“now is the time to scale up British diplomatic, defence and humanitarian efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict and to defeat ISIL”?

May I urge him to intensify his discussions with President Putin, who clearly has the ear of President Assad and will be key to any resolution of the conflict? May I also remind him that it was thanks to the intervention of the Royal Air Force and other air forces that Iraq was prevented from falling into the hands of ISIL completely, which would have been catastrophic for the region? It makes no sense to stop at the Iraqi border today.

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The Prime Minister: I am very grateful for my hon. Friend’s support. The point he makes about Iraq is particularly potent because there was a danger of ISIL overrunning Iraq, and that was stopped through the combination of action from the sky, including by us, and legitimate ground forces. He is also right to talk about the importance of discussing these issues with President Putin, as I have done and will continue to do. There is a gap between us, but I believe it is reducing.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I agree with the Prime Minister that the diplomatic and political process must play a key part in our approach to the hugely complex situation in Syria, and credit should be given to the part it has played so far. But with some limited progress now being seen to come out of Vienna, will he directly address the vital concerns that come through very strongly in the evidence to the Select Committee report that our ability to continue that key political and diplomatic role will be compromised fundamentally if we join the bombing?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady asks a very important question, which is whether taking action against ISIL in Syria makes a political agreement more likely or less likely. In my view, it makes it more likely, first of all because we need to have a Syria with territorial integrity, and unless we deal with ISIL and the caliphate we will not have a Syria to have a transition in. Secondly, while she and I may disagree about many things, surely moderate Sunni forces in Syria need to play a part in the future of that country, so we should be helping them, including through what we do with ISIL, rather than seeing them being wasted away.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): The comprehensive yet, if I may say so, moderate, cautious and wise way in which the Prime Minister has answered many of the concerns this morning will, I think, have led opinion in the House and throughout the country to favour taking the right move, which is striking against ISIS wherever it may be. Does he not agree that the big decision we took was in the House last September, when by 548 votes to 43 we decided to attack ISIS? That decision remains today. Does he not agree that surely some of these current decisions must be taken by him, by the generals and by the intelligence chiefs, and not necessarily taking account of the twists and turns of political fortune in this House?

The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for his support. The point he makes about looking back at the decision we made with respect to ISIL in Iraq and reaching a judgment is an important one, because the judgment was the right one and ISIL has been pushed back in quite a large way since that decision. As for coming in front of this House, I have been very clear that I reserve the right to take action in Britain’s national interest, when I need to, immediately, as I did over the terrorists in Syria, but we now have the convention, which I am happy to apply, that there should be a vote in the House before premeditated action.

Dr Philippa Whitford (Central Ayrshire) (SNP): I am rather anxious that we seem to be responding on the basis of “something must be done”, which is not always the basis for the best decisions. I wonder whether the

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Prime Minister has received information about the strikes in Raqqa that have definitely hit civilian areas and the fact that there is an increase in the number of refugees because they do not know which way to run. I think we do need to be conscious of the risk of recruitment. The people who bombed London in 2005 lived here and the people who bombed Paris lived there. We will not bomb them out of existence, and we know that this may well increase recruitment of extremists here.

The Prime Minister: I would say to the hon. Lady that this absolutely is not a “something must be done” strategy; it is about careful consideration, bringing together all the parts of a plan—diplomatic, political, humanitarian, reconstruction, and military action. Doing nothing, which is the opposite of what the hon. Lady would say, also has consequences, which we have to consider very carefully. In my view, we are at greater risk in terms of the dangerous recruitment of Islamist extremists in our own country for as long as this so-called caliphate exists.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): I commend my right hon. Friend’s approach as set out in his statement, particularly that he is working with our allies. May I urge him to talk to President Obama to ask him when the United States is going to show more resolve? Is it not strange that during the Bosnia conflict it mounted perhaps 130 sorties a day and every aircraft was cleared to drop or shoot, whereas in Syria it is perhaps doing an average of seven sorties a day and only one or two aircraft are cleared to drop or shoot? Should we not expect more from the United States if this alliance is going to be successful?

The Prime Minister: I am very grateful for my hon. Friend’s support. He is right to say how important it is always to have a clear strategy—to have a set of goals and clear means to achieve those goals, which is what I believe I have set out today. The Americans are bearing a lot of the burden of attacking ISIL in Syria, but with other allies, including moderate Arab states. Obviously the greater the part that we play in response to their requests, the greater influence we can have on the course of the campaign, and, in answer to questions from Opposition Members, the greater accuracy we can insist on in terms of targeting.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): The Prime Minister has made a very powerful case this morning. On Tuesday, the head of counter-terrorism said in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee that the threat of Daesh in this country is very real. May I press the Prime Minister on two points? First, an inevitable consequence of our intervention will be that the migration crisis will get much worse. I know that we are ready for that, but is the rest of the European Union ready for it? Secondly, the Prime Minister says that he is the servant of the House. We are all servants of the people. Could I invite him to invite leaders of the Muslim community to meet him at Downing Street, so that he can put the case to them as eloquently as he has put it to us?

The Prime Minister: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support, and for what he has said about his Select Committee and the evidence it received from counter-terrorism experts. I believe they are all speaking

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with the same voice about the risks we face from this so-called caliphate. The right hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue of migration. In the end, the only way to stop the migration crisis is a political solution in Syria, and as I have argued, this action goes together with the political solution we need. He is right to say how important it is to discuss all the issues with members of the Muslim community. I have set up a new engagement forum, and I will look very closely at the specific idea he has suggested.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I support an ISIL-first strategy, but can my right hon. Friend explain how we will succeed with that strategy if it is not shared by Turkey, which seems to be more interested in bombing Kurds than in bombing ISIL?

The Prime Minister: I am very grateful for my hon. Friend’s support. It is right to have, as I have set out, an ISIL-first strategy. I think what we are seeing from others involved in this process is a growing understanding that the true enemy is ISIL. If we look at what happened with the hideous bombing in Ankara, which has now been laid firmly at the door of ISIL, we will see that there is a growing understanding from Turkey’s leaders that ISIL is an enormous threat to their country—which it is.

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): It might have been helpful if the Prime Minister had said more about how robust the intelligence is in support of some of the facts he has provided today, particularly with regard to the 70,000 Syrian fighters because the issue of ground forces, which has been raised by other Members, is key, and today’s statement was weak in that regard. I have asked him this question twice before: what efforts is he continuing to make to persuade the Iraqi Government to do more to arm and support the Sunnis in Iraq, because they will be crucial to defeating ISIL?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Prime Minister al-Abadi is a great improvement on his predecessor in wanting a genuinely plural society in Iraq, but we need more progress on hiring Sunnis—and indeed Kurds—into the Iraqi security forces, so that there are troops who will be trusted by local people when they clear and hold territory that is occupied by Sunni tribes. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about that. We are doing everything we can. We already have forces training the Iraqi security forces, at their request, on countering improvised explosive devices; I am sure they would like us to do more. We will keep looking at their requests and see what more we can do. The hon. Gentleman is completely right about that.

On the robustness of the intelligence case regarding the Free Syrian Army, as I have said, that is all cleared through the authorities in a way that never existed properly before the Iraq war. Those changes were put in place. If the House wants, through its Select Committees, to invite some of those senior officials to give detailed evidence, I am very happy for that to happen. In no way do I want to be accused of inventing or overstating intelligence information; I am trying to understate everything. The only thing I am absolutely clear about is that we face a threat and we should deal with it.

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Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): The Prime Minister has made a compelling and considered case today. Having voted against action last time this subject came to the House, I would like to say that I will join him in standing with not only our allies, but the countless thousands of Muslims across the region who have been enslaved, massacred and tortured. What reassurance can he give our forces who are supporting Kurds and other local forces on the ground that they will not be bombed by Russia?

The Prime Minister: May I thank my hon. Friend for her support? This is a different question that the House is considering, and I do not want to go back over past ground. This is a new question, and I would appeal to colleagues right across the House to respond in the way that she has done.

In terms of the moderate forces, this is the remaining disagreement between us and Russia. So far, Russia has done more to inflict damage on the moderate forces than on ISIL. There are some signs of that changing, and we need to encourage that to change more, not least because in the processes we have had in the past, including the Geneva processes, the Russians have accepted that people such as the Free Syrian Army and their civilian representatives should play a part in the future of Syria.

Stephen Gethins (North East Fife) (SNP): As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, I thank the Prime Minister for coming to the House to deal with some of the issues raised in our report about how we can best and most effectively bring an end to Daesh. The House has been asked to commit to military action in the past in areas such as Libya and Iraq, as the Prime Minister said, and that has ended badly. I do not believe that he has yet answered our questions adequately on issues such as ground troops or a long-term strategy. Further to the comments by the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, will the Prime Minister give a commitment to appear before the Committee to give evidence before a motion comes before the House to approve military action?

The Prime Minister: I am very happy to appear in front of the Select Committee. I cannot promise to do that before a vote in this House, but obviously, were there to be a vote in this House, I would appear in this House—at this Dispatch Box—for a full day’s debate. I will sit and listen to contributions, I will take questions, and I will take as many interventions as I possibly can.

I would say to the hon. Gentleman that I think the Select Committee asked good questions, and I would urge him to read our response in full; it is incredibly detailed. The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee has, I think, indicated that the answers are satisfactory. I ask the hon. Gentleman, as a member of that respected Select Committee, to look at it carefully. If there are other points that he wants to raise and write to me about, I am very happy to enter into a correspondence with him.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): The Prime Minister will know that some of the regional tensions in the middle east and Syria stem from the mutual hostility and antagonism between Iran and Saudi Arabia. During our Foreign Affairs Committee visit to

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both Tehran and Riyadh this week, we were given assurances that both countries are prepared to start constructive dialogue. Will he use his good offices at the United Nations to bring these two countries together to try to make sure that their hostility stops?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran is going to be crucial to providing the backdrop to a political solution in Syria. We need to make sure that the potential conflict between Sunni majority nations and Shi’a majority nations does not overtake what is necessary, which is to identify the common enemy: this Islamist extremist violence, most notably through ISIL, which is of course a threat to us, as we have discussed, but also a massive threat to the stability and security of the region.

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op): It is of course important that the Prime Minister provides the reassurances that many of my Labour colleagues are seeking—particularly on the reconstruction fund, which he mentioned, for after the conflict—but is not United Nations Security Council resolution 2249 a pivotal moment? Will he confirm that it not only permits all necessary steps to be taken to eradicate ISIL, but actually calls on member states to take all necessary steps? What would it say about our judgment if we failed to take heed of the appeal from the United Nations?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes a very powerful point. The Security Council resolution confirms the right of member states to defend themselves and others, and it confirms the need to do so against ISIL, so I think that is a very powerful point. When people talk about knee-jerk reactions, we need to think about what has changed. What has changed is that we have a UN Security Council resolution, Paris has happened, the political process has happened, and the advice about the need for action is so clear. Labour Members will, I know, be thinking very carefully about this, and rightly so, but I was looking at what their party conference motion said about opposing action until the “following conditions are met”, of which the first point was:

“Clear and unambiguous authorisation…from the United Nations.”

