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The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron):
I beg to move,

That this House notes that ISIL poses a direct threat to the United Kingdom; welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2249 which determines that ISIL constitutes an ‘unprecedented threat to international peace and security’ and calls on states to take ‘all necessary measures’ to prevent terrorist acts by ISIL and to ‘eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria’; further notes the clear legal basis to defend the UK and our allies in accordance with the UN Charter; notes that military action against ISIL is only one component of a broader strategy to bring peace and stability to Syria; welcomes the renewed impetus behind the Vienna talks on a ceasefire and political settlement; welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to providing humanitarian support to Syrian refugees; underlines the importance of planning for post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction in Syria; welcomes the Government’s continued determination to cut ISIL’s sources of finance, fighters and weapons; notes the requests from France, the US and regional allies for UK military assistance; acknowledges the importance of seeking to avoid civilian casualties, using the UK’s particular capabilities; notes the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations; welcomes the Government’s commitment to provide quarterly progress reports to the House; and accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government in taking military action, specifically airstrikes, exclusively against ISIL in Syria; and offers its wholehearted support to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

The question before the House today is how we keep the British people safe from the threat posed by ISIL. Let me be clear from the outset that this is not about whether we want to fight terrorism but about how best we do that. I respect that Governments of all political colours in this country have had to fight terrorism and have had to take the people with them as they do so. I respect people who come to a different view from the Government and from the one that I will set out today, and those who vote accordingly. I hope that that provides some reassurance to Members across the House.

Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab):
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way. He is right to say in his opening statement how important it is to respect opinion on all sides of the House, so will he apologise for the remarks he made in a meeting last night against my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Labour Benches?

The Prime Minister:

I could not have been clearer in my opening remarks: I respect people who disagree; I respect the fact that Governments of all colours have had to fight terrorism; and I respect the fact that we are all discussing how to fight terrorism, not whether to fight terrorism.

In moving this motion, I am not pretending—

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
I shall make some progress—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker:
Order. The Prime Minister is clearly not giving way at this stage. He has the floor.

The Prime Minister:
Mr Speaker, I will take dozens of interventions in the time that I have. I am conscious of not taking up too much time as so many people want to speak, but I promise that I will give way a lot during my speech. Let me make a bit of progress at the start.

In moving this motion, I am not pretending that the answers are simple. The situation in Syria is incredibly complex. I am not overstating the contribution our incredible servicemen and women can make; nor am I ignoring the risks of military action or pretending that military action is any more than one part of the answer. I am absolutely clear that we must pursue a comprehensive strategy that also includes political, diplomatic and humanitarian action, and I know that the long-term solution in Syria—as in Iraq—must ultimately be a Government that represents all of its people and one that can work with us to defeat the evil organisation of ISIL for good.

Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP):
Will the Prime Minister give way?

The Prime Minister:
In a moment.

Notwithstanding all of that, there is a simple question at the heart of the debate today. We face a fundamental threat to our security. ISIL has brutally murdered British hostages. They have inspired the worst terrorist attack against British people since 7/7 on the beaches of Tunisia, and they have plotted atrocities on the streets here at home. Since November last year our security services have foiled no fewer than seven different plots against our people, so this threat is very real. The question is this: do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat, and do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands, from where they are plotting to kill British people, or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us?

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op):
It would be helpful if the Prime Minister could retract his inappropriate comments from last night, but will he be reassured that no one on the Labour Benches will make a decision based on any such remarks, or be threatened and not do what we believe is the right thing—whether those threats come from online activists or, indeed, from our own Dispatch Box?

The Prime Minister:
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Everyone in this House should make up their mind based on the arguments in this House. There is honour in voting for; there is honour in voting against. That is the way the House should operate, and that is why I wanted to be absolutely clear, at the start of my speech, that this is about how we fight terrorism, not whether we fight it.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
I will make some progress, and then I will give way.

In answering this question, we should remember that 15 months ago, facing a threat from ISIL in Iraq, the House voted 524 to 43 to authorise airstrikes in Iraq. Since then, our brilliant RAF pilots have helped local forces to halt ISIL’s advance and recover 30% of the territory ISIL had captured. On Monday, I spoke to the President of Iraq in Paris, and he expressed his gratitude for the vital work our forces were doing. Yet, when our planes reach the Syrian border—a border that ISIL itself does not recognise—we can no longer act to defend either his country or ours, even though ISIL’s headquarters are in Raqqa in Syria and it is from there that many of the plots against our country are formed.

Alex Salmond:
The Prime Minister is facing an amendment signed by 110 Members from six different political parties. I have examined that list very carefully, and I cannot identify a single terrorist sympathiser among them. Will he now apologise for his deeply insulting remarks?

