall Parliament, and to order his troops to defend themselves against whatever the threat may be, but the idea that we work out with our allies a comprehensive policy and strategy and then join in military action in support of it without a pretty convincing vote of approval from the House of Commons would certainly be a political outrage. I think that it would be of very dubious legality too.

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Mr Gray: I intend to return to the point that my right hon. and learned Friend is making in my subsequent remarks. However, does he agree that over the last 1,000 years, the House has had only two such votes before action has been taken? The first such vote was over Iraq, which I think we are all agreed was a disaster, so a vote in the House of Commons does not necessarily lead to a worthwhile war. The second was this time last year over Syria. All the other wars—the Falklands, the Gulf, the first world war and the second world war—were conducted by the Prime Minister and the Government without approval of the House of Commons.

Mr Clarke: I am grateful to my hon. Friend—and I am sure the research behind his point will be checked—but I really think that in 2014, in the circumstances of today, to assert that the Executive has the unfettered right to take part in military action without getting the approval of the House is simply indefensible. I would personally be outraged by it.

Mr Redwood rose—

Mr Clarke: I can give way only one more time, so I shall give way to my right hon. Friend.

Mr Redwood: I am grateful, but surely the point is that on the previous occasions of great wars, the House was in agreement, so there was no need for a Division. If the Opposition had opposed the decision, there would have been a vote.

Mr Clarke: I hope that on this occasion, too, we could reach such a political consensus in the House of Commons and across the country and that our debates about the use of armed force would lead to no significant division. That would be an ideal outcome, but I think that a controversial use of military force in yet another attempt to intervene in the Arab spring—whether it be this time with Shi’ite allies, this time with Sunni allies or this time with whatever outrageous group has emerged—requires a vote.

In principle, I am all in favour of using military force when it is unavoidable and in the vital national interest. I agree that ISIL is one of the most barbaric and outrageous organisations that has emerged on this planet for some considerable time, so I have no moral scruple whatever about the proper use of military force against them. I would like to see them degraded and destroyed. However, when the House votes and debates this sort of action on whatever occasion, experience shows that we must now have a much clearer idea of our objective. Our objective is not only to protect our security; it involves consideration of what will contribute to the restoration of stability and normality across the region. It means consideration of what will command the support of sane Muslims, sane Shi’a and sane Sunni; what will get sufficient support from the regional powers, as well as from the western powers; what kind of order we are trying to put in place. I hope that that does not get narrowed down to consideration of whether or not we should join the Americans in air strikes on particular installations before or after the mid-term elections in the United States.

John Kerry is engaged in a vital mission which goes to the heart of what I have just said. He is trying to put together a regional alliance. In that regard—I agree

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with those who have hinted at this—we have to rethink where we are starting from. A regional alliance must include some people with whom we have been enemies, and with whom we have very serious issues on other fronts, because the widest possible support is required.

The key players, obviously, are Iran and Saudi Arabia. They are the two great powers of the region. Many of the troubles have actually been caused by people acting as proxies for the interests of those two states. They have far more influence on the ground, and on events, than we in the west are likely to have. They know far more about what is going on. I have been a member of the National Security Council for the last two years, and I know the limits of our actual knowledge of events on the ground in this region. I know that we are constantly surprised by the latest utterly extraordinary and unpredictable turn of events that sweeps over what we have done. With Iran go Assad and Hezbollah, which is a close ally. The Shi’ite militias in Iraq, which we call the Iraqi Government, are also very influenced by the Iranians..

We just have to accept—without in any way resiling from our criticism about getting involved—that the Saudi Arabians really must deal with the Qatari problem of the people whom they support, and also—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) said a moment ago—make absolutely clear that they are not supporting, in any way, fringe groups which, in the long term, are as much of a danger to Saudi and Gulf interests as they are to our own.

Turkey is a vital player. It is still the nearest that we have to a moderate Islamic Government. It has huge direct interests; it is threatened; and it is essential to have at least its complicity in what we do, and, I would hope, its support as well. Egypt is also a vital player. It has recovered from the outrageous threats of the Arab dawn by restoring political dictatorship, but it is nevertheless a key player. Russia must be kept onside, because it is also of influence.

I am not sure that the states of Iraq and Syria will ever exist again as we know them, but I do think that we need a political strategy in order to ensure that some kind of long-term stability will replace the anarchy that we have helped to create so far.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has used up his time.

2.32 pm

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): I agree with the Government that it would be a folly for western powers such as Britain to barge in, cowboy-like, and lead the fight against ISIL; but we do have unique military, surveillance and intelligence capabilities which those on the front line do not have, and which should be deployed if—and only if—they request it. That has been the case in northern Iraq with the request from the Iraqi Government, the Kurds and the minorities which risk extermination by ISIL, and—very significantly, if covertly —from Iran. The fact that Iran has given its de facto blessing to US air strikes is of seismic importance. It opens up an opportunity for future engagement and collaboration which could be transformative for the

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whole region, including, possibly, Israel-Palestine. We also agree on the need to help local Iraqi and Kurdish forces to defeat ISIL by air strikes, supplying military equipment and other military and intelligence support, which has clearly been the only force capable of stemming ISIL’s remorseless and ruthless advance.

That brings us to the elephant in the room: Syria. ISIL will not be defeated if it is constantly allowed to regroup there, because it is from its Syrian bases that it has launched into Iraq. It must be confronted and defeated in Syria too, and, like it or not, that means engagement with the Syrian regime. No one disagrees that Assad is a barbarous, blood-soaked dictator; but he heads the Syrian Government, and he is backed by approximately 40% of the population. Surely, by now at least, the United Kingdom Government and the United States must acknowledge that he is not going to be defeated—not because the Prime Minister was prevented by this House from getting his way with air strikes and, before that, with arming Assad’s opponents, and not because the House said no to pulling Britain into the quagmire of the Syrian civil war, trapped between Sunni and Shi’a, between ISIL and Assad, between Saudis and Iranians in their proxy conflict. Contrary to the line peddled, regrettably, by the Foreign Secretary today, there is no prospect of achieving a transition in Syria without negotiating with Assad and his regime, especially with Russia standing behind it. Our failure to understand that is a major reason why the civil war has been so prolonged, and why ISIL has been allowed to flourish.

Mr Redwood: What kind of morality is it that says that if a bully is a successful bully, we should want to be friends with him, and completely stand on its head the policy of trying to get rid of him?

Mr Hain: It is not about befriending Assad; it is about the reality of moving forward. If we do not recognise the reality, we will not move forward, but will continue to shout and scream and oppose to no effect at all.

Rory Stewart: The right hon. Gentleman seems to be arguing that Bashar al-Assad’s main incentive for working with us is the fact that we are worried about terrorism on his eastern frontier. Why would he co-operate rather than leaving those terrorists there, given that they now provide the main underpinning legitimacy of his regime? Why would he work with us on this, sincerely?

Mr Hain: Let me come to that, and explain.

The Prime Minister has described President Assad as “illegitimate”, implying that Britain and the United States could act in Syria with impunity. Surely that position is legally questionable, given that Assad won recent—admittedly highly manipulated— elections, and given that the divided rebel factions do not constitute an alternative Government. Russia, Assad’s ally, would be likely to veto any attempt to gain United Nations authority for air strikes, and Assad can deploy sophisticated Russian-made air defence systems and fighter planes. His air capacity may have been degraded, especially over the parts of Syria that he no longer controls, but it is still formidable. I simply do not see how we could mount air strikes—as I believe we must in Syria if we

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are to degrade and help to defeat ISIL—without engaging with the regime in some way. That does not mean befriending Assad, and it does not mean legitimising his regime in any way. It could mean back-channel contact. But whatever the means, a way must be found to clear the path for air strikes. We should also have to engage with Iran, and with Russia—which, again, will be difficult, especially given Putin’s behaviour in Ukraine, but which is, in my view, essential.

The Government know full well that I have been a consistent critic of their Syria policy. I have described it as ill-conceived and ultimately counter-productive, as, indeed, I believe events have proved it to be. However, we do not have to agree on that to find common ground over the urgent need for us to act in order to tackle the barbarous mediaeval threat of ISIL, and to act now.

As for Ukraine, I think that Europe’s and NATO’s further push right up to Russia’s front door is ill-advised. Western political bluster, military bombast and tit-for-tat sanctions will not resolve the problem. Why not instead press for a negotiated agreement, however difficult? Under such an agreement, Ukraine would be militarily neutral, which would mean no membership of NATO, and certainly no Russian military pact. Ukraine’s status would be comparable to that of Finland, but, obviously, without membership of the European Union. It would be guaranteed by Moscow and Washington. There would be no further NATO encirclement or enlargement around Russia’s borders, in return for no illegal or aggressive moves by Russia in Ukraine, Moldova or any of its other neighbours. I think that that should be part of a geopolitical deal with the European Union too, in which it, like NATO, would recognise limits to its eastward expansion. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I am now being cheered by the Eurosceptics whom I continually oppose, as a pro-European, but I still believe that that is the right policy.

