Debate on British involvement in Syria

I spoke during the debate on British military involvement in Syria.

Joan Ryan (Enfield North) (Lab): Like other hon. and right hon. Members, I have given a great deal of consideration to this matter, to the views of my constituents and colleagues, and to the contributions made in the House today. There is no doubt that these are difficult and complex issues, but I will vote this evening to extend our air strikes into Syria. I want to outline the fundamental issues that have influenced my decision.

First, does Daesh pose a clear and present danger to the UK and our allies? Daesh is an appalling terrorist group, and it is responsible for terrible human rights abuses and war crimes. We have witnessed atrocities on the beaches of Tunisia, on the streets of Paris, Ankara and Beirut, and in the skies above Egypt, and we know that seven Daesh plots against the UK have been disrupted this year alone. There is no doubt that it poses a clear and present danger to the UK at home and abroad, and to our allies.

Secondly, is there international support for military action against Daesh in Syria? The United Nations Security Council resolution states that Daesh poses an “unprecedented threat” to international peace and security, and calls on member states to take “all necessary measures” to deal with Daesh in Syria and Iraq. The resolution is unequivocal; it is asking us to act. Also, following the atrocity in Paris, the French President has made an explicit request to the UK to join airstrikes against Daesh in Syria.

Thirdly, I ask myself what the outcome has been of the UK’s involvement in Iraq against Daesh. The RAF has helped to shrink the territory controlled by Daesh by some 30% and has succeeded in doing great damage to its infrastructure; it has also helped Iraqi security forces and Kurdish peshmerga troops to liberate towns from Daesh.

Fourthly, is the UK already involved in confronting Daesh in Syria? The UK has reconnaissance drone aircraft operating over Syria, and we are providing equipment to forces opposed to both Daesh and Assad in the country. The primary motion under consideration is about not going to war, but extending military action against Daesh into Syria. Given that it does not recognise borders, I see no sense in allowing it safe haven from RAF strikes in one country when we are confronting it in another.

My fifth question is: is there a comprehensive plan to end the civil war in Syria? Military action can be only part of a wider process involving further political and diplomatic efforts to enable a Syrian peace process. The International Syria Support Group, which includes major regional players and our allies, has been holding constructive discussions in Vienna on this issue, and I am encouraged by the progress being made. A sustainable peace in Syria will help bring to an end the chaos that has allowed Daesh to thrive. On this issue, I would ask the Prime Minister to give assurances that the bravery shown by Kurdish peshmerga forces and the Kurdish community will be recognised, and that they will be engaged in the Vienna process.

I believe there is agreement in this House that Daesh poses a clear and present danger to the UK, and our first duty is to protect our citizens. Therefore, it is not right to expect our allies to fight Daesh in Syria on our behalf. Extending military action against it will not be the cause of plots against the UK—it has already attempted multiple attacks on us over the past year—but I believe that striking at Daesh has the potential to erode its capability of bringing terror to our streets. I will vote in favour of military action.

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