Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): There is of course absolutely no doubt that Daesh/IS is a vile, loathsome, murderous organisation, and the attack in Paris—the murder of 130 innocent people—could just as well have been in London. The choice of Paris was a retaliation against French activity in its region, but that does not justify our taking action unless it were

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appropriate, relevant and, above all, successful. These people claim to call themselves Islamic, and the Prime Minister talked about reclaiming Islam from them—they do not own Islam. Hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the world are appalled by their murders, their beheadings, their kidnappings—all the abominable things they do. But our loathing of IS and our wish to get rid of it, to defeat it, to stop it is not the issue here today. The issue here is: what action could be taken to stop IS and get rid of it? I have to say that I do not see such an action.

The Prime Minister spoke about getting a transitional Government in Syria and about the situation in Syria. I have been to Syria many times. I did so with some distaste as shadow Foreign Secretary, as I met leading officials in the Syrian Administration—I knew they were murderers. They murder their own people. They murdered 10,000 people in Hama alone. I would be delighted to see them got rid of, but they are not going to go. There is talk about negotiations in Vienna, but the assumption that somehow or other they are going to result in getting rid of Assad and the Administration is a delusion. Putin, one of the most detestable leaders of any state in the world, will make sure that because they are his allies and they suit him, action against them is not going to be successful.

What is the issue today? It is not about changing the regime in Syria, which would make me very happy indeed. It is not about getting rid of Daesh, which would also make me very happy indeed. It is about what practical action can result in some way in damaging Daesh, stopping its atrocities, stopping the flood of people who are fleeing from it and stopping the people who are flocking to it, including, sadly, a small number of people from this country. If what the Government were proposing today would in any way not simply or totally get rid of Daesh but weaken it significantly so that it would not go on behaving in this abominable fashion, I would not have any difficulty in voting for this motion. But there is absolutely no evidence of any kind that bombing Daesh—bombing Raqqa—will result in an upsurge of other people in the region to get rid of Daesh. It might cause some damage, but it will not undermine them. What it will undoubtedly do, despite the Prime Minister’s assurance, which I am sure he gave in good faith, is kill innocent civilians. I am not going to be a party to killing innocent civilians for what will simply be a gesture.

I am not interested in gesture politics and I am not interested in gesture military activity; I am interested in effective military activity, and if that is brought before this House, I vote for it. When the previous Conservative Government came to us asking for our support to get rid of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, I, as shadow Foreign Secretary, formulated the policy that led Labour Members of Parliament into the Lobby to vote for that. I am not interested in gestures; I am interested in effective activity. This Government’s motion and the activity that will follow, including military action from the air, will not change the situation on the ground. I am not interested in making a show. I am not interested in Members of this House putting their hands up for something that in their own hearts they know will not work, and for that reason I shall vote against the Government motion this evening.

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Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. An eight-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches will now apply, with immediate effect.

1.47 pm

Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): There are those who have honourably opposed intervention on every occasion since 2003, including my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron), a fellow member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the mover of today’s principal amendment. Part of the strength of his case is that he was undoubtedly right over Iraq in 2003 and, prima facie, Libya in 2011—that is the subject of a Committee inquiry. However, it is my judgment that he was wrong last year to oppose our support for the Government of Iraq against ISIL. I do not know what he would say to the Yazidi families rescued by British forces and British helicopters from the terror that ISIL brought, and I am satisfied that our military effort in Iraq over the past year has been to the enormous credit of our armed forces and has stabilised Iraq in the face of a rapidly advancing threat from ISIL. It wholly justified the strong majority that this House then gave for that intervention.

Mr Baron: My hon. Friend directly referred to me, so I will answer him as best I can. The reason a number of us opposed the motion about airstrikes in Iraq last year was simply that we did not feel then—and I still have great reservations now—that we had a comprehensive plan. We have not beaten ISIL in Iraq, despite nearly 1 million security forces on the Government payroll. That brings us on to Syria, because we have nothing near that in Syria and we still do not have that plan.

Crispin Blunt: The position in Iraq was desperate. Baghdad was threatened by the advance of ISIL, and it was absolutely necessary that the international community went to the aid of the Government and the people of Iraq.

Nadhim Zahawi: My hon. Friend talks about the desperation in Iraq. I have just had an email from someone, who shall remain anonymous, who is working in Raqqa. They said, “Daesh are the death that is stretching from the east. When you see them, it is as if you are seeing the angel of death. They are in Raqqa right now. How can I carry on exposing my child to severed heads and hanging bodies on a daily basis? A mother in Raqqa.”

Crispin Blunt: I agree with my hon. Friend. Whether we like it or not, the reality is that ISIL is at war with us. We do not have to confect some case about weapons of mass destruction. This is not about a threat to the citizens of a country from their own Government, but about people at war with us, our values and our society. This is not a war of choice. I have not spoken to anyone who demurs from the proposition that ISIL must be denied the territory that it currently controls. Although the defeat of ISIL and its ideology will be the work of many years, even decades, the retaking of that territory is an urgent and immediate requirement. That therefore is the mission, which is virtually impossible to achieve, while the civil war rages in Syria. It is also a necessary first step.

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After the negotiations and the agreement of the International Syria Support Group at Vienna on 14 November, a way can be seen to that transition. Before then, the Government were not able to offer an answer to our question, which was this: Which ground forces will take hold and administer the territories captured from ISIL in Syria to the satisfaction of the Committee? In the wake of that meeting, they could and did provide an answer.

Indeed the Prime Minister made the point today, when he rather revealingly mentioned the “real” plan. This “real” plan is the ideal solution, which is referenced on page 20 of the Prime Minister’s response to the Foreign Affairs Committee, in which he envisages the political transition in Syria, allowing a new leadership and reform of the Syrian Arab Army, to enable it to tackle terrorist groups in defence of the Syrian nation. The Syrian Army fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army ideally need to be the forces that reclaim Syria for a new Syrian republic. However, we should not imagine for one minute that they can accomplish that task on their own. We need to influence the policy of our coalition partners and that of the whole international community to face up to the reality that that entails. This is the crucial issue: how would we, the United Kingdom, exercise the greatest influence? Everything that I have heard in the last month of taking evidence on this issue suggests that our role as a compromised and limited member of the coalition against ISIL, operating only in Iraq, weakens that influence.

We can debate the efficacy of airstrikes and the additional capability that Brimstone missiles bring to the whole coalition, but the truth is that we all know that those issues are marginal to the outcome. What is not marginal to the outcome is getting the international politics right. It is not in the interest of our country, or the people whom we represent, for this House to deny the Government the authority that they need today. I am now satisfied that the Government, who, along with the Americans, helped block the transition process by our preconditions on the role of Bashar al-Assad, can now play a critically constructive role in the transition.

Indeed, my criticism of today’s motion is that the Government should be seeking wider authority from the House. Limiting the targeting to ISIL and excluding al-Nusra and any future terrorist groups that will be listed by the United Nations, as envisaged under UN Security Council resolution 2249, is a restriction that I do not understand. If armed groups put themselves beyond recall in the judgment of both the International Syria Support Group and the UN Security Council, then our armed forces should be authorised to act within the law.

Equally, the limitation on deploying UK troops in ground combat operations shows a lack of foresight. We know that both Syrian and Iraqi armed forces will need the maximum possible help, which arguably should include the embedding of trainers in the fighting echelon capability. I am also talking about artillery and engineers, as well as comprehensive logistical service support, command and control and communications functions. Where will those come from? As this mission must succeed, the war-winning capabilities may need to be found from beyond the neighbouring Sunni countries. The whole of the United Nations, which includes us, may be required to provide that effective military capability.

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Stephen Gethins (North East Fife) (SNP) rose—

Hon. Members: Go on, give way.

Crispin Blunt: I am afraid that I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman. He is my colleague and friend, and he has made such an excellent impression on the Foreign Affairs Committee so far. If there is time at the end, I will take his intervention.

However, if the Government have chosen a path that will require them to come back to the House for more authority, then that is the Government’s choice. To my mind, ISIL is such a clear and present danger to the civilised world that if all necessary means are endorsed by the Security Council, then we should endorse them too.

The Foreign Affairs Committee will continue our inquiry into the international strategy to defeat ISIL and, on behalf of this House, to hold the Government to account in full detail. The right hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), who is unwell but hopefully in recovery—we wish her a speedy recovery—has communicated to me that she will be supporting the Government this evening. It does not take much guessing to know which side the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) will be on this evening. In my judgment, this House will best discharge its responsibilities by giving our Government the authority they need not just to act with our international partners against this horror, but to influence those partners to make the necessary compromises in their national objectives, and to ensure the collective security of all nations.

Stephen Gethins: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I pay tribute to him for his work as Chairman of the Committee. We will not be in the same Lobby tonight, but I pay tribute to him none the less. Earlier on, he talked about where we should sit on this issue. It says in our report that, during our evidence, several witnesses suggested that by participating in military action against ISIL in Syria, the UK would compromise its diplomatic capability.

Crispin Blunt: We all have to come to our own conclusions. I say to him and to the House that nothing I have heard in the past month has pointed towards anything except the opposite of that conclusion. Ministers have been clear about that evidence. When we asked that question in every single country that we went to, we were told that the UK’s position was compromised by the fact that we were only half in and half out of the coalition. It is a position of no conceivable diplomatic benefit, and it is one that this House should rectify this evening.

Part of the Prime Minister’s challenge is that we were both in the House 12 years ago when another Prime Minister delivered an utterly compelling performance and we made the United Kingdom party to a disaster in the middle east. It is right that we should be mindful of our recent history, but we must not be hamstrung by it.

1.58 pm

Margaret Beckett (Derby South) (Lab): This debate centres on national security and the safety of our constituents. There will be differences of view within and between every party in this House. In good faith and conscience, Members will reach different conclusions. Anyone who approaches today’s debate without the

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gravest doubts, reservations and anxieties simply has not been paying attention. We are sent here by our constituents to exercise our best judgment—each our own best judgment. This is a debate of contradictions.

The terms of today’s motion, echoing the UN resolution are stern, almost apocalyptic, about the threat, which is described as

“an unprecedented threat to international peace and security”.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) said, the proposal before us amounts to only a relatively minor extension of the action that we are already undertaking. We have been asked to agree to act in both Iraq and Syria, precisely because that is what Daesh does, and its headquarters are in Syria. We have been asked to make a further contribution to an existing international effort to contain Daesh from extending the mayhem and bloodshed that accompany its every move even more widely across the middle east.

Serious questions have been raised, and I respect those who raise them. There is unease about ground forces. There is proper concern about the strategy and endgame, about the aftermath, and about rebuilding. Some say simply that innocent people are more likely to be killed. Military action creates casualties, however much we try to minimise them. Should we, on those grounds, abandon action in Iraq, although we undertake it at the request of the Iraqi Government, and it seems to have made a difference? Should we take no further action against Daesh, which is killing innocent people, and striving to kill more, every day of the week, or should we simply leave that to others? Would we make ourselves a bigger target for a Daesh attack? We are a target; we will remain a target. There is no need to wonder about it—Daesh has told us so, and continues to tell us so with every day that passes. We may as well take it not just at its word but, indeed, at its deeds. It has sought out our fellow countrymen and women to kill, including aid workers and other innocents. Whatever we decide today there is no doubt that it will do so again, nor is the consequence of inaction simply Daesh controlling more territory and land. We have seen what happens when it takes control. The treatment, for example, of groups such as the Yazidis, in all its horror, should surely make us unwilling to contemplate any further extension of Daesh-controlled territory. Inaction too leads to death and destruction.

Quite separately, there are those, not opposed in principle to action, who doubt the efficacy of what is proposed: coalition action which rests almost wholly on bombing, they say, will have little effect. Well, tell that to the Kosovans, and do not forget that if there had not been any bombing in Kosovo perhaps 1 million Albanian Muslim refugees would be seeking refuge in Europe. Tell that to the Kurds in Kobane who, if memory serves, pleaded for international air support, without which they felt they would lose control to Daesh. Tell them in Sierra Leone that military action should always be avoided because there would be casualties. Their state and their peace were almost destroyed. It was British military action that brought them back from the brink.