The Prime Minister:
I have made it clear that this is about how we fight terrorism, and that there is honour in any vote.

We possess the capabilities to reduce this threat to our security, and my argument today is that we should not wait any longer before doing so. We should answer the call from our allies. The action we propose is legal, necessary and the right thing to do to keep our country safe. My strong view is that the House should make it clear that we will take up our responsibilities, rather than pass them off and put our own national security in the hands of others.

Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con):
I have just returned from Baghdad and Irbil, where ISIL is on the back foot. Ramadi is surrounded, Sinjar has been liberated and the route between Mosul and Raqqa has been cut off, but everyone on the ground tells me that unless we attack ISIL in Syria, there is no point liberating Mosul or the rest of Iraq, because all ISIL will do is regroup in Syria and come back to attack that country and our country.

The Prime Minister:
My hon. Friend makes an important point. The UN Security Council has set out very clearly that the fact that this so-called caliphate exists in Syria as well as Iraq is a direct threat to Iraq and its Government. He talks about some of the better news from Iraq. I would add to that what has happened in Tikrit since that has been taken from ISIL. We have seen 70% of its population return. I am sure we will talk later in this debate about the importance of humanitarian aid and reconstruction. That can work only with good government in those towns and in the absence of ISIL/Daesh.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
I will make a little more progress and then take some more interventions from the different political parties.

Since my statement last week, the House has had an opportunity to ask questions of our security experts. I have arranged a briefing for all Members, as well as more detailed briefings for Privy Counsellors. I have spoken further to our allies, including President Obama, Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande and the King of Jordan, the last of whom has written in The Daily Telegraph today expressing his wish for Britain to stand with Jordan in eliminating this global threat.

I have also listened carefully to the questions asked by Members on both sides of the House, and I hope that hon. Members can see the influence that the House has had on the motion before us: the stress on post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction; the importance of standing by our allies; the importance of only targeting ISIL and not deploying ground troops in combat operations; the need to avoid civilian casualties; the importance of ceasefires and a political settlement; and the commitment to regular updates to the House. I have drawn these points from across the House and put them in the motion, because I want as many people as possible to feel able to support this action.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD):
First, may I say that I will be supporting the Prime Minister today, although I think he needs to apologise for his comments about the Labour party? May I also ask him what the UK Government will do to minimise the number of civilian casualties?

The Prime Minister:
The right hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. In Iraq, for a year and three months there have been no reports of civilian casualties related to the strikes that Britain has taken. Our starting point is to avoid civilian casualties altogether, and I have argued, and will indeed do so again today, that our precision weapons and the skill of our pilots make civilian casualties less likely. So Britain being involved in the strikes in Iraq can both be effective in prosecuting the campaign against ISIL and help us to avoid civilian casualties.

Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab):
Is the Prime Minister aware of press reports that in the recent past 60,000 Syrian troops have been murdered by ISIL and our allies have waited until after those murderous acts have taken place to attack? Therefore, a key part of the motion for many of us is the reference to our action being “exclusively against ISIL”. If ISIL is involved in attacking Syrian Government troops, will we be bombing ISIL in defence of those troops, or will we wait idly by, as our allies have done up to now, for ISIL to kill those troops, and then bomb?

The Prime Minister:
What I say to the right hon. Gentleman, for whom I have great respect, is that the motion says “exclusively” ISIL because that was a promise I made in this House in response to points made from both sides of the House. As far as I am concerned, wherever members of ISIL are, wherever they can be properly targeted, that is what we should do. Let me just make this point, because I think it is important when we come to the argument about ground troops. In my discussions with the King of Jordan, he made the point that in the south of Syria there is already not only co-operation among the Jordanian Government, the French and the Americans, and the Free Syrian Army, but a growing ceasefire between the regime troops and the Free Syrian Army so that they can turn their guns on ISIL. That is what I have said: this is an ISIL-first strategy. They are the threat. They are the ones we should be targeting. This is about our national security.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me make a little progress and then I will take more interventions. In my remarks, I want to address the most important points that are being raised, and I will of course take as many interventions as I can.

I believe the key questions that have been raised are these: first, could acting in this way actually increase the risk to our security by making an attack on Britain more likely? Secondly, does Britain really have the capability to make a significant difference? Thirdly—this is the question asked by a number of Members, including the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond)— why do we not just increase our level of airstrikes in Iraq to free up capacity among other members of the coalition so that they can carry out more airstrikes in Syria? Fourthly, will there really be the ground forces needed to make this operation a success? Fifthly, what is the strategy for defeating ISIL and securing a lasting political settlement in Syria? Sixthly, is there a proper reconstruction and post-conflict stabilisation plan for Syria? I want to try, in the time I have available, to answer all of those in turn.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP):
The Prime Minister will know how members of my party feel when it comes to fighting and dealing with terrorism, and for that there will always be support, no matter where terrorism raises its head. The motion states that

“the Government will not deploy UK troops in ground combat operations”.