That is a very important step forward, so Members who feel that this is the right action should see that as a very important point.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): I thank the Prime Minister for the great care that he has taken to inform us. Indeed, he has made a very convincing case today. However, he and I sat in this Chamber when a very convincing case was made for the Iraq war, so we need to be very careful about this. He may not want to say a lot in public about this point at the moment, but many of us want to be convinced about the operational basis of this action, and to be sure that it will make a difference in this benighted country.

I say gently to the Prime Minister that the weakest part of his argument was in his response to my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis). This rag-bag army of the Free Syrians will not take the

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territory held by ISIL. I know that the Prime Minister will not want to say this in public now and eat his words, but we have to co-operate with Russia, Assad and the Syrian army if we are to complete a bombing war and look forward to the reconstruction after that.

The Prime Minister: I am grateful for what my hon. Friend says about the case that has been made. Let us not look back to Iraq and 2003. We have to separate in our minds, our actions and our votes the case in front of us now from what people feel they were told back in 2003.

My hon. Friend says that one of the most difficult arguments is the one about ground troops. He is absolutely right; it is probably the most difficult argument. I am not denying that. I am not pretending that there is some perfect armed force, formed up and ready for us to work with. I am saying: do not underestimate the fact that there are Free Syrian Army forces and Kurdish forces that can help. I am not overplaying them or overly bigging them up; they do exist, they are doing good work and we can help them. However, I have said very specifically that the real arrival of the ground troops we need will follow a political transition to a new Government in Syria.

The only difference between me and my hon. Friend—and, indeed, between me and my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis)—is on whether we could team up with Assad. I do not think that that is practical, doable or the right course, not least because Assad has been something of a recruiting sergeant for ISIL. I hope that that difference between us does not mean that we end up in different Lobbies. He understands, and my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East understands, that there is a threat from ISIL. Inasmuch as we can act now to reduce that threat, we should.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): I thank the Prime Minister for the considered way in which he has approached this statement. If I have understood him correctly, he thinks that the UK’s participation in the existing military action in Syria would fulfil two functions. First, it would disrupt ISIL’s communications to guard against terrorist threats here. Secondly, it would buy time for forces on the ground in Syria to push ISIL/Daesh back, pending a political settlement in that country. On the second point, if ISIL/Daesh was pushed back, what is his best judgment of what forces would be most likely to move in and fill the gap, in advance of the political settlement that he and I want to see?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the two points that I am making. Let me answer him in a slightly strange way. When Russia bombed the Free Syrian Army, the forces that went into the area tended to be ISIL forces. The point I am making is that if we take action against ISIL where there are moderate forces or Kurdish forces, they have shown that, if we act in conjunction with them, they can take hold of and administer territory. That is what we should do. We should not overstate their abilities. As I have said, we will have to wait for a transition in Syria to have the full answer. However, the question is, “Can we make progress now?”, and my answer is yes.

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Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for his comprehensive statement this morning, but I caution him about ruling out the use of western ground troops. God forbid that this should happen, but further major attacks on the west like those we have seen in Paris, London and New York could—I say “could”—force or demand the western allies to deploy with local troops to crush ISIL and prevent further atrocities on our streets.

The Prime Minister: I have great respect for my hon. Friend and his knowledge of military issues, but we have to think about the danger of being counterproductive. There is good evidence from history that the presence of western ground troops could itself be a radicaliser. That is why we are charting such a careful path, and are saying that we support action from the air and providing support to troops on the ground, but that we do not propose the application of British ground troops.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I am keen to accommodate the interest of colleagues, which is understandably extensive. I would be assisted in that regard by brevity, as exemplified by a distinguished lawyer. I call Emily Thornberry.

Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab): I listened with great care to what the Prime Minister said because I wanted to hear about the strategy and the plan, but I am disappointed because I fear it is very thin. I have many questions, but I will ask just one about the military strategy. I know the Prime Minister agrees that we cannot bomb Syria into a western-style democracy from 30,000 feet, and that there must be much more. I want to focus on ground troops. The 70,000 moderate Sunni ground troops that the Prime Minister mentioned seem to be in the wrong place, and there is some question about whether they really exist. Most importantly, given that the Russians are supposed to be some form of ally to us on this matter, I imagine that we will be taking co-ordinated action with them. The Russians will surely continue to bomb those moderate Sunnis, so we will have chaos on the ground.

The Prime Minister: As I explained in my statement, the military strategy is to take out the terrorist targets that we can, as that will help to degrade and dismantle ISIL in Syria. It is to deflate and ultimately destroy the caliphate, which is a radicalising force around the world. We do not agree with the Russians in every regard, for the clear reasons that I have given, and we want them to focus on ISIL and not on the Free Syrian Army. We need to have that discussion with them, but as I said, I believe the gap between us is getting narrower.

Mr Speaker: Let us hear piercing directness and brevity from Mr Philip Davies.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I am prepared to support the Prime Minister in military action against Islamic State, which poses a severe and direct threat to us, but not against Assad, who does not. I want an ISIS-only strategy, rather than an ISIS-first strategy. Will the Prime Minister confirm that the motion he brings forward will be tightly defined and will include military action

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only against Islamic State, and that it will not give him wiggle room to go ahead and attack Assad on the back of that?

The Prime Minister: I can rarely give my hon. Friend full satisfaction, but this time I can. I guarantee that the resolution, if we have one, will say exactly that.

Jo Cox (Batley and Spen) (Lab): The Prime Minister has made a strong and compelling case, particularly as regards action on the grounds of national security, and I welcome the comprehensive, albeit belated, nature of this debate. He spoke about an ISIS-first plan, rather than a Syria-first plan. There is growing evidence that Assad’s barbarity is unhelpful and is forcing moderate Syrians towards extremism. I feel that to date the UK has not given this crisis the diplomatic priority that it demanded. What reassurance can the Prime Minister give the House that a tactical focus on airstrikes will not distract from or undermine vital attempts to achieve a ceasefire and a political transition?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady puts her point well, and I can give her the guarantee that we are stepping up our diplomatic and political efforts, as seen through the work of the Foreign Secretary and the work I am doing on this issue. This is a whole-Syria strategy, because in the end there will be no defeat of ISIL until there is a Syrian Government who can represent all of Syria’s people. Wherever these Islamist extremist groups are in the world—whether it is al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria, or ISIL in Libya and now in Syria and Iraq—they take advantage of ungoverned space, corrupt Governments, and a failure of countries to look after their people. This is a strategy for Syria, but we must recognise that there will be no Syria unless we degrade and destroy ISIL.

Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): I thank the Prime Minister for his considered statement and approach to this issue. Following the atrocities in Paris, it is important that we are shown standing shoulder to shoulder with France, and I will support any motion that he brings forward to take action against ISIS in Syria. Will he be talking to his counterparts in other European Union countries to ensure that they, too, play their part in defeating ISIS?

The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for his support. I can certainly confirm that I will be having those conversations. President Hollande is coming to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on Friday to talk about climate change. I will be able to report to him very directly the feeling in the House of Commons about the need to stand shoulder to shoulder with our French allies and colleagues. There is then an EU conference on EU relations with Turkey. I will be able to have many discussions with EU Presidents and Prime Ministers about the discussions we have had here, the mood of the House of Commons, and what needs to be done.

Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister agree that, whatever important differences we have, there is a united message from across the House about our abhorrence of Islamic State and all its works? All of us wish to eliminate it from our society and from the globe. Does he also agree, however,

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that we must learn the lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and that we must not go in on a tactic and make up the strategy as we go along? Fundamentally, will he consider even more fully doing the things Islamic State does not want us to do: build an international coalition, including with Assad, Russia and Turkey; and, above all, build an Islamic coalition in the region so that the people on the ground can carry the whole of global moderate Islamic opinion with them and isolate Islamic State from its support?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we need to show unity in what we say about ISIL. I think that is clear across the House. We also need to make sure that the coalition to counter ISIL includes Muslim countries and Gulf states, and it does. The only point of disagreement I would have with him is that I think we cannot include Assad in that coalition. He has been one of the radicalisers and the recruiting sergeants to ISIL, because of the barrel bombs and the attacks on his own people. Let me be clear again: this military action, were we to take it, would be targeted against ISIL, not against the regime.

Amanda Solloway (Derby North) (Con): I welcome the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with our two closest military allies, France and the USA, but does the Prime Minister agree we need to protect our way of life for our future generations and for the Syrian refugees who want to return home?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. What lies behind wanting to take this action is not just the protection of ourselves here in this country but building a Syria to which people can return. That is what they want.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): I commend the Prime Minister for the way he has brought this matter to the House. The failure to date of the allied operation to defeat Daesh is not through a lack of air power or bombs that the UK could provide; it is through a lack of sufficient and efficient ground forces able to capitalise on the temporary gains air power is able to achieve. The Free Syrian Army is not adequate to, nor even focused on, the task of defeating Daesh. It is equally focused on undermining Assad’s regime. Until the Government can guarantee a strong ground presence, does he accept that his strategy is one of hope, not confidence?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he says about the way I am presenting this case. I am not presenting this case as one of perfection. Syria is very far from perfection. Even Iraq, where we have the ground troops of the Iraqi security forces and the peshmerga, is a far from ideal situation. As Opposition Members have said, we need to see more Sunnis engaged in the Iraqi armed forces. Obviously, in Syria we need more ground forces to help us do what we do. I believe, however, that to conclude from that we should do nothing is a counsel of despair. We should be taking this action, building on the resources we have.

Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con): The Prime Minister is entirely right that ISIL poses a direct threat to the security of this country and that therefore this

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country should play its part in helping to defeat it. What assessment has he made of the position of Iran, which is of course itself a fundamentalist state? It is, with Russia, one of the principal sponsors of the Assad regime and has many thousands of troops on the ground in Syria.

The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Iran plays a large role in Syria. We have many differences with Iran’s policies and approach. As the first British Prime Minister to meet an Iranian President for 35 years, I have always been clear about what those differences are. I think across the House we can agree on the importance of Iran taking part in this political process. It is crucial that it is around the table for the Vienna process. We need the regional players to buy into the future of Syria.

Mr Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton South East) (Lab): It is, of course, critical we learn the lessons from the past, but it is also critical we escape the trap that sees ISIL and their affiliates as always being a reaction to what we do. They are not children. They are adults who are fully and entirely responsible for what they do.

If we take the decision the Prime Minister is going to put before the House, it will not just extend our involvement, but extend our responsibility. What more can he say to convince the House and the country of his and his Government’s staying power on the diplomatic and political front, particularly at a time when big questions are being asked about Britain’s role in the world and how we see our place in the world?

The Prime Minister: I have said before that I think the right hon. Gentleman speaks with great clarity about this issue: about ISIL, the threat it poses and its own responsibility for its actions, rather than believing it is somehow a reaction to what we do. On what Britain can bring in terms of statecraft and resources, he will have seen the decision we have taken about our Foreign and Commonwealth Office and aid budgets. I think we have the ability to bring countries together, to play a big role in what is needed diplomatically, and to have a large wallet at the end of the process not just to look after refugees, vital though that is, but to help to rebuild the country once the war is over.

