Robin Walker, Worcester’s MP, backed the Commons motion to approve air strikes on Da’esh in Syria after attending a number of debates and briefings and receiving assurances on the protection of civilian lives. Robin set out a range of factors likely to affect his decision ahead of the 11 hour debate in the House of Commons in a statement which can be found here:

https://www.walker4worcester.com/statement-from-robin-walker-mp-ahead-of-the-vote-in-the-commons-tomorrow/

The full motion on which the house voted and for which Robin voted, read:

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.”

Today he has updated his statement with the following key points:

“It is important to note that this was not a decision about whether “to go to war” or even about whether we fight Da’esh as we have already been fighting Da’esh for a number of months in Iraq. I made this point in the debate in an intervention on my colleague Mark Pritchard:”

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151202/debtext/151202-0002.htm#151202-0002.htm_spnew69

“We came into Iraq at the invitation of the democratically elected Government of that country to save civilians and at the invitation of the Kurds to stop them being wiped out by Da’esh. The House of Commons voted decisively in favour of doing so in 2014.“

“Since that time UK air strikes have helped to save Kobani and liberate Sinjar, 30% of the territory taken by Da’esh in Iraq has been recovered and crucially, despite hundreds of UK strikes on Da’esh fighters, there have been no reports of civilian casualties caused by them.

“The decision the House had to take on 2nd December was whether to extend our activities against this terrorist organisation over the invisible border between Iraq and Syria, which UN Resolution 2249 clearly encouraged us to do.”

“After many hours of debate on the 2nd December, and having strongly considered and scrutinised all of the evidence put to me, I concluded that, as the terrible events in Ankara, Beirut, Paris, Tunisia and elsewhere have made clear, Da’esh are determined to attack civilians wherever they can. The scale of the threat that we face from Da’esh is substantial and the estimate of the security services is that we are already being targeted directly by them. It is important to note that although they have murdered British citizens already, in Syria, Tunisia and Paris, the majority of their victims are not British or even Western, but ordinary Muslims and people of ethnic and religious minorities living in the areas that they control. I believe that it is right that we are taking part in an international coalition, backed by the UN, with support from many Muslim countries to protect civilian lives and combat this appalling death cult.”

“Everyone knows that we cannot defeat Da’esh with military action alone and I have been at pains to seek assurances on the broader strategy around military action. Initially I shared many of the concerns raised by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in its report on this matter but having taken into account the Prime Minister’s response to that report and met with the Foreign Secretary, Defence Secretary, DFID Secretary, Home Secretary and top military and security advisers, I have been reassured these concerns are being addressed.”

“The Prime Minister’s approach includes a counter-extremism strategy to prevent attacks at home, around the world and to confront the radicalisation which has driven so much of their recruitment, continued action against their sources of financial support, the diplomatic and political process working with our allies, humanitarian support and longer-term stabilisation, as well as military action. Britain has so far given over £1.1 billion to help refugees in and around Syria, surpassed only by the USA, and would contribute at least another £1 billion for post-conflict reconstruction to support a new Syrian Government when it emerges in improving the humanitarian situation.”

“The peace process in Vienna is essential both to bring an end to the Syrian civil war, to de-escalate the tensions between major regional and international powers and to provide a transition to a Government that can rebuild Syria and bring together its divided communities. It is important to consider that until a political settlement to the Syrian civil war is reached– Da’esh will continue to plan and execute attacks against this country and others from the safe haven they have created there. UN resolution 2249 made clear the international call for such safe havens to be eradicated. The UK is playing a full and active role in supporting the Vienna process and the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have both assured me we will continue to do so.”

“It is clear to me that our military capability will make a difference to the fight to degrade and destroy Da’esh. That is why France, the USA and Gulf States have been asking for us to join them. One very important factor in this regard is that the UK’s military doctrine, training and equipment allows for greater precision in air strikes than those of many other countries. This has allowed us to avoid civilian casualties in Iraq over the last year and should mean that our involvement will reduce the risk of civilian casualties in the ongoing air campaign in Syria. The briefings that I have received from Defence Ministers and military and security officials have reassured me on this point which was a crucial factor in determining my support for the motion.”

Robin also intervened on the Prime Minister in the debate last week to insist on putting the preservation of civilian lives at the heart of the UK strategy, something that the Prime Minister subsequently did. He repeated this point in an intervention on colleague David Burrowes during yesterday’s debate:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151202/debtext/151202-0004.htm#151202-0004.htm_spnew46

Although he did not have the opportunity to make a full speech in the debate he attended from the beginning to the end and felt that his views were most clearly reflected in speeches from two colleagues – Sarah Wollaston and Tom Tugendhat.

Sarah Wollaston, the MP for Totnes and a GP focused her comments on protecting civilians and showed that Da’esh are a major threat to civilians both in Europe and in Syria:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151202/debtext/151202-0003.htm#151202-0003.htm_spnew55

Tom Tugendhat, the MP for Tonbridge and a veteran of the Iraq war spoke about his personal experience of and love for Syria, the importance of the decision being made and the vital necessity of standing by our allies and acting against the people destroying that country. His speech can be found here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151202/debtext/151202-0003.htm#151202-0003.htm_spnew72

Robin also commended some incredibly powerful speeches from experienced Labour former Ministers and Shadow Ministers: Yvette Cooper, Alan Johnson, Margaret Beckett and Dan Jarvis who helped to make the case from a security perspective and the perspective of the UK living up to its international obligations. He had made up his mind to support the motion before the end of the debate but he was hugely impressed by the speech of Hilary Benn, who in closing for the opposition made the most powerful and passionate speech of the whole debate.

The Hansard record of this can be found here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151202/debtext/151202-0005.htm#151202-0005.htm_spnew20

And a video of the speech can be found here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34991402

Commenting on this Robin said:

“Parliament is rarely known nowadays for its quality of debate and sadly the art of rhetoric is not what it was in the days of Churchill, but the ten hour debate in the House of Commons on Syria included some incredibly powerful and passionate speeches from all sides. It was a privilege to be there. I respect those on all sides who made strong arguments and presented their views with passion and precision but the closing speech from Hilary Benn is one I will remember for the rest of my life. His passionate defence of democracy, human rights and the UK’s role in defending both struck a chord across the whole house and literally brought a tear to my eye.”

“I commend that fact that for all the politics in the Commons around this issue, the Shadow Foreign Secretary cut through with a powerful and comprehensive argument about our moral duty to the world. Anyone who remains unconvinced of the case for UK action should read or watch his speech. Solemn and serious though such a decision is, I am convinced that the decision that Parliament took after hearing this speech was the right one and that it was taken to protect civilians.”

Notes to editors:

The full transcript of the debate can be found here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151202/debtext/151202-0001.htm

UN Resolution 2249 can be found here:

http://www.un.org/press/en/2015/sc12132.doc.htm

The report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee can be found here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmfaff/457/457.pdf

The Prime Minister’s written reply can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pm-response-to-fac-report-on-british-military-operations-in-syria

His statement to the Commons the week before the vote can be found here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151126/debtext/151126-0001.htm#151126-0001.htm_spmin42