I am writing to you regarding the vote in Parliament this week on whether to extend our existing military commitment from Iraq into Syria.
This is a very complex issue and I fully appreciate that there are strong opinions on both sides of this debate.
Before I get into the detail underpinning why I voted in the way I did in Parliament, you should be aware that this is a decision I have not arrived at lightly. To inform that decision, I have consulted my constituents, I have taken expert advice and I have listened very carefully to the evidence that has been presented on both sides. We also had a full debate about this issue at last week’s CLP meeting.
In addition, I also attended the National Security Council where I discussed these matters in detail with the Prime Minster, the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary, the Secretary of State for International Development, the National Security Advisor, the Heads of all the Intelligence Services, the Chief of the Defence Staff, and a range of other officials across Whitehall. I have also discussed this matter with a variety of Non-Government Organisations, charities, think-tanks and academics, as well as back-bench and front-bench colleagues in Parliament.
Whether you agree with the decision I took or not, you should be very clear that I went to exhaustive lengths to inform the decision I made. And that it was made in what I believe to be the best interests of my constituents.
There is no doubt that the recent attack in Paris has highlighted the direct threat that Isil/Daesh presents to our national security. Recent reports suggest that the security services have foiled seven attacks on the United Kingdom in recent months. What happened in France could easily happen in our country.
Before the Government presented its case to the House of Commons I was clear that it needed to meet a series of tests when making the case for military action. Read more about these here.
When the Prime Minister responded last week in Parliament to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, I took the opportunity to ask him for assurances that a political settlement could be made to run in parallel with any action taken, to counter the very direct threat that we, as a country, undoubtedly face.
I continued to consult my constituents and our local Labour Party, and I came to the conclusion that the conditions that I had set out had been met for extending our military action from Iraq and into Syria. That is why I voted to support the motion on Wednesday.
I did so alongside 65 Labour colleagues, including the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn MP; the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson MP; the former Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett MP; the former interim Leader and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman MP; and also my neighbouring MPs, Michael Dugher and Angela Smith. Read more here about why I came to this decision.
I understand the serious concerns that people have about our country engaging in further military action in the Middle East. It is very important that we learn the lessons of previous interventions. However, it is important that we also understand that there will be consequences if we fail to intervene, just as there will be if we do take action.
The recent attacks underline that these terrorists despise us for who we are, not for what we do. Any suggestion that Isil/Daesh will leave us alone if we simply ignore them is misguided. We must confront their poisonous ideology wherever we find it, just as we have confronted fascism and totalitarianism throughout our history.
You can read the speech I delivered during the Parliamentary debate here.
You can watch the speech given by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn MP, here.
I hope this further explains my thoughts on this vitally important issue.