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con): The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) spoke correctly when he said that those in ISIS are absolutely responsible for their actions. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister make a few comments on the fact that their actions are not simply an add-on? The attacks in Paris are not an add-on to their strategy. They are a core part of their theology. They are a vile, satanic death cult and they must be stopped.

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend has considerable military experience and understanding of these issues. It is a core part of ISIL’s strategy not simply to build a so-called caliphate across Iraq and Syria, but to plan external attacks from that caliphate, as we have seen in Ankara, Beirut and Paris and the attacks we have thwarted in London. It is a core part of what it does.

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Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): I am very glad the Prime Minister believes we cannot bomb the ground unless there is a plan for holding the ground. I am glad he agrees we will not win unless there are more moderate Sunnis involved in forming an alternative Government-in-waiting. Without that Government-in-waiting, we risk the ground being ungoverned. What assurances can he give us that there are moderate Sunni leaders, particularly in Mosul and Raqqa? The truth is that the peshmerga, the Iraqi security forces and the Free Syrian Army will find it difficult to take those cities. If the political leaders are there, will he tell us who they are?

The Prime Minister: First of all, the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say how important it is to have those ground forces. I pay tribute to what the peshmerga have been able to achieve with American, British and German support. It is also important to recognise what the Iraqi security forces have achieved and how we have rolled back a large extent of the so-called caliphate in Iraq. Syrian moderate forces will suffer further attrition unless we support them. There are 70,000 now. There will be more if we demonstrate our support for them financially, as we do already, and with equipment, as we do already; and, frankly, if we take the fight to ISIL, who are an enormous threat to them. This is partly within our powers. In terms of the people who lead these organisations, whether it is the Kurdish regional authority or the Free Syrian Army, they are all people we are in contact with and are working with. If the argument is being made that there are not enough of them, yes, I agree. But I do not think that that is an argument for inaction; it is an argument helping them and building them up.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): The only apparent source of wealth for ISIL comes from onshore oil fields that do not require precision bombing to take out, yet we have made very little progress on this in the past year. Will the Prime Minister say why we have not attacked this source of wealth, and whether, going forward, we will be able to?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The simple answer to his question is that a lot of these fields are in Syria. When we ask what more we can do to cut off sources of funds to ISIL, we would be enormously helped if we could take the action in Syria that I am proposing.

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): While there are some who will set myriad preconditions that they know cannot be met realistically in the given timescale, there are nevertheless very legitimate questions. May I return the Prime Minister to the issue of Iraq? Will he have the courage to say that the Abadi Government are far from being a great improvement on their predecessor and that the political settlement in Iraq is broken, so that any long-term solution will come from the international community recognising that and placing a greater emphasis on rebuilding the capacity for the Sunni areas to govern for themselves?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is right. The situation in Iraq—and its Government—is fragile and needs a lot of extra work, although it is an improvement

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on what came before. Again, my argument would be that it is by engaging that we are able to bring about change. This debate is revealing that there are answers to all these questions. We raise questions about whether they are comprehensive enough, but there is no perfection when it comes to this issue. In the end, we can ask all the questions and try to answer them, and then we reach a point of decision. In my view, from everything that is emerging from this discussion, there are answers, but in the end we cannot dodge the decision.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): In relation to defeating this evil organisation, its ideological appeal and its self-proclaimed legitimacy, our key ally France uses the term Daesh, and the French media now follow. Paragraph 1(3)(5) of UN resolution 2249 mentions Daesh, as do the EU statement, the entire Arab League and 170 Members of Parliament. Doing so would help to address the rise in Islamophobia in this country, which I know the Prime Minister does not want, but which is happening by deliberately linking Islam with this terrorist organisation. It has chosen to call itself an Islamic state and a caliphate for a reason—we should not do that.

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is fighting this strong campaign and convincing increasing numbers of people. My only concern is whether we might lose the public by changing the name. I am listening very carefully to the arguments he is making.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I thank the Prime Minister for the patience he has shown this morning in his statement. I would like to press him on one point. He rightly talks about combating ISIL/Daesh, but he has also talked about Assad. Can he use the words that I think would comfort people in this House and in the country and say that Her Majesty’s Government are not about “regime change” in Syria?

The Prime Minister: I am happy to say that. We are not taking or proposing to take military action to achieve regime change in Syria. That is not the agenda. The agenda is to help others, including our allies, to degrade, deflate and ultimately destroy ISIL. We believe, as everyone in the Vienna process believes, that there needs to be political transition in Syria. That is not just the British view; it is the French view, the American view, and indeed in many ways also the Russian view, as well as the view of others. Whatever one’s view about Assad, there will need to be over time a comprehensive and pluralistic Government in Syria that can represent all the people.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): The Prime Minister is absolutely right to say that ISIL/Daesh needs to be taken on in its physical territory in northern Iraq and Syria. Does he agree, however, that this is not just a physical battlefield; it is a battlefield that is going on in cyberspace, too, and that we need to ensure that we take on ISIL/Daesh wherever they are—physically or virtually?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A lot of use has been made of social media and cyberspace, so the conflict needs to take place there as well.

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Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): One of the challenges we will face is the increasing number of refugees next spring. What steps will we take, with our allies, to ensure that we deal with the threat of terrorism that uses the cover of the passage of refugees into Europe to strike at European countries, including the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point. At Europe’s external border, we need to do better at making sure that refugees are properly fingerprinted and documented, so that people cannot do what might have happened recently with movements across the border. In Britain, we maintain our own border controls. As I have said from this Dispatch Box before, if we have legitimate security concerns, we are able to stop people coming into this country, whether they be EU citizens or those coming from elsewhere.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I think the whole House will appreciate the way in which the Prime Minister is taking this process through Parliament. He was at the Dispatch Box on Monday and he said in reply to my question that he had an open door to the Leader of the Opposition on this issue. The Leader of the Opposition has asked seven sensible questions today, but has not actually expressed a view on what he might do. Does the Prime Minister think there is room, perhaps even before next week, to get the Leader of the Opposition in and agree a draft motion with him?

The Prime Minister: As I have always said, my door is open to the Leader of the Opposition. He and his team had a briefing from my national security adviser last night and asked a series of questions that I think got some comprehensive answers. If we decide to go ahead with a vote, having seen a sign of significant support across the House, I will try to draft the broadest possible motion that will attract the widest possible support. If people have suggestions about what they would like to see in that motion, I would be very happy to hear from them.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): Let me bring the Prime Minister back to the direct threat to our own constituencies. He will be well aware of individuals from my constituency who were groomed and travelled to fight for Daesh and of an individual from Cardiff city who is believed to have posed a direct threat to the UK as a result of his activities with Daesh. Will he say more about the necessity of going after Daesh in the territory that it controls and how that impacts on actions here, recruitments and actions against this country’s citizens?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, which is why our military objectives are not simply the elimination of terrorist networks, training camps and the rest. While this so-called caliphate exists, and while it is able to broadcast its poison and its message, it is—shockingly—attracting people from right across the world. It does not matter which President or Prime Minister I speak to—I had talks with the Prime Minister of Canada last night, for example, and I shall see many others at the Commonwealth Heads

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of Government conference from all over the world. As long as this so-called caliphate exists, it attracts young people and poses risks to us all.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): I thank the Prime Minister for his considered statement, which I very much support. May I ask for his reassurance that the fantastic work in Iraq of the men and women of the Royal Air Force over the past year and more, including most recently at Sinjar in supporting troops on the ground, will not be diluted by any action that we take?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s support. He asks an important question about the additional resources that would be brought into play if we were to go ahead. That is exactly what we would do. Action would principally be a combination of our Typhoon and Tornado jets, and we will want to continue what we are doing in Iraq while doing more in Syria as well.

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): I have listened very carefully to what the Prime Minister has said. May I ask him about ensuring whether his strategy is truly comprehensive? I asked on Tuesday about financial flows to Daesh, and I want to ask now what consideration the Prime Minister has given to the economic future for Syria. What plans is he bringing forward, with our international partners, to make sure that the economic future of Syria is sustainable at the point we can make it so?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady asks a very important question. The truth is that ISIL/Daesh has possession of some parts of Syria that have oilfields in them, so it is able to take and sell that oil, sometimes to the Syrian Government, in order to sustain itself and make money. By acting in Syria, we may be able to cut off those flows to an even greater extent that we have done already. As for the future of Syria, the country has natural resources and the great resource of its people; it would, in a transitional form, attract huge support from across the Arab world and the developed world here in the west. We want to see Syria rebuilt, so its people can return there.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I am keen to accommodate the remaining interest. However, the pithy replies we have had from the Prime Minister must now be matched by single, short, supplementary questions without preamble.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend explain how long this strategy will take to implement, given that we are clearly not going to get instantaneous results?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend has asked an important question. I will report back to the House regularly, but I do not want to put a timeframe on this, because, as what we are doing in Iraq has shown, this is taking time. It is taking time partly because we are not committing ground troops. This is a strategy of relying on, and working with, those on the ground. That takes

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longer, but the fact that it is a long strategy and a complex strategy does not mean that it is not the right one.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): There will be Muslims in this country, particularly young Muslims, who, although they do not support ISIL/Daesh, are concerned about the UK being seen to take military action against other Muslims. Will the Prime Minister address that concern directly, and make it clear that to be anti-ISIL/Daesh is not to be anti-Muslim?

The Prime Minister: That is absolutely the case. We have seen what Daesh has done to other Muslims. We have seen the torture and the persecution. We have seen people being thrown off buildings, women being subjected to sexual slavery, and the sponsoring of bombs in Ankara and in Beirut, where Muslim upon Muslim has been butchered. Those are the arguments that we need to make to our British Muslim constituents who want to know that we are on the side of Islam as a peaceful religion, and that we are trying to get rid of this murderous death cult.

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): Two years ago I was opposed to military intervention in Syria, but in the light of the atrocities that took place in Paris last week—and particularly in the light of my right hon. Friend’s statement, the way in which he has dealt with the issue, and the compelling case that he has made—I will support the motion when it is put to the House. Does he agree, however, that this is about ISIL, because it represents a clear and present danger to our constituents?

The Prime Minister: I am very grateful for my hon. Friend’s support, and I can absolutely confirm that that is our aim. It is about dealing with ISIL.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I accept that ISIL presents a clear and present threat to this country, whether or not we are involved in bombing in Iraq or Syria or both: I need no convincing of what the terrorists’ intentions are. I also welcome the Prime Minister’s assurance that the motion that he will present to the House will rule out any mission creep beyond dealing with ISIL, but may I ask him to go further? I think that the weakness in his argument today relates to the question of who will occupy and control that territory if we force ISIL into retreat. Will he come back to us with more details, in order to convince us that action will result in the outcome that we desire?

The Prime Minister: I am happy to do that. I have tried to be very clear about the fact that there is not a perfect situation in Syria with huge amounts of ground forces that can do the job that the hon. Gentleman mentions, but it would be wrong to suggest that there are not any. I would also make the point that the more we can be seen to act, the more we can help to build up those forces.