If it becomes necessary at a later date to do that, will he guarantee that he will come back to this House to seek approval for that?

The Prime Minister:
This is something not only that I do not want to do, but that I think would be a mistake if we did it. The argument was made to us by the Iraqi Government that the presence of western ground troops can be a radicalising force and can be counterproductive, and that is our view. I would say to the hon. Gentleman, and to colleagues behind me who are concerned about this issue, that I accept that this means that our strategy takes longer to be successful, because we rely on Iraqi ground troops in Iraq, we rely on the patchwork of Free Syrian Army troops in Syria, and in time we hope for Syrian ground troops from a transitional regime. All of that takes longer, and one of the clear messages that has to come across today is that, yes, we do have a strategy, and although it is a complex picture and it will take time, we are acting in the right way.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me make one more point before I take some more interventions, because I want to say a word about the terminology we use to describe this evil death cult.

Having carefully considered the strong representation made to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) and having listened to many Members of Parliament across the House, I feel that it is time to join our key ally, France, the Arab League, and other members of the international community in using, as frequently as possible, the terminology “Daesh” rather than ISIL. This evil death cult is neither a true representation of Islam nor a state.

Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab):
I am very interested to hear what the right hon. Gentleman says about what name we should call Daesh. If we are talking about terminology, should he not take this opportunity to withdraw the names that he is calling those who will not be voting with him tonight? Not only is it offensive to use the words “a bunch of terrorist sympathisers”, but it is dangerous and untrue.

The Prime Minister:
I have made my views clear about the importance of all of us fighting terrorism, and I think that it is time to move on.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
rose—

Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab)
rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me turn to the important questions, and I will take interventions as I go through them.

First, could acting increase the risk to our security? That is one of the most important questions that we have to answer. Privy Counsellors across the House have had a briefing from the Chair of the independent Joint Intelligence Committee. Obviously, I cannot share all the classified material, but I can say this: Paris was different not just because it was so close to us or because it was so horrific in scale, but because it showed the extent of terror planning from Daesh in Syria and the approach of sending people back from Syria to Europe. This was the head of the snake in Raqqa in action, so it is not surprising that the judgment of the Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee and of the director general of the Security Service is that the risk of a similar attack in the UK is real, and that the UK is already in the top tier of countries on ISIL’s target list.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
I want to make this point and then I will take some more interventions.

If there is an attack on the UK in the coming weeks or months, there will be those who try to say that it has happened because of our airstrikes. I do not believe that that will be the case. Daesh has been trying to attack us for the past year, as we know from the seven different plots that our security services have foiled. In the light of that threat from Daesh, the terrorist threat to the UK was raised to severe last August, which means that an attack is highly likely.

Albert Owen
rose—

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)
rose—

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP)
rose—

The Prime Minister:
I will give way in two minutes. Some 800 people, including families and children, have been radicalised to such an extent that they have travelled to this so-called caliphate. The House should be under no illusion: these terrorists are plotting to kill us and to radicalise our children right now. They attack us because of who we are, and not because of what we do.

John Nicolson (East Dunbartonshire) (SNP):
All of us on the Opposition Benches share the Prime Minister’s horror of Daesh and its death cult and abhor terrorism. Will he take this further opportunity to identify which Members on these Benches he regards as terrorist sympathisers?

The Prime Minister:
Everyone in this House can speak for themselves. What I am saying is that, when it comes to the risks of military action, the risks of inaction are far greater than the risks of what I propose.

Next there are those who ask whether Britain conducting strikes in Syria will really make a difference.

Albert Owen:
On that point—

The Prime Minister:
Let me make my argument, and then I will take the hon. Gentleman’s question.

This point has been raised in briefing after briefing. I believe that we can make a real difference. I told the House last week about our dynamic targeting, our Brimstone missiles, the Raptor pod on our Tornados and the intelligence-gathering work of our Reaper drones. I will not repeat all that today, but there is another way of putting this, which is equally powerful. There is a lot of strike capacity in the coalition, but when it comes to precision-strike capability whether covering Iraq or Syria, let me say this: last week, the whole international coalition had some 26 aircraft available, eight of which were British tornadoes. Typically, the UK actually represents between a quarter and a third of the international coalition’s precision bombing capability. We also have about a quarter of the unmanned strike capability flying in the region. Therefore, we have a significant proportion of high-precision strike capability, which is why this decision is so important.