Europe’s March 2014 agreement with Ukraine should be revisited, to offer a reciprocal agreement between Russia and Ukraine with guarantees for Moscow on both trade and political co-operation. Trade and co-operation agreements with those countries—including Ukraine—is desirable, but not full European Union membership. I believe that such a strategy offers a far more promising route to ending the current mutually damaging conflict that has engulfed Ukraine; but, again, it does not mean treating Putin as a buddy. It does not mean endorsing his nakedly manipulative aggression, his authoritarianism or his shameful human rights record. It simply means acknowledging that Russia’s backyard matters greatly to it, just as ours does to us. Then we might be able to build stability and peace in that region.

As will be apparent, I have big areas of agreement with the Government’s approach but big areas of disagreement as well, especially on Syria and the whole approach to the middle east region, and also in terms of Russia and Ukraine. I do hope the Government will think again about these matters. I think there is a prospect of moving forward in both areas. It is going to be very difficult, and there will be all sorts of setbacks, but I am confident—I am absolutely certain—that pursuing the policy we are currently pursuing will bring no practical and positive results at all.

Several hon. Members rose

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Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. The House will be only too well aware of the high demand for time to speak and the low supply of time available. I must therefore reduce the limit on Back-Bench speeches to six minutes.

2.40 pm

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border) (Con): We gather here today on the eve of a vote in Scotland that could tear the United Kingdom apart after 300 years together, and the question for us—whether in Scotland or in foreign policy—is: are we proud of ourselves? Are we serious?

We look around the world, from Kabul to Tripoli, from Damascus to Baghdad to Kiev, and we see the wreck of international foreign policy over the last 20 years. So lamentable is that wreck that it is hardly worth holding the House’s attention to list the fiascos that we see today. The Afghan economy has gone into a 40% contraction since January this year, and the two Presidents are in a stand-off on the basis of ethnic divisions, and it has not even been raised seriously in this House. In Tripoli, the Misrata militia have been dabbling their toes in the American embassy swimming pool three years after our intervention. In Iraq, following a surge on which the US Government spent $420 billion and deployed over 100,000 troops a year, we are now confronted with the re-emergence of something even worse than General Petraeus confronted in 2007. And people have spoken much more eloquently than myself about the fiasco we currently face in Ukraine.

So lamentable is this problem that we should not do what it would be tempting to do, which is to learn the lessons of this and talk about our mistakes, look at the limits of our knowledge, our power and our legitimacy, and confront the fact that we are not good enough in this country at seeing what we cannot do, what we do not know and what, frankly, people do not want us to do. So lamentable is the situation that instead of emphasising humility, we in fact need to rediscover our confidence and our energy. A time has come, in fact, to rebuild, and rebuilding the seriousness of this country means acknowledging failure and regaining public trust by showing people that we have learned the lessons of where we went wrong, and then investing in our institutions.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) pointed out that on the National Security Council it is quite difficult to know what is happening in the world, and that is not very surprising because, despite our grand protestations about how we are going to remodel the world from Mali to central Africa, in fact our capacity—the number of people in defence intelligence within the Foreign Office—is pathetically poor. The entire extra capacity committed to Syria was a single SMS1 officer, a D7 and a D6. When the crisis broke out in Russia and Ukraine, we discovered that the United Kingdom had cancelled its Russian analysis section in the defence intelligence service and we had to move the South Caucasus officer over to Crimea. When I and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) turned up in Kurdistan two weeks ago, we discovered a single consul general who did not have the staff or the resources to visit any of the refugee camps or make it to the front line.

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We need to get out of a situation in which only three of our 15 ambassadors in the middle east speak Arabic. We need to understand that our Foreign Office has a budget half that of the French Foreign Office and considerably smaller than the amount we commit to the winter fuel allowance. Before any of us go around talking about our brilliant strategy for Ukraine or Iraq, we should begin rebuilding those basic institutions: we should challenge the Government, and challenge the Opposition, to commit immediately more resources towards policy and analysis and understanding of what is going on on the ground, because there are no options for Ministers and there are no scenarios we can discuss in this House unless we understand the situation on the ground.

Mr Hain: I support the hon. Gentleman’s point about resourcing the Foreign Office—and the Foreign Secretary may agree on that, too. The budget cuts, which started under the Labour Government, have been remorselessly pursued under the hon. Gentleman’s Government. For a lot of other Whitehall Departments the Foreign Office budget is not even petty cash, but the cuts have been disastrous in their effect on the Foreign Office’s capabilities.

Rory Stewart: I thank the right hon. Gentleman very much for his intervention. As he knows, this is not simply a question of resources; it is also a question of the priority we put on policy analysis and challenge. It is about the people we promote and the people we hold accountable when they fail, and it is about a seriousness within the institution about getting to grips with these issues.

We all roughly understand what a solution to ISIL in Iraq would look like in theory—a regional solution, which people have talked about, and a political solution on the ground using the Sunni tribes against ISIL—but these are not things that can be resolved here on a whiteboard. They are things that entirely depend on being on the ground. There is the question of exactly what Qatar’s role is in this and how we can shift its position, the question of what we can get from Saudi Arabia, and the question of how we deal with the fact that foreign fighters are coming out of Turkey and oil is going back into Turkey. Those elements of the regional solution are not theory; they are practice. They are the practice of defence attachés and diplomats on the ground working day in, day out. The question of how to use the Sunni tribes against ISIL is, again, no theory; it is about this Sunni tribe or sheikh, that Sunni tribe or sheikh, this weapon, that money, this long-term strategy. The question of what the Iraqi Government are is not about generic statements about legitimacy or inclusiveness; it is about questions such as, “What is the role of Ibrahim Jaafari in this Government, and are any of these Sunnis who are currently standing for the Iraqi Government actually credible?”

The questions in Ukraine are the same kinds of questions. We can create the theoretical framework, but in the end we need some moral principles behind us. What do we make of this man Putin? Such questions can only be answered by looking at our own values. What kind of moral obligation do we feel we have to the Ukrainian people? What kind of obligation do we feel we have to the international order or the international

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system? How much risk are we prepared to take? How many sacrifices are we really prepared to make to confront Putin over Ukraine?

Unless we rediscover the ability to focus on what we can do and what we ought to do, this foreign policy, which should be a theatre of heroism, will instead be a narrow stage for impotence, self-flattery and oblivion.

2.48 pm

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): It is an honour to follow that distinguished speech by my constituency neighbour the Defence Committee Chair, the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart). I wholeheartedly endorse his analysis of the need to repair our nation’s capacity to act. In the short time available to me, I shall focus on why I think that is important.

A year on from Parliament rejecting action in Syria, here we are again, wracked with uncertainty and warning ourselves of dire consequences if we intervene or if we sit back, and we have a Prime Minister who has seemed trapped by the fiasco of the chaotic vote last year and his hasty decision to rule out all military action in its aftermath. Some are attempting to rewrite history on that vote, suggesting we were being asked to intervene on the side of the murderous butchers who have now gained a foothold in Iraq. Some, such as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), have made the argument that every time we go in we seem to make it worse, so better to leave well alone, but that is a counsel of despair.

By failing to intervene in Syria when President Assad used chemical weapons against his own people we abandoned the moderate, democratic Syrian opposition who were bravely fighting both the brutal regime and the ISIL insurgency that was, at that time, being covertly bolstered by Assad himself to cloud the thinking of the west and distract his main internal enemy.

Mr Kenneth Clarke: I must have expressed myself very badly, given the hon. Gentleman’s parody of what I said. The gravity of the problem is such that we are fully justified in using military force in support of international order and, in particular, of our own interests. What I said was that that would work only when accompanied by a background of well thought-through policy and diplomacy leading to long-term stability. The failure in the past has been to leap into military action first and then find that events have run away from us. It is wrong to suggest that I have suddenly become a pacifist and isolationist. The worry is that, if we are not careful, all our failures will make the public become more isolationist and pacifist.

John Woodcock: I offer my humble apologies to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I think I got carried away by the melody of his words, and I am glad that he has set the record straight for the House.

Leaving the moderates to their fate allowed ISIL to pour into rebel-held areas in north-east Syria and establish a stronger base from which it has been able to spread and grow into the monster that we see today. Perhaps most importantly of all, it sent a message to the extremists that we simply no longer had the will to take a stand. President Obama drew a red line over chemical weapons use, and it was crossed. What happened? Not a great deal.

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Let us remind ourselves of what has happened in Syria over the past year. About 10.8 million people now require humanitarian aid and 9 million have been displaced. Also, 3 million refugees have spilled over to the country’s neighbours, overwhelming Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, and winter is coming. The public are understandably weary of perpetual conflict, but they also rightly demand that we do what is necessary to keep Britain safe. That is necessary if we value our way of life, our personal security and our living standards sustained through trade with other nations. If we value those things, we have no choice but to confront this evil, this perversion of the true faith of Islam.

The only choice will not be whether we intervene, but when and how. The longer we delay, the greater the threat will become and the more we will ultimately have to sacrifice to defeat it. The next 9/11—or worse—will come, and it will happen with us knowing that, had we acted sooner, we could in all likelihood have prevented it. That would be the real betrayal of those who have lost their lives fighting for their country. It would also be an abdication of our responsibility to lead.