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): There are those who criticise our international aid budget, and, indeed, there has been some criticism in the press today. Does my right hon. Friend agree that aid is as important to our national security as it is in terms of our moral obligation to the rest of the world?

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The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right. That is one of the reasons we are saying that we are going to refashion the budget to ensure that half of it focuses on fragile and conflict-bound states.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Thirty per cent. of ISIL-held land in Iraq has been retained, but 70% remains in its hands. Why is it not right for us to help our allies by clearing the problem of Daesh in Iraq, building a pluralistic state in which Sunnis see a potential future that they can support, and taking the commitment to Iraq before we move on to Syria?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady has asked a very good question, to which I think there are two answers. First, I do not think it is possible to complete the work in Iraq without dealing with Daesh in Syria; it does not recognise a border and we are recognising it. Secondly, although ISIL is a threat to us wherever it is, the head of the snake—the biggest part of the threat—is around Raqqa, which is in Syria.

Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con): The people of Calder Valley will rightly want to know one key thing, and that is whether British action in Syria will make a real difference to the situation on the ground and help to make us safer at home. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that that will be the case?

The Prime Minister: I very much believe, on the basis of the military, security and intelligence advice that I have been given, that that is the case, and I can see it myself, because plot after plot against this country has come not just from ISIL, but from around Raqqa. It is ISIL in Syria that is the greater threat to us.

Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP): I must declare an interest, in that my husband has been a member of the UK armed forces.

The Prime Minister said that the proposed air involvement could be sustained for many months. Will he give us further clarification? For how many months is it considered that it can be sustained, or indeed would be required to be sustained, at this stage?

The Prime Minister: I do not want to put a timeframe on the action that we have to take, because obviously the time will depend on the success of degrading and deflating ISIL and the so-called caliphate. As I said in my statement, one of the reasons the allies would like us to take part is that because of the strength and stability of our armed forces, we are a country that can sustain them at a regular tempo of combat rather than surging them up and surging them back down. That makes us a particularly valuable ally in what will undoubtedly be a long and complex campaign.

Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): My right hon. Friend has made a reasoned and principled case for why we must act in Syria in the same way as we are acting in Iraq. Previous experience demonstrates, however, that post-conflict renewal is critical to our ongoing security, and the experience in Sinjar demonstrates that when ISIL leaves, it leaves a humanitarian desert behind it. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that plans are being made in the Department for International

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Development, so that when ISIL is finally defeated—as it will be—we shall be in a position to ensure that post-conflict reconstruction and renewal occurs, and occurs well? If that is not already happening, will he ensure that it does happen?

The Prime Minister: My hon. and learned Friend has made an important point. As soon as areas are liberated from ISIL by, for instance, peshmerga forces or, indeed, Iraqi security forces, our aid budget can come into play, and we can assist at once. The sooner we help, the more we can deliver a real change, and the more we can deal with the issue of migration flow as well.

Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab): Those in ISIL have proved themselves to be brutal and merciless killers, but they have recruits from many, many different places. If we can defeat ISIL/Daesh militarily, given that the nature of the threat and the mindset of its members, does that mean eradicating every single man and woman with a connection? If not, where and how do we intend to contain and detain those who are left until they no longer pose a terrorist threat to the places from which they have come?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman has asked a question that we could spend a whole day debating. What I will say is that the military action is only one part of a strategy to deal with the enormous problem of radicalised extremist Islam and the violence that it brings. We can do a certain amount with military action, but we need our counter-terrorism powers, we need our Prevent strategy, we need terrorism prevention and investigation measures, and we need strategies to deal with returning Syrian fighters. We need to do all those things, and—as I put it—it will be a generational struggle to get it right.

Maggie Throup (Erewash) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend assure the House—and, indeed, my constituents—that if a decision is made to extend airstrikes into Syria, every effort will be made to keep people safe on the streets of Britain, especially during the Christmas period, when our towns and cities are especially busy?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend has asked a very important question. This is part of the strategy to help keep us safe. We cannot deny the fact that there is a danger to our country now—the level of threat is set at severe, which means that an attack is highly likely—but we are already at that level, and the view of our intelligence and security services is that in terms of a threat from ISIL, we are already very high up on its target list.

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab): The Prime Minister has rightly said that peace is a process, not an event. Will he assure me that, while the existence of a diplomatic process is of course essential, the important effort to broker a political settlement could be made to run in parallel with necessary action to counter the very direct threat that we, as a country, undoubtedly face?

The Prime Minister: Yes. Given his own considerable military experience, the hon. Gentleman knows a lot about this, and he is completely right: these are parallel processes. I would not be in favour of military action if

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I thought that it could somehow derail the political process. My view is that it will assist the political process, for the clear reasons that I have given.

Edward Argar (Charnwood) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, just as actions have consequences, so does inaction—for Syria, a country with which I am personally familiar, for the region, and for our own country—and that extending military action in a focused and proportionate way, in tandem with a diplomatic and political effort, offers the best hope for a safer future for both Syria and the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend puts it very well. This is a comprehensive strategy that recognises we have to step up to the plate not just militarily but diplomatically and politically.

Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): I assure the House that we all share the objective of defeating ISIS, but there are some critical questions, one of which, as the Prime Minister knows, is whether airstrikes alone, without ground forces, can achieve the objective. He points to the 70,000 opposition troops, but there has been debate about that. Do our allies share the view that these are the appropriate troops to take to the ground, and how does he think we can realistically protect them as they do so, without getting into conflict with Russia and others?

The Prime Minister: Our allies do take the view that we can and should work with these people. The US has played a large role, as have we, in helping to build up and fund these forces.

Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con): People are genuinely afraid of the ISIL extremist ideology threatening our way of life—children, men and women, including constituents in Taunton Deane, which might seem miles away but really is not. We cannot live like this. Will the Prime Minister confirm that he will push ahead with the measures to defeat this ideology and include a plan to care for Syrians who genuinely have to flee and eventually return?

The Prime Minister: I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that we will go on doing all we can to help Syrians who have fled their homes. She puts it very well. In the end, we have to decide whether to act and confront this evil. In my view, if we do not act, we will be less safe.

Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP): The Prime Minister has referred to 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters, principally those of the Free Syrian Army, who do not belong to extremist troops and are ready to act. Only a few weeks ago, the FAC heard that there appeared to be little chance of a legitimate and functioning ally emerging from the chaos on the ground any time soon. What has changed?

The Prime Minister: Nothing has changed. We have given regular reports about supporting the Free Syrian Army and what we have done to try to bolster their forces, and I have given the House the most accurate statistics I can about their existence. We can either help build them up and work with them, or we can turn away and see their numbers attrited even more.

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John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): I welcome today’s comprehensive analysis and clear plan, and I support the Prime Minister, but I am a little concerned about the level of collective resolve to deliver a benign and representative Government in Syria. Will he assure me that we will see this strategy through to the end and not pull out if the military and diplomatic advice he is receiving proves to be optimistic on timescales?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s support. The advice I am getting is that there is no quick or easy way of solving the problem. We have been committed for four years to humanitarian assistance and to the diplomatic process for many years—remember, we have had Geneva I, Geneva II and now Vienna. In the same way, this whole process will take a long time, and we should be clear about that.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): The Prime Minister has stressed that the ISIL-first strategy cannot extend to our intervening as an ally of Assad. In the memorandum to the FAC, he said that an intervention on such terms would be wrong on three grounds: it would misunderstand the causes of the problem; it would make matters worse; and Assad’s rule is one of ISIL’s greatest recruiting sergeants. Does he accept that those valid considerations against such intervention also persuade many of us against intervention on the terms he is commending? We do not want to feed the evil we want to defeat.

The Prime Minister: I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, but if we do not intervene against ISIL, we should not be surprised when it grows and threatens us more. Of course there are concerns and difficult questions—it is a complex situation—but, as I have said, just because a strategy is complicated and takes a long time does not mean it is not the right strategy and cannot work. If hon. Members are looking for complexity as a reason to say, “This is difficult, and therefore we cannot support it”, they will not have any trouble finding it—it is complex—but in the end it comes down to some simple judgments about what will make us safer or less safe.

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con): As my right hon. Friend has said, defeating ISIL is the battle of our generation. Does he agree that ISIL are attacking not only our allies but us, attempting terrorist attacks in the UK and poisoning the minds of young people with their ideology? Is now not the time to step up our commitment and take the fight to their stronghold in Syria?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right. It is sometimes tempting to think, “If only we left these people alone, we would be safer and everything would be okay”. When it comes to ISIL, that is a completely false prospectus. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) said, they hate us for what we are, not for what we do. It is worth noting that France was not involved in the Iraq war, yet it was attacked. These people have killed more Muslims than Christians. It is because of their distorted and perverted worldview that they make these attacks, and we should not stand by as they do so.

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Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP): The Prime Minister is on the record as saying that the UK’s unique contribution to the fight against Daesh is the Brimstone missile, but will he confirm that the Royal Saudi air force has been using the Brimstone missile against Daesh since February? What assessment has been made of its success in diminishing Daesh?

The Prime Minister: The Brimstone missile, which is a British missile worked on with the RAF and used before, is one of the most capable and accurate weapons systems there is, particularly in the hands of our highly trained RAF pilots. It is not just me saying this; it is the view of our military, as well as of our allies, who are keen for us to help.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I voted against action last time, but I am increasingly likely to support action this time, as long as it is against ISIS and does not involve ground troops. My right hon. Friend is trying to build an international coalition, of course, and yesterday he met the new Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who won an election on the basis of pulling out of airstrikes. Has he had any success in convincing him to change his mind?

The Prime Minister: First, I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s growing support, which I hope to bring to a happy—for us both—conclusion. No, “conclusion” is the wrong word; it is a process, and a never-ending one, I hope.

I had good talks with Prime Minister Trudeau last night. He has made a particular decision about Canadian jets, but he is considering stepping up the training support they provide, particularly to the Iraqi security forces and the peshmerga.

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP): How much will the £1 billion put aside for reconstruction today compare with the total cost of the planned military action, given that the Prime Minister spent 13 times as much on bombing Libya as he did on reconstruction?

The Prime Minister: Obviously, the amount we spend on the military campaign will depend on how long it lasts, and the amount we spend on reconstruction will depend on how great the needs are, but I say to the hon. Gentleman—a citizen of the United Kingdom—that the UK aid budget is unrivalled almost anywhere in the world. We are capable of bringing an enormous amount to bear on reconstruction.

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): Like Members on both sides of the House, I came to this statement with a heavy heart, but the Prime Minister has made a compelling case and set out a comprehensive strategy, one of the most compelling elements of which was how Britain’s precision capabilities can save civilian lives. May I encourage him to put saving civilian lives including Muslim lives, at the heart of any motion he brings before the House?

The Prime Minister: I am happy to do that, and I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s support.

Peter Kyle (Hove) (Lab): One of the lessons of Iraq was that the rapidity, scale and organisation of the aid and reconstruction response need to match that of the

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military intervention. That was a positive lesson from Kosovo, where I played a small part as an aid worker. If the Prime Minister and the International Development Secretary can reassure us that this is the case, he will be able to count on my support.

