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Syria: UK Military Action — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:57 pm on 2nd December 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Kidron Baroness Kidron Crossbench 6:57 pm, 2nd December 2015

Only few weeks before the Paris murders, we held a debate in this Chamber to take note of the humanitarian impact of developments in the Middle East and north Africa. Whatever our individual views, it was clear to all contributors that there was no plan of sufficient scale to combat the tide of humanity fleeing conflict. All we could do was disagree about the scale of our own compassion and welcome. But while we had the luxury of safely debating where our responsibilities lie, three year-old Alan Kurdi was just one of dozens who had been found lying dead on the beach. Desperate families were escaping Syria in their millions only to face the razor wire fences of a hostile Europe. If we cannot agree to embrace those displaced by conflict, do we have the right to contribute to it? I ask the noble Earl whether, if as expected the other place supports the Prime Minister’s call to bomb Syria, we can expect a shift in our refugee policy, in order that we might reach out to those who will, as we add our firepower to the existing violence, leave Syria in ever greater numbers.

In our press and in both Houses of Parliament, we talk of radicalisation, jihadis and terrorists, terms that elevate murderers and wannabes from the ordinary to the anti-heroic. Meanwhile, we carelessly ignore the alienated among us. In the political wrangling in the other place, the divisions in the Opposition and a 24-hour news cycle obsessed by the numerical chances of winning a vote, we have failed to win the battle for hearts and minds at home. Those who perpetrated this mass murder were brought up in the suburbs of Paris and Brussels, just as the 7/7 bombers were brought up in the suburbs of UK cities. We have a battle to win at home, in which our weapons are our commitment to equality, freedom and humanity—weapons that we need to put at the forefront of our response right now. ISIL uses a distorted version of faith to ply its criminal trade and we need to provide an alternative narrative.

This morning, the Prime Minister seemed to suggest that there would be either air strikes or inaction. That is not so. The trail of oil, money and arms must be broken. The newly invigorated diplomatic work started in Vienna must be pursued with the certainties that we hear today for bombing. A generous response to the refugee crises must be found, not only for orphan children. A zero-tolerance attitude to the abuse of British Muslims must be vocal, loud and proud. These are the actions—intractable and hard as they are—that speak of our values and of who we are.

As outraged as we are at the senseless murders in Paris, there is no strategic difference this month from last. If we had no appetite for war on 12 November, why are we answering the call of ISIS, which, by bringing its perverted fight to European soil, taunts us to provide it with an enemy—an enemy that will inevitably kill and displace the innocent and then turn its back as they reach our borders, and which will further alienate those who are persuaded that this as a religious conflict? Our high-precision strike capability is not precise enough and has claimed many civilians’ lives in the regions. The figure of 70,000 ground troops is disputed by all. Inciting hatred can be done from any part of the world; you do not need to be in Raqqa. No one has a plan for Assad.

I am very sorry; I am out of time. Finally, I say to the Prime Minister that this is not a sports field. Calling those who oppose this war “terrorist sympathisers” is an outrage for which he should publicly and abjectly apologise.