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Volume 598: debated on Monday 13 July 2015

In addition to over 300 strikes, the Royal Air Force’s sophisticated intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft are making a crucial contribution—some 30% of the total intelligence effort—to the counter-ISIL coalition air campaign. We have trained over 1,600 members of the Iraqi security forces, and last month we announced that up to an additional 125 personnel will train Iraqi security forces in countering improved improvised explosive devices and in other vital skills.

It is clear that we need to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that if and when further action needs to be taken, Government time will be allocated for a debate and there would be a vote in this House?

RAF intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft are already operating over Syria at the moment. As the Government have made clear, we will need to return to Parliament for approval if we propose to undertake air strikes against ISIL in Syria. ISIL has its command and control centres in north-eastern Syria, from where it is directing forces against the democratic Government of Iraq and from where it is planning terrorist attacks against the west, including Britain.

A key part of defeating and degrading Daesh is to destroy its propaganda campaign and not to give it legitimacy by calling it Islamic or a state. Will my right hon. Friend join middle east countries such as Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries such as France, Pakistan and Turkey by calling it Daesh?

Understanding the appeal of ISIL and its recruitment approach is a key focus of the coalition’s communications strategy. The term “Daesh” is now regularly used by Ministers in our Government and officials within the middle east and when engaging with many of our coalition partners. However, the term “ISIL” is still used when addressing UK audiences as this, at the moment, is better understood.

It is good that the Government have invited the Leader of the Opposition and my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) to tomorrow’s National Security Council meeting to discuss these important issues—and I very much welcome that. In the same spirit of co-operation and in the national interest, will the Secretary of State commit to a comprehensive, transparent strategic defence and security review with full parliamentary scrutiny?

We are committed to a full and comprehensive strategic defence and security review. It is already under way, and at Question Time last month I invited any Member to contribute to it, and we will invite other stakeholders with interests in defence matters to make a similar contribution.

Does the Secretary of State agree that this Chamber has a great opportunity to set an example by using the terminology “Daesh” on each and every occasion that it is mentioned here?

I note what the hon. Lady says. As I said, I use the term “Daesh” when I am in the middle east, talking to our partners in the coalition or the media there. Until now, ISIL has been the term that is better understood here in the UK, but it is certainly worth reflecting on whether we should now seek to move on to using Daesh, which does not confer the sort of legitimacy that the title ISIL—involving the word “state”—does.

Clearly, we all wish to see this country defeating terrorists and terrorism. Let me say again that they must not win and cannot be allowed to win. What assessment has the Defence Secretary made so far of the actions we have taken to defeat and degrade ISIL?

The coalition, which involves over 60 countries, about two dozen of which are taking military action, has been assisting the legitimate, democratic Government of Iraq in checking the advance of ISIL, and has had some success in pushing it back—in the recapture of Tikrit, for example, and in other areas up the Tigris and west along the Euphrates. This is clearly going to be a long campaign, however, and it will involve further necessary reforms in Iraq itself, including reforms of its army and the introduction of a national guard that can give the populations that have been liberated the confidence and security that ISIL will not return.

What the Secretary of State has said shows that this is a complicated picture. As I have said, we stand ready to work with the Government to defeat ISIL and will consider carefully any Government proposals for further military action, but will the Secretary of State reassure us that any proposals that he does present will have clear objectives in respect of defeating ISIL? Will he, in presenting such proposals, also make it clear what support will be provided by other countries in the region, and explain how the proposals fit in with the Government’s overall foreign policy objectives in the region and beyond?

I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance, and I welcome the approach that the Opposition are adopting. We do not currently intend to present proposals to the House, but we have a strategy to help the Government of Iraq defeat ISIL, which we are pursuing in Iraq. We are also flying reconnaissance flights over Syria, and helping to train members of the Syrian opposition. As I think the hon. Gentleman implied, the situation in Syria is very different from and more complex than the situation in Iraq, and any strategy in Syria must properly reflect that.