VICTORIA’S POSITION ON BRITISH AIRSTRIKES AGAINST DAESH IN SYRIA

Recently I have been contacted by many constituents regarding British participation in anti-Daesh airstrikes in Syria. I recognise the strong feelings held by people on both sides of this debate.

I have given this matter a great deal of thought over recent weeks, particularly since the horrific events in Paris. I listened carefully to the Prime Minister’s statement to the Commons last week and have also read his full response to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on the extension of British military operations to Syria. A link to the Prime Minister’s response can be found at the bottom of this article. I also listened and considered the contributions made by both sides today in the House of Commons, in what was a very thought-provoking debate. Personally, I believe a very clear argument has been made for limited, and very targeted, intervention in Syria.

I also sat down and talked at length about this matter with the Defence Secretary last week, so I can assure my constituents that my decision to support the Government in the vote is the result of extremely careful consideration. While I recognise that some people will find this disappointing, I think we have to recognise that the scale of the threat we face from Daesh is unprecedented. It has already taken the lives of British hostages and inspired the attack on the beaches in Tunisia, the worst act of terrorism against British people since 7/7. 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. I am in no doubt that it is in our national interest for action to be taken to stop them.

Upon request for assistance from the Iraqi Government, British aircraft of the Royal Air Force are already delivering the second highest number of airstrikes over Iraq. However, stopping Daesh means taking action in Syria too, because Raqqa is its headquarters. I am persuaded that directed attacks on Raqqa and other Daesh targets in Syria are necessary.

Having been a senior Government lawyer before my election to Parliament, the legality of any decision matters to me enormously. As the Prime Minister made clear during his statement to the Commons last week, it is important to recognise that the threat posed by Daesh is underscored by the unanimous adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2249. The resolution states that Daesh “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 Daesh. Crucially, it states that we should “eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria”.

We cannot defeat Daesh with military action alone. 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, alongside military action.

Moreover, Britain has given over £1.1 billion (surpassed only by the USA) in humanitarian assistance. It is absolutely right for this to continue. Importantly, we have also committed to contribute at least another £1 billion for post-conflict reconstruction to support a new Syrian Government when it emerges, which will be essential. Personally, I am also trying to raise funds for those who remain in Syria, through my Singing for Syrians concerts.

I believe strongly that peace cannot be achieved through a military assault on Daesh alone, but the strategy must start with degrading and defeating Daesh. Throughout its history, the people of the United Kingdom have stood up to defend our values and our way of life. We can, and we must, do so again.

Victoria Prentis MP (2 December 2015)

 

Annex: Prime Minister’s Response to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee’s Second Report of Session 2015-16: The Extension of Offensive British Military Operations to Syria