Britain should therefore be at the forefront of efforts to engage in an international coalition to prevent ISIL from creating a permanent state intent on jihad against the west. We should be planning not only for the military action that is needed to beat back the immediate threat but for a concerted international effort to create the environment that moderate forces in the region need to bring greater stability to the middle east, and we should be helping them to eliminate the social, economic and political conditions that allow the extremists to thrive. ISIL’s twisted ideology is the greatest threat to global security and to our values since Nazi Germany and, as happened at the time of the rise of the Nazis, we will all ultimately be held to account for what we did, or did not do, to confront the threat when we had the chance.

2.54 pm

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): I shall try to rise to the challenge of fitting as many major international crises into six minutes as other hon. Members have managed to do so well.

In Ukraine, we face a profound crisis on a number of levels. For the people of Ukraine, it is clearly a great humanitarian disaster. For the Ukrainian nation already suffering the annexation of Crimea, there is the continued risk of the loss of territory and the establishment of a Russian puppet state within its borders. The independence of the Ukrainian nation, which is guaranteed by the United Kingdom through the Budapest memorandum, could be rendered meaningless by military and economic intimidation from its more powerful neighbour.

For the free countries of eastern Europe, particularly the Baltic states, this crisis has resurrected old fears of Soviet-style intervention and domination. I welcome the consensus in the House and in the NATO declaration at the weekend on the absolute article 5 commitment to Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. To draw a really ominous historical parallel without being too melodramatic, we need to communicate that absolute commitment much more clearly than our predecessors did 100 years ago to the central powers. The misunderstanding and underestimation of people’s willingness to react was a major contributor to the July crisis that led to the first world war.

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Mr Gray: The hon. Gentleman draws our attention to the absolute commitment to article 5 made at the NATO conference at the weekend. He will be aware that article 5 specifies that armed intervention would require a collective response. Does he believe that an asymmetric approach, such as that used by Putin in Ukraine, would commission an article 5 moment?

Martin Horwood: The hon. Gentleman raises an issue that requires more than five minutes’ discussion, but he underlines the point that I was trying to make. We need to be clear about the definition of our commitment under article 5 and understand what it really means, and we need to communicate that to all the parties involved.

For the people of Russia, there is also a risk. There is a risk of economic decline, of diplomatic confrontation and of a descent at domestic level into a kind of quasi-democratic authoritarianism. I pay tribute to those within the Russian political system who are brave enough to confront Putin and his tendencies. They include members of the Liberal Democrats’ sister party, Yabloko, who are being profoundly brave in challenging Putinism in Russia.

For the international community, the crisis puts at risk 70 years of painstaking building of a rules-based international system. In the 20th century, millions of lives were lost in two world wars, and in the 19th century, countless lives were lost in conflicts between the great powers and as a result of the interplay between people exercising the principle that might was right. We hope that the 21st century will be a century of peace, in which the authority of the United Nations and international law are established and in which nations stand by their international obligations. We can now see, however, that that precious creation is perhaps more fragile than we had realised.

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): We have heard a compelling speech from the Chair of the Defence Select Committee, the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), about the importance of investing in our own institutions. Is my hon. Friend suggesting that we also desperately need to invest in the legitimacy and authority of international institutions such as NATO and the chemical weapons convention, so that we have legitimate frameworks within which to intervene in these situations?

Martin Horwood: My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

One of the most welcome aspects of the NATO summit was the firm declaration on defence spending, which I hope will reverse the tendency across other NATO countries to reduce defence budgets and encourage all NATO countries to meet the 2% defence spending target. The patience of the American electorate will not be endless with regard to providing an ever-greater share of NATO spending.

I look forward to EU Councils reinforcing our commitment to economic sanctions and to effective action in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine. It has been difficult for member states to build a consensus on that question, given that some economies are extremely vulnerable to Russian retaliation, but we need the European Union to be as robust in its response as NATO has been at the weekend.

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We are seeing a profound crisis across the Muslim world—an “arc of instability”, as the Foreign Secretary has described it. Only four years ago, many of us were thrilled by the Arab awakening, which seemed to emulate the gradual revolutions of eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Latin America and Africa, all of which have suffered reverses as well. Those movements all demonstrated that a commitment to human rights and democracy was a universal characteristic of people in the modern world. These are not western values; they are human values that we should champion in all parts of the world.

Democrats in many of those Arab awakening revolutions confronted very traditional, authoritarian dictators and, in doing so, they found some convenient but perhaps uncomfortable allies, in various shades of political Islamism. In Egypt, the Islamists in the relatively more moderate Muslim Brotherhood rose to elected power, but, unfortunately, the incompetent Morsi Government inspired almost a counter-revolution and we are now back in an authoritarian situation. In Syria, as we know, the murderous Assad regime reacted to the Arab awakening with uncompromising brutality of a kind that we probably could not have imagined was possible, so the Islamists were alongside democrats in confronting that regime. I am sorry to say that the Islamists have got more and more extreme, and they have gathered more and more resources and financial and military support from elsewhere. We have allowed our fears of repeating the mistakes of Iraq, of body bags and of improvised explosive devices, and our understandable weariness of war, to result in our failing the democratic opposition in Syria in many respects; the Islamists have gained the upper hand.

That situation should never, however, lead us to believe that those moderate democratic Arabs do not exist—that the democratic opposition is non-existent. Our inaction has had consequences for them, and it has led this country to have a policy across the Arab world that has at times looked very inconsistent, fragmented and reactive. We need a strategy, and it should be to stop looking for perfection and start to identify those moderate Arab democrats across the region who share a basic commitment to pluralism, democracy and peaceful change. That includes the democratically elected Governments of Turkey, Lebanon, Kurdistan—I am talking not just about Arabs of course, but about those within the region—and, we hope, those of Iraq and Libya, if its Government can be sustained. It also includes democratic leaders such as Mahmoud Abbas in Palestine. The inconsistency of British policy there is also very obvious, and Palestinian statehood and a re-examination of the association agreement with Israel have to be part of delivering dividends for a progressive democratic Arab leader in that part of the region, too.

3.2 pm

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): It is beautiful to follow the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), because he calls for a strategy and then delivers a list of tactical responses which do not amount to a strategy.

Tonight’s debate is not just about Ukraine and the middle east, because, as we can see from the Order Paper, it is about a number of reports by the Defence Committee. We on that Committee were looking ahead to the strategic review in 2015 and produced a number

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of papers that should guide what a proper security and defence review should look like. One report was entitled “Intervention: Why, When and How?” and in the context of today’s debate it may be useful to remind the House of the conclusions we drew. The report states:

“As a starting point the Government must articulate a realistic vision of the UK’s place in the world, its level of strategic influence and the way the world is changing as well as the identification and prioritisation of the risks to it. The next Defence and Security Review should then translate this vision into defence planning assumptions and the development of the appropriate force structure. This would assist more strategic decisions on why, when and how to intervene.”

It is right to say that in the current world we cannot have the perfect plan. As the great strategist Mike Tyson put it, “You have a plan and then someone punches you in the face.” We can respond to being punched in the face in a way that is strategic only if we have some framework within which we operate. That framework has to be a clear definition of what we think our national interests are. We then need a plan that it is possible to put into action. It is no good having a list of aspirations if they do not give us any means of acting. We then require the disciplined community to put the actions into effect, which also requires an assessment of our capacity. .

The problems caused by an absence of a proper strategy have been shown in many ways in today’s debate. We talk about air strikes, but bombing is not a strategy. Why are we even considering those air strikes? We debated no-fly zones over and air strikes on Libya, and the error we made was in thinking that removing Gaddafi meant “job done”. Instead, it should have been the first step for further strategic implementation of a long-term plan. We talk about NATO as if it was not a membership organisation but an alternative body to which we defer. We are NATO! May I also remind the House that the big mistake we make is that we regard this country as the second most important member of NATO? The UK is not, because the second most important member, after the United States, is Turkey. Let us consider what the world looks like from the point of view of Turkey. It has the Black sea on one side, Syria on the other. Turkey is the country of the fall-out of the Ottoman empire and the Sykes-Picot agreement. That is all now coming back to haunt Turkey and those around it. Let us be clear that NATO makes decisions and that we are part of the decision making.

Let us also be clear that the problems we face in the eastern Mediterranean at the moment relate to whether the Sykes-Picot agreement is falling apart. If it is, what do we do about it? In 1916, Britain was the guardian of that agreement, whereas after world war two the United States was. From what we can see, the United States is now no longer willing or able to be that guardian, so that role must be played through a restoration of functioning nation states within that area which can deliver things. Some of the states there are functioning: Iran, Israel, Turkey and, for the moment, Jordan. It is crucial that we continue supporting Jordan. The question is how do we support the countries in between to become functioning nation states? If we end up with the creation of a caliphate and that is the solution, we will be haunted for centuries to come.

This process requires not only military weapons, but weapons of the mind. Bombing is an element of defeating people militarily, but in the long term this is a battle for the minds and hearts of a generation. We can win that

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battle only if we have a strategy that involves our own values. If we cannot define where we want to go, we will be incapable of ever knowing whether we have arrived. If we just make a little list of things to do, we are just like a fifth-former with a shopping list, so we should clearly explain why we are doing things. Let me give one example. A week ago, it was, apparently, not in Britain’s national interest to arm the Kurds, and many Labour Members thought that was wrong, but yesterday we are told that we are now doing so. The Government must learn to explain their actions within the framework of Britain’s national interest to this House so that we can give informed consent.

