COMMONS VOTE ON SYRIA “I am particularly grateful to the constituents who said ‘Even if you don’t agree with me, I hope you will do what you think is right’ and that is what I intend to do this evening” – Jim Dowd MP (Lab. Lewisham West and Penge) addresses the House of Commons.
Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston). She says she is from an RAF family; my father served in the Royal Air Force for 15 years, including all the years of the second world war, so we have that in common. In fact, I was born at the RAF base in Gütersloh in Germany.
When Bill Clinton was first elected President of the USA, the slogan was, “It’s the economy, stupid.” That was thought to be the primary reason for people voting as they do in elections. I do not disagree with that entirely, but I believe that people have a higher consideration as well. It is the primary duty of any Government, or any party purporting to form a Government, to do anything and everything necessary to protect the people, their families and their homes. If any party, Parliament or Government do not do that, they will pay a terrible price. That is what people expect the Government to do. I am sure that everyone in the Chamber agrees with that. Perhaps the only question we have to answer is how best we can protect our citizens and communities.
Hon. Members have said that we should accept the genuine depth of feeling on this issue on both sides. I am grateful to the many constituents who have contacted me with their views. Many have sent formalised messages given to them by other organisations, but I do not dispute their belief in what they were saying and doing. I am particularly grateful to the constituents who said, “Even if you don’t agree with me, I hope you will do what you think is right,” and that is what I intend to do this evening.
Others have said that the debate is out of all proportion, because we are not talking about a new engagement. We are talking about a variation on the commitment that the House overwhelmingly endorsed not so long ago. There will of course be complications. Actually, I have some sympathy with those who have said that the effect will be only marginal. That might well be true, but the question is: is it worth doing or not? We need to decide which side of the argument to come down on.
I will certainly not vote for the amendment, for a number of reasons, not least because of the weasel words and sophistry it employs to suggest that the case has not been made. That is the kind of thing the Liberals used to say before 2010, when they had to face up to genuine responsibility. It is like when people say, “I take a principled stand on this.” They seem to be suggesting that they are principled and that anyone who
2 Dec 2015 : Column 433
opposes them is unprincipled, but that is not true. The fact is that people can have genuine, deeply held views on this matter, and we should respect their views—
Alex Salmond: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
Jim Dowd: No I will not, thank you very much, because there are plenty of people waiting to get in—
Alex Salmond rose—
Jim Dowd: Oh all right, as you’ve got your gang with you. Go on!
Alex Salmond: For the hon. Gentleman’s information, the wording of the cross-party amendment is exactly the same as that of the amendment that tried to stop the war in Iraq. A lot of people think that it would have been a better thing if that amendment had been carried that day.
Jim Dowd: I do not dispute that for a moment, but I am not sure what point the right hon. Gentleman is making, so I shall move on.
People set up barriers. They say, “We must have a UN resolution.” Then, when the UN comes forward with a resolution, they say, “Oh no! That’s not good enough. We want a better-quality UN resolution. Tell it to go do its homework. Tell it to do better.” It is ridiculous. These are weasel words in the amendment; they are euphemisms. It is almost as though those who say that the case has not been made think they have a higher moral standard, a transcendent judgment superior to that of those who disagree with them.
I just want to say this to the Prime Minister: the Brimstone missile about which we have heard so much is known as a fire-and-forget weapon—[Interruption.] Well, it is known by some as that; maybe not by Conservative Members. It has been described as a fire-and-forget weapon, but the motion, which I find comprehensive and persuasive, is not a fire-and-forget motion. If we pass it tonight, we will have to come back to it and address all the issues raised in it. We must make sure that nobody is pretending that airstrikes alone will solve the problems in the middle east. There is much more to be done, and we will need dedication, effort and application to ensure that we do as much as we can to bring peace and a degree of stability to that troubled part of the world. (Source: Hansard)