Military intervention in Syria

2nd December 2015

Keith Simpson urges MPs to back military action against an identified and present threat by Daesh.

Mr Keith Simpson (Broadland) (Con): This may be the kiss of death for them, but I congratulate the right hon. Members for Derby South (Margaret Beckett), for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) and for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) on three formidable speeches. It always takes incredible courage to stand against one’s party and they should not be denigrated for doing so.

I support the Government’s motion. I fully understand all the caveats of one kind or another that colleagues have put forward, but the most important immediate issue is making the strikes against Daesh in Syria that our intelligence and security agencies have identified and wish to carry out, because it offers a present threat to us, our constituents and our allies in Europe. This is a present threat. They may not get it entirely right. I can see my right hon. Friend for—what is his constituency? [Interruption.] I have so many friends! It would be wrong to name them all, but they think that there is no direct threat as far as intelligence is concerned. Those colleagues who have received briefings of one kind or another understand that. The intelligence and security services cannot guarantee to prevent every threat. We should support the motion primarily because we wish to extend our air campaign into Syria to help prevent the threats to this country.

Secondly, I am mindful that the elephant in the room is the Iraq war. We tend to look back to previous wars to draw lessons of one kind or another. The Prime Minister is absolutely right that we have to look at the present situation and the future. Hopefully, we have learned lessons, both political and military, from that war, but we can end up having our current operations and politics determined by past experiences.

Our predecessors sat in the Commons in the 1930s, determined never to have a great war again. The Labour party was divided—there were pacifists and those who wanted collective security. My party supported appeasement, as did the overwhelming majority of the British public, because they genuinely—these were not evil men and women—wanted to prevent another war. They failed, of course, because they were dealing with people in other countries who were not prepared to negotiate. The lessons learned from that war were used in 1956. Anthony Eden believed that Nasser was another Mussolini. He was therefore prepared to take action, but it was the wrong action at the time. I believe that we should put aside where we stood on other campaigns and look at what the situation is today.

My final point is that there has been a great debate about the 70,000 moderate or immoderate people who might or might not provide ground forces. I am sure that the leader of the SNP is, even as we speak, getting YouGov to go out and ask them whether they consider themselves to be moderates or immoderates.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Simpson: I am sorry but I have almost run out of time.

During the second world war, when Churchill and Roosevelt were looking at resistance in Europe, it was dreadfully difficult to find out whether people were communists, non-communists, or Gaullists of one kind or another. At the end of the day, their criterion was, “Are they fighting the Nazis?” There is no easy solution, but the Prime Minister has laid out a set of proposals as far as he can, and I urge the House to vote with him on this occasion.

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