I hope that the Minister will tell us what we think about the illegal annexation of Crimea, because we have fallen very quiet on that. The former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), said that it was a fait accompli. It may be that, but I would be deeply saddened if that was the Government’s starting position.

3.8 pm

Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con): A number of things about ISIS are clear: it is well funded; it is very well organised; and it has a comprehensive, complex and sophisticated communications strategy. None of those things happened overnight, and it is legitimate for us to ask why we did not pick up on some of those trends earlier. Did we know about ISIS? Were we aware that ISIS is, in the Prime Minister’s words, the greatest threat to us in a generation? If we were aware, why did we not act sooner? If we did not know, we need to ask questions of our intelligence and diplomatic services, but they are questions for another time.

We also know clearly the sort of threats that ISIS poses. We have seen the humanitarian threat to those unfortunate enough to fall within the territory it controls and the barbaric ways in which people have been treated. We are clear about the threat of destabilisation to the region and the fact that ISIS potentially threatens an all-out religious war in one of the world’s most unstable regions. We are also aware that it could become the university of jihad if it is allowed to establish a caliphate, and that will be exported to countries such as the United Kingdom. It is also clear that we in the west must accept the failures in our foreign policy, not least with Iraq where we have indulged and over-tolerated the Maliki Government when it was clear that they were failing in their promise and their duty to establish a Government of national unity.

The question is what do we do to deal with ISIS in the immediate future and then in the longer term. As has been said, we need to deal with it financially. It is difficult to stop oil being sold on the black market, but we must try and try harder with our allies who might be able to exert some leverage. We need to stop the flow of finances through the international banking system and ensure that ransoms are not paid. Paying a ransom is financing jihad, and we must not do that no matter how difficult that is. We must stop the double dealing of some of the countries and groups in the region that are making it extremely difficult for ourselves and our allies to bring this matter to a successful conclusion.

Then there is the question of whether we should involve ourselves in military action. As I and many others have said before, there are a number of questions

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that we need to answer before we can get involved in military action: what does a good outcome look like; are we able to engineer a good outcome; do we have to be part of such engineering; and how much future liability do we want to hold as a consequence?

What is clear is that our allies in the region simply do not have all the military capabilities they require to deal with ISIS on the ground. They do not have the ability to make the strategic air attacks that will deal with command and control and the ISIS supply lines. If it comes to a ground counter-offensive, they will require close air support. There is no point in us trying to will the outcome without being prepared to will the means. I was very impressed, as I always am, by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) who, like my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), spoke about a battle of ideas. We must understand that this battle, like all battles, is one of ideology, and we must be careful about the western liberal tendency to allow wishful thinking to overtake critical analysis.

We need to understand one thing, which is that there are people out there who hate us. They do that not because of what we do or where we intervene but because of who we are and what we stand for—our values, our system of Government and our belief in basic rights.

Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): My right hon. Friend is making a very impassioned speech with which I agree. May I just take him—[Interruption.] I am so sorry but I do not feel well.

Dr Fox: I hope that my hon. Friend feels better.

All conflicts are battles of ideology. That is particularly true of those who return from the region having been involved in jihad in support of ISIS. When the Home Secretary winds up the debate, I hope she will make it clear that in this country we have no place for the concept that someone can take a sabbatical from civilisation and then apologise and come back as though nothing has happened. There has to be a price for those who take up arms against their own country by proxy.

My hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border made an interesting point about resourcing our security services. It is worth mentioning that we spend on GCHQ, the security services and Secret Intelligence Service in a year what we spend every six days on the national health service. As a country, we must think about our priorities and just how high up that level of priority the security of our people is. Supposedly, that is the first duty of Government.

Sir Nicholas Soames I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. Does he agree that the tragedy of that is that those services are some of the most important to this country and feature so very largely in some of our most important relationships?

Dr Fox: I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. Sometimes it is tempting for Governments to spend on things that we can see rather than on things that we cannot see, but those things may not be of equal importance when it comes to the well-being of our country.

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Mr Straw: Does the right hon. Gentleman also accept that the welcome decision by both parties to have a larger aid programme cannot be a substitute for money spent on the more difficult areas of intelligence and diplomacy? As our aid programme increases so too must our diplomatic programme.

Dr Fox: I would go further and say that our national security and the need for hard power in a hard world should, in a time of financial constraints, take precedence over our aid programme.

I was involved in an interesting discussion at a meeting in Paris. I asked why it was that during the cold war we were willing to use the term “better” when it came to our values. For example, we would say that democracy was better than totalitarian rule, free markets were better than command economies and freedom was better than oppression. But when it comes to debates about Islamic fundamentalism, we are not willing to use the word “better”. I believe that religious tolerance is better than enforced orthodoxy, and that equal rights for women are better than women being second-class citizens. When I raised that point, I was told, “Well, nowadays, we can’t really say ‘better’. Things are just different.” If we believe that our values are different and not better, why should we believe, let alone convince anyone else, that they should follow what we have? We in the west are what we are not by accident but because of the value path that we have chosen to take. All the battles that we will face are to do with ideology, belief and values. It is not the capability of the west—of this country or the United States—that has been called into question; it is our will to enforce what we believe by peaceful means or others. If we are not willing to stand up for our values as a country, we will not only fail to shape the era of globalisation but diminish ourselves in the longer term.

3.15 pm

Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): In addition to being a member of the Defence Committee under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), I also chair the Causeway Institute, a small non-governmental body in Northern Ireland, which is involved in peace building in the region.

I welcome the opportunity to have this debate and support the broad thrust of the Government’s approach on these issues. In Ukraine and in eastern Europe generally, it is important that we stand alongside our friends and that we recognise what Russia is trying to do. We are talking about not just Crimea and eastern Ukraine, but what Russia has been doing for some time in places such as Transnistria, Moldova, South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia. There is a deliberate strategy to foment conflict and then for those conflicts to be frozen in a way that creates instability and gives the Russians influence in those regions.

The role of Poland is important. I was there just last weekend, and heard how concerned it is about what is happening in Ukraine. It is vital that we stand alongside countries such as Poland and the Baltic states. We need to reassure them that we will not countenance any situation in which they may face attack or incursion on to their territory.

We have mentioned the role of the European Union, but I have heard nothing about the role of the Council of Europe, which embraces most of eastern Europe and

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has a role to play in opening up dialogue on the long-term issues. Russia is a member of it. I wish to hear more about the Council of Europe—our place in it and its role in the difficulties that exist in eastern Europe—because it is tasked with the responsibility of promoting human rights and respect for the rule of law, and building democracy, and those are precisely the kind of issues that are at stake in relation to the situation in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia.

Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): Some pastors and deacons from Ukraine visited Northern Ireland. Recently, one of those pastors was shot and two of the deacons were tortured and killed. What should the Government be doing to aid those displaced and suffering Christians?

Mr Donaldson: Whether in Ukraine and eastern Europe or the middle east, there is a recurring theme of religious intolerance and the persecution of religious minorities. We saw that not only in Ukraine, but especially in the middle east—the Christian minority has been targeted Syria, Iraq, Libya and other countries in the region. The religious persecution of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq had devastating consequences.

We want the UK Government to take a robust position against ISIS and Islamic extremism, and we are prepared to support military action where that is required. We hope the Government will consult the House as the need arises.

It is right to support the Iraqi army and the Kurdish peshmerga forces. I welcome the Government’s important decision to provide heavy armaments to them, but the point was made about Turkey. We need to reassure Turkey that, in arming the peshmerga, there are not longer-term consequences for the situation between Turkey and the Kurds. It is a complex situation and we realise that the decisions that need to be made are difficult and challenging.

The hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) made an excellent speech and some valid points. Democratic Unionist party Members endorse the view that there is a need to ensure that the Foreign Office and the security services, our eyes and ears throughout the world, are properly resourced. Like many hon. Members, I have seen the valuable work that our diplomats and security services undertake in foreign places. That work is vital to our national security, and properly resourcing it is important.

Countering the narrative of the extremists is also important. One difficulty is the lack of consensus among western nations and others on how we should do that and on what the counter-narrative should be. Our narrative is about religious tolerance and respect for human rights, but we need to find a way to communicate it, especially to young people in those countries through social media and so on. We should support locally based organisations that work to counter the extremists’ narrative, such as the Arab Network for Tolerance, a small, modest organisation that seeks to promote respect for human rights, religious tolerance and so on in Arab countries. It is important that we do our bit to ensure that such organisations have support from the UK.

Yes, the use of hard power is necessary at times, but support for what we do on a soft-power level is critical. We need to counter the narrative and explain our role in

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the world. How can we be involved with our allies in championing the cause of human rights and respect for religious freedom, and in promoting tolerance? The UK has a leadership role to play in that, whether in eastern Europe or the middle east. We will continue to support the efforts of the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and others in taking the battle against the extremists forward.

3.23 pm

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): We should talk more and bomb less. I say that as someone who wants us to have strong defences. I want our country to play a leading role in the world and to be available, with the UN and allies, or if necessary on our own, to reinforce our values. I accept that there are occasions when we have to fight a just war. We were right to liberate Kuwait with our allies, and we were right to liberate the Falklands, but we need to ask ourselves some hard questions about some of the military interventions we have made under Governments of both parties in recent years.