Albert Owen
rose—

The Prime Minister:
The hon. Gentleman has been very persistent, so I will give way.

Albert Owen:
The Prime Minister is right to sing the praises of the RAF pilots. The son of my constituent, Mike Poole, was tragically killed in a Tornado, in 2012, while training for the RAF. Mike Poole has specifically asked me this question: does the Air Force have coalition warning systems to deal with the crowded airspace in northern Iraq and in Syria, if we make that decision today? Such a system is absolutely essential for the safety of our pilots.

The Prime Minister:
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this issue, and I pay tribute to his constituent’s son. We will be part of the de-confliction process that already exists between those coalition partners flying in Syria and the Russians. Of course, our own aeroplanes have the most advanced defensive air suites possible to make sure that they are kept safe. The argument that I was making is one reason why members of the international coalition, including President Obama and President Hollande, who made these points to me personally, believe that British planes would make a real difference in Syria, just as they are already doing in Iraq.

Ian Blackford:
I am extremely grateful to the Prime Minister for giving way. It is important in this debate that there is respect across the House. In that spirit of respect, he must—he has been asked before—apologise for the slur that was put on every Opposition Member last night. He should do it now, and let us have a proper debate.

The Prime Minister:
We are going to vote either way tonight—either vote is an honourable vote. I suggest that we get on with the debate that the country wants to hear.

In many ways, what I have just said helps to answer the next question that some Members have asked about why we do not simply increase our level of airstrikes in Iraq to free up coalition capacity for strikes in Syria. We have the capabilities that other members of the Coalition want to benefit from, and it makes absolutely no sense to stop using these capabilities at a border between Iraq and Syria that Daesh simply does not recognise or respect.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me make this argument, because it is an important, detailed point. There was a recent incident in which Syrian opposition forces needed urgent support in their fight against Daesh. British Tornadoes were eight minutes away, just over the border in Iraq—no one else was close—but Britain could not help, so the Syrian opposition forces had to wait 40 minutes in a perilous situation while other coalition forces were scrambled. That sort of delay endangers the lives of those fighting Daesh on the ground, and does nothing for our reputation with our vital allies.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron)

Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con):
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way. Does he understand that at a time when too many aircraft are already chasing too few targets, many of us are concerned about the lack of a comprehensive strategy, both military and non-military, including an exit strategy? One of the fundamental differences between Iraq and Syria is that in Iraq there are nearly 1 million personnel on the Government payroll, and still we are having trouble pushing ISIL back. In Syria, with the 70,000 moderates, we risk forgetting the lesson of Libya. What is the Prime Minister’s reaction to the decision yesterday by the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that he had not adequately addressed our concerns?

The Prime Minister:
Let me answer both of my hon. Friend’s questions. The second question is perhaps answered with something in which I am sure the whole House will want to join me in, which is wishing the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) well, given his recent illness. He is normally always at the Foreign Affairs Committee, and always voting on non-party grounds on the basis of the arguments in which he believes.

Where my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay and I disagree is on this: I believe that there is a strategy, of which military action is only one part. The key answer to his question is that we want to see a new Syrian transitional Government whose troops will then be our allies in squeezing out and destroying the so-called caliphate altogether. My disagreement with my hon. Friend is that I believe that we cannot wait for that happen. The threat is now; ISIL/Daesh is planning attacks now. We can act in Syria as we act in Iraq, and in doing so, we can enhance the long-term security and safety of our country, which is why we should act.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti).

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con):
May I first of all thank the Prime Minister for that change in terminology, and all Members of Parliament across the House for their support? Will the Prime Minister join me in urging the BBC to review its bizarre policy? It wrote to me to say that it cannot use the word “Daesh” because it would breach its impartiality rules. We are at war with terrorists, and we have to defeat their ideology and appeal: we have to be united. Will he join me in urging the BBC to review its bizarre policy?

The Prime Minister:
I agree with my hon. Friend, and I have already corresponded with the BBC about its use of “IS”—Islamic State—which I think is even worse than either saying “so-called IS” or, indeed, “ISIL”. “Daesh” is clearly an improvement, and it is important that we all try and use this language.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me make some progress, then I will give way again.

There is a much more fundamental answer as to why we should carry out airstrikes in Syria ourselves, and it is this. Raqqa in Syria is the headquarters of this threat to our security. It is in Syria where they pump and sell the oil that does so much to help finance its evil acts, and as I have said, it is in Syria where many of the plots against our country are formed, so we must act in Syria to deal with these threats ourselves.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
I will give way to the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty).