Of course, that military action took place in conjunction with political and diplomatic activity, and I share the view that it is vital that such activity is substantially

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strengthened. I was heartened by what the Prime Minister told us today. Our conference called for a United Nations resolution before further action, and we now have a unanimous Security Council resolution. Moreover, that resolution calls on member states in explicit and unmistakeable terms to combat the Daesh threat “by all means” and

“to eradicate the safe haven they have established”

in Iraq and Syria.

Although it speaks of the need to pursue the peace process, the UN resolution calls on member states to act now. Moreover, our French allies have explicitly asked us for such support. I invite the House to consider how we would feel, and what we would say, if what took place in Paris had happened in London and if we explicitly asked France for support and France refused.

George Kerevan: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Margaret Beckett (Derby South) (Lab): I am sorry, no.

These are genuinely extremely difficult as well as extremely serious decisions, but it is the urgings of the United Nations and of the socialist Government in France that, for me, have been the tipping point in my decision to support military action.

2.5 pm

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con): I refer the House to the amendment standing in my name and that of other hon. Members.

There are many Members on both sides of the House who feel that extending airstrikes to Syria is not a wise move in the absence of a long-term, realistic strategy, both military and non-military. Otherwise we risk repeating the errors that we made in Iraq, Helmand and Libya, and which we would have made only two years ago in the House if we had allowed the Government to intervene on behalf of the rebels. That strategy must include a comprehensive lay-out of military plans. Thought must be given to, and plans made for, the aftermath—and, indeed, an exit strategy.

Many of the questions that we have asked remain unanswered. We all accept that there are no easy answers in foreign policy—just a series of tough decisions—but there has to be respect on both sides for the views held. One or two people have suggested that one is playing politics or personalities with this issue. I refer them to my voting record on Iraq, my opposition to the extension of the Afghan mission to Helmand, my opposition to Libya and, indeed, my position two years ago in the House when we were asked to support a proposal on arming the rebels and striking Assad.

I have been called a pacifist and worse; I refer those people to my military record—as a soldier, I have the medals to prove that I am certainly not a pacifist—and to my record in Northern Ireland as a platoon commander in the 1980s.

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): I have huge respect for my hon. Friend. As a military man, does he agree that in all military operations throughout history the first thing that goes wrong on day one is the plan? However, that should not stop us making the effort and hopefully succeeding in the end. We hope a peaceful solution can finally be found.

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Mr Baron: I would not disagree with my hon. Friend at all, but we owe it to those participating in any military action to think through the plans carefully, to make sure that they are as realistic and comprehensive as possible; otherwise, we risk repeating past errors.

Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con): I have huge respect for my hon. Friend and for his military record. He makes eloquent points about the complexity of the situation and seeking a political solution in the end, but the protection of our people and their safety on our streets have to come first.

Mr Baron: I completely agree with my hon. Friend. There are many Members on both sides of the House who oppose the Government on the extension of military strikes and who believe that that is the case. We should not forget that some of us supported the initial deployment to Afghanistan in 2001, on the basis that there was a clearly laid out strategy. I do not see such a strategy in this plan, and that is why we have to ask these questions and try to get some answers.

Perhaps the most damning accusation against those of us who say that we do not want to support the extension of military airstrikes is that we are sitting on our hands. They say that we do not want to do anything and want to stick our heads in the sand. Many of us believe in the need for military action to take on terrorists. Many of us supported that initial deployment to Afghanistan in 2001, and we succeeded very quickly—within a couple of years. Where we had trouble with Afghanistan is when the mission morphed into one of nation building, when we did not realise what we were getting into and did not have the resources to back it up.

We need a long-term strategy, so what should that be? What should it include? It is no good saying we need one if we have no idea what it should be. Let me give some examples. Let us talk about the non-military aspect. We have been talking in this place about disrupting Daesh’s financial flows and business interests for at least a year, if not 18 months. There has been no noticeable disruption of those business interests or financial flows. We have command of the skies in Syria. Why are we not disrupting those business and financial interests? There has never been a real answer to that. Why are we not doing more to disrupt Daesh’s prominence on social media? Again, we have talked about it in this place many times, but I do not see any evidence that that prominence is being disrupted. That is something we should tackle.

Above all, we should be tackling the ideology and the sectarianism that feeds the extremism that these groups, including Daesh, feed off. That is a long-term strategy—we cannot do it overnight—but again, I do not see much evidence of it. Where are those awkward questions to our allies in the region about feeding this extremism? We are not getting that message across.

I come back to a point that has been raised before, courtesy of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s recent visit to the middle east. We managed to get back only on Thursday morning, in time for the Prime Minister’s statement. I refer to the mythical 70,000 troops. We all know, and all accept, that ISIL cannot be bombed out of existence through airstrikes alone. It will take ground forces, but everybody is having trouble identifying what those ground forces should be and who should supply them.

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We visited various capitals—Tehran, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi—and spoke to a lot of experts across a wide range of fields. The point that kept coming across was the belief that there are very few moderates remaining in Syria after five years of civil war. But even if we believed the 70,000 figure, even if we believed they were all moderates, what the strategy does not address—I have asked this question before and I have not had an answer—is this: once these moderates have somehow been told miraculously to swing round, stop fighting Assad and take on Daesh, what is stopping them splintering into 100 or even 1,000 militias, as we saw in Libya? We ignore the lessons of Libya at our cost. What we were being told on the ground only last week is that this is not a homogenous group by any stretch of the imagination, and that those troops are just as liable to turn on each other as on an enemy, if they are set on doing so.

Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Baron: I am sorry. I have allowed two interventions and I must now crack on. We should also draw the lessons from Iraq. We are struggling to defeat Daesh in Iraq, and that is with 800,000 or 900,000—estimates vary—security forces on our payroll. One strategy we could employ is to finish the job in Iraq before we start thinking about any long-term strategy in Syria, but again, we are struggling. That is one of the fundamental differences between Iraq and Syria.

On the issue of sitting at the top table, this was a strong message when we were visiting the middle east. We are already at the top table. China does not intend to intervene, yet it sits at the top table in Vienna as a member of the P5. We would do so also, and it is clear that we are showing solidarity with our partners.

In conclusion, the short-term effects of British airstrikes will be marginal. Most people accept that, but as we intervene more we become more responsible for events on the ground and lay ourselves open to the unintended consequences of the fog of war. Without a comprehensive strategy, airstrikes will simply reinforce the west’s long-term failure in the region generally at a time when there are already too many aircraft chasing too few targets. Just as in previous ill-advised western interventions, a strong pattern emerges: time and again the Executive make a convincing case, often with supporting intelligence sources, and time and again they turn out to be wrong.

Just a few weeks ago, the Foreign Affairs Committee produced a very reasonable, reasoned and thoughtful report arguing against airstrikes in Syria in the absence of a comprehensive long-term strategy. Returning from my travels, I, like other colleagues, still hold to that view. It was the decision of the Committee last night that the Prime Minister had not adequately answered or addressed our concerns. So I will oppose this military action and intend to move the amendment in my name and that of other hon. Members. We have stood at this very point before. We should have no excuse for repeating our errors and setting out on the same tragic, misguided path once more.

2.16 pm

Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron). During my time in

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Parliament, it has become a convention that this House authorises military action, whereas previously it was for a Prime Minister to do so under the guise of royal prerogative. Sometimes they would involve the House of Commons; most often they did not. This new convention places a responsibility on Members of Parliament to weigh up the arguments and vote according to their conscience, rather than a parliamentary Whip.

I am not sure if other parties are whipped on this vote or not, but I am pretty sure that nobody in any part of this House would seek to justify their vote tonight by pleading that although they disagreed or agreed with the proposition, the Whip forced them to vote the way they did. On votes such as this, the Whip is irrelevant, except to Front Benchers, perhaps. Although I am grateful to the shadow Cabinet for the free vote my party has been afforded, I do not think it will make the slightest difference to the way we make our decision.

I intend to vote for the motion this evening for one basic reason: I believe that ISIL/Daesh poses a real and present danger to British citizens, and that its dedicated external operations unit is based not in Iraq, where the RAF is already fully engaged, but in Syria. This external operations unit is already responsible for killing 30 British holidaymakers on a beach in Sousse, and a British rock fan who perished along with 129 others in the Paris atrocity a few weeks ago.

It is true that this unit could have moved out of Raqqa, but that is not what the intelligence services believe. The fact is that just as al-Qaeda needed the safe haven it created for itself in Afghanistan to plan 9/11 and other atrocities, so ISIL/Daesh needs its self-declared caliphate to finance, train, organise and recruit to its wicked cause. Yes, there may be cells elsewhere, but there is little doubt that the nerve centre is in Raqqa. Just over 14 months ago, this House sanctioned military action in Iraq against ISIL/Daesh by 524 votes to 43. Nobody expected that action to bring about a swift end to the threat from ISIL; indeed, the Prime Minister, responding to an intervention, said that

“this mission will take not just months, but years”—[Official Report, 26 September 2014; Vol. 585, c. 1257.]

Many right hon. and hon. Members felt at that time that it was illogical to allow the effectiveness of our action to be diminished by a border that ISIL/Daesh did not recognise. We were inhibited by the absence of a specific UN resolution, so there was some justification for this House confining its response to one part of ISIL-held territory in September 2014. There can surely be no such justification in December 2015—no such justification after Paris, given the request for help from our nearest continental neighbour and close ally in response to the murderous attack that took place on 13 November; and no such justification after UN Security Council resolution 2249.

Paragraph 5 of the resolution, which was unanimously agreed,

“Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures…to eradicate the safe haven they”—


“have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria”.

George Kerevan: I put to the right hon. Gentleman the point that I would have put to the right hon.

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Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett): a similar call from France was met by Germany, which sent reconnaissance aircraft but refused to bomb.

Alan Johnson: Germany is constrained by its history. The point I am making is that we in this Parliament, having authorised military action by the RAF in Iraq, can no longer justify not responding to recent events by extending our operations to Syria. If we ignore the part of resolution 2249 that I have just read out, we will be left supporting only the pieties contained in the other paragraphs; we will unequivocally condemn, express deepest sympathy, and reaffirm that those responsible must be held to account. In other words, this country will be expressing indignation while doing nothing to implement the action unanimously agreed in a motion that we, in our role as chair of the Security Council, helped formulate.

Furthermore, there is no argument against our involvement in attacking ISIL/Daesh in Syria that cannot be made against our action in Iraq, where we have helped to prevent ISIL’s expansion and to reclaim 30% of the territory it occupied. As the Prime Minister set out in his response to the Foreign Affairs Committee, that means that RAF Tornadoes, with the special pods that are so sophisticated that they gather 60% of the coalition’s tactical reconnaissance information in Iraq, can be used to similar effect in Syria, so long as another country then comes in to complete the strike. That is a ridiculous situation for this country to be in.

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): Is not the different between Iraq and Syria the fact that we have on the ground in Iraq a long-established ally, the Kurdish peshmerga, who want to work with us? We do not have that in Syria; we have there what the Prime Minister is now describing as a patchwork.

Alan Johnson: My hon. Friend, as always, makes an important point. I have just re-read the Hansard report of our debate in September 2014, and this point was not raised by anyone. The question of what comes next, which is a very important consideration—concerns have been expressed on both sides of the House—must not stop us responding to what happened in Paris and to the UN resolution’s request for all countries with the capability to act now. The resolution did not say to delay; it said to act now.

I do not think that anybody in this House believes that defeating the motion tonight will somehow remove us from the line of fire—that ISIL/Daesh and its allies will consider us no longer a legitimate target for its barbaric activities. The 102 people murdered in Ankara were attending a peace rally. The seven plots foiled by our security services so far this year were all planned before this motion was even conceived. Our decision tonight will not alter ISIL/Daesh’s contempt for this country and our way of life by one iota, but it could affect its ability to plan and execute attacks. If our decision does not destroy ISIL/Daesh’s capability in Syria, it will force its external operations unit to move and, in so doing, make it more exposed and less effective.