I am glad that the Government accept that we can go to war only if the House approves such action, which I think has always been the case, and I am glad that they recognise that that is the most serious thing we can do. We have the power, collectively, to authorise our troops to go to kill other people in a foreign country. That is a very serious thing to do, and it should be done only after full debate and, if necessary, on a vote of the House to show that it has at least majority approval—it is even better when there is consensus.

To guide the Government, whether we are approaching such a position again or not, they should ask themselves these questions. First, are they sure that diplomacy and politics have broken down completely and that there is no further scope for diplomacy and politics to carry the problem forward and try to make it better? War is not a good answer. It is what happens when politics and diplomacy fail.

Secondly, after we win a war—even if we have had a great victory, as the allies had in 1918—we need to go back to politics and diplomacy and get it right. Otherwise, we might find that we have created a worse monster that requires yet more conflict, as we are in danger of proving in the middle east. The west has the power to get rid of a regime it does not like, but it does not necessarily have the power to support and create a democratic regime in its place that has the acceptance of enough people in the country to keep it together and make it a better place. It is not a win if we get rid of a nasty dictator and replace them with warring bands who kill even more people.

We need to get the Government to ask whether diplomacy has failed and whether the situation is one in which the use of force, if successful, is likely to make the situation better. If we are going to use force, can we please have a diplomatic and political strategy for the aftermath of successful military engagement? We need to know what military success looks like, but more importantly, we need to know how military success leads to a happier country, democratic values, tolerance and toleration, and all the things we believe in. When we inject more weapons and fighting into a situation, we normally make people not more tolerant, but more intolerant. We make them not happier, but more resentful.

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We also do enormous damage to their economy, so there are fewer ways for the people who believe in peace and our values to earn an honest living, carry on a normal life and create the kind of society we would like to live in.

If the previous two questions have been answered in the right way—if diplomacy cannot work, and if force might make things better—the third question our Government should ask before using force is this: do we have the force necessary to do the task? We must not send our forces into battle if there is a danger or a serious risk that they cannot win. We do not have that luxury when we are defending our country, but when we are deciding whether to intervene somewhere else, we have the luxury of asking whether we can win, or whether we can win with the right allies. We should want the odds to be very heavily tipped in favour of success if we are interfering in somebody else’s country.

There are common characteristics to the current conflicts and civil wars. Ukraine, Libya, Syria and Iraq all have the same basic problem: fledgling or difficult democracies do not command the support of all the people in the country. Many people believe that their state does not have the right borders. Many people believe that their current Government, be it a tyrant or an allegedly democratic Government, do not speak for all the people or protect the minorities. Many people inside Ukraine, Iraq or Libya do not believe that there is a solution for them inside their countries as they are currently constituted.

Surely, as the mother of Parliaments, with our democracy and our knowledge that one proceeds by debates, argument and votes, not bullets and bombs, we need to put a lot more effort into talking those people through how democracy works and into trying to work with them to see whether it is possible to get consent from enough people to these arbitrary borders, which were probably drawn on the map by us 100 years ago under very different circumstances, or whether they need to have ballots, as Scotland currently is, to see whether they want to remain in these countries. I am not going to presume and I do not have the time to redraw lines on maps, as that must come from the politicians in those localities, but the tools to solve these problems are arguments, discussions, debates, pamphlets, the internet and votes—what we believe in—not bombs and bullets. We should be very careful before we either supply them with more bombs and bullets or go in thinking that we know the right people to kill.

3.29 pm

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): I spent seven years as special envoy on human rights in Iraq, so I visited the country on many occasions and would like to welcome the new Government, who have a very difficult task. They still have to deal with long-standing problems such as the sharing of oil revenues, disputed territory and arguments over decentralisation as well as much needed reform of the armed forces. As one commentator argues, those who hope that a new Government in Iraq will transform the state’s ability to take on ISIS should not hold their breath.

One commentator who frequently appears before the Foreign Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, is Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House. She points out that our long history of involvement in that country is not a happy one:

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“pinning all the blame on Maliki conveniently absolves the US and UK of responsibility for helping to create a political system where violence and sectarianism are the usual mechanisms for staying in power. Over the past 30 years, the west first supported and armed a genocidal dictator, then crippled the country with sanctions that failed to remove him, then invaded the country and dismantled the state and army. After 2003, the US and UK helped design a system of sectarian ‘power-sharing’ where ‘power-sharing’ means carving up government ministries—made extremely lucrative by raging corruption—between a tiny elite drawn from each ethnicity and sect.”

Given that the full-scale invasion and occupation for several years from 2003 onwards struggled to pacify Iraq, air strikes alone are not likely to succeed. After all, ISIS controls large amounts of territory, population and natural resources and is consequently far better funded than the Sunni resistance that so troubled US forces after the 2003 invasion. What is more, air strikes are likely to result in civilian casualties as ISIS forces hide among the civilian population. That is conceivably its aim: to provoke the west into military action that hurts Muslim civilians, thus supporting its narrative of the west’s war on Islam.

The speed and scale of the crisis mean that Iraq is now coping with one of the largest internally displaced populations in the world. Before the current crisis, there were already thousands of refugees in Iraq, including more than 200,000 Syrians who had fled the civil war in their country. The national Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, in an area where many refugees and IDPs are located, have been overwhelmed by the scale of the need. Iraqi non-governmental organisations have also been struggling to cope with a massive increase in the number of people needing their assistance.

Following the fighting and deliberate targeting of civilians, particularly minorities, and the widespread violence and atrocities against men, women and children, protection remains a key concern. Many survivors of the violence have lost everything and are deeply traumatised. Although it is the Government’s responsibility to protect citizens from harm, NGOs and other humanitarian actors work to ensure that the most vulnerable are taken care of and have access to services. As well as the need for food, water, sanitation and health care, the need for shelter is paramount. At present, more than 30% of the displaced people are living with host communities or in schools or religious buildings. Only 4% are in camp settings. The most at-risk groups are minority populations with few or no established links with the host communities as well as those living in abandoned buildings, in overcrowded conditions or in the open. The approaching winter in the north is a particular concern as people will face harsh conditions.

In a very good report from Amnesty International, people who are on the ground at the moment described the terrible living conditions:

“While we are there, a truck arrives and hands out…mattresses, but there are not enough to go around. A group of children fight over the last mattress; it ends in tears for those who will spend another night on hard ground. Many of the children have no shoes and the adults ask us to take photos of the swollen, broken, hard skin on their feet, to show the world what they are experiencing.”

I believe that we have a moral responsibility to act quickly to support the communities who have been displaced. That is critical at this time. We cannot expect the Kurds to do that job on their own.

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3.35 pm

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): There is one thing on which every single speaker in this debate and everyone who is watching it from outside will agree—at this moment we live in an extraordinarily dangerous, difficult and complex world, a world we do not understand and in which all our livelihoods, interests and ways of life are under threat. I pay absolute tribute to the very heavyweight, well informed and passionate speeches that we have heard so far, typified by the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), who has great knowledge of Iraq.

I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart). I stood against him for the post of Chairman of the Defence Committee, and this is my first opportunity to say that I am very glad he won. He is doing an extremely good job of it and I congratulate him on that.

I hope that I will not reduce the high quality of the debate if I do not focus on Ukraine, Syria or the rest of the difficulties mentioned in the topic of this debate as much as on two procedural points. I hope they will not be unduly dry for the House, but there are many others better qualified than I to speak on the substantive matters that we are debating.

First, I very much welcome the fact that we have this full day’s substantive debate. That would not be the case if it had not been announced by the Prime Minister during PMQs last week and that is quite wrong. We usually have to compete with Backbench Business Committee debates on very worthy and worthwhile things such as animals in circuses. We used to have full, substantive debates in this House on foreign affairs and on defence, and I very much hope that we can find a way of returning to those days. At times like this, we ought to be certain that we can have full debates on these matters.

The second procedural matter I want to raise involves me in what might be described as a putative declaration of interests. Later this afternoon I will be launching a book that I have written entitled, “Who Takes Britain to War?” I have not earned a single penny from it so far. Indeed, most of my friends probably reckon that I will not earn very many pennies from it in future either, and may never have to declare it. None the less, it is pertinent to the remarks that I intend to make.

It is very easy to say that we should have a vote in this House before we deploy soldiers. Of course, that is an easy and a populist thing to say—most people would agree with it. In the past 500 years, we have taken part in umpteen wars. There is only one year since the second world war when a British soldier has not been killed on active service—1968. In every other year we have lost a British soldier on active service. We have taken part in dozens of wars over the years, but on only two occasions have there been substantive votes prior to the deployment of troops. The first was in 2003, when Mr Blair took us to war in Iraq; there were three votes on that occasion. I suspect that not a single person listening to this debate believes that that was the right thing to have done. The second vote was this time last year, on Syria. It may well have had the right outcome, but frankly it was something of a procedural shambles, and I am not certain that we would necessarily want the same thing to occur in future.

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My view, and the view I advance in the book, is that there are substantial difficulties in calling for a vote in the way that is very easily done. First, Back Benchers have to be alerted to often secret intelligence, the strategic position and the tactical position on the ground. The Government’s legal advice has to be shared with people like me. We have to rise above vulgar considerations such as votes in a forthcoming general election and do what is right for the nation and for the world. I am not certain that politicising warfare in that way is at all the right thing to do.