The Prime Minister: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s comments, particularly given his experience. My memory is that before Iraq there was a lot of discussion of, and planning for, humanitarian aid packages after the war but no plan for not destroying the institutions of the Iraqi state. As a result, the aid did not touch the sides of the subsequent crisis. This time, we would do things very differently, in the way he suggests.

Mr Alan Mak (Havant) (Con): The Prime Minister stated that some of our allies wanted us alongside them because of the unique capabilities that we can provide. Will he outline some of the key capabilities of the RAF that could be brought to bear in the region, and will he join me in paying tribute to its work?

The Prime Minister: I certainly join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the RAF’s work. The things that I have, as it were, seen with my own eyes and discussed with RAF pilots are the reconnaissance airborne pod for Tornado, the RAPTOR pod—about which it is said that a Tornado could hover over the Isle of Wight and be able to read the hands on Big Ben, such is the capability of its high-definition camera—and the Brimstone missile, which has proved in test after test to be one of the most accurate weapons, with the lowest level of civilian casualties. Those two things are very important.

Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP): The Prime Minister spoke of a new Government in Syria that would govern for all the people. Will he explain how and when he envisages installing a Government that would represent and be supported by all sides in the aftermath of a bloody and immensely complicated civil war?

The Prime Minister: Obviously the emergence of a transition in Syria will require the Vienna process to work, and to work well. The reason I have greater confidence is that a few months ago there was no process. The Iranians, the Saudis, the Russians and the Americans are now all sitting round the table together. That is real progress.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): It is clear from recent events that the airspace over Syria is very complex. Can the Prime Minister assure me that, if and when a proposal comes forward to mount air strikes against ISIL, there will be a co-ordination strategy between the various air forces that are taking action over Syria?

The Prime Minister: I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that guarantee. There is already a deconfliction strategy, and the RAF would be part of that. We can give further details closer to the time.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): I was struck by what one of my constituents said last weekend, which was that the attacks that happened in Paris could easily have happened in north Wales. There is no doubt

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that such attacks could happen not only in our major cities but in our towns and villages as well. There is immense concern about that. Let us assume that the House gives its support to the Prime Minister for these air strikes. Can he outline how he and his Secretaries of State will update the House on what is happening? If there is to be support, there must also be consensus afterwards.

The Prime Minister: As I have said, I am very happy to be guided by what the House would find most helpful. I think that regular updates from the Dispatch Box would be useful, and I would also be happy to have discussions with Select Committees as appropriate. Perhaps we could look at putting something into the motion, should a motion come forward, to guarantee regular updates so that colleagues could be kept informed.

James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con): We have heard shocking reports from the United Nations of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by ISIL against the civilian population in Syria, including the beheading of a female dentist for the crime of treating patients of both sexes. Does the Prime Minister agree that the only practicable way for us to hold the leadership of ISIL to account for these crimes against humanity is to engage in the type of military action that he is proposing?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He speaks clearly about this issue. Frankly, we should document the many crimes against Muslims in Syria and Iraq that are being carried out by this brutal organisation.

Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP): I was disappointed to hear the Prime Minister say that we cannot look back to what happened in Iraq, because if we do not look back, we will not learn anything. Would he concede that if the Chilcot inquiry had produced its report, we would be better informed as to how best to handle this complex situation?

The Prime Minister: First, if we had had our way over the Iraq inquiry from the start, it would have been published by now. I am not saying that we should not look back and learn. I am absolutely saying that we should look back and learn. Let us learn about the importance of clear processes, legal advice, the Joint Intelligence Committee and all those things. I think you have heard that today. The only point I am making is that we should not go back to what happened in Iraq and therefore enter a freeze where we are incapable of making the decisions that are necessary to keep our country safe in the future.

Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Daesh is obviously a material threat that needs to be challenged, and the Prime Minister has set that out well today, but will he tell us why he believes that the Russians and Iran would step back from backing Assad and attacking the Free Syrian Army when we attack the mortal enemy, Daesh?

The Prime Minister: This is obviously the conversation we have to have, particularly with the Russians. Up to now, they have said that Assad should on no account go, and we have said that we want to see him go. As I

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have said, however, the gap between us has narrowed, because everybody accepts that there needs to be a transition. I have a strong view about Assad but, as I keep saying, it is not so much a political preference as a statement of fact: I do not think that that man is capable of leading a united Syria. That is not just my view; it is the view of the Syrian people. A growing understanding of that is one of the things that is driving forward the Vienna process.

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister agree with his former Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and with John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the UN, that ultimately the world will have to redraw the map and create a Sunni state in northern Iraq and northern Syria? If so, does he think that makes a resolution of the situation easier or harder?

The Prime Minister: I hope that that will not be necessary. I think we should try to respect the territorial integrity of those countries. There are many countries around the world that manage to hold together despite having ethnic and religious differences within them. It would be a slight counsel of despair to believe that we have to end up with a Sunnistan, a Shi’astan and a Kurdistan. We should try to do what those countries want, which is to help to bring them together.

Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con): May I offer my right hon. Friend my complete support for the approach that he is taking? I hear what he says about the use of British ground troops, but the situation can change rapidly in conflicts. If it was in our military interests to deploy a limited number of ground troops, would he do that, and would he be required to come back to the House to gain our approval for such a deployment?

The Prime Minister: I have said what I have said about ground troops, and I do not propose to change that. The motion needs to set out clearly what I am seeking the House’s permission to do. I would want that to be relatively clear and constrained; I would not want people to believe that some sort of mission creep was taking place. I am very happy to listen to people’s views on what the motion should have in it.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP): The Prime Minister has described Raqqa as the head of the snake but, as the story goes, when you cut the head off a snake, seven new heads grow. How can he ensure that the snake is not in fact a Hydra that will emerge stronger in other parts of the region, such as Libya or Tunisia?

The Prime Minister: There is a difference between snakes, with which I am quite familiar, and the Hydra of myth and legend. Maybe we need to have a deeper conversation about that. Look, it is not just my view that Raqqa is the head of the snake; it is. That is where the plots have come from, which is why acting only in Iraq and not in Syria is restricting our effectiveness.

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): Like many in the House, I am pleased that today’s statement has a strong focus on post-conflict reconstruction. Can my right

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hon. Friend tell the House how widely that priority is shared by our EU allies such as Germany and by the nearby Arab states?

The Prime Minister: I think it is widely understood that what must follow all this is a genuine reconstruction of Syria. Millions of people want to go home, and towns and cities will need to be rebuilt. An enormous amount of investment will need to go into the country, and once the conflict is over, that can begin. This has widespread support across the EU.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): There is a view that United Nations resolution 2249 does not provide unambiguous permission to use military action. Does the Prime Minister think that chapter VII of the United Nations charter would need to be invoked to allow military action?

The Prime Minister: I would say that the resolution is fairly comprehensive; I have read out some of the key terms in it. It was unanimously adopted and it has that key chapter VII language in it about “all necessary measures”, even though it is not chapter VII itself. Look, in all these things, one can seek perfection or one can say, “We have UN backing, we have a political process, we have allies asking us to act and we have the advice from our intelligence and security forces about the dangers that we face.” In the end, with all that, there comes a decision, and that is the decision I think we need to take.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): One of the things we have learned from the Iraq war is that, because of the difference of views, it aggravated the separation between British Muslims and the rest of the British population. That gave rise to an irrational fear of people because they were Muslims and led to an increase in the attacks on people in this country because they were Muslims. Is the Prime Minister sure that that will not happen again as a consequence of the decisions that he makes after today?

The Prime Minister: I always listen carefully to my hon. Friend, not least because he works so hard to represent a very multi-ethnic, multi-faith constituency in Bedford. My impression is that British Muslims are absolutely clear that Daesh/ISIL and this so-called caliphate have nothing to do with the religion they care about. I went to Friday morning prayers under the town hall in Chipping Norton recently, where the British Muslims in west Oxfordshire gather, and they all said that in unison; the first thing they said as I walked in the room was, “These terrible people. Prime Minister, they have got nothing to do with us.” You feel their pain in having to say that, so I do not think we should fear that taking action will do damage in that way.

George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP): Will the Prime Minister give us his best estimate of the likelihood in reasonable time of a ceasefire between the major non-Daesh forces in Syria that would allow an effective deployment of ground troops to take and hold Daesh territory?

The Prime Minister: That is a very good question. The Vienna process is supposed to deliver that sort of ceasefire between the Free Syrian Army forces and

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other moderate forces, and the Assad regime. Obviously, that would assist in the destruction of ISIL. It would not necessarily instantly add to the number of ground forces. But the argument I am making is about taking these steps in parallel; I do not believe we can afford to wait until all of these circumstances, including a transition in Syria, come about before we act. That is the crucial question the hon. Gentleman will have to ask himself.

Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) (Con): In order to succeed, I hope the Prime Minister will not leave the House, given the supportive mood here, and use his considerable brilliance and resources to draft a crafty motion when what he needs to be doing is forming those coalitions of ground troops that we all agree we so badly need.

The Prime Minister: Let me reassure my hon. Friend that there is no ambition to draft a crafty motion. I am trying to take as much of the House of Commons with me as I can in taking this important and difficult decision. Hon. Members in all parts of the House will have particular concerns: that there should not be mission creep; that this is about saving Muslim lives in the region as well as saving British lives at home; that there will be regular reports back to Parliament; and that this is part of an overall strategy. All those points, and others, can be properly set out in a motion that I hope would achieve the maximum support in this House.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): As one of those who voted against the war in the key vote on 18 March 2003, I listened with great care to the words the Prime Minister used. When he answered the Leader of the Opposition he said that our bombing was likely to reduce civilian casualties because of the accuracy of our munitions. Surely that could happen only if our action replaces current less accurate bombing rather than adds to bombing that is taking place. Is that what he meant? Will he outline that further?

The Prime Minister: That is very much what I meant. I think we should be stepping up what is happening in Syria, but given our accuracy, I would expect that, all things being equal, we would be taking the place in some instances of others and therefore the point the hon. Gentleman makes is valid.

Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con): If each of our allies independently said, “Well, others are involved and therefore we don’t need to get involved”, how would we ever defeat ISIS?

The Prime Minister: My hon. and learned Friend asks a very good question, which goes to this moral point: is it really a moral stance to say, “Our allies are taking the action that protects us, so therefore we don’t need to act”? Without getting too deep into moral philosophy, if we take the Kantian imperative, we should be following them rather than standing away from them, because otherwise no one would take the action.

Mr Speaker: All colleagues should be familiar with the Kantian imperative. It is very helpful to be reminded of that by the Prime Minister.

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Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): Since the Prime Minister and I entered the House in 2001, we have been asked on four occasions to support military action. On some of those occasions I voted yes and on others I voted no, depending on the merit of the case. Nobody doubts the ability and bravery of the armed forces, but there is great doubt about the ground forces in Syria. My question to him is simply this: if increased bombing leads to increased refugees, will he reconsider the figure he has put on the number of refugees?

