Syria: UK Military Action — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:26 pm on 2nd December 2015.

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Photo of Lord Triesman Lord Triesman Labour 8:26 pm, 2nd December 2015

My Lords, like many others, if I had a vote tonight, it would be unequivocally with the Government. Of course I accept that the decision involves balance and judgment, but I would vote with the Government precisely because I want peace. The remarkable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Hague, essentially made that point. There is much consensus in this House. We agree that we are facing a barbaric force in Daesh. Daesh has murdered huge numbers of Muslims; it is an indiscriminate, vile murderer of individuals and behaves with unbelievable brutality towards women. Daesh is as dangerous on our streets as it is in Paris or Ankara and it exports violent objectives to a small fragment of our population. Our airmen are combatants over Iraq, with the consent of the Iraqi state, and for that reason are a Daesh target in Iraq. So far we cannot attack Daesh’s centre, communications or supply lines, and in effect are further endangering our airmen by that prohibition.

Our response is plainly legal under UN Article 51. Resolution 2249 confirms the point and calls unanimously on members to act to end Daesh. The UN plainly sees this as a just issue. It is extraordinary that those who always prioritised UN decisions and UN authority above all now find it inconvenient to accept the clearest of UN unanimous decisions. Here, tonight, we have no room for ducking and diving. The UN cannot be the subject of cynical manipulation in that way with a parade of excuses for endless delay and complete inaction. We have an obligation to work with our allies, not least to underscore the credible authority of the UN. It would be thoroughly demeaning for this country to turn its back on the UN decision or to place our security in this country in other hands.

Of course I respect the views of others in this debate, but I am confident that the people of the United Kingdom will never settle for a Government who will not act coherently to protect their security. People are not so foolish as to think that this is easy or that no balance of judgment is involved, but their expectation at the end of it is that they will be protected and that that responsibility is overriding. People quite rightly expect a comprehensive approach balancing the need for diplomacy, force and aid—not any one of them, but all three.

Vienna has now generated diplomatic options, but we all know from serious strategic analysis that without the willingness to project power, diplomacy is usually fatally weakened. If we believe in diplomatic effort— and I do—and its value and efficacy, then we need to strike the very best available balance. To do this to achieve the optimum balance, we must surely take the action that is set out in the Motion being debated in the House of Commons. Politics will fail without the projection of force, and force will fail without the diplomacy that is needed to achieve a settlement afterwards. Nothing will work long-term in either regard without aid, and I applaud the noble Lords, Lord Ashdown, Lord Hutton, Lord Williams of Baglan and Lord Owen, for the imagination that they have brought to possible solutions. The task of the allies is to create conditions on the ground in which local alliances can be created and have prospects of success, as we are beginning to see in northern Iraq. We must of course also assist in the work of a fundamentally different and peaceful Islamic narrative.

I support the Government. I hope that the PM will have the grace to withdraw gratuitous comments about people with whom I profoundly disagree. It is unhelpful and will become more unhelpful as time goes by and we want to hold people together. To the leadership of my party, who say that those of us who support the PM will have nowhere to hide, I say: I do not want or need anywhere to hide. There is no joy in advocating military action, but there is no credit in hiding from the conclusion that we must show that we are strong enough in our determination to protect our country.