My co-author, Mark Lomas QC, thinks that it is wrong to have a vote in this House on every single military action. He would like us to preserve the royal prerogative that we have always used for the past 500 years. I think that genie is out of the bottle and we cannot go back to the days when the Prime Minister and the Executive simply did what they wanted to do. None the less, there are substantial difficulties involved in having substantive votes. For example, if we have the new NATO rapid reaction corps that the Prime Minister announced last weekend, it will have two days to go into action, and it will do so under the control of NATO, not of this House. What if this House disagrees with NATO—or the United Nations, for that matter?

I am therefore seeking to advance the thesis that we must find a new way of doing this. The solution I propose is that we write into law the parameters under which we would go to war. The easiest one would be the age-old theory of just war. That lays down the reasons for warfare, about which we could have a huge debate, including the parameters under which we would decide to go to war. It also lays down the way in which we conduct war—the Geneva conventions are based on the theory of just war—and the way in which we conclude wars: what we do after a war has ended and how we treat enemies and those who have been defeated.

Such theories are as old as the hills and as good as they ever have been. If we were to write them into the law of the land in this House, we would allow the Executive and the Prime Minister to take the country to war as they do at present, but they would no longer do so under the royal prerogative; they would do so under what I would like to call the parliamentary prerogative. It is this House that would lay down precisely what the Executive should do in the future. I think that is a much better way of doing it than bogging ourselves down in votes that we might or might not win.

3.40 pm

Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) (PC): May I first say that I very much enjoyed and agreed with the remarkable speech by the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood)? I seldom agree with him. We were not exactly the best of friends when he was Secretary of State for Wales, but his contribution today was remarkable and I was very pleased to hear it. I also agree with the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) that we need to toughen up our stance on Israel.

I want to concentrate my remarks on Iraq, Syria and the ISIL threat. The middle east is, evidently, in a state of crisis and the need for humanitarian aid is overwhelming. I would be lying, however, if I said that I was happy that the drumbeat of war seems to have started again. I understand that earlier this week the Prime Minister and the American President contacted the leaders of Gulf states in a bid to secure support for military

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intervention in both Iraq and Syria. Yes, the circumstances are different, but those of us who were here in 2003 will be feeling especially uncomfortable that the rhetoric is being ratcheted up as we edge ever closer to entering another unwinnable war in the region. Those of us who were against the incursion in 2003 had warned of the dangers of entering into a conflict that would result in a power vacuum in Iraq.

On 24 September, a United Nations summit will meet in New York to discuss the ongoing situation. To continue the comparison with what happened in 2003, I am grateful that that is happening, but we still cannot be complacent about the dangers of mission creep. It is, after all, largely down to the UK’s own incursion into Iraq a little more than 10 years ago that that part of the world is in such dire straits today.

Let us not deceive ourselves: this state of affairs cannot somehow be solved by western military intervention. The situation is, of course, complex and volatile, and will require the decisive involvement of moderate powers in the region, including Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. In the short term, if the involvement of the international community is to gain support in the region, we will presumably need to engage with states that are considered to be stable, such as Syria, and this House will need to ruminate very carefully indeed on the implications of that.

In recent weeks, the Prime Minister has argued that the old maxim, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend,” will certainly not apply in this situation. As we know, however, the turnover of events is so rapid and the ramifications so critical that the UK may not have the opportunity to stick to that principle. I am by no means advocating such a course of action—indeed, I would evidently hesitate before entering into any conflict in the region—but I think that Members on both sides of the House should be aware of what this could lead to.

Over the weekend, the former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger—yes, he of the Contras in Nicaragua—argued that the US should launch an “all-out attack” on ISIL extremists after the killing of its citizens, saying that it was a direct “insult”. Speaking to The Sunday Times, Mr Kissinger said that America had failed to appreciate that countries in the middle east yearned for “leadership” from the US and that the latter somehow has a duty to establish a “new order” in the region. This follows an article he published in The Wall Street Journal at the end of August, in which he wrote:

“The concept of order that has underpinned the modern era is in crisis”

due to civil war in Libya, unrest in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the resurgence of tensions with Russia.

Henry Kissinger is certainly correct about the notion of order being eroded, but we must not forget that the borders of many states in the middle east have been flashpoints of violence since their very inception. The order he mentions was nothing more than an illusion. That is precisely why we in my party of Plaid Cymru and those in the Scottish National party on whose behalf I am also speaking—we are better together today, by the way—have argued that moderate powers in the middle east should lead any intervention. I fear that any action led by the US and the UK will smack of imperialism, but I do not think that it will come to that.

We of course abhor the brutal and shocking actions that ISIL has undertaken in recent weeks and months, and we are repulsed by the threat to our own communities

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across the UK from radicalised individuals who return here. We believe that the most effective way to undermine ISIL in its base is to encourage and support elements in their territories who hold contrary views. We recognise the need to arm the Kurdish forces. The Kurds are a minority whose plight we have long supported in times of relative peace, and their right to self-defence is absolute.

In spite of what the Prime Minister has said in recent days, I believe that we need a full debate and a vote, and I am gratified that the Secretary of State said that today. However, I cannot help feeling that we have been here before. We must be aware that ISIL is a successor to al-Qaeda, so another force would be likely to follow in the wake of ISIL being destroyed. Full-blown western intervention is likely to lead to the further radicalisation of another generation of disaffected Muslims in the area and across the world. We should play our part in aiding those who need help, but we must be honest about our previous complicity in bringing about the latest instability. We can assist such states towards finding new cohesion, but if Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us anything it is the assertion that a new order cannot be imposed, but must be nurtured.

3.46 pm

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): Listening to the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd) has underlined for me that we are in danger of having quite a serious debate in this House for a change. There have been a great many very thoughtful speeches, despite their enforced brevity, which I will seek to match.

My Committee, the Public Administration Committee, produced two reports about strategy early in this Parliament. I may be flattering myself, but strategy—and the word “strategy”—seem by osmosis to have got more into the currency of our thinking.

Before I talk about strategy, let me briefly address the question of the role of the House of Commons in the decision to go to war. It is an interesting debate, and I am intrigued that a former Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), should describe the royal prerogative as some kind of out-of-date relic given that most of the powers that Ministers continue to exercise—including the power to go to war, whether or not there has been a vote in this House—are in fact royal prerogative powers.

The debate threatens to be sterile, however, because it has never been the case in modern times that any Prime Minister would consider going to war unless they felt that they could command the confidence of the House of Commons, whether they took the decision before or after consulting it. Nothing has changed: whether there should be a debate is not a matter of religious or constitutional doctrine. The responsibility for taking such a decision and for providing leadership on whether to take the country to war and commit our armed forces to military action goes with the seals of office as Prime Minister. The idea that that can be subcontracted to the House of Commons, where all the armchair generals—well, we do not sit in armchairs—and amateur strategists can add their pennyworth and then decide

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the issue, is a great mistake. We do not want to lose sight of the fact that the Government propose; the House of Commons disposes.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Jenkin: I give way to my Select Committee colleague.

Paul Flynn: Was the hon. Gentleman’s faith in the value of a grand strategy not dented by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who said that his experience of the National Security Council was of astonishing events that nobody expected and nobody had planned for? A grand strategy carved in stone would be useless.

Mr Jenkin: I must remind the hon. Gentleman, who has sat in Committee with me for many hours listening to evidence about this, that strategy is not the same as having a plan. Yes, a plan may be knocked off course by events, but that does not mean that we should relinquish all the means or methods of reformulating the plan. That is what strategic thinking is about, and I shall apply further thought to that in my speech.

Let us face it: if we sweat about whether to take military action and that dominates our entire debate, we are missing the point. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe on that. Our debate should be about the context in which we are making that decision. The decision should flow out of that context, not be the subject of the debate itself.

The Foreign Secretary demonstrated a laudable strategic perspective after a period of reactive and short-term initiatives, such as the reversal of the policy on Syria after the vote last year, which have left our policy in disarray and, one might even say, paralysis. The period of complete neglect of the Syrian situation has resulted in the ISIS situation that we face. That has not been helped by perhaps the greatest and most silent strategic shock to hit the western world—the almost complete absence of the United States from an active role on the world stage.

The Foreign Secretary still gave us a lot of conflicts. We will consider air strikes in Iraq, but not in Syria, which is the home base of ISIS. We said that we would not provide arms to the Kurds, but now we are. We continue to expect President Assad to stand down, but we will not do anything to make that happen. That has brought about the situation that we are in. The Government’s approach is over-precious about who our friends should be and careless of the consequences of the restraints that that places on our policy. We have to treat President Putin as a pariah, but we might need to use him as an ally to defeat ISIS and stabilise the middle east.

Mr Baron: I am listening intently to my hon. Friend’s comments, some of which I agree with. I suggest to him that perhaps caution is the right course of action for the Government. We must not forget that only recently, in the past 10 years or so, we have been to war in the middle east on a false premise and supported the morphing of the Afghanistan mission from defeating al-Qaeda into the much wider and disastrous mission of nation building. Many would also argue that Libya is turning into a basket case. Surely caution is not a bad thing, given our past errors.

