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Volume 589: debated on Tuesday 2 December 2014

Britain is one of 60 countries participating in a coalition to defeat ISIL and we are making a significant contribution, including the air campaign and training Iraqi ground forces. The training of those local forces is critical in order for them to take and hold the ground, maintain security and begin the process of stabilisation and governance.

I thank the Minister for that answer. He will know that ISIL needs to be defeated in Iraq and Syria. Two years ago, I raised with the then Foreign Secretary the creation of safe havens on the border of Turkey and Syria. They could now be used by the Free Syrian Army as a launching pad to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria as well as the brutal Assad regime. I understand that some Arab countries have raised the issue with the United Kingdom. Will we support them?

I understand what my hon. Friend is saying. We have had discussions with our Turkish counterparts and others, and General John Allen is also looking at the issue. It needs to be considered in the wider context of the campaign and it is on the table at the moment, but that is as far as it goes.

18. Do the Government recognise that the failure of reconstruction after the last Iraq war shows that any military effort will be insufficient unless the UK does far more to engage with its partners and allies, to enable good governance in currently ungoverned spaces in Iraq and Syria to prevail? (906385)

The hon. Gentleman raises a critical point. The international community, especially Iraq’s neighbours and Iraq itself, must play a crucial role in providing assistance and technical support and governance and stabilisation once the fighting has happened. We are seeing successes: Iraqi forces have liberated the key town of Baiji, and the National Guard programme is formalising the militia structure, to improve security as well as command and control. They are stopping ISIL in its tracks and pushing it back, out of Iraq. This is a turning point.

I pay tribute to our superb efforts in Iraq, but I absolutely agree with the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock) that we are not going to defeat ISIL—the question is about defeating ISIL, not containing it—by doing what we are doing at the moment. We will defeat ISIL only if we engage politically with the Government in Baghdad and find ways of engaging with the friendly Sunni forces in Iraq. What discussions are the Government having with Baghdad about how they can extend their political influence?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is the inclusivity of the al-Abadi Government, in contrast with the Malaki Government, that is making sure that Sunnis are included in Iraq and Baghdad. It is therefore important that they, not us, take the space, which is why the boots on the ground are Iraqi boots, not ours, so that they can move towards more inclusive governance and reconstruction capability.

Many Yazidi Kurdish women have been abducted by the so-called Islamic State. They have been held as slaves and raped. What are the Government doing to ensure that there is more publicity about the issue and that we do more to stop these crimes against humanity?

The hon. Lady raises an extremely important point that underlines exactly why ISIL and its ideology must be removed from Iraq and, indeed, Syria, and prevented from spreading elsewhere. We are working very closely with our Kurdish counterparts on this very issue. I shall visit the region soon and raise the matter.

One crucial part of the effort to defeat ISIL is surely to help those made even more vulnerable by its advance. Given that the World Food Programme has had to suspend assistance to almost 2 million Syrians, what action are Ministers taking to help to ensure that the World Food Programme can resume its efforts to ease the plight of Syrian refugees?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. While we discuss military matters and indeed governance, an entire generation is suffering in Syria itself. Britain is one of the largest donors to Syria. We have committed over £700 million in aid to provide support on the very issues he talked about, and we have also provided £23 million-worth of aid to Iraq. If I may, I shall look into the issues concerning the World Food Programme and get back to him.