The motion presents a package of measures that will be taken forward by the international community to bring about the transformation in Syria that we all want to see, and it promised regular updates on that

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aspect. Furthermore, I believe that the motion meets the criteria that many Members will have set for endorsing military action now that the convention applies: is it a just cause? Is the proposed action a last resort? Is it proportionate? Does it have a reasonable prospect of success? Does it have broad regional support? Does it have a clear legal base? I think that it meets all those criteria.

I find this decision as difficult to make as anyone. Frankly, I wish I had the self-righteous certitude of the finger-jabbing representatives of our new and kinder type of politics, who will no doubt soon be contacting those of us who support the motion tonight. I believe that ISIL/Daesh must be confronted and destroyed if we are properly to defend our country and our way of life, and I believe that this motion provides the best way to achieve that objective.

2.25 pm

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): Hon. Members are being asked to back airstrikes against Daesh in order to show solidarity with our French and American friends, yet a gesture of solidarity, however sincerely meant, cannot be a substitute for hard-headed strategy.

Most Defence Committee members probably intend to vote for such airstrikes, but I shall vote against airstrikes, in the absence of credible ground forces, as ineffective and potentially dangerous, just as I voted against the proposal to bomb Assad in 2013. Indeed, the fact that the British Government wanted to bomb first one side and then the other in the same civil war, and in such a short space of time, illustrates to my mind a vacuum at the heart of our strategy.

At least we are now targeting our deadly Islamist enemies, rather than trying to bring down yet another dictator with the same likely results as in Iraq and Libya. Daesh must indeed be driven out of its territory militarily, but that can be done only by a credible force that is ready and able to do the fighting on the ground. So who will supply that force, without which airstrikes cannot prevail?

The failure of the ineptly named “Arab spring” in so many countries shows the two most likely outcomes: a victory for authoritarian dictatorship on the one hand, or a victory for revolutionary Islamism on the other. Moderation and democracy have barely featured in the countries affected, and Syria seems to be no exception. I am genuinely sorry to say that we face a choice between very nasty authoritarians and Islamist totalitarians; there is no third way.

Our Government, however, are in denial about that. They do concede that airstrikes must be in support of ground forces, and they have come up with a remarkable figure, from the Joint Intelligence Committee, of 70,000 so-called moderate fighters with whom we can supposedly co-ordinate our airstrikes. It is very doubtful, however, were such an alliance to be successful, that the territory freed from Daesh would cease to be under Islamist control.

Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP): Can the right hon. Gentleman comment specifically on the independent reports indicating that the Free Syrian Army is currently selling supplied weapons to Daesh in its own fight against Assad?

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Dr Lewis: It is certainly true that there have been well documented cases of such weapons ending up in the hands of Daesh, although I would not wish to tar the entire Free Syrian Army with what some of its factions might have done, or in fact have done, as the hon. Lady rightly suggests.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr Lewis: In a moment.

In an attempt to try to establish the facts about the 70,000, I made inquiries of two people whose expert opinion I much admire. One is the writer and journalist Patrick Cockburn, who is one of Britain’s leading commentators on Syria and Iraq and who was one of the first to write about the threat from what was then called ISIS, long before it captured Mosul. This is what he tells me:

“Unfortunately, the belief that there are 70,000 moderate opposition fighters on the ground in Syria is wishful thinking. The armed opposition is dominated by Isis or al-Qaeda type organisations. There are many small and highly fragmented groups of opposition fighters who do not like Assad or Isis and could be described as non-extremist, but they are generally men from a single clan, tribe or village. They are often guns for hire and operate under licence from the al-Qaeda affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, or its near equivalent, Ahrar al-Sham. Many of these groups seek to present a moderate face abroad but remain violently sectarian and intolerant inside Syria.”

Crispin Blunt: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Dr Lewis: No, I am sorry—I promised to give way to the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham).

Mr Cunningham: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is a ridiculous situation where on the one hand the Government praise the Kurds, but on the other hand the Government’s ally, Turkey, is attacking the Kurds? How much more ridiculous can you get?

Dr Lewis: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that contribution. It is not only ridiculous but highly dangerous. I will insert at this point something I was going to leave out, and say in passing that to have separate conflicts going on within the same battlespace, without reaching a proper agreement, can lead us into all sorts of nasty confrontations—the worst of which would be if we ended up eyeball to eyeball with the Russians when they and we share the same common enemy in ISIL/Daesh.

The second expert I consulted was our former ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, who describes the Free Syrian Army as

“a ragbag of 58 factions (at the last count) united mainly by a desire to use the FSA appellation in order to secure Gulf, Turkish and Western funding…most of the factions, which are extremely locally based, have no interest whatsoever in being drawn into battles against groups which basically share their sectarian agenda hundreds of miles away in areas with which they are unfamiliar.”

So instead of having dodgy dossiers we now have bogus battalions of moderate fighters.

Once Daesh has been driven out, as it must be driven out—if, eventually, we get an overall military strategy together, which adding a few bombing raids does not comprise—there arises the question of the occupying power, because an occupying power will have to remain

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in control for many years to come if other Islamists are not going to take over from Daesh. That occupying force must be a Muslim one, and only the Syrian Government army is likely to provide it. Indeed, as the Prime Minister himself acknowledged in the Commons,

“in time the best ground troops should be the Syrian army”.—[Official Report, 26 November 2015; Vol. 602, c. 1501.]

Airstrikes alone are a dangerous diversion and distraction. What is needed is a grand military alliance involving not only the west but Russia and, yes, its Syrian Government clients too. We need—

Crispin Blunt rose

Dr Lewis: We need—[Hon. Members: “Give way!”] I honestly think that my hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has had more than his fair share in this debate, and I am going to make use of mine.

We need to choose the lesser of two evils and abandon the fiction of a cosy third choice. There is now a general consensus that the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was a terrible mistake, but Saddam Hussein was every bit as much of a vicious dictator as we are told that Assad is. So ask yourself this when you are thinking about the hard choice that has to be faced tonight: you may feel pious looking back on the wrong decision that was made about Saddam Hussein, but a very similar decision confronts us tonight. It is a question of choosing the lesser of two evils, not fooling ourselves that there is a cosy third option, which is, in reality, a fantasy.

2.35 pm

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): No Parliament ever takes a more serious decision than what we should do to protect the security and safety of our nation and whether to put our forces in harm’s way. I know that every Member of the House will be weighing that decision very seriously, not least because the truth is that we have got those decisions wrong before, and our Governments have got those decisions wrong before, when we went into Iraq in 2003, but also when we failed to intervene early enough in Bosnia a decade before that.

Since the Prime Minister made his case last Thursday, I have raised a series of questions and sought a series of assurances, some of which I have received and some of which I have not. I do not believe that the Prime Minister has made the most effective case, and so I understand why many in this House feel that they are not yet convinced, but I also feel that I cannot say that the coalition airstrikes that are already under way in both Syria and Iraq should stop. If they are not going to stop, and France has asked for our help, I do not think that we can say no. I think that changes need to be made to the Government’s approach, and I will argue for them. I think that there are more limits in the approach they need to take, but I will also vote with the Government on the motion tonight, even though I recognise how difficult that is for so many of us.

The whole House, I think, agrees that we need a strategy that delivers peace and defeats ISIS/Daesh, but I disagree with any suggestion that this can be done as an ISIS-first, or Daesh-first, approach, because that simply will not work. In the end, we know that the

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Vienna process—the process to replace the Assad regime, which is dropping barrel bombs on so many innocent people across Syria—is crucial to preventing recruitment for ISIS. If we or the coalition are seen somehow to be siding with Assad or strengthening Assad, that will increase recruitment for Daesh as well.

I disagree with the suggestion that there are 70,000 troops who are going to step in and that the purpose of the airstrikes is to provide air cover for those troops to be able to take on and defeat Daesh, because that is not going to happen any time soon. We know that there are not such forces anywhere near Raqqa. We know too that those forces are divided. The airstrikes will not be part of an imminent decisive military campaign.

But I also disagree with those who say that instead of “ISIS first”, we should have “Vienna first”, and wait until the peace process is completed in order to take airstrike action against Daesh. I think the coalition airstrikes are still needed. We know that ISIS is not going to be part of the peace process: it will not negotiate; it is a death cult that glorifies suicide and slaughter. We know too that it has continuous ambitions to expand and continuous ambitions to attack us and attack our allies—to have terror threats not just in Paris, not just in Tunisia, but all over the world, anywhere that it gets the chance. It holds oil, territory and communications that it wants to use to expand. The coalition cannot simply stand back and give it free rein while we work on that vital peace process.

Coalition airstrikes already involve France, Turkey, Jordan, the US, Morocco, Bahrain and Australia. If we have evidence that communication networks are being used to plan attacks in Paris, Berlin, Brussels or London, can we really say that such coalition airstrikes should not take place to take out those communication networks? If we have evidence that supply routes are being used by this barbaric regime to plan to take over more territory and expand into a wider area, do we really think that coalition airstrikes should not take out those supply routes? If we think that coalition airstrikes should continue, can we really say no, when France, having gone through the terrible ordeal of Paris, says it wants our help in continuing the airstrikes now?

I have continually argued in this place and elsewhere for our country to do far more to share in the international support for refugees fleeing the conflict. I still think we should do much more, not just leave it to other countries. The argument about sanctuary also applies to security. I do not think that we can leave it to other countries to take the strain. I cannot ignore the advice from security experts that without coalition airstrikes over the next 12 months, the threat from Daesh—in the region, but also in Europe and in Britain—will be much greater.

I think we have to do our bit to contain the threat from Daesh: not to promise that we can defeat or overthrow it in the short term, because we cannot do so, but at least to contain it. It is also important to ensure we degrade its capacity to obliterate the remaining moderate and opposition forces, however big they may be. When the Vienna process gets moving properly, there must be some opposition forces; the peace debate cannot simply involve Assad and Daesh as the only forces left standing, because that will never bring peace and security to the region.

If we are to do our bit and to take the strain, we need more limited objectives than those the Prime Minister has set out—to act in self-defence and to support the

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peace process, but not just to create a vacuum for Assad to sweep into. That makes the imperative to avoid civilian casualties even greater. Where there is any risk that people are being used as human shields to cover targets, such airstrikes should not go ahead however important the targets. It makes the imperative of civilian protection even greater, but that is not mentioned in the Government’s motion. It should be the central objective not just for humanitarian reasons—to end the refugee crisis—but to prevent the recruitment that fuels ISIS.

I also think there should be time limits, because I do not support an open-ended commitment to airstrikes until Daesh is defeated—the Foreign Secretary raised that yesterday—because if it is not working in six months or if it proves counterproductive, we should be ready to review this, and we should also be ready to withdraw. We will need to review this. I think we should lend the Government support tonight and keep it under review, not give them an open-ended commitment that this should carry on whatever the consequences.

Finally, I say to the Government that I accept their argument that if we want coalition airstrikes on an international basis, we should be part of that, but I urge them to accept my argument that we should do more to be part of providing sanctuary for refugees fleeing the conflict. There are no easy answers, but I also say, in the interests of cohesion in our politics and in our country, that the way in which we conduct this debate is immensely important. However we vote tonight, none of us is a terrorist sympathiser and none of us will have blood on our hands. The blood has been drawn by ISIS/Daesh in Paris and across the world, and that is who we must stand against.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. A five-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches will now apply.

2.44 pm

Nusrat Ghani (Wealden) (Con): There has been a great deal of talk about our solidarity with our French allies following the horrific events in Paris. While it is all very well metaphorically to stand alongside our allies, we make a mockery of solidarity if we refuse to fly alongside them in the skies over Syria. More than that, we make a mockery of our own credibility if we ignore UN Security Council resolution 2249, which has been secured unanimously. Having called upon the world community to take action, and given the comprehensive and strategic argument that the Prime Minister has put forward, we cannot ignore that call and expect our international partners to look at us with any shred of respect or good will. How can we ourselves have any self-respect if we leave this fight to brave Kurdish women fighting with antiquated weapons?

