A number of people have contacted me with questions about yesterday's vote (2 December) on military action in Syria.
These were from local people in favour and against intervention so I hope this reply deals with everyone's queries and concerns fairly.
There have been some very detailed, very passionate and well-argued contributions covering a multitude of quite detailed points. Whilst I have tried to cover as many of them as possible, either in my q&a below or via the links, there may be some areas that I have missed, or some points that I may not have dealt with specifically.
It is incredibly important and valuable to have such a range of views at my disposal when faced with these difficult decisions. I know the outcome is not as everyone may have wished, but I can assure you of one thing – every MP, of whatever Party and position, thought long and hard about their decision. We all want peace in the region and to ensure our own population is as safe as we can manage.
So, I have set out my thoughts and voting record along with a link to the full transcript of yesterday's debate. Can I particularly draw your attention to the contribution of Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_dRCzd19Uc and is the last but one contribution in Hansard.
As you may have read the motion was carried with a majority of 174.
I hope it is of interest.
Simon Hart MP
How did I vote?
Having listened carefully to the debate I supported the motion and am happy to set out my reasoning below. The full transcript of the motion and debate can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/chan80.pdf
1) The threat to Britain's national security. ISIS are motivated by an extremist religious philosophy which they wish to impose on the West. Their fighters have targeted and killed UK and other European citizens and they have tried to launch Paris style attacks on British soil – there have been 7 attacks foiled in the last 6 months alone. Innocent UK citizens are being targeted and killed now.
2) The UK, in coalition with others at the request of the Iraqi government, has for some time been taking action against ISIS in Iraq. What we voted to do was to extend our activity over Iraq (which has been happening for some time) across the border into Syria.
What has this got to do with us?
Apart from the issue of national security, millions of refugees have fled Syria. Britain has been fulfilling a moral obligation to help them, both through paying for safe refugee camps in Turkey and the Middle East and by taking in thousands of refugees. If we have a moral obligation to look after Syrian refugees, then we have the moral obligation to intervene and take action to prevent more coming.
How will bombing civilians help?
Those who imagine that we are going to send in planes and participate in mass bombing of civilian areas have been misinformed. The UK intends to use very high-tech missiles against specific ISIS targets. We have been using military airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq for over a year after a huge and justified public outcry at the massacres that ISIS had been perpetrating against Kurds, Yazidis and Christians in Iraq. As I have said, this vote extends that action across the border to ISIS headquarters.
Will targeted strikes make a difference?
The airstrikes we have been carrying out for over a year in Iraq have made a difference. Land held by ISIS has fallen back into Iraqi government hands.
Why can't we use financial sanctions and target oil money?
We are already taking these actions. Unsurprisingly it would be inappropriate to reveal too widely the full details of what we are doing.
Do we need ground troops?
Targeted air strikes will not be enough and there will be a need for ground troops to retake land. There are believed to significant numbers of Syrians under arms representing factions with whom the West could work.
How sure are you of the figure of 70,000 potential ground troops?
The estimate comes from security agencies across the world. It is backed by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and the National Security Adviser. However it is an estimate and should be viewed as such.
What about a wider strategy?
There is a wider strategy which is to defeat ISIS, bring Assad to the negotiating table and set up a government with representatives of the Sunni, Shia, Christian, Kurdish and Yazidi groups in Syria. There is broad support for this plan across a range of nations. It will not be easy to achieve and will not happen overnight, but a great deal of work is going into this. It is very important to me that we have a workable plan.
Why don't we just leave it to others?
We are already involved as we are attacking ISIS in Iraq. We have a high level of expertise in the use of targeted missiles and drones. In particular, we have missiles that are highly accurate against moving vehicles. In addition we have been asked by many of the UK's most important allies to help. Defeating IS is a global challenge and we cannot stand back and expect our allies to defend our interests without any input from the UK.
Simon Hart MP
House of Commons
15, St John St
or 0207 219 3000