Please accept my apologies for the generality of this open letter, as you can understand I have received hundreds of emails detailing constituent’s arguments both in favour and against the proposal. My position on how I will vote is as follows.
I will vote against the government’s proposal to undertake military intervention in Syria. But by way of background I should explain my decision and the logic behind that vote.
I supported the recent military intervention in Iraq to tackle ISIL/Daesh, which was approved last year by the House of Commons. In this case we were invited by the democratically elected government of Iraq to help them defeat the murderous death cult of ISIL/Daesh. Our action has been successful in northern Iraq with support of an organised ground force. The government of Iraq are able to use our air support to drive back ISIL/Daesh. That is the right thing to do and I will continue to support it.
I take the view that action is needed against ISIL/Daesh. The devastating attacks on Paris and Beirut on the 13th November, and the attacks in Tunisia reiterated the barbarism of ISIL/Daesh. People lost their lives needlessly, for the simple reason that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Attacks on France and other western nations have taken place not because of action taken against Middle Eastern nations, but because ISIL/Daesh cannot abide the freedom and values that underpin our societies.
And I still believe that we must show solidarity with other nations in their time of need.
At Labour Party annual conference this year a resolution was passed, which set out the terms that would be needed to be reached to gain the support of Labour MPs to vote for military intervention. The terms were:
1. Clear and unambiguous authorisation for such a bombing campaign from the United Nations;
2. A comprehensive European Union-wide plan is in place to provide humanitarian assistance to the increased number of refugees that even more widespread bombing can be expected to lead to;
3. Such bombing is exclusively directed at military targets directly associated with the ‘Islamic State’, noting that if the bombing campaign advocated by the British government in 2013 had not been blocked by the PLP under Ed Miliband’s leadership, ‘Islamic State’ forces might now be in control of far more Syrian territory, including Damascus.
4. Any military action is subordinated to international diplomatic efforts, including the main regional powers, to bring the Syrian civil war to an end, since only a broadly-based and sovereign Syrian government can ultimately retake territory currently controlled by ‘Islamic State’.
Because of the nature of this vote, Labour Party MPs have a free vote. This means that there is no official party view and MPs are to vote either for or against the intervention in Syria according to their own judgement on the issue.
I have spent many days and nights carefully considering all the evidence laid before the House, and from representations made by the hundreds of constituents who have written to me. The government has provided meetings with officials and the military; I took the opportunity to attend all that were offered to ensure that I was fully informed.
My conclusion were clear. ISIL/Daesh are a clear threat to the UK and our allies. They remain a threat to the region and to the UK.
We must undertake all necessary precautions to make sure that we are protected. We have to face head on this challenge.
However, I cannot vote in favour of this military action at this time, for several reasons.
The first reason is due to the Prime Ministers approach, which he set out on the floor of the House last week. During the briefings I attended, I came to the conclusion that the government had not provided me with reasonable explanations for how they were going to deal with the aftermath of any action in Syria.
I did not feel reassured that the 70,000 armed personnel on the ground, suggested by the PM, in Syria could be relied upon. They are a fractured group, containing anti-Assad, Kurdish, and radical forces. Indeed some are called “moderate extremist” forces.
I am not convinced that a proper peace process is in place. Long term peace can only be achieved through diplomacy and politics. The government did not show that they had a plan ready to be implemented after the bombing.
Many of you have raised the belief that I should vote against the intervention simply because Jeremy Corbyn has called for MPs to oppose; that is not my view. I will vote on the arguments laid out before me by the government, and I do not share some of the analysis that Jeremy has argued for in the Commons. I will always work with my party to ensure that the opinions and values of people in Delyn are represented. But I must also act as I believe to be right.
We must now look towards the future of Syria using the many other powers at the disposal of the UK. Our Foreign and Commonwealth Office must use all its power to ensure that nations buying oil from ISIL/Daesh are stopped. That money allows this poisonous ideology to spread across Syria and neighbouring nations. Moreover, we must end the black market trade with ISIL/Daesh of ammunitions and munitions. I have already questioned the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence about their readiness to tackle these trades and sales. You can read them here:
The Syria peace talks, which recently took place in Vienna, need a unified effort from all nations involved. I very much hope that a working peaceful solution can be found through diplomacy.
But I wish to reiterate that I am not ruling out supporting such intervention, if it is supported by the international community as part of a proper ground force operation and peace strategy, in the future.
I cannot vote in favour of military intervention in Syria this week because the government were unable to answer my concerns and those of my constituents.
Thank you for your contact, your concerns were appreciated.
David Hanson MP