The Prime Minister: I am sure the hon. Gentleman is right to consider each case on its merits, and I hope he will consider this case very carefully. The decision with respect to Iraq has clearly shown benefits, and I believe the same can happen in Syria. On the refugee numbers, we have set out our plans. Of course we keep that under review and listen to the arguments, but the most important thing right now, particularly given some of the difficulties faced by the relocation programmes within the EU, is for us to get on and deliver. That is why I am very keen to restate that I am confident that we will have 1,000 people here by Christmas.

Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con): Military action in Syria may be a necessary part of stopping ISIL, but a diplomatic solution is vital. Can the Prime Minister reassure me and my constituents that if military action is taken, he will not take his eye off the ball on a political settlement?

The Prime Minister: I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. More of the philosophy: the military action is a necessary condition but it is certainly not a sufficient condition either to destroy ISIL or to build the peaceful Syria that we all want to see.

Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP): The Prime Minister has spoken repeatedly about the need for a transition in Syria to a new Government, and there will be widespread support in this House for the process that was started in Vienna. I am concerned to get clarity on the Government’s attitude in the here and now, because that process will take time. Is their view and advice to this House that a successful ground offensive can be undertaken against Daesh in Syria without the involvement or without reference to the existing Syrian armed forces?

The Prime Minister: The answer to that question is that with the ground forces that there are in Syria with whom we are working we can have additional impact on ISIL through carrying out the airstrikes and the air-to-ground support that we are talking about. That can assist us—otherwise, I would not be standing here or arguing for it. Is it perfect? No, it is not. Would it be assisted by further ground troops, following a transition in Syria? Yes, it would. But action now can make a difference.

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): To have a chance of success, it is critical that political aims on the future of Syria are agreed by the coalition at the outset, which is not the case at the moment, and that a strategy is developed. That strategy needs to look at who will co-ordinate the ground troops, how they will manage that co-ordination, what will happen where

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there are gaps in existing ground troops and, most importantly, how we will rebuild a country in which 60% of hospitals are already nearly destroyed or destroyed completely. Getting that political strategy agreed is more important than saying, “I hope it will come with airstrikes.”

The Prime Minister: I say to the hon. Gentleman that all those elements are in place: there is a co-ordination mechanism for troops on the ground; there is a plan to reconstruct this country after the war is over; and there is a plan for the transition to take place. Yes, it is complicated and it will take a long time, but that does not mean that there is not a plan, or that it is not the right one.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I admire the sincerity and conviction of the Prime Minister, but if after months of intensive bombing the Free Syrian Army cannot take Raqqa and has become mired in atrocities it is committing, and there is limited progress on a wider settlement, what will he then ask this House to do?

The Prime Minister: I will come back to the House regularly and update it on the progress made. In Iraq, we have made progress: we have seen a reduction of 30% in ISIL’s territory, and it is definitely less capable in Iraq than it was. I believe we can have a similar effect in Syria, and I will report back regularly. As I say, we are not dealing with perfection here; we are dealing with the action that I believe we can take that will help to keep us safe, and that will progressively work to degrade and destroy this so-called caliphate; that is what we are discussing, and I will give regular progress reports.

Steven Paterson (Stirling) (SNP): The Prime Minister said in his statement that there was “daily contact and pragmatic military planning to ensure the safety of all coalition forces.” Given the shooting down of the Russian plane by Turkey, one of our NATO allies, and the massive dangers that entails in terms of escalation, can he say a little more on the communications strategy between the anti-Daesh forces that he foresees?

The Prime Minister: If we were to take part in this action, we would be part of the clearance mechanism that there is between the American-led coalition and the Russians to make sure that these things are deconflicted. The issue for us does not arise with Turkey, because we have overfly rights and Turkey is part of the coalition against ISIL. Clearly, work needs to be done between Russia and Turkey, but that is quite separate from any consideration we would have.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): Should not intervention follow the effective assembly of local ground forces and an international coalition, rather than be a catalyst for them? Given that the Assad regime is responsible for the overwhelming number of atrocities and deaths in Syria, does the Prime Minister agree that any action we take that sustains that regime is unacceptable?

The Prime Minister: We believe that taking this action will help to bolster the ground troops that are there. The fact is that, although they have had the support of Britain, America, the Arab states and others, they have

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had a miserable time, and because of the activities of the regime and of ISIL, they have faced a very difficult situation. The question for us is: does the action that I am proposing help them? Yes, it does. Does it help to bring about a political solution? Yes, it does. Crucially, does it help to keep us safe here at home? Yes, I very much believe that it does.

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): Military intervention requires a just cause, and the Prime Minister has argued for that just cause superbly today; and intervention has to be done with good intention, and he has shown today that it would be. For those in the House who are still uncertain, the weakness of the analysis is around the winnability strategy on the ground, and the need not to create a vacuum that will be filled by something worse.

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. As I have said, there is no 100% certainty; there is no perfection here. When we talk about winnability, I think about the dangers to us right now. I am talking about losability to our people, our country and our safety. We have to think about the danger of inaction, as well as all the uncertainties of action.

Mr Speaker: I call Mr Ian Paisley.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank you for the exercise. Two and a half hours into this statement, will the Prime Minister share with the House some of the details of the seven foiled plots? I am talking about the nature or the targets of the attacks, the cities, the spread of those attacks, and how serious they were for the entire United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister: I must be careful in what I say. From time to time, the Home Affairs Committee interviews the director general of our Security Service, and he may be able to give more detail. What we have seen to date is a series of attacks either inspired by ISIL’s propaganda or directed by it. Obviously, we had the attacks that we avoided that were the product of Hussain and Khan, who have since been neutralised by the action that we have taken. The reason for such enhanced concern today is that what we were seeing with ISIL were attacks that were fairly ill planned, but that relied on radicalised individuals to take rapid action, sometimes with a knife, and sometimes in other ways. We have seen with Paris a change to a much more planned and thought-through attack strategy, such as we used to see with al-Qaeda when it was embedded in the badlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is one reason for the heightened concern. That combination of desperate psychopathic killers and a higher element of planning that the Paris attacks showed is one reason why my concern leads me to believe that we have to act, and act now.

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): The hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) reminded us of the three absolute prerequisites that need to be in place before military action can be justified. If the only objective is to reduce the likelihood of attacks on UK citizens in the United Kingdom, we can argue that any attack on Daesh is effective. If we also want to ensure

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that we do not leave behind an environment in which a new Daesh can find encouragement, we have to do more. A ceasefire among the warring non-Daesh factions in and around Syria is not a striving for perfection, but an absolute requirement. Today, the Prime Minister has given us no cause for optimism that such a ceasefire is imminent. Will he tell us what pressure will be put on our NATO ally, Turkey, to stop bombing the Kurds, so that the Kurds can concentrate on working with us to get rid of Daesh?

The Prime Minister: The whole concept of ceasefires has come a lot closer because of the Vienna process. Frankly, those ceasefires between moderate Syrian opposition forces and Government forces would be helped by a more concerted effort to degrade and destroy ISIL in Syria. In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s main question, I am not arguing that there is a military-only solution to this conflict. There needs to be political, diplomatic, humanitarian and post-conflict reconstruction action. I come to the House with a strategy for all those things. I say to Members of the Scottish National party that I hope that they will give this matter their fullest possible thought. They do not have to vote as one block; they can think about these important issues and come to a considered opinion.

Mr Speaker: Patience rewarded: I call Mr Danny Kinahan.

Danny Kinahan (South Antrim) (UUP): I thank you, Mr Speaker. The exercise has done me a lot of good, too. I thank the Prime Minister for taking so much time to talk to us as parties and give us all a chance to ask questions. We want to see Daesh totally defeated, but I wish to frame my question in this way: will we see more aid—military, medical and humane—on the ground as soon as possible, and given to those whom we trust? We need to work with Baghdad to make sure that the aid gets to them accurately, particularly to the internally displaced persons who are not getting all that has been passed over to them.

The Prime Minister: Yes, I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. There is a plan already in place for putting in the aid and the assistance, and particularly the military assistance to the Iraqi Government. Over time, there is more that we can do for the moderate Syrian opposition. All of that is part of a strategy that can keep us safer here while building a more secure and stable middle east. In the end, that is what this is about. I hope that the clear sight and clarity of argument that the Ulster men and women bring to this argument will find them in the right Division Lobby at the end of the process.

Mr Speaker: Order. I am extremely grateful to the Prime Minister. No fewer than 103 Back Benchers have had the opportunity to question him in 130 minutes of exclusively Back-Bench time. I hope that colleagues feel that they have had an adequate opportunity to speak.

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Business of the House

1.16 pm

The Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Grayling): With permission, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week.

Monday 30 November—General debate on the UK’s role in the middle east. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee. I pay tribute to its members for picking something that will be of interest to the whole House at this moment.

Tuesday 1 December—Remaining stages of the Immigration Bill, followed by motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to Northern Ireland, followed by a debate on a motion relating to the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill.

Wednesday 2 December—Opposition day (12th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.

Thursday 3 December—Second Reading of the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill [Lords].

Friday 4 December—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 7 December will include:

Monday 7 December—Remaining stages of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 8 December—Consideration of Lords Amendments, followed by debate on a motion relating to European measures.

Wednesday 9 December—Opposition day (13th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.

Thursday 10 December—Business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 11 December—The House will not be sitting.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 3 and 7 December will be:

Thursday 3 December—General debate on fisheries policy.

Monday 7 December—Debate on an e-petition relating to the use of neonicotinoids on crops.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): I warmly commend the Prime Minister for the way he has treated the House in relation to Syria. He has been commendable thus far, but these are very weighty matters, so it would be absolutely wrong for the Government to try to bounce the House into a decision. The Leader of the House has announced next week’s business, but, to be honest, I thought I heard the Prime Minister say earlier that he wanted a debate and vote as soon as possible and before he visits the Foreign Affairs Committee. I can only presume that that means next week.

I just hope that the Leader of the House will take on board the fact that the House needs proper notice of debates and votes of that kind, and that it would be inappropriate to hide that from the House. Given that 103 Members spoke in this statement, 103 Members may want to speak in a debate. We therefore need

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proper time so that Members do not just make two-minute speeches at the end of the day on a matter that really concerns our constituents.

I also hope that the Government will table a motion in plenty of time for Members to be able to consider it and decide whether they want to table amendments to it, rather than their having to table manuscript amendments on the day.

Mr Speaker, just like you, I came into work this morning with a sword. I am delighted to announce that, last night, thanks to the efforts of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley), who is still in his seat, the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman), Chris Symonds, one of our Doorkeepers, and myself, the Commons wrested the mighty Wilkinson sword off their lordships in a charity swimming championship for the Northern Ireland charity, Hope for Youth.

Speaking of double-edged swords, last week I asked the Leader whether he could tell us the dates of the recesses for next year, and he got all pompous about it and said, “Oh no, it is far more important for the Government to get their business through than for anybody to be able to go on holiday.” I shall ask a completely and utterly different question today, which is instead of telling us when we will not be sitting, can he tell us when we will be sitting, and then we will work out the recess dates from that? It cannot be very difficult, surely.

