DEFENCE – SYRIA – 19 October 2015

Maria Eagle [Shadow Defence Secretary]: When the Secretary of State was asked on “The Andrew Marr Show” at the weekend whether it was still his intention or his hope that RAF jets would be flying over Syrian airspace to tackle the threat of ISIL/Daesh before too long, he said that “the logic is inescapable”. Opposition Members will consider any Government proposal on this with the utmost seriousness, but in view of that reply, will he tell the House whether it is still his intention to ask for parliamentary approval ahead of any such intervention and, if so, when he expects any such vote to take place?

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): I should like to begin by welcoming the shadow Secretary of State to her first Defence questions and by welcoming the team that she has assembled alongside her. I made it clear yesterday, as I have done today, that ISIL has to be defeated in both countries, not least if we are to support the democratic Government of Iraq and help to keep our own country safe. This is a new Parliament and we will continue to work with colleagues across the House to build a consensus that will allow the RAF to operate in north-east Syria and not have to turn back at the border. When we have established that consensus, we will come to the House for the authority to act.

Dr Julian Lewis: Countless past campaigns show that air strikes are seldom, if ever, decisive unless they are in support of credible ground forces. What credible ground forces are fighting Daesh in Syria, other than the Kurds in limited areas, and Assad’s, which are not also Islamist?

Michael Fallon: There are moderate opposition forces contesting against Assad, trying to protect their towns and cities from the brutality of Assad, who is of course dropping barrel bombs on them – on his own people. The coalition is helping these moderate opposition groups where it can, with training and with equipment. Our troops have been helping to train some of those forces, outside Syria.