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Volume 602: debated on Monday 23 November 2015

We have seen ISIL attacks in Tunisia, Ankara, Sinai and elsewhere around the world, including on British citizens, most recently in Paris, as well as plots to commit murder on our own streets. ISIL poses a very direct threat to the United Kingdom, which is why we need to work with the international coalition to degrade and destroy ISIL in Iraq and why we need to consider what more we can do to deal with its headquarters and heartland in Syria, from where this threat comes.

Given that ISIL is using its base in Syria to plan attacks on the UK, does the Secretary of State agree that it is absolutely absurd to restrict the British armed forces to acting only in Iraq, and not to empower them to act against those who threaten Britain and who are based in Syria?

I agree that there is a compelling case for us to do more in Syria, not least because it is illogical to tackle ISIL only in Iraq. Those borders are meaningless to that organisation. As the Prime Minister has said, we must tackle the head of the snake in Raqqa, and we will be making our case to the House and to the country, starting with his response to the Foreign Affairs Committee report later this week.

When major cities such as London are targets of terrorism, how is the Secretary of State collaborating with the Home Office to deal with out-of-London areas, including the shopping areas in constituencies such as mine, which could easily be under just as much threat as central London?

We work closely with the Home Office, particularly on counter-terrorism and on providing assistance to back up civil capacity. We have 5,000 troops trained and ready to support armed police officers at 24 hours’ notice, and we will be increasing that number shortly. In the end, we can guarantee the safety of the United Kingdom only by defeating ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and I hope that my hon. Friend shares the new confidence of the Chairman of his Committee that the Committee’s conditions can be met following the murders on the streets of Paris.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the concept in international law that when a sovereign state is unable or unwilling to take action against a non-state actor carrying out acts of aggression from its territory, there may be a justification for action. To what extent does he think that that applies to Daesh, and what comparisons would he draw between this situation and the operation of the Taliban in Afghanistan when it was supporting al-Qaeda?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct to say that there is already a clear legal basis for military action against ISIL in Syria which does not require a United Nations resolution. None the less, I hope he will welcome UN Security Council resolution 2249, which provides clear and unanimous political endorsement by the entire international community for the military action already being taken by the counter-ISIL coalition.

The Government are not turning a blind eye. On the contrary, we are doing our best to interdict those supplies of oil and to stop ISIL selling its oil on the international market. I have discussed this with Syria’s neighbours. We also need to stop ISIL selling its oil to the Syrian regime itself.