Monday, 7 December 2015

Newspaper column - 9th December 2015 - The vote on Syria

Last Wednesday the House of Commons voted, by a majority of 174, to extend our air campaign against Da’esh (ISIS) into Syria.

That day was one of the most serious and solemn of my life.  I was in the Chamber almost all of the debate, which lasted over 10 hours, and was honoured to be able to contribute with a speech.

I view this issue as a matter of conscience and I want to make clear that I came to my own decision on how I voted. It was only on Tuesday afternoon that I decided that I would be voting in favour of the motion.

I think it is important to understand this is not a new conflict. It is an extension of a conflict we are already engaged in. Da’esh are already our enemy. They hate us, and all we stand for. We are already engaged in conflict against Da’esh in Iraq so it makes little sense not to pursue them into Syria.

Some people have expressed understandable concern that extending our attacks in this was will heighten the likelihood of attacks on our country.  But we are a priority target for Da’esh; there have been seven known attacks planned on our country. The reason we have not witnessed the scenes we watched on the streets of Paris is not because we not a target, but because of the professionalism and dedication of our security services. The level of threat to this country is already severe and will not go away until Da’esh are diminished or destroyed.

Many people are concerned by the possibility of civilian casualties; no one wants to see innocent people caught up in this war. However there are already civilians caught up in this conflict. Da’esh is killing, terrorising and enslaving innocent Syrians every week. They are killing more civilians than are ever likely to be caught up in our aerial campaign. Not attacking Da’esh will result in more and more civilian casualties.

During our 15-month bombing campaign in Iraq there have been no reported civilian casualties. Our precision targeting capabilities are second to none in the world.

Finally, some people have suggested that this is not our fight and that we should just simply walk by. But it is our fight; British people were killed on the beach in Tunisia and the streets of Paris.

The USA and France, our closest allies, have asked for our support in Syria. Imagine how we would feel if the streets of London had been attacked and France refused to stand with us.

We have often learned throughout our national history that there is a price to pay for peace, a price we have historically been prepared to pay. We should still be willing to play our part in fighting for our way of life.

Thank you to all of you who contacted me with views on this debate. It is clear people hold strong views both for and against further action in Syria. I know that not everyone agrees with my decision. I hope everyone can accept that I have made my decision after careful consideration.