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Mr Jenkin: Of course we should exercise caution. I have learned my bitter lessons, having been on the Opposition Front Bench during the vote on Iraq. The decision to go to war blinded us to the wider strategic considerations that should have been at the forefront of our minds. We obsessed about the wrong things. Incidentally, the opponents of war obsessed about the wrong things too. They obsessed about legality, instead of effect. We also sleepwalked into Helmand. I did not have responsibilities at that stage, but it was extraordinary that we did so.

The National Security Council needs a template—a doctrine of thinking—in approaching such matters. That is what I want to discuss in the last few minutes that I have. I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe that the greatest immediate threat is not what is happening in Ukraine, the situation in Gaza, Israel and the middle east, however much that preoccupies us, or what is happening in Libya, which is a sideshow, but ISIS. The Prime Minister is right to lay that out as the big threat.

We need a doctrine of counter-insurgency on a global scale. That is not new thinking. There are a few rules that should guide our thinking. We have to secure our home base. The security element of this debate, which has been rather neglected, is the most important thing. How will we protect ourselves from this insurgency? We need to deny the enemy a secure base. I ask Ministers: how can we deny the enemy a secure base if we will not do anything about Syria? We need to starve the enemy of resources. How will we prevent the international money laundering that has been mentioned in this debate? We need to base all activity on the best human intelligence. We cannot plan any sort of campaign if we are guessing or we do not know what is happening on the ground. However, we have cut the resources for that vital part of our capability. We must do our best to remove the underlying political grievances. That is why the middle east peace process is important. It is a tactical consideration in the main strategic objective of containing ISIS.

We need to co-ordinate all actions to a strategic plan, otherwise there will be chaos. We also need to remember that it is, in the end, a battle for hearts and minds and that conflict is about will-power, not physical force. Military action is not necessarily an indication of determination—it can be an indication of despair or weakness. We need to remember that the smallest actions, such as Guantanamo Bay, the development of technology such as mobile phones or apparently innocuous words used in a speech, such as “axis of evil”, can have enormous strategic effects. We need to stay within the law, because if we are trying to defend law it is important that we uphold the law ourselves, and we should use force only as a last resort. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr Redwood) that we have tended to resort to force as an expression of our will-power without applying our will-power to all the other means at our disposal first.

3.55 pm

Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab): As we debate these issues, it is not clear whether we will face them as a United Kingdom or as a country forced apart, but I very much hope that we will face them as a United Kingdom in the weeks and months to come.

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The shadow of the past is long in debates such as this, particularly the House’s decision just over 10 years ago to go to war in Iraq, but also the decision last year not to intervene militarily in Syria. There is no doubt that past decisions that we have taken have angered jihadists, but although we acknowledge that, it is important also to say that it is a fundamental and dangerous misconception to think that the ideology of Islamist extremism stems only from the decision on Iraq or exists only as a response to western foreign policy. That misconception must be dealt with, because for as long as it prevails, we fail to understand the threat that we face and are encouraged to believe that we can somehow opt out of it.

We should not forget that it was two years before the invasion of Iraq that the attack on 11 September, the anniversary of which is tomorrow, took place. We should not ignore the fact that we took a decision not to intervene in Syria last year, yet today it is the global headquarters of violent jihadist extremism. There has been no western intervention in Nigeria, yet Boko Haram wreaks havoc, kills civilians and kidnaps schoolgirls.

There is an imperialist conceit that suggests that foreign policy is divided into a world of adults, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, and other countries or forces, which are children. It is not true, and it absolves others of responsibility for their actions. We live in a world of adults and adults. No one forces anyone to bomb a marketplace or behead an innocent journalist on video. Those actions are the responsibility of those who carry them out, and it is important that we are clear about that.

The issue is not whether we have to respond but how. Withdrawal from the world’s problems has become quite fashionable—“Nothing to do with us,” “All too difficult,” or even, at its worst, “Let them kill one another.” That is not only morally bankrupt but against our own interests, because in an interconnected world we cannot opt out of facing threats. Violent jihadism has already taken innocent lives in this country and indeed this city, and it can do so again in the future.

The Prime Minister is right to define this as a generational struggle, but definition takes us only halfway. We also have to will the means to respond. President Obama will set out his strategy on the response to ISIS later today, and in all likelihood it will include an element of military response. At some point, we will be asked whether we want to join in and support that action. It is good that we debate that and learn the lessons from the past, but we must not be imprisoned by the past. If we are to set out conditions for joining in action, let us do so, but let us not have an ever-lengthening list of conditions that are designed not as a means of reaching a decision, but rather as a means of never having to take one.

Mr Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman is making a powerful point. With the thinnest of resources in our Foreign Office and intelligence services, and without the aid or contribution of the United States, what lessons might we draw from what happened recently in Mali and the Sahel, where early intervention was able to repel al-Qaeda, which has been the closest to our shores most recently? Does that show that we need a unity of approach, and development, governance and security at the same time and not as choices? Early intervention to repel the threat has delivered a success, and that is noticeable by its omission during today’s debate.

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Mr McFadden: The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point and, as has been said several times, it would be wrong to draw the lesson that we have been here before and that intervention is always wrong.

Let me return to the issue of values, because too often we debate such things as though they are only a question of military action or not, and we forget to stress what we believe in and why this threat is so important. The values that we are familiar with are no less important because we are familiar with them: Governments elected by the democratic will of the people and where power passes peacefully if the people change their minds in a subsequent election; equality for men and women; freedom of speech; freedom of religion. In this country, people can go to the mosque on Friday, the synagogue on Saturday, church on Sunday, and many can say that they do not want to go to any of those. Those are fundamental freedoms.

The problem is not Islam. Islam is practised peacefully by millions of people in this country and throughout the world, without doing any harm to anyone. The problem is that strand of perverted religion which says that co-existence is impossible. We must stand for co-existence and for the pluralism of a society that says that there is no single truth that everyone has to sign up to and believe. Pointing a gun at people’s heads and saying, “Convert or die” is the absolute antithesis of the pluralism, democracy and equality in which we believe. This is not just about military action; this is about our values. If we retreat from the world and do not take on this fight, we will end up with a diminished, shrunken Britain. That should not be our vision for the future or what we stand for.

4.2 pm

Alistair Burt (North East Bedfordshire) (Con): This has been an exceptionally good debate and we have covered a lot of ground. I was particularly keen to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart). When he speaks we listen to him with a mixture of shock and awe—if I can use that phrase—and his powerful description of our deficiencies in resources is familiar to any of us who have knocked around that world. He is right. I used to get gasps from any audience I spoke to when I said that the entire budget for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is less than what we spend on the winter fuel heating allowance, including for fairly well-off pensioners. We have got our balances wrong somewhere.

What my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) said about values, which was echoed by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden), was important, and in this debate we seem to have got back to some clear and definite points about the things in which we believe. The crisis in the middle east and the world that has forced it should not be lost as an opportunity to develop some of the things we have heard, and I hope that those on the Front Benches will take them forward.

Let me start with a little good news and return to the beleaguered Arab spring. I was in Tunisia yesterday and the day before for a conference on investment entitled, “Start-up Democracy”. Little Tunisia is making its way, and what it is doing should not be minimised. Not only has it been through a difficult political negotiation to get to its current position, but a political Islamist party—Ennahda—gave up power, confounding a lot of

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assumptions about it. There is a long way to go, but the guidance of Sheikh Ghannouchi in putting his country before his party—some in his party wished to proceed in a different direction—demonstrated an important point of principle: democracy is not only about winning; it is about sharing and losing power, and there are too few examples around the world of how that can successfully be done. In that region, Tunisia’s example is important.

We must not lose sight of what caused the Arab spring: economics, corruption, political sclerosis. Those issues remain, and the region has to tackle them, because they lie at the root of other things we have discussed. Let no one think, either, that we walked away after Libya. Nobody walked away. I spoke to our ambassador, Michael Aron, who is currently based in Tunis, having previously been in Tripoli. The UK and others have worked incredibly hard on the institution building—the democracy building that people would have wanted. Just because we were not there with boots on the ground to separate warring militias—I am not sure anyone would really have wanted that—and just because we tried to address the needs of Tripoli and Libya in a different way, please do not accuse us of walking away from Libya. We never did.

The more someone learns about the region—there is an issue about ministerial training; I have read more about the region since leaving office than I ever read while there, because of the necessities of ministerial life—the more they realise how complex and difficult it is. Almost everything screams, “Don’t touch this. Listen to people who know the region better than you.” One of the lessons of the past is that we need to listen more.

The areas in the region will develop differently. Anwar Gargash, the Deputy Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates and a great friend of the United Kingdom, said that stability was paramount and that with that came the preservation of a rich and diverse culture, but his was not just a plea for the status quo. He said that rational evolution should be the process. The whole region is changing, and will continue to do so, but it will change differently in different places.

Turning to the crunch issue, I support a policy of containing ISIS, but in the first place it is likely to involve a military response. I would support strikes on ISIS, but some things need to be done quickly. In the argument about who makes the decisions—this place or the Executive—I tend to side with the Executive. The decision has to be explained to the House, and, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) said, it needs to be part of a narrative we all understand, but it does not help our allies and those we need to work with if we continually have to stop and take decisions in the House. We need to think things through—my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray) had some ideas about that—but we have to give the Government the opportunity to take things forward.

