May I start by saying that to vote to commit to military action is one of the most important decisions an MP can take. You will be aware there was a long debate in Parliament on Wednesday and I listened closely to all the arguments. At the end of the debate I did vote in favour of the United Kingdom extending military operations and launching airstrikes in Syria. I would like to explain the reasons behind this.
Firstly, the scale of the threat that we face from Daesh/ISIL is unprecedented. It 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 British people in the UK, every one of which was either linked to or inspired by Daesh. It is not difficult to imagine that the tragic events in Paris could so easily have taken place in London or any other of our cities. I am in absolutely no doubt that it is in our national interest for action to be taken to stop them.
Secondly, we have been called upon by our international allies to assist them in a collective effort to defeat and destroy Daesh, as we bring the advantage of unique UK equipment and high level capability to help in this fight. With one of the most skilled airforces in the world, the contribution of the RAF can be exceptionally effective in this campaign. Britain is already involved, targeting Daesh in Iraq and intelligence gathering in Syria. Acting upon a request for assistance from the Iraqi Government, British aircraft are already delivering the second highest number of airstrikes over Iraq and, with the addition of airstrikes into Syria, would deliver a more comprehensive response to a terrorist organisation who do not abide by national borders. I have visited Cyprus and understand from personnel there the activities that we are currently involved in. I believe that the latest airstrikes will very much be an extension of an operation over a border that is barely recognised. We must stop the flow of fighters, finance and arms to Daesh headquarters in the Syrian town of Raqqa.
Thirdly, the threat posed by Daesh 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”.
Fourthly, we cannot defeat Daesh with military action alone. We must deliver a full strategy for Syria. In defeating terrorism we must offer an alternative to the people of Syria who have suffered so badly in this conflict. The Prime Minister’s approach is not only based on the counter-extremism strategy to prevent attacks at home but also the diplomatic and political process to work with our allies. We will provide humanitarian support and processes for longer-term stabilisation as well as military action. So far Britain has 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. The recent conference in Vienna highlighted the commitment of all the allies for a complete package of measures and the inclusion of Russia and Iran demonstrated the broader diplomatic alliances that are being formed to both counter the threat and support reconstruction.
Military actions may have consequences but the consequences of inaction could well be so much worse. Peace is a process, not an event. I agree it cannot be achieved alone through a military assault on Daesh. However the strategy has to start with degrading and defeating this terrorist organisation, demonstrating to our allies, and indeed our enemies, that Britain will not tolerate activities that are the completely abhorrent to a civilised society. We must stop the murder of Syrians and Iraqis and prevent Daesh from propping up their propaganda machine which, by poisoning the minds of young people, persuades them to do appalling acts. Throughout our history, the United Kingdom has stood up to defend our values and our way of life.
I must reiterate that this has been a very difficult decision to make. Over the last few weeks I have listened to debate, talked to informed parties and taken into account the views of my constituents. While I appreciate that not all of you will agree with my decision please be reassured that I feel I have taken it with the best of intentions.