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My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Hague of Richmond, on his stunning maiden speech. We are all going to have to up our game.
Had we been voting on the Government’s Motion tonight, I would have voted in favour of the Government’s position to extend military airstrikes into Syria.
Like many noble Lords whose views and judgments I respect and who may not agree with me, I have not come to this conclusion lightly. Despite being a Government Defence Whip between 2002 and 2010, I am not someone who believes that military intervention is always the answer to global conflict; it often is not. But in this instance, to degrade the murderous activities of Daesh in Syria, and to make our own citizens safer from its murderous intent, I believe that we have no other serious option.
I cannot see the logic of agreeing to airstrikes against Daesh in Iraq—which we have been carrying out fairly effectively for the past 14 months—where it is less prominent, and not agreeing to allow the RAF to cross a border that, as noble Lords have said, Daesh does not recognise, to where Daesh is headquartered and where its communications network is based. If we are to stop this death cult, as many of my Muslim friends call it, from poisoning the minds of our young people here in Britain, and to degrade as much of their communications and ordnance as possible, it is a no-brainer. I have reached this conclusion, too, on the basis that my party set out a number of conditions, as my noble friend Lord Rooker said, for extending the current airstrike programme, and it is my belief that those conditions are now being met: blocking where we can the vast financial and economic aid to Daesh; convening the Vienna peace talks; the further significant pledge of humanitarian and restoration aid to the Syrian people; and, most significantly of all, the unanimous vote of the UN Security Council two weeks ago, calling on all of us to take action against ISIL/Daesh. There are those who say that it was not the right kind of UN Security Council resolution and we should wait for another to come along. Respectfully, I say, tell that to the Yazidi women and children enslaved, raped and executed as we speak by Daesh. Tell it to the hunted gay community in that region, and to the journalists and aid workers who have been murdered in front of Daesh cameras for all the world to see. If not now, when?
There are, of course, many serious questions remaining, the most obvious being the nature and scale of the ground troops needed to complete this operation. Could the Minister address the question of ground troops in his summing up? Even with such outstanding questions, I do not believe that they negate the need to begin inflicting serious damage on Daesh. On these Benches, we pride ourselves on being an internationalist party, and our sister party in France has asked for our solidarity, following the dreadful attacks on Paris last month. What are we to do—ignore them? Yes, Paris means a lot to us, but not that much. I was proud of my grandson singing the Marseillaise at Wembley, although he did mention to me how fierce the lyrics were.
Finally, our solidarity needs to continue to embrace the Syrian people, who simply want the peaceful, democratic, boring, quiet lives that we all take for granted. Airstrikes in co-operation with the international coalition will not be the full answer—we all know that. But they are part of the answer if the Syrians are ever to have their homeland returned to them, and if we are ever to be free of—