The Chancellor said something yesterday that I thought was very interesting:

“The improvement in the nation’s finances is due to two things.”—[Official Report, 25 November 2015; Vol. 1359, c. 602.]

I completely agree: smoke and mirrors. That is what it is down to. I first predicted that the Government would do a U-turn on working tax credits on 15 October, and the Leader of the House yet again went all pompous and Grayling on us and started moaning about a great constitutional crisis that was stalking the land. Now that the Chancellor has accepted my advice, will the Leader of the House clarify two things? First, what is the status of the Tax Credits (Income Thresholds and Determination of Rates) (Amendment) Regulations 2015, which were voted down in the House of Lords and are still hanging around in the air? Does the Leader of the House intend to bring them back in a different form? Secondly, according to the Resolution Foundation, low-income families on universal credit will still be worse off by £1,300 in 2020, and according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies in the last half hour, the spending review will leave 2.6 million families £1,600 worse off next year. So it is not really a reverse, is it? It is time that the Government owned up.

May we have a debate about the sale of UK national assets? Since this Chancellor came to office he has sold off the student loan book, the Royal Mail and the future of our nuclear power industry, and he announced yesterday that he will sell off the Land Registry, the Ordnance Survey, air traffic control and the Green Investment Bank. I have a little book here that I will give to the Leader of the House. I will not throw it across the Chamber; he can come up to my study later. It is a copy of Shakespeare’s play “Richard II”. I am sure hon. Members will remember that wonderful speech:

“This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,

This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,

This other Eden, demi-paradise”,

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but do they remember that it ends:

“Is now leas’d out... like to a tenement or pelting farm”?

That is what the Tories have done. Shakespeare predicted 400 years ago that they would sell off all our national assets.

May we have a debate on the Chancellor’s boast on page 76 of the Blue Book—I am sure that you have seen this, Mr Speaker, because it pertains to you—that

“the government has taken a series of steps to reduce the cost of politics”?

That is not true, is it? It is not true at all. The cost and the number of special advisers, who are purely party political appointees, have risen dramatically since 2010. In 2009 there were 74, costing £5.9 million, and in 2014 there were 103, costing £8.4 million. The Prime Minister promised, before he became Prime Minister, that no Minister of his would have more than one special adviser, but the Leader of the House has two, the Chief Whip has two and the Chancellor alone has at least 10. We do not know the total number of special advisers now, because the Government will not publish a list, but in 2014 it was 29 more Spads at a cost of £2.5 million more a year. On top of that the Prime Minister has appointed Members of the House of Lords faster than any other Prime Minister in history—240 in all, costing an extra £2.9 million a year.

The annual Tory party invoice to the taxpayer has gone up by £5.4 million. But yesterday the Chancellor said that he will cut the money provided to Opposition parties—to all Opposition parties—by 19%. I would gently remind the Leader of the House that what goes around comes around. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that this is not actually up to the Chancellor; it is up to this House? Will he confirm that every previous change to Short money was made on the basis of cross-party consultation? Was there any discussion with the Opposition parties? Was there any discussion with the Finance Committee of this House or with the Members Estimate Committee? Did the Leader of the House know about this proposal when he sat at the last meeting of the Members Estimate Committee?

When Labour was in government we were never afraid of proper scrutiny, so we introduced Short money, and we increased it in 1997. That meant that the Tory party received—it claimed—£45.7 million from the taxpayer between 1997 and 2010. Will the Tory party now be taking a 19% cut in the cost of special advisers? If not, will not voters be right to conclude that this is a naked attempt to hobble the Opposition and rig the system? It is a purely partisan measure being introduced because the Government just hate scrutiny.

Finally, two weeks ago, the Leader of the House urged all Members to do the online fire safety training. I have done it. Has he done it yet?

Chris Grayling: Yes.

I thank the shadow Leader of the House for his kind words about the Prime Minister. We should all be grateful to my right hon. Friend for the length of time he spent in the House this morning for what I thought was a very measured and sensible event. This is a serious matter that should cross party divides. It is for all of us to consider what is in the interests of our nation. I thought the tone of this morning’s discussion was excellent.

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The hon. Gentleman asked about future business and the potential for a debate on a motion. I am sure that everyone would agree that it is right and proper for the Prime Minister to go away and digest the comments from the House this morning before deciding what further action to take, and to give the Foreign Affairs Committee time to consider the response that has been given. We will come back to the House shortly, and the Prime Minister will undoubtedly make clear his intentions in the very near future.

I paid tribute a couple of weeks ago to the musical skills of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). I hope that he will forgive me if I say that he is clearly not alone in this place in showing such skills. I pay tribute to the members of the Parliament Choir for their polished and professional concert at Cadogan Hall last night. It is not often that this place is talked of in terms of harmony and melody, but last night that was clearly the case.

Following a request from the shadow Leader of the House a couple of weeks ago, I always try to mark important anniversaries on a Thursday morning, and this week I have two that, after yesterday, will probably have great resonance for him. It is exactly 30 years since Neil Kinnock began his purge of militant infiltrators from the Labour party. By extraordinary coincidence, 80 years ago this month the Chinese Communist party picked its new leader—yes, Mr Speaker, Chairman Mao, the man who became one of the most brutal dictators of modern times. After yesterday, I wonder which of those two anniversaries the shadow Leader of the House will be celebrating the most.

The shadow Leader of the House made a point about his victory and success in wresting the Wilkinson sword from the Lords, and I congratulate him on that. I saw his Twitter feed showing him coming into the House this morning carrying a 3-foot-long sword. Given his track record in knifing Tony Blair, I wonder whether this marks the start of another leadership assassination. If so, after yesterday, I suspect the hon. Gentleman would be a hero among his colleagues.

The shadow Leader of the House asked about special advisers. I remind him that the cost of politics is falling. We have cut advertising and support for ministerial offices. The hon. Gentleman made a point about Short money. In fact, Short money has risen in total by 50% since 2010. After the changes set out yesterday, it returns to the level it was set at in 2010. If the Opposition are that desperate for money, they should just go and get more from their union paymasters.

The shadow Leader of the House asked about the debate on the autumn statement. He used the joke about smoke and mirrors. I was rather disappointed because we heard that joke yesterday from the hon. Member for Cardiff North—

Chris Bryant: Cardiff West.

Chris Grayling: Cardiff West then. The hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) made that joke yesterday. What the shadow Leader of the House did not say is that he wants a two-day debate on the autumn statement next week, although after yesterday I think the Opposition have probably heard quite enough about the package.

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The hon. Gentleman asked about the tax credits changes. Of course, the statutory instrument will not be moved, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out yesterday, because we are not pursuing those proposals.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the position of working families in 2020. The introduction of the national living wage means that by 2020 someone on today’s minimum wage will be earning nearly £5,000 a year more than they do today.

The hon. Gentleman raised the question of the sale of assets. I simply say that, as we look to build a new nuclear industry in this country, I look back to the occasion when the previous Government sold a British nuclear power station firm, Westinghouse, overseas, at a time when we were just thinking about building new nuclear power stations. I will take no lessons on the sale of assets from a party that takes steps without strategy and without thought. One of the reasons we have a challenge in energy generation today is that, for 13 years, Labour did nothing about it.

The hon. Gentleman asked about recess dates, and he will keep coming back to this. I simply say to him again that the prime concern for this Government is to get our business through the House. We will seek to deliver appropriate recess time when we can, but right now I am more concerned about putting through the manifesto on which we were rightly elected last May.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): The most egregious unreformed procedures in this House relate to private Members’ Bills. The conduct of this place in the execution of those Bills is simply appalling. May I urge the Leader of the House to join the Procedure Committee in trying to find a way forward? If I am Holmes in this matter, our hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) is now my Moriarty.

Chris Grayling: Our hon. Friend has been referred to as many things, but never, I think, as Moriarty. I understand the point my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) makes, and as Chair of the Procedure Committee he is better placed than anyone to address concerns about the private Members’ Bill process. As he knows, I am always happy to appear in front of his Committee and to discuss these matters, and I have no doubt that, as usual, he and his Committee will come out with wise words about how they should be handled in future.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I also thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business. I apologise to him for having neither Chairman Mao nor Shakespeare to offer him this afternoon.

Regarding the debate on Syria, Scottish National party Members remain concerned that nothing has been timetabled. We need to see firm proposals on when the matter will be brought to the House, particularly because, as the Speaker said, 103 Members spoke during the statement today. We have to have sufficient time so that Back Benchers are not awarded just two or three minutes to speak but are allocated time properly to raise the serious concerns they may have about the proposed military action. Will the Leader of the House at least

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say today that his intention is that we will have a minimum of two days to debate any Syrian action before a vote is taken?

I know there was a lot of talk about smoke and mirrors, or mirrors and smoke, in yesterday’s autumn spending review announcement, and although we welcome very much the grinding U-turn performed on tax credits, we remain very concerned about what is proposed further down the line. As we have heard, the IFS has already started to voice concern about what will happen when universal credit and all the other reforms at the sharp end of housing benefit have been put in place. We know that the roll out of universal credit has been less than a success—I think the word “shambles” could be associated with it—so may we have a debate on where we are with universal credit and how it will impact on the plans for tax credits? It would be useful to have a statement from the Government on that, too.

Something dramatic happened in the House of Lords last week—little dramatic happens there, but for some reason it did in the good old House of cronies. The Lords said that the Scotland Bill should be delayed until the critical fiscal framework was agreed. As the last Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland put it, passing a Scotland Bill without a sufficient fiscal framework is like purchasing a car without looking at the engine. How are the Government responding to those calls and what efforts are they making to get that engine in place?

Another dramatic news story today is the immigration figures, with net immigration reaching a record high of 336,000, according to the Office for National Statistics. SNP Members question the Government’s ability to get immigration down to the tens of thousands, which was their objective. We live in an interconnected, globalised world, so it was almost impossible from the outset. The Government are therefore likely to raise their rhetoric on immigration; we just hope that they do not conflate it with their responsibility and duty in relation to Syrian refugees—particularly if we are going to get down to the whole business of further bombing in Syria, which will increase those obligations. A commitment and a statement that the Conservatives—particularly their more bellicose Back Benchers—will not conflate the issues of the immigration figures and the treatment of Syrian refugees would be welcome.

Finally, I am grateful to the Leader of the House for his continued commitment and affection for the work of MP4, the parliamentary rock band. May I extend to him an invitation to join us in the Strangers Bar on Tuesday, for our annual get-together and gig? He will be welcome, and if he wants to make a musical contribution, that will be welcome, too.

Chris Grayling: I will be delighted to pop into the Strangers Bar next Tuesday. I think the House is going after 7 o’clock anyway. I do not know when the hon. Gentleman plans to start, but I will be delighted to come and hear him in full flow.

I have set out the business for the next two weeks. Clearly, if we are to have a debate on Syria in the next two weeks, I will need to return to the House to make a supplementary business statement. I will do that when the Government have reached a view and when people have had the chance to consider the comments made by Members in all parts of the House today. I am not

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indicating the time and the timing, but if that debate should intrude in the next couple of weeks’ business—it should take place within the couple of weeks—obviously, I will come back and make a further statement to the House.

