30 NOV 2015

Military action against ISIL in Syria

I have read the comments some in the constituency have made as to why we should not bomb ISIL in Syria, I have to say that in all conscience I fully intend to back the move to launch airstrikes against ISIL. I cannot see that the arguments put forward as to why we should not do this have any validity.  This is not a move simply supporting party loyalty.  It is based on my assessment of the situation and I hope to be joined in the voting lobby by members of other parties.

The scale of the threat that we face from ISIL is unprecedented. I disagree that not enough time has been given to the discussion over military action. ISIL has already taken the lives of British hostages, and inspired the worst terrorist attack against British people since 7/7, 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 ISIL. This is in addition to the terrible attack in Paris.  The action proposed is not therefore a reaction simply to the atrocities of Paris, terrible though they were.

My conscience tells me that there can be no doubt that it is in our national interest for action to be taken to stop and degrade ISIL. We are already a target for ISIL and not engaging in the airstrikes will have no effect on this at all. Upon request for assistance from the Iraqi Government, British aircraft are delivering the second highest number of airstrikes over Iraq. However stopping it means taking action in Syria too, because Raqqa is its headquarters and ISIL does not acknowledge national boundaries. It makes no sense for British pilots to stop engaging combatants in Iraq simply because they have crossed the border.

The threat posed by ISIL is further underscored by the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2249. The resolution states that ISIL "constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security" and calls for member states to take "all necessary measures" to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL and, crucially, it says that we should "eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria".

I agree that we cannot defeat ISIL with military action alone. That is not what we are trying to do.  The Prime Minister's approach is based on the 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. We are already trying financial sanctions and targeting oil money.  In addition, Britain has so far given over £1.1 billion, surpassed only by the USA, and would contribute at least another £1 billion for post-conflict reconstruction to support a new Syrian Government when they emerge.

I too am worried that bombing might hurt civilians.  But the UK intends to use high precision missiles against ISIL targets not carpet bomb the whole of Syria, as some e mails have tended to suggest. For over a year we have been using military air strikes to target ISIL positions in Iraq - with some success - after the public outcry at the massacres that ISIL has undertaken and the way that it has treated women and gay people.

Peace is a process, not an event, I agree it cannot be achieved through a military assault on ISIL alone, but the strategy must start with degrading and defeating ISIL. 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 and I will have no hesitation in doing so.

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