POLITICS

Syria Strikes Could Go Ahead After Labour Back A Fresh 'Assessment' Of Action

02/07/2015 14:23 BST | Updated 02/07/2015 14:59 BST

British airstrikes in Syria moved a step closer today after Labour called for a “considered assessment” of how to defeat ISIL.

Shadow Defence Secretary Vernon Coaker told the Government his party would look at how best to defeat the terrorist group, including taking action in the Middle Eastern country.

Britain is currently involved in bombing campaigns against ISIL in Iraq, but does not take part in operations in Syria.

In 2013, then-Labour leader Ed Miliband led his party in voting down plans to bomb Syrian government forces amid claims President Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people.

Today, Mr Coaker was keen to point out the circumstances for action in the country were very different.

Speaking after Defence Secretary Michael Fallon had addressed the Commons this afternoon, Mr Coaker said: “What we are discussing here today, and the Defence Secretary to be fair to him has not put a proposal before the House but has suggested we may need to look at what further action can be taken, is about how we deal with Islamic extremists and how we deal with Daesh or ISIL.

“It is a totally different situation today than it was in 2013. We do no service to the country or to anyone if we are not absolutely clear about the difference between 2013 and 2015. This is, for all of us, how we tackle Islamic extremism and terrorism and keep our country and our citizens safe.”

Harriet Harman MP, Labour’s Interim Leader, repeated the position on ITV News, and said: “ISIL brutalise people, they murder people and they are horrifically oppressive.

"So everything that can be done to stop them must be done, and any proposals that the Government bring forward which will help tackle the growing horror of ISIL, of course we will look at them very very seriously.”

Last autumn, the Commons backed action in Iraq but did not support extending that into Syria.

Yesterday, Mr Fallon spoke out against the “illogicality” of just targeting ISIL in Iraq, when the group does not respect national borders.

Speaking in the Commons this afternoon in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack in Tunisia, the Defence Secretary said ISIL is being “organised and directed” from Northern Syria.

Referring to the Prime Minister’s statement on the Tunisia tragedy in Parliament on Monday, Mr Fallon said: “The Prime Minister recognised then the reservations of some members of this House and will not bring a motion to this House on which there is not some consensus.

“This is of course though a new Parliament and it is for all members to consider carefully how best to tackle ISIL, an evil caliphate that does not respect state boundaries.”

He confirmed the Government would seek the approval of MPs before any extension of the military campaign into Syria.

Dr Julian Lewis, the chairman of the Defence Scrutiny Committee, said any military action against ISIL (Daesh) would strength the Assad regime in Syria.

He said: “In 2013 the Government wanted to remove Assad without helping Al- Qaeda or similar groups that later became Daesh. Now we apparently we want to remove Daesh but without helping Assad. These two things are incompatible. It’s a choice of evils.”

Labour backbencher John Woodcock urged Mr Fallon to show leadership and push on with the military action.

He said: “He has a majority now. If he wants to do this, make the case, put it for a vote and get his own side in order.”