Extending Air Strikes in Syria


By now, you will probably know that the House of Commons voted 397 votes to 223 in favour of extending UK participation in air strikes against ISIL/Daesh to Syria.

As I am sure you can appreciate, I have received hundreds of e-mails and other communications about this issue and I have done my best to keep constituents up to date with my thoughts through email replies, via social media and on my website.

I gave the issue a great deal of thought and I concluded that I should vote against the extension of air strikes.

You can read my speech here or watch it here. As you may be aware, the Government rejected calls to allocate two days for MPs to discuss this issue. Even so, there was over ten hours of debate but with well over a hundred MPs asking to speak, there was a four minute limit on speeches when I was called so I could not cover all the points I had intended. For your information, I have uploaded a draft of the longer speech which I had hoped to make here. My decision reflected the concerns I expressed when I wrote to the Prime Minister about on Monday.

Decisions about war are perhaps the most serious MPs make. This was not one which split along party lines and it was right that Labour MPs had a free vote. It was important that every MP voted according to his or her conscience.  It is therefore regrettable that the last few days have also been marred by examples of MPs being bullied on social media or having their integrity impugned if they did not vote one way or another.

Finally, the decision to extend military action has now been taken and, whatever our differing opinions on last night’s vote, all of us have a common responsibility to defeat the evil that is Daesh/ISIL. Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn, underlined this last night in what is being hailed as one of the most powerful speeches made to Parliament in many years. Watch it here.

I reached a different conclusion from Hilary on the specific question of bombing Raqqa but that does not affect the force of the case he put forward about the nature of the threat to us all that Daesh represents. His words deserve to be remembered and acted up on by us all.

Read the Hansard of my speech here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151202/debtext/151202-0003.htm#15120254001178

Watch my speech in the debate on extending air strikes in Syria here: http://goo.gl/4IVVXU
Read my letter to the Prime Minister here: http://richardburden.com/2015/11/syria-my-letter-to-the-prime-minister/

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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You can reach me by email at richard@richardburden.com or use the form on the Contact page to send me a message.