Following the Commons vote in favour of extending military action into Syria, Bristol South Labour MP Karin Smyth, who voted against the Motion, has written to the Prime Minister seeking assurances that he will provide regular updates to MPs on progress of the government’s strategy to defeat ISIL/Daesh.
Below is the full text of a statement Karin Smyth is sending to constituents who have contacted her about the issue in recent weeks:
Last night in the House of Commons I voted against extending UK airstrikes into Syria, following a long debate that lasted for over 10 hours.
The debate itself was the culmination of many days over which I have been carefully studying and weighing up the cases for and against extending current action in Iraq into Syria; listening to the different views of constituents; doing a great deal of background reading; talking to colleagues, and attending relevant Parliamentary briefings and discussions.
This was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever faced in my professional and personal life. Indeed MP colleagues past and present have reminded me that decisions about committing UK troops to action overseas are the hardest ones.
The question I kept coming back to, and continually challenging myself with, was for me the key judgement: whether the action proposed will make the situation in Syria better or worse for those who live there, and whether it can succeed in reducing the clear threat we face from ISIL/Daesh here in the UK. This remains the primary question in my mind.
Even after 10 hours of debate I remained unconvinced about the government’s case for what happens after the bombing.
Significantly too, there also remain major questions surrounding the government’s claim that some 70,000 fighters are available on the ground in Syria to help defeat ISIL/Daesh.
So on balance, remaining less than 100 per cent convinced that this proposal is the right one upon which to commit UK military action, I felt it right to vote against the Motion.
Nonetheless, the Commons voted in favour by 397 votes to 223, so attention must now turn to the vital matter of what happens next, after the bombing. So let me outline my next steps.
We of course support our military personnel as they undertake this task. But the Prime Minister must also ensure necessary support is available to them and to their families as a result of this action.
I will continue to press the government to ensure there is a plan and that the effect of military action, alongside proper negotiation efforts, is being productive, and that the government also continues to work in other ways to combat the ongoing terrorist threat we all face from ISIL/Daesh.
The Prime Minister has a huge moral responsibility to see this through: not to bomb and effectively try to walk away from the major challenges that face Syria in the future.
The UK must employ all means in its power: political and diplomatic means, as well as military means, to help improve the situation on the ground for those living in Syria, and it is the role of MPs to hold the government to account, to ensure this happens. I expect the Prime Minister to return to the Commons at regular intervals to ensure I and other MPs are kept fully abreast of all developments.
So I have today written to the Prime Minister, on behalf of constituents, to ask for assurances he will do so, and that he will regularly report back to Parliament on the progress of the impact of extending airstrikes in this way.
In providing these updates I have asked him to focus on the impact of UK military action and how the government is ensuring that this forms part of an ongoing multi-faceted strategy: the use of ‘soft’ power – through the Vienna process, for example – alongside the ‘hard’ power that was approved by the House last night.
I have also urged him to rethink the government’s current approach to those who are fleeing the conflict in Syria. I believe there is scope for accelerating the current process of permitting 20,000 refugees to come to the UK in the next five years, and have asked the Prime Minister to ensure MPs are regularly updated on the ongoing assessments of the adequacy of this approach that will surely be necessary in the coming months and years.
This is of course an issue of extreme importance, but there are many other issues of huge significance in the lives of people across south Bristol. I remain focused on helping the hundreds of people who contact me each week who need help with issues affecting themselves and their families. Whilst these everyday ‘bread-and-butter’ issues tend not to attract the glare of publicity and lobbying, they are vital to the wellbeing of local people and so they retain my full attention and remain the subject of my relentless work.
I hope you find this update helpful, and please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me on this or any other issue in the future.