Thank you Mr Speaker
Can I thank the Prime Minster for bringing this issue before the house today.
I have found it increasingly difficult in recent months to understand our National position in the fight against so-called Islamic State. I am relieved that we are finally at this juncture.
Mr Speaker I do not seek to add any particularly clever intellectual insight into this debate. But I will seek to lay out, very briefly, my view, and hopefully by extension the views of most of those whom we ask to conduct these operations, on what this means for our Country and the choice we face tonight.
I feel very strongly about National Security. I have seen the threats we face with my own eyes; I have felt them with my own hands.
We have a privileged way of life in this country; a free democracy, a free speech society and a healthy economy. We are privileged for reasons too numerable to enter into here. But we are chiefly blessed because – throughout our generations – we have had men and women who believe so much in this Nation that they have taken difficult political decisions, and some have even taken up arms and sacrificed everything to protect this way of life.
Mr Speaker I have become worried of late that we have lost some of that spirit, something that makes us recognise a dangerous threat to this precious way of life and to resolve to deal with it appropriately.
We must always remember how privileged we are in the sea of humanity of which we are a part. We earned this privilege through the years – from generation to generation – we protected the gift; it is time to protect it again.
We are under threat from a group of individuals who seek to destroy our very way of life in this Country. They hate everything about us and work night and day to disrupt and kill us whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is not the Iraq problem of 2003. These individuals have demonstrated they have a strategic reach. They can reach into our homelands, into our communities, into our families and destroy all that we hold dear.
I understand the avalanche of questions that have been put forward by colleagues, and I think in the history of this House it would be impossible to find a Prime Minister who has done more to answer them. We will add to the mission in that part of the world militarily; we operate in a way that will, not might, but will accelerate the process of destroying the networks and individuals who operate against us. We have been doing that in Iraq; we must also do it in Syria where they regenerate themselves. We use weapons – and I have used them myself – that are specifically designed to limit collateral damage whilst retaining pin-point accuracy and lethality. They are better at this than anything else currently being used, and this is why we have been asked by our International Partners to take part.
There can be no doubt that an air campaign will not be the end of so-called Islamic State; neither is the Prime Minister or I arguing that that will be the case. We are looking to inhibit their capability to project force into our homes, into our Communities by targeting their leaders.
But Mr Speaker overlaying these technical arguments must surely be a greater calling that I think in our relative comfort of the United Kingdom in 2015, we can neglect.
We have a duty in this house to keep our Nation safe. Keeping our nation safe involves a multi faceted approach. We must do all we can to stabilise the instability through aid. We must ensure our Security and Intelligence Services have the resources and powers to act here at home to retain an effective goal-line defence. We must train and mentor indigenous forces. We must do everything possible to stop the source of funds for Terrorist organisations, however uncomfortable the conversations may be with those in the region. I have personally interrogated this Government’s response to this threat, and I am satisfied that we are doing all of these things.
But in our comfortable existence in this country of ours Mr Speaker we must also accept some uncomfortable truths. There are some – thankfully few, but a significant few – in this world who trade on man’s inhumanity to man. They use fear, religion, and violence to promote their own self-interests and power. Nothing more; nothing less. The so-called religion they proclaim is as far removed from Islam – a religion of peace – and any Muslims who I have ever known and lived amongst – as is possible to get. In 2008 I wrote a reconciliation strategy towards Tier 1 Al Qaeda target set in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The truth then is as valid as it is today. This group of people will never be reconciled to a peaceful, democratic, equal society that they hate so much. They want to die, they want to kill all those who do not conform and until they are killed they will not deviate from their path.
So Military action is a part of this National Security. We as a society must get used to that in this barbaric world in which we now live. We cannot honestly say we are doing all we can to our constituents at home if our full-spectrum response does not include military action.
Finally, I respect and to an extent understand those who would disagree with me tonight. We have made catastrophic mistakes of late that have damaged our standing on the world stage. But they are done; they are history and they cannot be changed. We must wear them and carry them as our burden – it is the least we owe to the families of the men and women we lost in pursuit of these actions.
Similarly, I understand those who think some of us are too quick for action and would seemingly take every opportunity to engage militarily abroad. All I would say to those is conducting those operations makes you less likely, not more likely, to want to do it again, or ask anyone else to do it, unless it was absolutely necessary.
Today I say to this house that it is absolutely necessary. We must do all we can to keep our people safe. A part of that is surgical Foreign military engagement, and if we neglect that part, we cannot honestly say we are doing everything we could to keep our families safe. I am not prepared to go back to Plymouth tomorrow night and say to my Constituents that I was fully aware of the threat that we face from this particular threat, but I was not prepared to do everything possible to protect them from this threat, and so I will be voting in favour of this motion tonight.
Johnny Mercer MP
Plymouth Moor View