Regarding tax credits and universal credit, I simply remind the hon. Gentleman that the move from the national minimum wage to the national living wage will, for Scots as well, deliver by 2020 an increase in income of almost £5,000. That, I believe, will make a fundamental difference to people on low incomes and is something we should all welcome. It will transform the lives of many people on the lowest incomes.

On the delay to the Scotland Bill, I simply say that just because someone asks for something or proposes it, that does not mean it will actually happen. The Government have made a commitment to delivering the Scotland Bill as quickly as possible. I am delighted that Lord Smith has now accepted that the Smith commission report is being implemented in full by the Scotland Bill. I wait with interest to see what powers the Scottish National party actually uses, because up to now it has talked a lot about powers but shown little sign of using them.

On immigration and Syrian refugees, we have set out clearly our international obligations to help Syrian refugees. We are taking 20,000 into this country, but crucially we are doing what other nations are not, in our view, doing to anything like the degree that is necessary, and that is providing support on the ground to the several million refugees who are in camps close to Syria. Their need is acute and they have not been able to make their way to Europe, so as we head into the winter months there is a real need to provide support on the ground and to help them. They are in deep difficulty, and we are doing more than almost anybody else to look after them.

Finally, I was deeply disappointed to see that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) missed out on The Herald prize for the best Scot at Westminster. I am sure I am not alone among Conservative MPs in saying that, had we had a vote, we would have put our tick in his box.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I am keen to accommodate interest, but we had a very heavy exchange before this statement—rightly so—and more than 20 hon. Members wish to contribute in the debate on airports. These exchanges must therefore conclude no later than 2 pm. I hope that colleagues will tailor their contributions accordingly.

Amanda Milling (Cannock Chase) (Con): The Rugeley skyline is dominated by Rugeley B power station, which provides enough electricity for about half a million homes. After the announcement last week that coal-fired power stations will be phased out by 2025, may we have a debate in Government time to discuss the conversion of coal-fired stations to biomass?

Chris Grayling: This is an important subject. We have taken the view that, to meet our environmental commitments and for reasons of cost and practicality, we should make greater use of gas and renewables. It is undoubtedly part of the Government’s strategy and will be part of local planning strategies to reuse existing sites for electricity generation, where that is possible.

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I shall certainly make sure that the Energy Secretary is aware of my hon. Friend’s concerns, so she can address them the next time she speaks in the House.

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): Even before yesterday’s announcements, Dudley Council was losing half its funding, forcing councillors there to make terrible decisions about front-line services such as our museum and libraries—places I have been visiting since I was a child. We all know that savings have to be made, but is it fair that Dudley is losing £61 per person, whereas Windsor is losing only £18 per person? May we have a debate, with a Communities and Local Government Minister responding, so he can tell the people of Dudley why that is fair?

Chris Grayling: The overall package that was announced yesterday provides a range of different support to local government. The hon. Gentleman will make a comparison between the area that he represents and areas that Government Members represent. After years of Labour government, the support provided to areas in typically Conservative parts of the country was minimal, whereas the support provided to Labour areas was very generous. If we are taking decisions that impact upon Labour areas, it is purely because the grant levels to Conservative areas are very low.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): On Tuesday the national confidential enquiry into patient outcome and death—NCEPOD—reported on sepsis. It reported that patients are at risk of death or long-term complications, often because of critical delays in identifying and treating the condition. Cases of sepsis have increased by 8% over the past three years and cause 44,000 deaths in the UK annually. It is now the leading cause of avoidable death in the UK. As the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on sepsis, may I ask the Leader of the House to consider a debate in Government time on sepsis, so that we can discuss this matter with the Minister and find out how we can improve the recognition and treatment of sepsis and how we can better measure its long-term burden on our health services?

Chris Grayling: I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for the work she is doing. This condition affects a large number of people and can have a dramatic effect on them and their families. It is precisely the kind of subject that I would encourage her to bring to the Backbench Business Committee. It will affect constituents of Members across the House, and it is for this purpose that that time is allocated.

Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): We are not against cutting the cost of politics, but when Short money is cut and that impacts on smaller parties in this House, whose Members come here and make an effort to contribute, whereas nothing is done to cut the allowances of Members from Northern Ireland who do not bother to turn up and do not make a contribution to this House, it leaves us questioning why the Government have done this.

Chris Grayling: Clearly, over the coming days we will have discussions with all the parties affected by the change, including with the right hon. Gentleman’s party.

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As he is well aware, the politics of Northern Ireland are complicated and our prime desire is to ensure that we continue to see Northern Ireland peaceful, developing and prosperous.

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): May we have a statement on the Syrian refugee relocation programme so that we can establish the facts of which local authorities are taking refugees in? Unfortunately, local authorities such as Derby City Council are playing party politics with people’s lives, leading to misinformation on what is actually happening?

Chris Grayling: Let us be clear. As a nation we collectively have a duty to do what we can for Syrian refugees. I do not know the exact circumstances in Derby, but it would never be excusable for anyone in this country to mix party politics with the humanitarian needs of Syrian refugees.

Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Yesterday, while the Chancellor was still on his feet, the Government sneaked out an announcement that they intend to renege yet again on their commitment to carbon capture and storage by withdrawing the billion-pound funding that they promised in their manifesto just a few months ago. That is a disgraceful act of betrayal. It sends an appalling signal to companies seeking to invest in our energy sector, and it makes a mockery of the UK’s commitment to decarbonisation just days before global talks on climate change. When will the Secretary of State come to the House and make a statement to explain to my constituents in Peterhead why they have been led up the garden path again?

Chris Grayling: We had to take some difficult decisions in yesterday’s spending review. On renewables, we have made huge progress since 2010. In the second quarter of this year more than 25% of our energy was generated from renewable sources. That is a powerful indicator of the way in which we have put money into renewables, which are playing a bigger role in our society.

Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Education to come to the Dispatch Box next week and give a statement about the quality of history education in our country? I want to make certain that every youngster in the Ribble Valley has the opportunity to look at the ideology of great historical figures—for example, Chairman Mao—and compare the thoughts in the little red book, of which we are now grateful to have a copy, to what actually happened during his rule, which was repression, torture, a cultural wasteland and the death of 45 million people in the famine?

Mr Speaker: Order. That question was far too long. Questions from now on must be shorter; otherwise there will be a delay in getting on to the debate, of the substantial number of contributors to which I have already informed the House.

Chris Grayling: I understand the point that my hon. Friend was making. I notice that the shadow Leader of the House has brought the Blue Book with him, rather than a red book. His usual chirpiness from the Labour

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Benches rather disappeared yesterday when the red book appeared. My hon. Friend makes a good point. Nobody should treat lightly the works of brutal dictators.

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): I start with an apology to you, Mr Speaker, as I tried to raise a point of order during the Chancellor’s statement after he had answered me. That was clearly incorrect and I apologise.

Will the Leader of the House make a statement telling us how he is going to make sure that he has managed to answer questions accurately? Hansard shows that yesterday I asked if the Scottish revenue block grant would be cut in real terms, and the Chancellor’s answer was:

“The block grant is going up”—[Official Report, 25 November 2015; Vol. 602, c. 1406.],

but his own Blue Book shows clearly that there will be a real-terms cut of 5%. What does the Leader of the House intend to do? Will he advise us whether the Chancellor is incompetent?

Chris Grayling: Fortunately, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be back here on Tuesday. The hon. Gentleman will be able to put that question to him and raise with him the issues that he has just raised with me.

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing the Prime Minister to make the ton today with the number of Back-Bench questions he answered. Syria is such an important issue and we need to debate it fully, so when the Leader of the House comes to the House with a change in the business programme, may I suggest that we debate Syria with no limit on when the closure comes, so that if necessary we can speak through the night before voting? Then everyone can get in.

Chris Grayling: I note carefully the comments of my hon. Friend. We are all going to be digesting the Prime Minister’s statement, the submission to the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the concerns expressed in the House today, and on Monday we have a full day’s debate. I encourage Members to use that debate as an opportunity to raise further concerns that they have about this. I know that the Prime Minister will read it carefully. He wants to take note of the views of people in all parts of the House. He believes in what he said today, but he wants to take the House with him.

Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab): Buried in the comprehensive spending review documents yesterday was the announcement that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will continue to contract out its debt collection, fraud and error compliance and tax credits system to private providers, calling it an astonishingly successful implementation of that contract. This is the same private sector contractor Concentrix that has sent threatening letters to many of our constituents who are tax credit recipients even though its many mistakes have caused serious financial hardship. Will the Government set aside time for debate on whether tax credit debt collection has been successful? Will the Leader of the House make representations for this failed provider, Concentrix, to be ruled out of future tenders?

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Chris Grayling: I will make sure that the Treasury Ministers are aware of the concerns that the hon. Lady has raised. They are back here next Tuesday. I do not want to see any legitimate claimant of tax credits accused of doing something wrong. At the same time, people have a duty to watch over their affairs and ensure that if they are paid too much money, they notify the relevant authorities. Both need to be got right.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): My constituent, Mr Crewe, suffered a serious loss of funds from his bank, Barclays, possibly through theft, and I do not believe that the bank has taken this matter seriously enough. May we have a debate on the way in which banks, which are custodians of their customers’ funds, treat such matters?

Chris Grayling: I obviously cannot comment on the individual circumstance, but in today’s world where innocent customers can be the victims of electronic fraud or even sometimes fraud within institutions, I would always expect banks to put their customers first in dealing with such an issue, and to ensure that they are dealt with properly and decently and not left disadvantaged as a result. My hon. Friend makes a powerful point.

Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP): Does the Leader of the House share my disappointment at recent irresponsible newspaper headlines and misleading reports that will have done nothing constructive to make anyone safer, but will have put our Muslim communities at further risk of Islamophobic abuse? May we have a statement on the importance of responsible use of language—for instance, using the term Daesh rather than Islamic State within and outside this House?

Chris Grayling: Let us be clear on this. The current threat that we face in this country has nothing whatever to do with the vast, vast majority of Muslims in this country and elsewhere in the world. It is being propagated by a tiny minority. That tiny minority must be dealt with where necessary with full force and effectiveness, but we in this House need to send out a message to the Muslim community as a whole in this country that they are valued people in our country and that we absolutely accept that they have nothing to do with what is going on.

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): Saturday 5 December is Small Business Saturday, which encourages people to use small retailers and businesses, of which the Isle of Wight has many. Will the Leader of the House assist us in getting a debate on the subject and on other initiatives that promote independent local companies?

Chris Grayling: Small Business Saturday is a very worthwhile event, and I urge Members of all parties to support their local businesses in the coming days. If I may, I will give a plug to the Epsom and Ewell business awards, which I launched five years ago and which have their finals tonight. I look forward to presenting the awards at the end of today’s business.

We have a debate on Small Business Saturday in the House in the next few days, and I hope that all Members will join in the events that are taking place to support people who work immensely hard and deliver essential services for our society.