The House of Commons is to vote tonight on whether to extend air strikes from Iraq into Syria in order to defeat Daesh.
The decision to use military force is one of the most significant that any government takes. Deciding whether or not to vote in favour of military action is one of the most difficult decisions I will have to make as your Member of Parliament.
I have considered carefully the emails and letters that I have received from constituents. I listened to the Prime Minister’s statement last week, and the response of the Leader of the Opposition. I have studied the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report and the Prime Minister’s written response. I have attended briefings on the issue delivered by Ministers, including the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development, and by senior military officials. In addition, I met the Foreign Secretary yesterday to discuss specific issues which I wished to clarify.
I am particularly mindful of the strong links between my constituency and the RAF. I have invited all who may be affected directly by this vote to contact me with their views now and in the future.
Having considered both sides of the argument, I have decided to vote in favour of the government’s motion today.
My five main reasons are set out below:
Daesh poses a direct and present threat to our country. It has already taken the lives of British hostages. It has inspired the worst terrorist attack against British people since 7/7, killing 30 British citizens on the beaches of Tunisia. In the last 12 months, our police and security services have disrupted no fewer than seven terrorist plots to attack the UK, every one of which was either linked to or inspired by Daesh.
Daesh has been behind more than 40 successful terrorist attacks around the world in the last twelve months including, most recently, the atrocities in Paris. The threat posed by Daesh is recognised around the world - as shown in the United Nations Security Council Resolution (see below).
The first duty of government is to protect its citizens. The assessment of the military, the security services, our allies and the United Nations Security Council is that “all necessary measures” must be used to prevent terrorist acts by Daesh, in conjunction with diplomatic engagement. Inaction is not an option.
The United Nations Security Council Resolution provides a legal basis for targeted action against Daesh. The United Nations Security Council has passed a Resolution which states that Daesh constitutes an “unprecedented threat to international peace and security” and calls on states to take “all necessary measures”. A vote in favour of the motion tonight will support and enact that Security Council Resolution.
The motion is focused solely on targeting Daesh and eradicating its safe haven in Iraq and Syria, as part of a broader strategy to bring about a stable political settlement. Regime-change must be achieved through diplomatic engagement, but that will not happen quickly. Until that happens, we must target the people who mean our country and our allies very great harm. The longer Daesh is allowed to grow in Syria, the greater the threat it will pose.
We are already working with our allies in mounting airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq: the motion simply extends these airstrikes over the border into Syria. At the moment, there is an artificial line in the sky which means that, on the Iraqi side, we can target Daesh but, on the Syrian side, we cannot. Daesh does not recognise this border and its terrorists move freely to evade capture. Significantly, Daesh has its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, along with its supply-chains and oil reserves. It is from Raqqa that some of the main threats against this country are planned and orchestrated.
Coalition air strikes in Iraq are having an effect. Iraqi forces have halted Daesh’s advance and recovered 30% of the territory it had captured in Iraq. RAF aircraft have destroyed Daesh targets in Iraq, including large stockpiles of ammunition and explosives, several underground and tunnel networks and supply boats attempting to smuggle large quantities of ammunition to isolated Daesh terrorists in Ramadi.
Our allies have asked for our help. The US and France are already acting on the UN Resolution and have asked us to join them, as have countries in the region. This is not the time to turn away from them. We are already helping them to target Daesh in Iraq: it is logical to extend this help to Syria.
Air strikes alone will not resolve this problem. We will work with those opposition fighters on the ground in Syria who are opposed to Daesh. I am satisfied that there are many thousands who will join with us and our allies in this campaign.
In addition, we will be able to make a significant contribution to the Coalition effort: the skill of our RAF pilots and the particular capabilities of UK aircraft mean that we are able to conduct the most complex and precise strikes.
Peace and stability in the region cannot be achieved through air strikes alone. This motion is based on a counter-extremism strategy to prevent attacks at home, the diplomatic and political process to work with our allies, humanitarian support and longer-term stabilisation, as well as military action.
For those who do not agree with me, I hope that, in setting out my main reasons in some detail, I have shown the caution and care with which I have arrived at this decision. I make this decision with a heavy heart. However, throughout our history, the United Kingdom has stood up to defend our values and our way of life. We can, and we must do so, again.