Our response should not comprise a deal with Assad, as his butchery is too immense—the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) spoke movingly about that. We can do better. I was in touch with the Free Syrian Army spokesman just this afternoon, and he reminded us:

“We are the west’s partners—we share the west’s values and are protecting our children from terrorism just as you want to protect yours. We are paying in blood for the values of freedom, dignity and justice.”

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The FSA is already fighting ISIS on the ground, just as the Kurds are. What is the difference between them? Why should they not get some support as well? There is a deal to be done. The extremists threaten Syria—they threaten Assad and his regime—and in return for work our air forces can do against extremists, is there not something to get negotiators back to the table? I am not talking about Assad—he is expendable to both the Russians and the Iranians—but the remnants of the Syrian regime, together with the FSA, could negotiate, provided the incentive is there, and possibly we can provide it.

Finally, the coalition must be led by those in the middle east, not the west. That offers the best prospect for the future.

4.8 pm

Liz Kendall (Leicester West) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt). I listened particularly carefully to the important points he made about the Free Syrian Army.

I want to make three brief points. First, the challenges we face today and the nature of global risk and conflict mean that Britain will achieve security for its citizens only if we seek to influence and engage with the world, not retreat from it. Those fighting for ISIL who want to come back and attack this country, and the tragedy of flight MH17, in which one of my constituents lost his life, show that what happens in other parts of the world can and does affect us here in the UK. We must not and cannot pull up the drawbridge, cut ourselves off from others and hope that the rest of the world leaves us alone, because that approach will never deliver security for people in Britain. Instead, we must use our position and international influence—in NATO, on the UN Security Council and, yes, in the European Union too—to provide greater leadership in the world in addressing the challenges and risks that we face.

Secondly—this point has been made by several hon. Members—although we should always learn lessons from the past, we must not be paralysed by it. Iraq understandably casts a long shadow over this House and the country as a whole, but we must focus on the threats and risks we face today and deal with the world as we find it now, not as we might wish it would be. That means taking head-on the argument, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) referred, that somehow our past actions have caused or created ISIL and other forms of Islamic extremism. That is just false. Dealing with the world as we find it also means being clear that although the consequences of action must be fully and seriously considered, so too must the consequences of inaction.

Thirdly, the scale of the challenge presented by ISIL and the threat that its activities and vile ideology pose to the world and to the values that we all hold dear—and which define who we are as a country and as a people—mean that we must keep our options open as to how we respond. That includes the options of who we work with, as well as what we do. We must have a clear objective and strategy and build strong international support, particularly from those in the region, as the right hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire said. However, we should be clear: ISIL must be defeated, ideologically, financially and militarily. That will be achieved not by hope and good intentions alone, but by

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carefully considered, hard-headed realism. Sometimes leadership means leading by example. We will not convince our allies to do more against the common threats we face if we refuse or fail to act ourselves.

In conclusion, Britain is at a crossroads, and not just in our foreign policy. One path—attempting to protect ourselves from the changes that are sweeping the world by rejecting them and isolating ourselves from our allies and partners—will lead to a diminished country. The other path understands that we will succeed only if we seek to influence and shape the changes that are taking place around us, including by working with others. In a world that is increasingly interconnected—economically, technically and in terms of security—I believe we should take the second path, because that is the key to our future security and prosperity.

4.13 pm

Sir Menzies Campbell (North East Fife) (LD): I must begin by apologising for not being present at the outset of the debate; I had a parliamentary obligation outside the House of Commons. However, at least I turned up, which is not something that can be said of Scottish National party Members, who, even as we conduct this debate, are going round Scotland saying that we should have a different and better foreign policy, but have declined the opportunity to come today and to take us, and perhaps the British public in general, into their confidence.

I had the good fortune to hear the speeches of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) and my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), who has now left us. I recall, as my right hon. and learned Friend will, that he and I went through the No Lobby together when it came to the question of military action against Iraq. Although it was suggested a moment or two ago that legality was perhaps too much in the minds of those who took that course of action, the truth is that unless we are able to persuade the House of Commons that what we are about to do is legal, we will have very little chance of persuading the public outside the House of Commons that what we are proposing to do is in the best interests of the public.

Mr Jenkin: The point was not to criticise any legitimate discussion about legality, although I do not think there was any question about that legality. The problem was that we spent all our time discussing that and talking through the United Nations—it is all that Tony Blair talked to the President of the United States about—instead of asking, “What are we going to do when we get there?” We thought that that discussion had gone on between Tony Blair and the President, but it just had not. That was the real tragedy of that situation.

Sir Menzies Campbell: My recollection is that the discussion was mainly about illegality, and I think the hon. Gentleman does himself and his party a little less well than he could have, because the Conservative spokesman, translated to the House of Lords as Lord Ancram, was among those who were arguing very strongly that there was a complete absence of a plan about what needed to be done after the military action had been successfully concluded. That attitude and those matters were under active consideration by the hon. Gentleman’s own party, even though it had voted to go to war anyway.

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Mr Jenkin rose—

Sir Menzies Campbell: I must make some progress, if my hon. Friend will excuse me.

The second speech by which I was considerably influenced was that of the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border, who talked in realistic terms about resources, in particular the resources available to the Foreign Office. I would like to say a few words about the resources available to the three security services, which as it happens are giving evidence to the Intelligence and Security Committee today.

If the threat is increasing and if the analysis is that there is a greater risk of terrorist activity in this country as a result of returning jihadists, one way to begin to seek to meet that threat is by ensuring that those who are on the front line of seeking to disturb or prevent such actions from taking place are properly resourced. That means investing money—and, yes, it means taking money away from other things. We should never forget that the primary duty of any Government is the defence and the security of their own citizens.

Stephen Barclay: Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggesting that we should perhaps take money from DFID’s budget, which is often justified in terms of soft power? Last year, for example, it spent £4 million on a Spice Girl-style band in Ethiopia. Should we not be spending that sort of funding on serious diplomatic and intelligence capability?

Sir Menzies Campbell: I am something of a fan of the Spice Girls myself.

Hon. Members: Sporty Spice!

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order.

Sir Menzies Campbell: I think the hon. Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay) is suggesting that they are alternatives, but they are not. Of course, when we spend as much as we do on soft power, there will be projects of which we disapprove, but there are places in the world that now have clean water that did not have it before, and children getting the kind of vaccinations that they did not get before as a result of our spending so much money in that direction. As for influence, at the United Nations we will find that every country and every permanent representative we talk to will say how much they appreciate—and indeed envy the fact—that the United Kingdom is such a serious contributor to international development.

There have been some criticisms about strategy. I am rather diffident about entering into important strategic discussions with three minutes and 23 seconds in which to do so, but I wish to emphasise my support for the notion of values. Values have been invoked in some thoughtful speeches in the course of this debate—including freedom of speech, the rights of women and the right to free expression. I would like to put it slightly differently and start with the rule of law, which is a fundamental constituent of any democratic society. Human rights are important, too—in a sense, they embrace some aspects of freedom of speech and the rights of women. Democratic structures are important, too, of course. These are the values that have been very substantially copied from

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this country by many other countries throughout the world, particularly those in the Commonwealth. I think that we should be nothing other than determined—indeed, almost arrogant—in promoting them, because of the stability that they undoubtedly create.

Let me now turn to what has obviously been the single most significant issue in the debate so far: the issue of how to deal with ISIS. The barbarism of ISIS is there for all to see. Like the hon. Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall), I accept that military action will be required, but, as I understood my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe to say, the last thing that such military action should be is at the instigation of the United States and the United Kingdom, and what we rather loosely used to call the west.

If we want moral authority, and if we want political support throughout the region, we must engage with the countries of that region, which is rather what happened in the first Gulf war. It is often forgotten that in the successful first Gulf war, the first unit to cross the start line was an armoured unit from Saudi Arabia. The coalition that was created in respect of that first Gulf war to expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait was broadly based and substantially supported by Arab nations. If we think that we can go into Iraq or Syria looking for ISIS with only the stars and stripes and the Union jack flying above us, we have no idea of the long-term political difficulties that that would cause, however successful the initial military action might be.

I do not really care whether it is a matter of law, a matter of prerogative or a matter of politics, but before this House endorses military action which would have the result of putting our men and women of the three armed services in danger’s way, the Government should come to the House and explain what they are proposing, and the House should endorse it. Anything other than that will not satisfy public opinion.

Several hon. Members rose—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. The debate is proceeding apace, but I am afraid that I must reduce the time limit for Back-Bench speeches to five minutes.

4.22 pm

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab): If there was ever a time for Britain—the United Kingdom—to play its part in the world as a major, respected and democratic force, it is now. I want to make some comments about the situation in Iraq and Syria, and then say something about what I consider to be the major threat that the country faces in helping the middle east and other problem areas in the world.

The situation in Syria and Iraq will not be resolved merely by air strikes, necessary as they may turn out to be. The Gulf states themselves need to play more of a role there. We are talking about a region that was designed and drawn up according to artificial boundaries between nations, and I think that the problems there are too fundamental to be dealt with simply by means of air strikes. We also need more inclusive governance of countries such as Iraq.