However, this issue is not all about national pride, living up to our responsibilities or our own self-respect; it is about keeping British people safe—those at risk of being murdered by terrorists and those at risk of being brainwashed into joining them—and we are already doing that. I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that £5 million will go towards the establishment of a new Commonwealth unit to counter extremism, and his announcement today of a comprehensive review to root out those funding extremists in the UK.

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According to Oxford University’s Professor Scott Atran, 95% of Daesh recruits are signed up by friends and family, and there are few things more dangerous than misfits who feel they can live outside the law being recruited by the lure of Daesh. It is one of the most barbaric and strategically dangerous enemies we have ever faced. Its ability to recruit ordinary westerners, its commitment to transforming them into murderers and suicide bombers, and its lack of mercy to any man, woman or child are unparalleled. It rapes, enslaves and decapitates. Its victims are Muslims, Kurds, Yazidis, Syrian, French and British. Committing acts of atrocity is how it sustains its image of invincibility, and its growth depends on a steady beat of battlefield victories, with looting along the way. It craves headlines that reinforce its apocalyptic propaganda—so much so that the manager of an electronics store in Raqqa said that Daesh loses popularity among ordinary, uneducated people when it loses its brilliant victories. For me, that is at the heart of this argument.

The very destruction of the caliphate state is in itself the right thing to do, because its existence, along with its self-proclaimed caliph and the nonsense that it has fulfilled Wahabi prophecy, makes up its ideology.

Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con): I am enjoying listening to my hon. Friend develop her points. Does she agree that the motion is not about military action alone and in isolation, but about a broader strategy?

Nusrat Ghani: Indeed. Tonight’s motion is not just about military intervention, but about humanitarian and diplomatic relations.

We must break the umbilical cord that acts as an anchor from Raqqa and offers the seduction of salvation and destruction to the already damaged minds of westerners and middle easterners alike. Until we can demonstrate that we can scar and humiliate Daesh, we will not be taken seriously by those who are attracted to doing its bidding. Raqqa is its command and control centre. It is from there that it plans its trilogies of terror: to control parts of Syria and Iraq; to establish wilayats, or provinces, like the ones that have already been declared in Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan; and, closer to home, to create command and control cells in Europe.

Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements because they are founded on territorial authority, so to destroy the caliphate and its pull, we must take away its command of territory. To do that we must take military action, because those in Daesh cannot be negotiated with. They are not going to sit at a table and agree a 10-point plan for a political settlement, so the fight has to be taken to them, but I have not met anyone opposed to airstrikes who is willing to go over and negotiate with them. We have nothing they want: they want only our demise. They recently said:

“We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women”.

As a Muslim woman, I stand with people of all faiths who abhor Daesh’s ideology, rhetoric and actions. We are justified in taking action to destroy them: they are a threat and they will not rest until they have destroyed us and everything we stand for. For that reason, I will vote in favour of the Government’s motion this evening.

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2.49 pm

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): There is a group of us on the Labour Benches who are caught between two points: we are not opposed to taking action—indeed, we want to take action—but we do not feel that the strategy is in place.

We are making a decision today based not just on airstrikes, but on an overall strategy. Let me say from the outset that I am under no illusion that there is a perfect strategy, given the complex circumstances of the civil war and insurgency in Syria. There is no certainty in the middle east. We all want to protect our citizens and reduce the threat of Daesh, but I am afraid that a few more airstrikes will not do that. Some of its actions may not even be planned from Syria. We lack an overall strategy to confront ISIS/Daesh, which is established in other countries such as Libya. I want to make it clear again that I am not opposed to military action, but I will support it only if I believe that there is a reasonable chance of success.

I do not believe the argument that bombing Daesh in Syria will somehow greatly increase the chances of a terrorist attack in the UK, nor the argument that the Government are proposing the indiscriminate bombing of Syrians. Those arguments are both wrong.

I understand the argument that we are currently restricted to Iraq, but we were clearly invited into that country by an elected Government and we have forces on the ground. That is not the situation in Syria, which is much more uncertain and complex. We do not have the ground forces in Syria that I believe we should have.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): The hon. Gentleman and I visited Iraq together last year. The fact of the matter is that the Iraqi army is totally destroyed. There were no ground forces in Iraq, leaving aside the peshmerga, any more than there are ground forces in Syria.

Derek Twigg: I do not think we can leave aside the peshmerga. The hon. Gentleman may also recall that the Sunnis need arming in Iraq. The Prime Minister keeps agreeing to do that and saying that it is the right thing to do, but we never hear what happens about it. There is therefore a lot more that we could be doing in Iraq. The fact is that there are armed forces that we support, whether the peshmerga or the Iraqi army, on the ground in Iraq when we carry out airstrikes. That is the difference with Syria.

The Prime Minister says that it is important that we stand by our allies. That argument has been stressed to me by some of my colleagues who support the Government’s position. It is a strong point. My response is that doing the right thing must be the primary reason for our decision. Does the strategy proposed by the Government add up? After all, the French, who are an important ally, did not support our decision to go into Iraq. That was a perfectly reasonable position for them to take because they did not think it was the right thing to do. That comes back to my point that we must do the right thing. It is also said that we should not rely on our allies to bomb Syria, but it is not as if we are doing nothing. As I have said, we are doing a lot in Iraq.

On the issue of whether there are 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground, we know that a large number of those groups are less than moderate and

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more Islamic, as the Foreign Secretary said yesterday. There remains considerable uncertainty about how reliable they will be in the fight and what they might bring to any peace negotiations or future Government. Many of the moderates are simply fleeing Syria.

The Prime Minister, in his speech last week, set out the progress of the coalition’s actions in Syria. I welcome the fact that there has been progress. There was also progress at the International Syria Support Group meeting in Vienna. The pathway leading to elections, which the Prime Minister set out, is not tied down. It still leaves the question of what to do about Assad.

The Prime Minister’s memorandum to the Foreign Affairs Committee stated that there were “differences to resolve”. Yesterday, I asked the Foreign Secretary what those differences were. By way of example, he said that the Russians want to shore up the Assad regime to take on Daesh. That is a pretty big difference from where we are.

Finally, I come to the issue of ground troops, which some opponents of military action will use as cover for not doing anything. That is certainly not my position. I have been consistent on this matter from the start. It is a major stumbling block to my support for the motion. We should look at the example of Iraq, where a concerted campaign against al-Qaeda using drones and US and UK special forces had considerable success. However, that also involved a surge of tens of thousands of American troops on the ground.

The Government have said that ground troops will be needed, but they do not say when and have ruled out the use of British ground troops. It appears wrong to embark on this strategy without having any ground troops or a coherent explanation of when there will be some, who they will be or how many there will be. What assessment have the Government made of the number of ground troops that will be needed and what other military assets will be needed?

It gets more complicated, because the Government say that there is no military solution and that only a political solution will stop the civil war in Syria. What if Assad refuses to go? Is that realistic? I do not believe that we can have one without the other. I am clear that the UN needs to agree to put a huge coalition force in the hundreds of thousands into Syria to stop the civil war and maintain safe areas, while at the same time putting in place a political strategy that is achievable. Preferably, as many Muslim countries as possible should send in their soldiers. A firm deal with Russia and Iran will be needed.

The Government have not convinced me that there is a wider strategy or that this action has a reasonable chance of success. Instead, I think we will have to gradually up our involvement in a piecemeal way and that we will find ourselves in a much more complex situation even than Iraq. I disagree with those in the Government who argue that we would somehow make ourselves less secure by not taking such action. I would support action if I felt that it was feasible and deliverable. At the same time, the Government have cut our armed forces and our police force, which are important in maintaining our security.

I believe that ISIL/Daesh needs to be confronted. It must be defeated ideologically and militarily. It is therefore essential to our security and that of the middle east that

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the Prime Minister comes forward with a strategy that has a reasonable chance of success. He has not done so today and he must come back with a better plan.

2.55 pm

Mr Keith Simpson (Broadland) (Con): This may be the kiss of death for them, but I congratulate the right hon. Members for Derby South (Margaret Beckett), for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) and for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) on three formidable speeches. It always takes incredible courage to stand against one’s party and they should not be denigrated for doing so.

I support the Government’s motion. I fully understand all the caveats of one kind or another that colleagues have put forward, but the most important immediate issue is making the strikes against Daesh in Syria that our intelligence and security agencies have identified and wish to carry out, because it offers a present threat to us, our constituents and our allies in Europe. This is a present threat. They may not get it entirely right. I can see my right hon. Friend for—what is his constituency? [Interruption.] I have so many friends! It would be wrong to name them all, but they think that there is no direct threat as far as intelligence is concerned. Those colleagues who have received briefings of one kind or another understand that. The intelligence and security services cannot guarantee to prevent every threat. We should support the motion primarily because we wish to extend our air campaign into Syria to help prevent the threats to this country.

Secondly, I am mindful that the elephant in the room is the Iraq war. We tend to look back to previous wars to draw lessons of one kind or another. The Prime Minister is absolutely right that we have to look at the present situation and the future. Hopefully, we have learned lessons, both political and military, from that war, but we can end up having our current operations and politics determined by past experiences.

Our predecessors sat in the Commons in the 1930s, determined never to have a great war again. The Labour party was divided—there were pacifists and those who wanted collective security. My party supported appeasement, as did the overwhelming majority of the British public, because they genuinely—these were not evil men and women—wanted to prevent another war. They failed, of course, because they were dealing with people in other countries who were not prepared to negotiate. The lessons learned from that war were used in 1956. Anthony Eden believed that Nasser was another Mussolini. He was therefore prepared to take action, but it was the wrong action at the time. I believe that we should put aside where we stood on other campaigns and look at what the situation is today.

My final point is that there has been a great debate about the 70,000 moderate or immoderate people who might or might not provide ground forces. I am sure that the leader of the SNP is, even as we speak, getting YouGov to go out and ask them whether they consider themselves to be moderates or immoderates.

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

Mr Simpson: I am sorry but I have almost run out of time.

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During the second world war, when Churchill and Roosevelt were looking at resistance in Europe, it was dreadfully difficult to find out whether people were communists, non-communists, or Gaullists of one kind or another. At the end of the day, their criterion was, “Are they fighting the Nazis?” There is no easy solution, but the Prime Minister has laid out a set of proposals as far as he can, and I urge the House to vote with him on this occasion.

3 pm

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): I thank the Prime Minister for the national security briefings that we have received, and the discussions that we have had with him and others in recent weeks. We are considering serious matters, and it is right for this debate to take place in a respectful way, both inside and outside the Chamber.

What has been proposed is the extension of action that is already taking place in Iraq, and the test for the DUP has been one of realism. Our experience in Northern Ireland has taught us that no other approach can be brought to bear when facing terrorism. Terrorism must be fought, and fought with all means realistically at our disposal. We have not sought this conflict; terrorists have inflicted it on us, and we must now respond. We know only too well the consequences of terrorism being appeased and indulged. Terrorism must be faced up to. This is not a choice between political initiatives and fighting terrorism, because both go hand in hand. That is why it is important that the motion is about action now.

Our case to the Prime Minister has been clear and consistent throughout, and four things were necessary for our support. First, we needed to know that the vile terrorists of Daesh/ISIL would be the target. That is explicit in the motion and I welcome that clear objective. We all know the convoluted complexity of the Syrian civil war, and today we are not being asked to take sides in that war; we are being asked to take the side of civilised people everywhere—the side of our own citizens. We are being asked to strike at the terrorists who have decided to wage war on us.

Secondly, we had to be sure that those people represent a clear and present danger to the United Kingdom and our own citizens, and nobody can be in any doubt whatsoever about that because our citizens are under threat of attack in the UK and abroad. Some say that this action will merely serve to increase that threat or bring violence and retaliation, but as we have heard again and again, in reality we are already at the top of the terrorist target list. The Russian airliner that was blown up over Egypt could just as easily have been a plane carrying British holidaymakers, and the fantastic work done by our security services in thwarting attack after attack illustrates the level of the threat against us.

Thirdly, we needed to be convinced that British action would make a real and practical difference. The Prime Minister is right to say that the proposed action will not in itself resolve the terrorist threat, but if it helps to reduce, degrade or lessen the threat to British citizens—and I believe it will—it would be utterly wrong not to act. We require an overall political and diplomatic strategic framework to address the underlying problems and work towards a settlement of the Syrian civil war, and those factors make the situation very different from the vote in 2013.