Stephen Doughty:
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way. I would have preferred to hear an apology, but I want to discuss the facts. The fact is that we are proposing to target very different things from those that we are targeting in northern Iraq and I would like to ask the Prime Minister two questions. First, what practical steps will be used to reduce civilian casualties? Secondly, what sorts of targets will we be going against that will reduce the terrorist threat to the UK in terms of operations directed against our citizens?

The Prime Minister:
Let me answer the hon. Gentleman very directly. On the sorts of targets that we can go after, clearly it is the leaders of this death cult itself, the training camps, the communications hubs and those who are plotting against us. As I shall argue in a minute, the limited action that we took against Khan and Hussain, which was, if you like, an airstrikes on Syria, has already had an impact on ISIL—on Daesh. That is a very important point.

How do we avoid civilian casualties? We have a policy—a start point—of wanting zero civilian casualties. One year and three months into those Iraqi operations, we have not had any reports of civilian casualties. I am not saying that there are no casualties in war; of course there are. We are putting ourselves into a very difficult situation, which is hugely complex. In many ways it is a difficult argument to get across, but its heart is a simple point—will we be safer and better off in the long term if we can get rid of the so-called caliphate which is radicalising Muslims, turning people against us and plotting atrocities on the streets of Britain?

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con):
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are already hundreds, if not thousands, of civilian casualties—those who are thrown off buildings, burned, decapitated, crucified, and those who have had to flee Syria, away from their co-religionists who have so bastardised that religion? Those are the civilian casualties we are trying to help.

The Prime Minister:
My hon. Friend puts it extremely clearly. That is one of the aims of what we are doing—to prevent this death cult from carrying out the ghastly acts it carries out daily.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me make some progress. Let me turn to the question of whether there will be ground forces to make this operation a success. Those who say that there are not as any ground troops as we would like, and that they are not all in the right places, are correct. We are not dealing with an ideal situation, but let me make a series of important points. First, we should be clear what airstrikes alone can achieve. We do not need ground troops to target the supply of oil which Daesh uses to fund terrorism. We do not need ground troops to hit Daesh’s headquarters, its infrastructure, its supply routes, its training facilities and its weapons supplies. It is clear that airstrikes can have an effect, as in the case of Khan and Hussain that I just mentioned. Irrespective of ground forces, our RAF can do serious damage to Daesh’s ability right now to bring terror to our streets and we should give it that support.

George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP):
How would the Prime Minister respond to the point that since Daesh’s offensive against Baghdad was blunted by air power, it has changed its tactics and dispersed its forces, and particularly in Raqqa, a town of 600,000 people at present, has dispersed its operations all through that city into small units which make it impervious to attacks from our Tornados, given the small number of Tornados we have?

The Prime Minister:
What the hon. Gentleman says is right. Of course Daesh has changed its tactics from the early days when airstrikes were even more effective, but that is not an argument for doing nothing. It is an argument for using airstrikes where we can, but having a longer-term strategy to deliver the necessary ground troops through the transition. The argument before the House is simple: do we wait for perfection, which is a transitional Government in Syria, or do we start the work now of degrading and destroying that organisation at the request of our allies, at the request of the Gulf states, in the knowledge from our security experts that it will make a difference?

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me make a little progress, then I will take interventions from both sides.

As I said last week, the full answer to the question of ground forces cannot be achieved until there is a new Syrian Government who represent all the Syrian people—not just Sunni, Shi’a and Alawite, but Christian, Druze and others. It is this new Government who will be the natural partners for our forces in defeating Daesh for good.

But there are some ground forces that we can work with in the meantime. Last week I told the House—

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me give the explanation, and then colleagues can intervene if they like.

Last week I told the House that we believe that there are around 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters who do not belong to extremist groups and with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Daesh. The House will appreciate that there are some limits on what I can say about these groups, not least because I cannot risk the safety of these courageous people, who are being targeted daily by the regime, by Daesh or by both. But I know that this is an area of great interest and concern to the House, so let me try to say a little more.

The 70,000 figure is an estimate from our independent Joint Intelligence Committee, based on detailed analysis, updated daily and drawing on a wide range of open sources and intelligence. The majority of the 70,000 are from the Free Syrian Army. Alongside the 70,000, there are some 20,000 Kurdish fighters with whom we can also work. I am not arguing—this is a crucial point—that all of the 70,000 are somehow ideal partners. However, some left the Syrian army because of Assad’s brutality, and clearly they can play a role in the future of Syria. That view is also taken by the Russians, who are prepared to talk with these people.

Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con):
I thank the Prime Minister for giving way, and for the helpful way he is explaining matters to colleagues across the House. He spoke about a long-term strategy to see a new Government in Syria. There is wide agreement on that among our allies, but possibly more of a challenge with Russia. What conversations has he had with President Putin, either directly or via the United States, on the short and longer-term prospects for President Assad?

The Prime Minister:
I have had those conversations with President Putin on many occasions, most recently at the G20 summit in Antalya, and President Obama had a meeting with him at the climate change conference in Paris. As I have said before in this House, there was an enormous gap between Britain, America, France and, indeed, Saudi Arabia on the one hand and Russia on the other hand; we wanted Assad to go instantly and they wanted him to stay, potentially forever. That gap has narrowed, and I think that it will narrow further as the vital talks in Vienna get under way.

Let me make a point about the Vienna talks, because I think that some people worry that it is a process without an end. The clear ambition in the talks is to see a transitional Government within six months, and a new constitution and fresh elections within 18 months, so there is real momentum behind them.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con):
Will the Prime Minister confirm that, alongside any military intervention in Syria that the House might authorise tonight, he remains completely committed to the Government’s huge humanitarian effort, which has kept so many people alive in the region?

The Prime Minister:
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I can certainly confirm that. We are the second largest bilateral donor in the world, after America, and we will keep that up, not least with the vital conference that we are co-chairing in London next year, when we will bring together the whole world to ensure that we fill the gap in the funding that is available.

Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab):
I am grateful to the Prime Minister, who is presenting his case well. Had he come to the House and asked for a very narrow licence to take out ISIL’s external planning capability, I think that would have commanded widespread consent, but he is asking for a wider authority. I want to draw him on the difference between Iraq and Syria. In Iraq there are ground forces in place, but in Syria there are not. I invite him to say a little more at the very least about what ground forces he envisages joining us in the seizure of Raqqa.

The Prime Minister:
Let me try to answer that as directly as possible, because it goes to the nub of the difficulty of this case. I do not think that we can separate the task of taking out the command and control of Daesh’s operations against the UK, France, Belgium and elsewhere from the task of degrading and destroying the so-called caliphate that it has created; the two are intricately linked. Indeed, as I argued before the House last week, as long as the so-called caliphate exists, it is a threat to us, not least because it is radicalising Muslims from around the world who are going to fight for that organisation and potentially then return to attack us.

On the right hon. Gentleman’s second question about ground troops, as I have explained, there are three parts to the argument. First, we must not underestimate the things we can do without ground troops. Secondly, although the ground troops that are there are not ideal and there are not as many of them as we would like, they are people we are working with and who we can work with more. Thirdly, the real plan is that as we get a transitional Government in Syria that can represent all the Syrian people, there will be more ground troops for us to work with to defeat Daesh and the caliphate, which will keep our country safe. I know that will take a long time and that it will be complex, but that is the strategy, and we need to start with the first step, which is going after these terrorists today.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab):
I think the Prime Minister has to acknowledge that the ground troops that we can work with will be absolutely essential for his long-term strategy. At the moment he has not shown to me that as we defeat ISIL, we will not simply create a vacuum into which Assad will move and we will be fighting another enemy. Just a final word—perhaps I give him some motherly advice—if he got up now and said, “Whoever does not walk with me through the Division Lobby is not a terrorist sympathiser”, he would improve his standing in this House enormously.

The Prime Minister:
I am very happy to repeat what the hon. Lady said. As I have said, people who vote in either Division Lobby do so with honour. I could not have been clearer about that. If she is saying that there are not enough ground troops, she is right. If she is saying that they are not always in the right places, she is right. But the question for us is, should we act now in order to try to start to turn the tide?

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP)
rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me make some progress, but I will certainly give way to the leader of the SNP in a moment. I just want to be clear about the 70,000. That figure does not include a further 25,000 extremist fighters in groups which reject political participation and reject co-ordination with non-Muslims, so although they fight Daesh they cannot and will not be our partners. So there are ground forces who will take the fight to Daesh, and in many cases we can work with them and we can assist them.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
I want to make one final point and then I will give way to the leader of the SNP.

If we do not act now, we should be clear that there will be even fewer ground forces over time as Daesh will get even stronger. In my view, we simply cannot afford to wait. We have to act now.

Angus Robertson:
Would the Prime Minister clarify for every Member of the House the advice that he and others have been given in relation to the 70,000 forces that he speaks of? How many of those 70,000 are classified as moderate and how many of them are classified as fundamentalists with whom we can never work?

