This last month has been one of contrasting issues which I deal with as your Member of Parliament. For example on one day I was in the House of Commons as the Prime Minister was making the case for airstrikes against ISIL in Syria. Later the same day I was in Palmers Green – Grenoble Gardens and Warwick Road – talking to residents about how we can best persuade the Council to introduce traffic calming measures and ease congestion. I was then in my office overseeing my referendum on Cycle Enfield which will help inform the Mayor of London about constituents views. Whilst these issues are of different importance they generate similar levels of agitation and passion.
Any decision to commit our brave armed services to operations is a solemn and onerous one. Although the future for Syria is complex and unclear, there was a straightforward issue of authorising the RAF to carry out their operations across the border from Iraq to Syria given that is where ISIL’s stronghold is located.
Last year Parliament overwhelmingly supported airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq. I made the case then to the Prime Minister that the genocide of Yazidis and Assyrian Christians provided the legal and moral basis for action both in Iraq and Syria. Sadly history reminds us, not least when next month we remember the Holocaust, that the world is too slow to act in the face of genocide.
Military action will not alone defeat ISIL, but I believe it is one part of a comprehensive strategy which requires regional ground forces, humanitarian, diplomatic and political efforts to bring peace to Syria.
Many constituents have expressed concern about extending RAF operations and feel it increases the risk of attack by ISIL. However the reality is that ISIL want to attack us for who we are not what we do and already last year 7 attacks have been thwarted. The threat level before further airstrikes was imminent and immediate, and I believe it makes sense to repel ISIL in and around their HQ where much of their terrorist operations and planning takes place.
At Prime Minister’s Questions I made the point that ISIL attack not just Christians, Yazidis and Muslims but also pillage their churches, shrines and mosques. It is a key reason why I have established an All Party Parliamentary Group for the Protection of cultural heritage. It was launched last month at City Hall by the Mayor who has challenged us to help deliver an action plan for London to be a protector of stolen heritage. The new APPG will seek to challenge the illegal sale of looted antiquities which have been identified by the UN Security Council as a major source of funding for terrorists. If you are interested in finding out more, please do have a look at my website or contact me for further information.
In the light of the terrorist threat, as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee I have been making the case for proper funding of counter terrorism and local police, who provide vital intelligence and security. I was pleased and relieved that the Comprehensive Spending Review increased spending on intelligence services and protected police funding. This is the right decision given that it is the Government’s primary responsibility to protect its citizens.
In an increasingly insecure world it was even more significant at Christmas to remember the birth of Jesus Christ – the “Wonderful Counsellor… the Prince of Peace.” My best wishes to you and your family for a peaceful New Year.
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