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I commend again the UK Government on the humanitarian support that they provide day in, day out to those fleeing conflict in Syria. It should not be forgotten in the midst of this debate that the UK is the second highest donor of such aid in the world, and British aid workers—backed up by massive British resources and in collaboration with our international partners—are providing enormous help to civilians and refugees in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. That, of course, should continue.

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con): Does that not demonstrate that this debate is about one aspect of our strategy? It is not a purely military strategy.

Mr Dodds: The hon. Gentleman is right. Military intervention on its own will not solve the problem, and it must be part of an overall package. However, to say that we should wait until there is a political or diplomatic outcome is like saying that we should have waited 30 years for the Belfast agreement or the St Andrews agreement to bring about a settlement in Northern Ireland. We must protect our own citizens now when there is a real and present danger to them. Not to do so would be a dereliction of duty.

Paris, and the downing of the Russian airliner, were assaults on civilised values. If we can realistically do something to destroy or degrade that evil, and prevent it from spreading still further, we must act. That is a heavy burden of responsibility. This is not a choice between military intervention and political or diplomatic initiatives, because both go hand in hand. There is now a realistic chance that overwhelming pressure can be brought to bear against ISIL/Daesh in Syria, and therefore DUP Members will vote in favour of the motion.

Now that a British force is to be employed—if the House votes that way in the common good—it is the duty of every credible political figure to offer their full support to our armed forces. We wish our armed forces success as they do the hard and necessary work, and we pray for a safe and swift return for them all.

3.5 pm

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): A dangerous and deadly cult is operating within this country, within Europe, and on Europe’s doorstep, and today we will decide whether we duck our responsibilities and do nothing, or whether we extend our military operations and widen our attack on the territories that that cult has taken over. To widen our airstrikes to include Daesh-held areas in Syria is only a small extension of current military activity, and I honestly do not think that this House has ever seen a Prime Minister set out so clearly the detailed options before us today, and his reasons for asking us to support the motion.

In my view, to vote for this motion is to respond positively to the requests of our closest allies in France and the USA. It will add value to current military operations by providing the precision bombing capability and reconnaissance needed to degrade Daesh’s capabilities and remove its leadership, thereby reducing the direct threat to our citizens. That threat is real, present and extreme, and goes from beheading aid workers, to slaughtering holidaymakers on a Tunisian beach, not to

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mention the seven foiled terrorist attacks from which the brave men and women of our intelligence services and operations have saved us.

Anyone saying that a positive vote tonight will increase the danger here in the UK needs to wake up and realise that the threat is already here, and controlled by Daesh leaders, mostly in Syria. If we add to the forces trying to eliminate that Daesh leadership, we will increase the odds of removing those who orchestrate violence, terrorism and wholesale murder.

I could not support the Government today if I thought that airstrikes would form our strategy on Syria and Daesh in its entirety. However, with the Vienna process and a reasonable estimate of the ground forces that should be available to back up more efficient air activity, I believe that focused diplomacy and military action will complement each other in moving us forward to what we all want, which is a negotiated and peaceful settlement in Syria. Although I admit it is likely that airstrikes will not be enough to eliminate the threat of Daesh, it is important to recognise the role that they can play at this exact time.

Like many hon. Members, I have received representations from my constituents in Chesham and Amersham on both sides of the argument, but after that attack in Paris and the wholesale slaughter of many young people, it has resonated even more with the general public that Daesh is a dangerous force that must be defeated at its roots. As it stands, I think that the best course of action is for Britain to increase its commitment to this complex, difficult and continuing conflict, and thereby increase the odds of improving the safety of our country and of the British people wherever they are in the world.

The Prime Minister knows that we must constantly revise our plan for post-conflict Syria and the whole region, and if we want to see peace in our time, we will need to address that. Tonight I will be putting our security into the hands of our armed services, and I will support the motion.

3.9 pm

Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD): As has been mentioned already, the spectre of the 2003 Iraq war hangs over the debate in this House and in the whole country. In 2003, the late and very great Charles Kennedy led the opposition to the Iraq war and he did so proudly. That was a counterproductive and illegal war, and Daesh is a consequence of the foolish decision taken then. Charles Kennedy was also right, however, in calling, in the 1990s, for military intervention in Bosnia to end a genocide there. I am proud of Charles on both counts.

My instincts, like those of others, are always to be anti-war and anti-conflict. In many cases, the automatic instinct will be that we should react straightaway and go straight in. Others will say that under no terms, and not in my name, should there ever be intervention. It is right to look at this through the prism of what is humanitarian, what is internationalist, what is liberal, what is right and what will be effective. I set out five principles that I have put to the Prime Minister. I will not go into all of them here, with the time I have available, but they are available on the website and people can go and have a look at them. My very clear sense is that any reasonable person would judge them to have been broadly met.

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James Berry (Kingston and Surbiton) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, he and his party supported airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq and that today’s vote is about extending those airstrikes across the border that Daesh itself does not recognise, into Syria, to degrade Daesh as far as possible?

Tim Farron: I am happy to confirm that.

For me, and probably for many other Members, this has been one of the toughest decisions, if not the toughest decision, I have had to take in my time in this place. The five principles that we have set out have been broadly met, but I will not give unconditional support to the Government as I vote with them tonight. There are huge questions on the financing of Daesh by states such as Turkey, with the trade that is going on there. There are huge questions on the protection of civilians. Yes, a ceasefire, as discussed in Vienna, is the ultimate civilian protection, but we absolutely must continue to press for safe zones to be established in Syria. I continue to be very concerned about the lack of political and state involvement, notwithstanding what the King of Jordan said overnight, by close-by regional states, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. I continue to be concerned about our failure to take our fair share of refugees, as part of the overall EU plan. I welcome what the Prime Minister said earlier, but I want a lot more than just “looking into” taking 3,000 orphan children from refugee camps. I want them here in Britain.

Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP): I am very grateful to the Liberal Democrat leader for giving way. Given that he has pressed so hard for the Government to take more refugees, why is he content to bomb that country when the Prime Minister has refused to give that assurance? This is ridiculous.

Tim Farron: I will come to that in a moment. The reality is that this is a very tough—an incredibly tough—call.

A final point I wanted to press the Prime Minister on concerns the funding of Daesh from within UK sources. I am very pleased to hear that there will now be a full public and open inquiry. It must cut off that which fuels this evil, evil death cult.

This is the toughest call I have ever had to make, certainly in this House. What pushes me in the direction of voting for action is, above all, United Nations resolution 2249, which calls for us to eradicate the safe haven that Daesh has in Syria. The resolution does not just permit, but urges this country and all members capable of doing so, to take all necessary action to get rid of Daesh. If we had just been asked to bomb Syria, I would be voting no: I would be out there demonstrating in between speeches and signing up to emails from the Stop the War coalition. This is not, however, a case of just bombing; this is standing with the United Nations and the international community to do what is right by people who are the most beleaguered of all. I was so proud and moved to tears when I watched at Wembley the other week English fans singing La Marseillaise—probably very badly indeed, but doing it with gusto—and standing shoulder to shoulder with our closest friends and allies. How could we then not act today, when asked to put our money where our mouth is?

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What has really pushed me into the position where I feel, on balance, that we have to back military action against Daesh is my personal experiences in the refugee camps this summer. I cannot pretend not to have been utterly and personally moved and affected by what I saw. I could give anecdote after anecdote that would break Members’ hearts, but let me give just one in particular. A seven-year-old lad was lifted from a dinghy on the beach at Lesbos. My Arabic interpreter said to me, “That lad has just said to his dad, ‘Daddy are ISIL here? Daddy are ISIL here?’” I cannot stand in this House and castigate the Prime Minister for not taking enough refugees and for Britain not standing as tall as it should in the world, opening its arms to the desperate as we have done so proudly for many, many decades and throughout our history, if we do not also do everything in our power to eradicate that which is the source of the terror from which people are feeling.

We are absolutely under the spectre of a shocking, illegal and counterproductive war in Iraq. It is a lesson from history that we must learn from. The danger today is that too many people will be learning the wrong lessons from history if we choose not to stand with those refugees and not to stand as part of the international community of nations. This is a very tough call, but on balance it is right to take military action to degrade and to defeat this evil death cult.

3.16 pm

Mr Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): I entirely endorse the comments of the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), the leader of the Liberal Democrat party. Until we remove Daesh, we are all at risk. We are at risk with or without bombing in Iraq, and we are at risk with or without bombing in Syria.

I was in France and saw the stunned reaction of the French populace. There is no negotiation, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests, with those who gun down people going about their daily business and in restaurants, or those who take a bomb to a crowded football stadium. Removing Daesh, therefore, is an absolute priority. A large number of Members voted a year ago to bomb in Iraq. It is clearly a nonsense for our aeroplanes to stop at an arbitrary boundary in the sand. If we are invited by our severely damaged and hurt allies and neighbours, the French, to bring special technology, it is a terrible dereliction that we do not involve ourselves and offer that technology.

In the past couple of days, I have talked to some very experienced allied generals. There is no doubt whatever that having the UK playing a full part in a coalition, bringing intelligence, planning and experience, does give an intangible moral and philosophical boost to the campaign. I am clear that this is about the safety of our citizens. We are better off if we engage in this activity.

I would like to touch briefly on the artificial boundary. My right hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan) called these nation states. The entities of Syria and Iraq were created in the 1920s out of elements of the Ottoman empire. Iraq was made up of three old Ottoman vilayets: Basra, which is very Shi’a; Baghdad, which is mainly Sunni; and Mosul in Kurdistan. When the Kurds—there were about 19 million then and there are about 30 million now—emerged

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from the first world war, they were promised a country. They did not get one. We are living with the consequences of what was decided then.

I remember when I was at Cambridge the late Professor Jack Gallagher talking about the fat cats. France and Britain came out of the first world war with these new entities very much increasing their sphere of influence. It was always assumed that there would be British and French influence: passive military influence if necessary; very active military in the case of the bombing campaign in Iraq in the 1920s. This system worked until 1958, when the king was killed. It sort of worked under the horrendous dictatorships of Saddam Hussein and Assad père. It has broken down now. For all the criticism of the Iraq war, it could have worked. It was a terrible decision by the Obama regime to withdraw the US garrison. There are still US garrisons in west Germany, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. It should have been there for the long term.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): The Americans withdrew, of course, because the Iraqis would not give a status of forces agreement under which US forces would not be liable to Iraqi law. That is why the Americans were forced to withdraw.

Mr Paterson: Yes, and I think the Administration were weak not to get their way on that. Of course, the Maliki regime, which was corrupt and sectarian, has now gone. What we need to look at now is how we make these entities work. Any expert on the area will say that it is not an option to destroy these boundaries.

What I would put to the Front-Bench—a line in the motion provides the grounds for this—is that we should follow what the current Prime Minister is doing in Iraq in talking about functioning federalism. We need to give these ethnic groups security within the old post-world war one boundaries. If we look at how the Ottomans did it, they basically left the locals to run their own show. There is a clear breakdown in Iraq whereby significant autonomy is provided within these entities, and this is already happening with the Kurds.

Given the terrible conditions under which local people are living, we will not get their support to remove Daesh if they do not feel that they will emerge at the end of this very difficult process with an entity to which they are loyal and feel safe in. Sunnis in Iraq will not stick their heads above the parapet if they think they will end up with another corrupt Maliki Shi’a regime. The same applies the other way round, because the Shi’a will not want to end up with another Saddam regime.

Simon Hoare: I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend on the point about federation. Trying to put the construct of a nation-state boundary on what are still tribal areas is almost impossible. It has clearly worked well in Yugoslavia, following the conflict there, and it is something that we should look towards.

Mr Paterson: My proposal is that we do not rearrange the post-world war one boundaries. We should work very closely with the locals in the Vienna negotiations, with the clear intent that at the end of the process, having removed Daesh by military means, we will have

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an entity that will allow local ethnic and religious groups to have real loyalty to the area where they live. If we do not do that, all the questions from the other side about the 70,000 and all the rest of it will arise. Of course there is doubt, because they are not prepared to stick their heads above the parapet until they know exactly where we are going and they know that they will emerge living in part of a federation where they can be loyal to the new entity.