The Prime Minister:
On the 70,000, the advice I have is that the majority are made up of the Free Syrian Army, but of course the Free Syrian Army has different leadership in different parts of the country. The 70,000 excludes those in extremist groups like al-Nusra that we will not work with. As I have said very clearly, I am not arguing that the 70,000 are ideal partners; some of them do have views that we do not agree with. But the definition of the 70,000 is those people that we have been prepared to work with and continue to be prepared to work with. Let me make this point again: if we do not take action against Daesh now, the number of ground forces we can work with will get less and less and less. If we want to end up with a situation where there is the butcher Assad on one side and a stronger ISIL on the other side, not acting is one of the things that will bring that about.

Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con):
I know from my time in government how long, how hard and how anxiously the Prime Minister thinks about these questions, but will he ensure that we complete the military aspect of this campaign, if at all possible, so that we can then get on to the really important, but perhaps the most difficult aspect of the questions that he has posed—namely, the post-conflict stabilisation and the reconstruction of Syria, because without this early stage there will not be a Syria left to reconstruct?

The Prime Minister:
My right hon. and learned Friend, who himself always thought about these things very carefully, is right. That is the end goal, and we should not take our eyes off the prize, which is a reconstructed Syria with a Government that can represent all the people; which is a Syria at peace so that we do not have the migration crisis and we do not have the terrorism crisis. That is the goal.

Let me turn to the overall strategy. Again, I set this out in the House last week.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
I will make some progress.

Let me say a little more about each of the non-military elements: counter-terrorism, counter-extremism, the political and diplomatic processes, and the vital humanitarian work that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir Edward Garnier) just referred to. Our counter-terrorism strategy gives Britain a comprehensive plan to prevent and foil plots at home and also to address the poisonous extremist ideology that is the root cause of the threat that we face. As part of this, I can announce today that we will establish a comprehensive review to root out any remaining funding of extremism within the UK. This will examine specifically the nature, scale and origin of the funding of Islamist extremist activity in the UK, including any overseas sources. It will report to myself and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary next spring.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
I want to make this point before I give way again. I know there are some who suggest that military action could in some way undermine our counter-extremism strategy by radicalising British Muslims, so let me take this head on. British Muslims are appalled by Daesh. These women-raping, Muslim-murdering, medieval monsters are hijacking the peaceful religion of Islam for their warped ends. As the King of Jordan says in an article today, these people are not Muslims, they are “outlaws” from Islam. We must stand with our Muslim friends, here and around the world, as they reclaim their religion from these terrorists. Far from an attack on Islam, we are engaged in a defence of Islam, and far from a risk of radicalising British Muslims by acting, failing to act would actually be to betray British Muslims and the wider religion of Islam in its very hour of need.

Mr Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) (Lab):
The Prime Minister said that this country would fight all the time. Why do the Iranians, the Saudis and the Turks not fight these people? Why has it always got to be us who fight them?

The Prime Minister:
The Turks are taking part in this action and urging us to do the same. The Saudis are taking part in this action and urging us to do the same. The Jordanians have taken part in this action and urge us to do the same. I have in my notes quote after quote from leader after leader in the Gulf world begging and pleading with Britain to take part so that we can take the fight to this death cult that threatens us all so much.

The second part of our strategy is our support for the diplomatic and political process. Let me say a word about how this process can lead to the ceasefires between the regime and the opposition that are so essential for the next stages of this political transition. It begins with identifying the right people to put around the table. Next week, we expect the Syrian regime to nominate a team of people to negotiate under the auspices of the United Nations. Over the last 18 months, political and armed opposition positions have converged. We know the main groups and their ideas. In the coming days, Saudi Arabia will host an inclusive meeting for opposition representatives in Riyadh. The United Nations will take forward discussions on steps towards a ceasefire, including at the next meeting of the International Syria Support Group, which we expect to take place before Christmas.

The aim is clear, as I have said—a transitional Government in six months, a new constitution, and free and fair elections within 18 months. I would argue that the key elements of a deal are emerging: ceasefires, opposition groups coming together, the regime looking at negotiation, and the key players—America and Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran—and key regional players such as Turkey all in the room together. My argument is this: hitting Daesh does not hurt this process; it helps this process, which is the eventual goal.

Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con):
Does the Prime Minister agree that the murders on the beach in Tunisia and the carnage in Paris on 13 November have changed everything, and that the British people would find it rather odd if it took more than that for Britain to stand shoulder to shoulder with a number of other countries and take on Daesh?

