Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, expected to tell MPs it is ‘illogical’ to be carrying out air strikes against Isil in Iraq but not Syria
12.50 We will get consent of MPs before any strikes, Defence Sec pledges
Michael Fallon has told MPs that any decision to launch air strikes over Syria to counter Isil will have to be signed off by MPs.
“We know Isil is directed from Northern Syria,” he said, but added the Prime Minister “recognised” the “reservations” some MPs had about Syria action in 2013.
“We will not bring a motion to this house where there is not some consensus”, Mr Fallon said. “Our position therefore remains that we would return to this House for approval before we conduct air strikes in Syria.”
Mr Fallon added that only issues of immediate national security would change that.
The Defence Secretary said he was “laying out some of the case” for air strikes today and indicated the government hopes MPs are now more open to backing action than in 2013 – when Mr Cameron was defeated on the matter.
“A number of things have changed [since then], not least the attacks that have multiplied and the spread of Isis itself,” he said.
12.40 DEBATE BEGINS
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, has begun the Commons debate about Isil the threat the extremist Islamists pose to Britain.
The attack on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia, last week amounted to a “day of terror”, Mr Fallon says, adding that the country’s thoughts were with the victims and their families.
He added that the terrorist threat warning in Britain remained “severe”, meaning an attack was “highly likely”.
“Disrupting violent threats to the UK mainland and our interest overseas is just one element in our broader strategy for countering Isil” Mr Fallon says. He added Britain is playing a “full part” in the anti-Isil coalition’s attempts to disrupt funding to the group.
12.00 PM backs air strikes in Syria, spokesman indicates
Mr Cameron’s official spokeswoman said that the Prime Minister had made clear during last September’s debate that he believed there was a case for UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria and intended to return to the subject at a later date. He has made clear he does not want to proceed without a consensus in the Commons in support of military action.
The spokeswoman said there was a need for “more thought, more deliberation, more time” before deciding whether to table a motion asking MPs to approve the extension of airstrikes into Syria.
Her comments appeared to be a clear indication that any vote will not come until the Commons returns from its summer break and after the election of a new Labour leader in September.
“The PM has long thought that Isil poses a threat to Britain and Isil needs to be destroyed in Syria as well as in Iraq,” the spokeswoman told a regular Westminster media briefing.
“That’s exactly what he said in the debate in the Commons last September. He set out in the debate that there was a strong case for the UK to do more in Syria and that remains his view. But he also said he wanted consensus in the House.
“The PM’s views haven’t changed. What has changed is the growing evidence that Isil represents a threat to Britain and our national security.”
The PM believes that a legal case for action was established last year when the US-led coalition commenced air-strikes in Syria, she added. The UK is already providing reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling capacity for the Syrian operation, she pointed out.
10.00 Senior Tory MP cautions No 10 over Syria
Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said that UK involvement in Syria would make little military difference on the ground, but could involve Britain in a legal “grey area”.
Mr Blunt told Today: “I would want to know whether this is a battle-winning decision. Plainly, the United Kingdom role in all this is pretty minor, and we should be concentrating on getting the battle-winning decision – which is actually getting the regional states to co-operate around the mission, which is to defeat Isil.”
He added: “There’s no military necessity for this. We are not providing very many of the aircraft. Five per cent of the missions are being flown by the United Kingdom.
“Therefore it makes no practical difference, and we are getting ourselves in to a slightly more legal grey area. I don’t think it’s as clear as people have said. It’s easy to come in as guests of the Government of Iraq at their invitation in their country. It becomes slightly more questionable when you don’t have a UN Security Council resolution and you are operating in another country.”
09.00 Lord Dannatt backs Syria air strikes
Lord Dannatt, the former Chief of the General Staff, has come out in favour of extending the bombing against Isil into Syria.
The former head of the Army was asked for his reaction on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme to Mr Fallon’s comments earlier this morning.
“So-called Islamic State – Isil, Isis, call them what you like – have no respect for the borders that currently exist. Iraq is Iraq and Syria is Syria to us, but not to them,” Lord Dannatt said.
“As Michael Fallon has said, they don’t differentiate, and frankly it has been illogical for the last year that our forces have been engaged just in the air above Iraq and not above Syria.”
He added: “It’s important for our servicemen that they know that when they are risking their own lives and doing something potentially very dangerous, that they are doing it on behalf of the nation and with the support of the people as expressed by a vote in the House of Commons,” he said.
Calling Mr Fallon “absolutely right to open up this issue”, Mr Dannatt continued: “I think he’s also right to say that probably if we were going to take that action and bomb Syria, the issue should be put back to Parliament.
“I think the principle of getting broad-based support is a good one, a correct one, particularly after the difficulty two years ago when the notion was put of bombing president Assad’s forces in 2013. He’s right to think about it and I think he’s right to put it to Parliament.”
Lord Dannatt, the former Chief of the General Staff
08.45 What Michael Fallon said
Michael Fallon’s expected comments to the House of Commons are leading the news headlines this morning. It all begun yesterday at shortly after 1pm, when the Defence Secretary was pushed on the possibility of air strikes in Syria. Here are the key quotes.
There is an illogicality about not being able to do it. There were reservations in the last parliament about doing anything in Syria that would prop up the Assad regime, which of course partly caused this problem in the first place.
It is a new parliament and I think new Members of Parliament will want to think very carefully about how we best deal with Isil, and the illogicality of Isil not respecting the borderlines – they don’t differentiate between Syria and Iraq, they are establishing this evil caliphate across both countries.
There is no legal bar to us operating in Syria but we don’t have the parliamentary approval for it. We don’t need it at the moment because we are playing our part in the campaign, and indeed what we do in Iraq actually frees up the US to attack in Syria.
We have made it clear we would have to go back to Parliament, yes, and ask for parliamentary authority because we don’t have that at the moment. The exception to that, as the Prime Minister has always made clear, is where we think there is an imminent threat, a very direct to British lives or for example to British hostages.
Then we reserve the right to take action without prior parliamentary approval and then coming to account for it afterwards. Isil has to be defeated in both countries and all its evil in Iraq is all being directed by its headquarters in Syria.
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary
08.30 Good morning
Welcome to our live blog as MPs debate how Britain can best tackle the threat from Isil. The Commons debate looks set to be dominated by whether Britain should begin air strikes over Syria – extending current bombings being undertaken in Iraq.
It comes after Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, told BBC Radio Four’s World at One yesterday that the government was considering bombing Isil in Syria. Mr Fallon is now expected to say the same in a statement to MPs in the Commons, calling the current strategy “illogical”.
It is understood Number 10 is now actively considering putting air strikes over Syria to a vote before MPs, though such a move is unlikely to come before September when Labour picks a permanent leader. The ramping up in rhetoric is significant given David Cameron suffered a humiliating defeat on military action in Syria in 2013, with 30 Tory MPs rebelling against the government.