I shall support the motion tonight, but I urge the Government in the Vienna negotiations to look at how to bring in the Sunni and other local powers in order to establish a long-term solution. We have to look to the long term; there is no short-term fix. Ultimately, there will have to be an international presence to help grow these local institutions, but we must build them around the local ethnic groups.

3.22 pm

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): No one voting against the Government’s motion is not bothered about the security of the United Kingdom and the people who live in it. We and our families all live in it. I therefore find the suggestion that those who intend to vote against the motion are terrorist sympathisers or are somehow pacifist extremely insulting.

As I mentioned earlier, I happened to be in Cairo, Amman and Beirut last week, which is important because the three countries concerned are currently fighting Daesh at their borders. What they have to say about what we in the United Kingdom can do to help fight Daesh needs to be heard in this Chamber. First, every single person agrees that extension of the airstrikes into Syria alone will not achieve anything without a massive boots on the ground presence. When I say “massive”, just taking back Raqqa, a city of about half a million people, would need an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 ground troops, along with air support, command and intelligence, headquarters, surveillance and so forth. That is just Raqqa. Then there is the challenge of how to hold the territory that has been taken. Unless and until the Prime Minister says that we are going to get those boots on the ground, whether from surrounding Arab countries or the international community, we are not being really serious about containing and destroying Daesh. We need both those strategies.

Let me make it clear that I have no sympathy with Daesh, because 99% of the people killed by Daesh and Assad are actually Muslims. The slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Muslims is taking place, so I as a Muslim have no truck with Daesh. I would happily support today’s motion if I genuinely believed that it was going to make a dent in Daesh and make the United Kingdom safer, which is an important point.

With all due respect to the Prime Minister and the Government, what I think is going on here is basically a symbolic gesture to show that we are in the international community and siding with France. Of course we were all devastated by what happened in Paris, but using that as the main reason to extend our involvement is wrong.

When I spoke to people in the middle east, apart from the armed troops, they thanked the UK for all the help we have provided to the Jordanians and to the Lebanese army and intelligence services, but they said that that sort of help has to be provided to the other countries involved, such as Nigeria, Mali, Kenya—poor

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countries that do not have the intelligence or capability to deal with al-Shabaab or Boko Haram. All those groups have to be dealt with.

Assad has to be out of the picture for there to be any settlement, so the Russians and the Iranians have to come on board. We also need Saudi Arabia and the other Muslim countries around the area to be involved. In fact, there has been a suggestion that ground forces of Sunni Arab nations should be the ones going in. But the people out there said that if we cannot get the Sunni Muslims in, that is fine: western troops would be fine too, because what we need to do is to control and stop Daesh.

Finally, General Hitit of the Lebanese army, a Christian Maronite, explained what was central to the whole issue. Some people may strike me down on this, but it was said that the Israel-Palestine conflict has to be the key. That was said not just in Beirut but in Cairo and Amman. It is key; it is a big recruitment driver. Until that situation is sorted out, there will never be peace in the middle east.

On the extension of airstrikes, General Sir Richard Shirreff, who was the allied deputy NATO commander, recently said that the Americans had already put in 57,000 sorties in Iraq alone and that many different countries had bombed Daesh in Iraq, and that with the aid of some ground troops, a bit of the territory had been regained. We have no such troops in Syria.

3.27 pm

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I pay tribute to the Leader of the Opposition, in his absence. All Members who have been here for some time know that he is a champion of human rights, but perhaps the greatest human right of all is the right to life. I ask the Leader of the Opposition and those who support him today to rethink their position. If we do not take on Daesh, more men, women and children—in their hundreds and thousands—will continue to be murdered.

I do not believe that anybody enters Parliament to make war. Indeed, I would hope that everyone in this Chamber is a peacemaker. There is enough war and conflict in this world already, as we are discussing today. Indeed, I pay tribute to the pacifists and peacemakers who sit on the Opposition Benches and on the Government Benches. Their views are both valid and respectable. Unfortunately, our enemies—Daesh—are neither peacemakers nor pacifists. They are a brutal, murderous and genocidal enemy that are killing men, women, children and peacemakers—probably at this very hour, as we speak.

Whether it is politically or intellectually palatable or not, it is a case, sadly, of kill or be killed. On a point of law for some of the waverers opposite, I would say that the motion before us is both legal and legitimate—both in terms of UN resolution 2249 and the right to self-defence in international law. As the Prime Minister reminded us, it is a UN resolution supported by both China and Russia—and, I may add, one supported by the Venezuelan Government, who are admired by some in the wider labour movement, such as the Unite leader Len McCluskey, and by many in Momentum. If Venezuela is prepared to support airstrikes in Syria, then why not Her Majesty’s Opposition? Let me say at this juncture that it should be the consciences of individual Members of Parliament that determine the fate of the sombre motion that is

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before us today, not the bullying and self-interested unions that appear to be engaged in their own insurgency campaign against Labour MPs.

Can there ever be a just war? Many faith leaders believe so, including faith leaders here in Britain. That is recognised by the Archbishop of Canterbury—who has said that “forceful force” should be used in the circumstances that we are discussing—as well as other Christian bishops and religious minority leaders in the middle east. There is such a thing as a just war.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): My hon. Friend is describing the precepts of St Augustine very eloquently, but may I ask him to desist from describing this conflict as a war? Calling it a war gives the opposition a dignity that it does not deserve.

Mark Pritchard: My hon. and gallant Friend speaks with great experience and wisdom. I both agree and disagree with him, because I think we need to recognise this for what it is. We are at war, but it is a war that we have not chosen, or a conflict that we have not chosen. It is a conflict that our enemies have brought upon us, and we need to defend our interests and our citizens both at home and abroad.

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): I agree with a great deal of what my hon. Friend has said so far, but I think that our hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee) put it very well the other day when, opening the debate on the middle east, he said that this could not be a war because ISIL was not a state. We should be clear about the fact that ISIL is the common enemy of humanity.

Mark Pritchard: As always, my hon. Friend speaks wisely, as did my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison). We are in conflict, or at war, or whatever phrase we wish to use. The fact is that we have a common enemy, and we must work with our allies to destroy that enemy. As I said earlier, it is, sadly, a case of kill or be killed. None of us wants to be in conflict. In an ideal world, we would all be at peace, but at present we do not live in that ideal world, certainly in this dispensation.

It could also be asked whether socialists ever fight just wars. The late, very great Jack Jones, the “union man” himself, stood up for freedom and democracy. So did Clement Attlee—Major Attlee—a wounded war hero, and Ernest Bevin, arguably Labour’s best Foreign Secretary. All of them fought for freedom and liberty in their own ways. Some were more to the left than others, I admit, but all were socialists, defending Britain, defending our allies, defending our values, defending the weak and marginalised, defending the persecuted and the repressed. I say to undecided Labour MPs, “Look to your proud socialist history”; but I also say to them, “Do not be bound by recent ‘new Labour’ history.” This is a new challenge and a new threat.

We may not all be where we want to be, but we are where we are. Today’s motion is a dose of reality for all of us. It is an internationalist motion, an inclusive motion, a protective motion, a motion that cannot be ignored, and a motion that I hope will be supported by Members in all parts of the House.

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3.33 pm

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): It is easy to be brief at this point, because I can honestly say that I agreed with every word of two speeches made by Labour Members. Both my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) made an extraordinary case in explaining why action was necessary, and also why inaction would be so difficult to defend.

The decision that we are being asked to make is particularly important in the light of the social media that now exist. Our email inboxes are full of messages saying, “Don’t do it.” I am relieved that I am being asked not to do it, because I would be deeply troubled if my inbox was full of gung-ho messages saying, “Go and get them.” We have come here to make an extremely careful judgment, and we can only ever make the judgment that is best at any one time.

There are many unanswered questions about the part of the world that we are discussing, and none of us can claim to know what the next steps will be. However, there are some things that we do know, and one of them is that just as actions have consequences, so does inaction. The danger for Governments is not knowing when not to act; given that it is always possible for them to act, they must always ask whether it is the right thing to do. The danger for Oppositions is in thinking that because they are in opposition, it is appropriate always to oppose. Occasionally it is right to do things, and occasionally it is right for an Opposition to support a Government, even when they do not entirely agree with a motion on the Order Paper.

I will support the motion tonight because it is good enough, and it is good enough for three reasons that are closely intertwined. We face a conflict with Daesh, because they are terrorists and bad people with, in my view, no redeeming features. We also face a potential civil war with Assad, and—this has not been mentioned so far—a very difficult conflict involving Turkey and Russia. However, the fact that the situation is complicated does not mean that we should not do anything.

Four things persuaded me that it was, on balance, better to do something than to do nothing. The starting point was the United Nations resolution, which was supremely important. Then there was the fact that our airstrikes are adding capacity, which will enhance the actions that we are already taking in Iraq. If we extend those actions to Syria, we will not only bring something to the table, but strengthen the coalition. As the motion rightly points out, we are looking at a political process. Anyone who has been involved in negotiations knows that military actions will not succeed on their own without a political process. The two go hand in hand, and each enhances the other. That political process will be vital.

There is one mistake that I hope we will not make again. We must not take our eye off the fact that we need functioning state institutions when we take military action. That was one of the errors that we made in Iraq. I hope that it will be different in Syria, because of the work that the Department for International Development is doing, and the work we are doing with the coalition to retain the state structures. We all know we cannot predict what will happen next, but we also know that,

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whatever happens next, we will be acting with our allies, because countries such as France are calling on us. If the situation had been reversed and the same thing had happened in London, and we asked France for help and it said no, we would have been appalled.

Finally, we have to answer the question: why now? Why do we not wait a few weeks? The dynamic changed when Russia entered the theatre, but most importantly, action is in the national interest, because Daesh’s ability to both operate in Syria and organise terrorist attacks on mainland Europe has increased tremendously. We must act now, because if we want to stop that war, this may not be the perfect first step, but at this stage, it is certainly the best first step that I am being asked to support.

3.38 pm

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I agree entirely with the excellent speeches by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron), and by the Chairman of the Defence Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis). They both made eloquent speeches, and I shall therefore focus not on the high principle but on the practicalities. I shall start with the Prime Minister’s point that all Members on both sides of the House want to see the end of ISIS. We are therefore talking about not the aim but the practical method of achieving it.

I think that all hon. Members could agree with 90% of what is in the motion. The contentious part is whether we should engage in the bombing. That is being proposed for entirely understandable but symbolic reasons. Symbolic is not a small word; they are important symbolic reasons. The proposal is to add a few British fast jets to the American-led air campaign in Syria and Iraq. We should face some facts, however. That air campaign has so far, in both countries, mounted some 10,000 sorties, one third of them in Syria, against 16,000 targets. The avowed aim? To degrade ISIS, or Daesh. The outcome? In the period in which the campaign has been operating, recruitment to Daesh has doubled from 15,000 to 30,000 personnel. By a macabre coincidence, that is about one extra recruit for every target we destroyed. So, from that point of view, we are not achieving our aim, although we are doing some good things. The former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett), who is no longer in her place, talked about pinning ISIS down in Kobane, but we are not achieving what we intended to achieve. Arguably, we are achieving the opposite.

Last week, the greatest modern warrior, the American ex-special forces general Stanley McChrystal, was in the House and I spoke to him. He was talking principally about drones and aerial warfare, and he said, in terms, that we should never believe that we can cut off the head of the snake in this kind of war, because it always regenerates and reorganises. He said that that was the wrong metaphor for this kind of warfare, and that it would not work on any level.

Another point leapt out at me. I have heard arguments from many knowledgeable colleagues, but no matter how skilful and brave our pilots are—and they will be both—it is debateable whether they will make even a marginal difference. The reason is that despite the availability of a large number of aircraft and all sorts of weapons systems—including Brimstone, and others that compete

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with and might be better than Brimstone—the constraint will be the targets. The Americans are flying about seven sorties a day in Syria, while the Russians declare that they are flying more than 140. That is because the Russians are being given up to 800 targets a day by the Syrian army, while we are getting fewer than half a dozen, by the sound of it, from the Free Syrian Army. If you want a practical demonstration of the usefulness in war of the 70,000 fighters we are being told about, you have it there. They are not useful, even as target-spotters.

Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) (Con): My right hon. Friend has a clear view on what we may or may not do in Syria, but what is his opinion of the bombings taking place in Iraq?

Mr Davis: I have already told my hon. Friend that; he cannot have been listening. The simple truth is that the bombings have not achieved their aim; they are doing some useful things, including pinning some people down, but by themselves they cannot achieve what we have been told is their aim—namely, the reduction and removal of ISIS. That is their failure.

So where do we go from here? I will not go into elaborate detail on the long-term plan. We have heard about that from a number of colleagues, and all their arguments have been very well made. We know that the diplomatic creation of the future Syrian state and the creation of an army on the ground will be difficult and not very dramatic. However, people are looking for immediate action, and there are a couple of things that we could do pretty much straightaway. First, we could demand—not request—that Turkey shuts the Turkey-Syria border. ISIS gets $1 billion of income from putting oil across that border, and it sends weapons the other way. This gives freedom of movement to ISIS. Turkey is a NATO member, and it should not be giving any sort of comfort to our enemies.

Secondly, Saudi and the Gulf states are supposedly our allies, yet they send tens of millions of dollars into these Islamist organisations—not just ISIS but al-Nusra and others. That money is used essentially to employ soldiers in a country where starvation is always at the door, so that money is incredibly powerful. If we want to do something straightaway that would achieve more than several squadrons of aircraft, we should get our allies to do their job. People have raised another issue several times today. They have asked, “Shouldn’t we help the French?” Yes, we should help our allies, and we should do it by destroying ISIS, but we should do it properly and not by symbolism.

3.44 pm

Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): First, I want to welcome the Prime Minister’s use of the name Daesh for this barbaric group of people who have absolutely no connection at all to Islam, my faith—as has been affirmed by the Grand Imam Sheikh el-Tayeb of al-Azhar University in only the last few days. That ensures that those people are not referred to in any way as Muslims; nor should they be seen as such.

Since 9/11, we have been saying to the majority of Muslim countries that they should start to take action against radicalisation and terrorism. They have started to do that. Indonesia, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and other countries are involved in doing that, and

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Pakistan has, over almost three and a half years, lost 5,000 troops in tackling this. Before that, it was a common occurrence for a number of suicide bombings to take place across the country, particularly in Karachi, where there was a disproportionately large number of deaths. By taking the very difficult steps of putting boots on the ground in the North-West Frontier areas, and going street by street, door by door, Pakistan has managed, by and large, to deal with this.

We cannot tackle the terrorists, the ideology and all these people by airstrikes alone. In terms of the case put forward today, I have had the fairly strong view for a long time that we should support action against Daesh, but I am in a quandary at the moment, having heard all the people who have spoken to me, including my constituents and people I have spoken to in this place. I find myself in a very different place at the moment. That is because of some of the things that have been said by the Prime Minister. He and the Foreign Secretary have said that under no circumstances will we have any people on the ground. The only way we will defeat this horrid group is by having people on the ground. That means not just us, America, France or others from the EU; we need a coalition of the nations, including the Muslim countries in the area, to deal with this problem. We must not think we can deal with it by airstrikes, no matter how accurate our Brimstone missiles are, and no matter how many strikes and sorties we can carry out. If we are able to wage that war from the air and defeat Daesh, there is a bigger issue: consistently, on the issue of terrorism and radicalisation, we have managed to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

When the Syria dispute started, there was the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. That popped on for a bit and nobody took much notice—it was considered to be fine because they were having a go at Assad, and it was thought, “That’s okay, we can stand by and allow them to do that.” Also, of course, some of our allies wanted to supply arms to them. So we turned a blind eye and allowed them to carry on, but that turned into Daesh/ISIL. Not only is there the barbarity of those people and what they wanted to do, but they were joined by the Ba’athists in Iraq, and all those people—in some instances Sunnis—who call for a geographic state in Iraq. We now discuss how we can divide Iraq up to reflect the different religious groups, but that is complete nonsense. First, what we must do is take on this rag, tag and bobtail group of people who do not represent anybody, and the only way we will do that is by moving forward.

I also want to say very quickly that we need to tackle the assertions of 70,000 people whom we call the Free Syrian Army. That is, again, al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, and those people who are never going to be our friends.

3.49 pm

Amanda Solloway (Derby North) (Con): There are some occasions in life that we dread, but we know we will have to face them, even if we do not want to. Today is one of those days. Like all my colleagues, I do not relish the thought of extending the airstrikes—one innocent life lost is one too many—yet I find myself ready to vote for airstrikes in Syria. My mind is very clear: there cannot ever be a justification to allow terrorists to wreak terror and fear across this or any other nation. It just is not right.

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Earlier this year, I spoke in the House about the tragic shooting of one of my constituents, Scott Chalkley from Chaddesden, who was shot dead by terrorists while he was on holiday in Tunisia. That was followed by the tragedy in Paris, where the lives of people who were out enjoying themselves were ended. The lives of loved ones were taken, and the lives of others have been changed dramatically, both physically and emotionally. When such things happen, they bring home to us just how vulnerable we all really are. Such events take place all over the world, and I am clear that we cannot stand by and allow that to happen. Having listened to the Prime Minister on Monday and today, I am satisfied that intervention through airstrikes is absolutely necessary to protect our way of life so that we can all live reasonably as human beings.

I recently went on a trip to Jordan to visit refugee camps and host communities. I was really struck by the stories relayed about people fleeing their homes and leaving behind what many of us take for granted—such as a roof over our heads and the freedom to walk down the street—purely to ensure that their family members could stay alive. One mother told me that she fled after the death of one of her children, to safeguard the lives of her other children from ending so abruptly. It became clear that all the families I spoke to wanted to return home. We must ensure that we help to rebuild Syria, so that Syrians can return home to the country they love. I know that will take time and I feel great sadness that we need to intervene in order to ensure that everyone present, all my family, all my constituents, every person living in this country, refugees and, indeed, people all over the world can live a life free of fear.

Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Amanda Solloway: I have nearly finished.

I am the mother of two grown-up daughters and I want them to have children of their own who will run free and not live in fear of being struck down while at play. It is essential that we help where we can and in any way we can. All families deserve that, and it is our duty as elected Members to deliver it. With a heavy heart, I support the airstrikes, but I will vote with full confidence that it is the right thing to do.

3.52 pm

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): One hopes that the decision that will be made at 10 o’clock will be made according to our own conclusions, and not because of whipping or any threats from outside, whatever they may be and which I deplore. We should be able to vote without any fears of intimidation and, if I may say so, without slurs such as that apparently made by the Prime Minister at a private meeting. I am not a sympathiser with terrorism. I hate terrorism and I doubt that a single Member of this House thinks otherwise—at least I hope not.

As one Member, I am simply not persuaded by the arguments advanced by the Government today. If I were, I would certainly vote with the Government and I would certainly not be put off doing so by threats, any more than a number of my right hon. and hon. Friend will be. We must be able to vote as we consider appropriate.

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Some may doubt it, but in my view there is growing public unease over what is being proposed. No one can possibly doubt the sheer murderous brutality of the people who are described by various names, including ISIL and Daesh. We know that and we knew it long before Paris. We knew about the atrocities, beheadings, the publicising of those beheadings, and the burning alive of the Jordanian airman. There is no doubt or argument about that type of foe, but there is unease—and I happen to share it—that the proposal to join our allies in bombing parts of Syria will make us feel good, but in the end it will make little or no difference.

I have supported more military action in the past 30 years than I have opposed, but I have done so on the basis that there is an objective. With the liberation of Kuwait, for example, there was quite clearly an objective. There was a clear objective over Kosovo, which I supported. I urged that the massacre of Muslims should be halted. We knew that if the Serbian leadership did not give way ground troops would be used by this country and the United States.

The point has been well made that no military chief and no one who has held senior military office here, in the United States or in France, nor the Government, states that airstrikes alone will defeat ISIL. Everyone knows that. There is no feeling that if we approve the motion at 10 o’clock we will be on the way to victory. We know that airstrikes alone will not do what is necessary. The Government argue that we are bombing in Iraq, so why not in Syria? My fear is how long it will take before the Government advance the argument that because Parliament has agreed to airstrikes, which are not sufficient, we should introduce ground troops. Ground troops are excluded in the motion, but is there not a possibility that in time the Government will come back with that argument? Ground troops will be necessary to defeat ISIL—I assume that no one doubts that—but they should not come from this country.

Finally, Sunni Muslim opinion asks why action is being taken against ISIL and not the other lot of mass murderers who rule Syria—the Assad regime, which is responsible for the civil war and all that has occurred. With some reluctance, I will not be able to support the Government tonight. I want to see ISIL defeated, but what is being proposed will not achieve that objective. That is why I will not be able to support the motion.

3.57 pm

Mr Gary Streeter (South West Devon) (Con): It is a pleasure to take part in this debate, in which strongly held views are being put forward with passion but also with respect for the other side’s point of view. I follow the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick), who I have known for many years, but I rise to support the motion. I well remember back in 2003 sitting on the Opposition Benches—very much second-class seats compared with those on this side of the House—in the third row back, studying the face of the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as he made his case for the invasion of Iraq. Of course, none of us ever votes lightly to send our forces to war. I have 42 Commando in my constituency—magnificent Royal Marines—and knew that if we voted to send them into battle not all of them would come back and not all of them would come back in one piece. That was a very weighty matter.

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I have acknowledged publicly that that decision was a mistake. There were no weapons of mass destruction and going to war on a false premise was a serious matter, perhaps the most serious thing—the worst thing—that a Government can ever do in a mature democracy, but just because it was wrong to invade Iraq in 2003, that does not mean that it is wrong today to join our allies in the bombing of Daesh in Syria. If we are to keep our citizens safe here in the United Kingdom, we have to take the fight to Daesh and to destroy them where they are as well as protecting ourselves in our own land through our excellent security forces and police.

Ian Blackford: Will the hon. Gentleman reflect on what he has been saying about the dodgy dossier we had on Iraq, having heard from the Chairman of the Defence Committee, in particular, that the stories of the 70,000 troops are something of a fantasy? Given that they are central to the Government’s story and strategy, will he reflect on what we have been told about those 70,000?

Mr Streeter: I certainly do not accept that the Syrian Free Army of 70,000 is a fantasy. There are different views, but I prefer to trust the Prime Minister’s security briefing and I certainly take a lot of comfort from that.

I recognise that bombing alone will not solve the problem and that revenge for the Paris attacks is not a sufficient motivation, but I am fully persuaded that we cannot do nothing. I realise that bombing must be part of a much wider response—a response that the Prime Minister set out last week and again today in very credible terms—and I realise that it does not lie within the gift or power of European nations alone to resolve these deep-rooted and complex regional conflicts, but just because we cannot do everything, it does not mean we should do nothing.

James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that just because the future is uncertain and we are not going to get a neat Hollywood-style finish, it does not mean we should not take action we know will at least take us in the right direction, even if the ultimate destination is unclear?

Mr Streeter: I agree with my hon. Friend. It is the case I am seeking to make: we must not do nothing, and we have to do the right thing.

Some of my constituents believe that this action will make matters worse for us in the UK, but I do not accept that. We are already a top target of these evil people. It is clear that our military capability will make a strategic difference to the fight to eradicate and destroy them. That is why France, the USA and the Gulf states are keen for us to join the action. As we have heard, there is a United Nations resolution authorising all means necessary. It surely makes no sense to carry out airstrikes in Iraq but to have to stop at a border not recognised by Daesh, especially given that its headquarters are in Syria. It is from these strongholds that they plan and launch attacks against the west.