The Prime Minister:
My hon. Friend speaks for many. They attack us because of who we are, not because of what we do, and they want to attack us again and again. The question for us is, do we answer the call of our allies, some of our closest friends in the world—the French and the Americans—who want us to join them and Arab partners in this work, or do we ignore that call? If we ignore that call, think for a moment what that says about Britain as an ally. Think for a moment what it says to the countries in the region who will be asking themselves, “If Britain won’t come to the aid of France, its neighbour, in these circumstances, just how reliable a neighbour, a friend and an ally is this country?”

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
Let me make some progress on the vital subjects of humanitarian relief and the longer-term stabilisation, because I am conscious of the time. I set out for the House last week our support for refugees in the region, the extra £1 billion that we would be prepared to commit to Syria’s reconstruction, and the broad international alliance that we would work with in the rebuilding phase. However, let us be clear—my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) made this point—that people will not return to Syria if part of it is under the control of an organisation that enslaves Yazidis, throws gay people off buildings, beheads aid workers and forces children to marry before they are even 10 years old. We cannot separate the humanitarian work and the reconstruction work from dealing with Daesh itself.

Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP):
I welcome any comments that distance British Muslims and Muslims in Scotland from Daesh. I also welcome the Prime Minister’s use of that terminology. I ask him this question as a new Member of the House who is looking to seasoned parliamentarians and those who have been in this Chamber for some time, as new Members do on such occasions. Given that the language that is being used could be considered unbecoming of a parliamentarian, for the benefit of new Members, will the Prime Minister withdraw his remarks in relation to terrorist sympathisers?

The Prime Minister:
I think everyone is now focused on the main issues in front of us. That is what we should be focused on.

Let me turn to the plan for post-conflict reconstruction to support a new Syrian Government when they emerge. I have said that we would be prepared to commit at least £1 billion to Syria’s reconstruction. The initial priorities would be protection, security, stabilisation and confidence-building measures, including meeting basic humanitarian needs such as education, health and shelter, and, of course, helping refugees to return. Over time, the focus would shift to the longer-term rebuilding of Syria’s shattered infrastructure, harnessing the expertise of the international financial institutions and the private sector. As I said last week, we are not in the business of trying to dismantle the Syrian state or its institutions. We would aim to allocate reconstruction funds against a plan agreed between a new, inclusive Syrian Government and the international community, once the conflict had ended. That is the absolute key.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister:
I will take interventions from my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) and then another Opposition Member before drawing my remarks to a close.

Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con):
What really matters to my constituents is whether they will be safer after this process. The Prime Minister is making a strong case for attacking the heart of this terrorist organisation. Will he assure the House that, as well as taking action in Syria, he will shore up security services and policing in the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister:
That is what our constituents want to know. What are we doing to strengthen our borders? What are we doing to exchange intelligence information across Europe? What are we doing to strengthen our intelligence and policing agencies, which the Chancellor spoke about so much last week? We should see all of this through the prism of national security. That is our first duty. When our allies are asking us to act, the intelligence is there and we have the knowledge that we can make a difference, I believe that we should act.

Let me take an intervention from the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD):
The Prime Minister rightly says how important it is that we not only stand with our allies and friends in Europe, but are seen to stand with them. However, he has not so far stood with those European allies on the matter of taking our fair share of refugees from this crisis and other crises. Will he look again at the request from Save the Children that this country take 3,000 orphaned child refugees who are currently in Europe?

The Prime Minister:
We have played a huge part in Europe as the biggest bilateral donor. No other European country has given as much as Britain. We are also going to take 20,000 refugees, with 1,000 arriving by Christmas. However, I am happy to look once again at the issue of orphans. I think that it is better to take orphans from the region, rather than those who come over, sometimes with their extended family. I am very happy to look at that issue again, both in Europe and out of Europe, to see whether Britain can do more to fulfil our moral responsibilities.

Let me conclude. This is not 2003. We must not use past mistakes as an excuse for indifference or inaction. Let us be clear: inaction does not amount to a strategy for our security or that of the Syrian people, but inaction is a choice. I believe that it is the wrong choice. We face a clear threat. We have listened to our allies. We have taken legal advice. We have a unanimous United Nations resolution. We have discussed our proposed actions extensively at meetings of the National Security Council and the Cabinet. I have responded personally to the detailed report of the Foreign Affairs Committee. We have a proper motion before the House and we are having a 10 and a half hour debate today.

In that spirit, I look forward to the rest of the debate and to listening to the contributions of Members from all parts of the House. I hope that at the end of it all, the House will come together in large numbers to vote for Britain to play its part in defeating these evil extremists and taking the action that is needed now to keep our country safe. In doing so, I pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery and service of our inspirational armed forces, who will once again put themselves in harm’s way to protect our values and our way of life. I commend this motion to the House.

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