We all know that in every conflict of which we have had recent experience, the long-term resolution was found in a political settlement—in the warring factions talking to each other and agreeing on a way forward. So it was in Northern Ireland. But how can anybody possibly believe we can negotiate with the fanatics behind

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the butchery in Iraq and Syria? It is simply not possible. I realise that the presence of ground forces is vital, and I hope that forces from the region, whether the Free Syrian Army or others, will be able to seize the opportunity to advance that airstrikes will bring.

It is vital that the Vienna talks make progress—I understand that good progress is being made—and deliver a long-term settlement for Syria that encompasses a transfer of power from the Assad regime in a way that maximises the prospect of stability. In both Iraq and Syria, we need to see Governments that represent all the people and which the international community can support. Syria is not like Libya, where removing the leader created chaos. Syria has a highly educated population and a strong middle class and civil society.

As many have said, the situation is a mess, and there are no easy answers, but in the end we are being attacked by a bunch of ruthless barbarians who seek to destroy the values that we hold dear. It is just and right that we should defend ourselves and the many innocent people they kill, maim and enslave on a daily basis. We are right to do all we can to eradicate this evil force from the face of the earth. I will be supporting the motion tonight.

4.3 pm

Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): “We cannot do nothing”, said the hon. Member for South West Devon (Mr Streeter), but that is not an argument for doing anything; it is an argument for doing something that works, as part of an overall strategy that has some chance of success.

I find myself in the unusual position of complimenting some Conservative speakers. We have heard some fine speeches thus far, but some of the best have come from Conservative Members dissenting from the Government line. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) did the House a service by reminding us of the proportionality of what we are discussing. We are discussing adding perhaps an extra two Tornados and a segment of Typhoons to the bombing campaign in Syria. We make up 10% of the current flights in Iraq. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we will not make any conceivable difference to the air campaign in Syria, where there are too many planes already, chasing too many targets.

Alberto Costa (South Leicestershire) (Con) rose—

Alex Salmond: I give way to my compatriot.

Alberto Costa: Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the RAF has the capability to destroy Daesh’s supply and funding lines without causing any civilian casualties of note? If the RAF is capable of doing that, why is he opposing this?

Alex Salmond: I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman the number of times I have heard the argument about minimising the civilian casualties from a bombing campaign. I bow to no one on the skill of our pilots and the sophistication of weapons, but if he actually believes we are going to engage in a bombing campaign in a concentrated urban area such as Raqqa without there being civilian casualties, he is living on a different planet. As the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden said, there is no conceivable balance of difference that we are going to make to the campaign in Syria.

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The Prime Minister said that we must not be haunted or hamstrung by past mistakes, by which he meant the war in Iraq. I am more interested in far more recent mistakes in terms of this House and its decision making and this Government and their decision making. First, we had last night’s mistake of describing opponents of the Government’s action as “terrorist sympathisers”. A hugely demeaning thing for a Prime Minister to do when he should be engaged in attempting to unite the country is to concentrate on accentuating divisions within the Labour party. Goodness knows, I have spent a lifetime in politics attacking the Labour party and replacing it, but I have not attacked its divisions on this issue because this is a matter of war and peace—it is about sending people into conflict. For a Prime Minister to demean himself in that way indicates that although he might be successful in dividing the Labour party, he will fail in uniting the country, and he should have apologised when given ample opportunity to do so.

The right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), the Chair of the Defence Committee, reminded us in his speech that only two years ago the same Prime Minister came to this House asking to bomb the other side in the Syrian civil war. That can be called many things by right hon. and hon. Members but it is not the sign of a coherent military or political strategy. Another mistake, which is less thought of, was spending 13 times as much on bombing Libya as we did on reconstructing that country after the carnage, and the total disarray and dysfunction of society that resulted.

Mr Burrowes: Let us bring this on to more recent history. On 26 September 2014, the SNP’s parliamentary leader, the right hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) voted against the bombing of ISIL in Iraq. Would the right hon. Gentleman have joined in that position? Does he maintain the opposition to operations in Iraq against ISIL?

Alex Salmond: The SNP has been demonstrated to be correct, not least in Iraq, in being cautious about military interventions. The difficulty is that once we get in, it is hugely difficult to get out. What I will concede to the hon. Gentleman now is that there is in one part of Iraq a logical reason for having an assisted bombing campaign, whether by the US or by the 10% contribution of the UK; the peshmerga forces on the ground, probably our only reliable ally across the region, have had some success in pushing back Daesh. The Prime Minister referred to that earlier, but he did not develop the argument in response to my question about why we do not accent our action in Iraq as opposed to diverting to Syria. What he did not address was the second part of the question I asked at closed security briefings: why have we not given the peshmerga heavy armour and heavy weapons, and why do they have to dominate the road between Mosul and Raqqa using only machine guns? I suspect that the answer—I was not given the true answer—is because it would offend our NATO allies in Turkey, who spend as much time, if not more, bombing our allies in the Kurds than they do in pursuing the campaign against Daesh.

The hon. Member for South West Devon wanted something to be done, so we must consider what can be done. First, if we as a western liberal democracy cannot

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pursue a successful campaign of propaganda against a death cult, we should have a very good look at ourselves. I accept that, at last, we have made progress in calling these people for what they are. Daesh is a mocking term that mocks their claims to be a state and to represent the great religion of Islam. Much, much more can be done in carrying that forward. Infinitely more can be done by interrupting and dislocating the internet strategy that they pursue. For one of our fast smart bombs, we could have a whole squadron of people taking down their websites and stopping the communication and the contamination of the minds of young people across western Europe, and across the rest of the world.

I very much agree with the leader of the Labour party that, above all, we need to interrupt the financial resources of Daesh without which this evil cult could not function. Whenever I ask the Prime Minister about that, he tells me that he is sitting on a Committee. For two years, we have heard nothing. Little or nothing has been done to interrupt the flow of funds and to identify and stop the financial institutions without which Daesh could not have lifted a finger against us or anyone else.

Finally, we are being asked to intervene in a bloody civil war of huge complexity without an exit strategy and no reasonable means of saying that we are going to make a difference. We should not give the Prime Minister that permission.

4.10 pm

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): May I start by drawing the attention of the House to my interest as a current member of the reserve forces?

The shadow of Iraq is clearly hanging heavy over this debate. In particular, it is hanging over the Labour party, and I understand that. I understand it because I have rebelled against my party only once—I am very pleased to see that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is in his place, because it gives me the opportunity to point out that fact. It was in 2003 and it was over Iraq. The debate around Iraq has overshadowed our politics in this place for 12 years, and I sense that the pain is particularly felt on the Opposition Benches.

What we are considering today has very little to do with what we were considering 12 years ago. Let us cast our minds back to 2003 when we were presented with the proposition of supporting, or otherwise, what the Prime Minister of the day had committed us to. This is different because this vote is permissive; it is different because this is not actually a war at all. That was; it was entering a conflict with all our armed forces against a sovereign state with a Government, however unsavoury it was—and boy was it unsavoury. This is quite different. This is the extension of a conflict that we are already joined in and, I would argue but others may disagree, a conflict in which we are making a real contribution.

The border between Syria and Iraq is not respected by our opponent. That opponent is not subject to any form of reasonable negotiation. It is a death cult. It is an organisation that gives us a grisly form of Hobson’s choice. A person can convert and subscribe to a murderous, barbaric and medieval ideology that crucifies people, cuts off their heads and subjugates women, or they can be killed. That is the choice; there is no middle way. There are no grounds for negotiation and very, very little room for politics. I do not want to convert and I do not want to be killed and neither do my

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constituents, so the only way to deal with this organisation is by the use of lethal force within the comprehensive arrangements that we have discussed at length today.

Lethal force means the involvement of our armed forces, and our armed forces are uniquely good at that kind of thing, as many of us who have been to a number of the theatres in which they have been effective recently have seen. They are better, much better, than those of our allies, however good those allies are.

Security Council resolution 2249 is quite clear. We are to use all necessary means, and words mean what words say. Sometimes, some on the Opposition Benches seem to have been reading too much Lewis Carroll given their interpretation of what words mean. Words mean what they say. The resolution gives a green light, in clear and unambiguous terms, for this country to do what is necessary. France has made a direct request. Those of us who stood in the Chamber only a few weeks ago and emoted about what was happening in Paris need to think about that very clearly. People who were happy to sing La Marseillaise and expressed solidarity, but are not prepared to support a direct request from our second closest European neighbour, need to think about that hubris, because that is what it is.

May I make a plea on the Vienna process? In Iraq, one of the biggest mistakes was de-Ba’athification, in which everyone, from a corporal or a clerk upwards, was generally stripped out at the behest of ex-pats with an axe to grind. That made our job on reconstruction extraordinarily difficult. We must not make the same mistake.

I should like to conclude with the words of the motion, which I wholeheartedly support, and to express support and admiration for our brilliant armed forces, who are truly the best in the world. Many of them are my constituents, and need the “wholehearted support” of the whole House this evening, and I am confident that we will give it to them.

4.16 pm

Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison).

These are always the most difficult judgments—there is never a perfect solution. I have reflected with the utmost care on the case for extending our airstrikes to target Daesh’s stronghold in Syria, conscious of what I heard at the National Security Council, and mindful of what is best for my constituents and our country. I support the motion, but before I set out why, let me say something about the way in which the debate has been conducted outside the Chamber. Let us be clear: there is principle in opposing military action, as there is principle in supporting it. Everyone must have freedom, either in the House or outside, to say what they believe to be right without fear of recrimination.

The question before us is not whether our country enters into a new conflict—it is whether we extend our existing commitment in a conflict that we cannot hide from. We are already engaged in a struggle with Daesh. Just over a year ago, the House voted overwhelmingly to support airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq. We did so because of the direct threat that it posed to our safety and to global security. Any idea that these fanatical terrorists will leave us alone if we leave them alone is simply misguided. The action that is taking place in Iraq is working.

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There is no logic in opposing Daesh only in that country, as it does not recognise any border between its bases in Iraq and its stronghold in Syria. We must confront it over the same territory from which it is plotting attacks against us. The dangers projected from Daesh’s stronghold in Syria have multiplied, and we will not overcome it with piecemeal interventions. That is why I have made it clear that I would only support the extension of military action against Daesh if it was framed in a wider strategy that leveraged all the tools at our disposal.

There is agreement across the House that diplomacy to broker an end to the Syrian civil war must play an essential role. In an ideal world, we would perhaps wait for the transition timetable agreed at the Vienna conference to be concluded, but I do not believe the scale of the threat that we face affords us that luxury. I understand the voices cautioning against our broader engagement, but the test for all of us must be hastening the defeat of Daesh. There is no realistic strategy for bringing about Daesh’s defeat without degrading its command and control structures in Raqqa.

When will we begin that task, if not now? We have a firm legal basis in the UN resolution, and our allies have asked for our help and the capabilities that our brave Royal Air Force pilots can offer in precision targeting. In the words of the French socialist Defence Minister,

“The use of these capabilities over Syria would put additional and extreme pressure on the ISIS terror network.”

If we ignore those calls today, when will we answer them in the future?

I understand hon. Members who have listened to the case for extending airstrikes but who are reluctant to proceed without greater assurances from the Prime Minister about the strategy he is pursuing. In this sense I agree with them. The proposals before us are constructive and, in my view, meet the basic test for extending our action, but they need to be developed if we are ultimately to succeed in overcoming Daesh and restoring peace for the Syrian people. Let me say this to the Government Front Bench: on post-conflict reconstruction, the guarantee of a further £1 billion in humanitarian relief is significant, but we need to hold the international community to its responsibilities to Syria and refugees at the upcoming donors conference in London.

In conclusion, my party, the Labour party, has a long and proud tradition of standing up for the national interest when our country is under threat. When the War Cabinet met in 1940, it was the Labour Ministers Clement Attlee and Arthur Greenwood who tipped the balance in favour of resisting Nazism. Daesh are the fascists of our time. I believe there is still a dignity in uniting with our allies in common cause against a common enemy in defence of our common humanity. That is what I hope we will do.

4.21 pm

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): There is an important religious dimension to this debate and faith leaders shape public opinion, so I thought it might be helpful if I shared with the House the views expressed by the Church of England on the subject.

At a meeting of the General Synod last week, a motion on the migrant crisis called unanimously upon the Government