Hywel Williams – 2015 Speech on Syrian Air Strikes

Below is the text of the speech made by Hywel Williams in the House of Commons on 2 December 2015.

I will be voting for the amendment tonight, as will my colleagues in Plaid Cymru.

Earlier this afternoon, the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard)—he is no longer in his place—referred, with a magisterial wave, to parties on these Opposition Benches as the “pacifist parties.” Plaid Cymru is not a pacifist party, as was confirmed only yesterday by our leader in the national Assembly. We opposed military action in Iraq, but we supported it in Libya, although now I have my doubts.

I have many concerns about the Government’s proposals, but I will not list them all. The Prime Minister said that 70,000 moderate Syrian fighters would supply the boots on the ground that he—rightly, in my view—will not commit to himself. That assertion is absent from the motion, and my impression is that supporters of the bombing have become increasingly coy on that matter. No surprise there.

We have been presented many times with a false choice, a false dichotomy. We have heard that we must either bomb or do nothing, but surely we can either bomb or do things that, in my view, are reasonable, proportionate and effective. For example, we could provide further support for the peshmerga—the force that has proved itself to be so effective against Daesh, against the odds and with very few resources. Pressure could be put on Turkey to desist from attacking the Kurds so that they can both concentrate on defeating Daesh.

What can we do to secure a future for the Kurds in southern and western Kurdistan, and to secure a settlement for the Kurds in eastern Anatolia? No one has yet made that point this afternoon, but it is a small but essential part of the jigsaw. Daesh does not act alone, and it is abundantly clear that they are killers, not talkers. Daesh has international sponsors who provide it with money and material. What further pressure can we put on the Gulf states and their citizens, and on Turkey, to stop the supply of resources that Daesh needs to wage its evil war?

Syria is not some distant land of which we know little. Daesh and its supporters are eager to wage war on the streets of western Europe, but those who perpetrated that foul work in Paris were home-grown, as were those who bombed London. Terrorists are being trained in Syria, but they are radicalised through the specious arguments of those who see oppression everywhere and who misuse distortions of Islam to inspire mayhem and murder. That is being done here and on the internet, and we could take steps in that respect. I will not speak about the Vienna process because of pressure on time.

Members have asked whether bombing will make us safer, and some have said that we are proposing to keep our heads down. In terms of more bombings in the west, if we bomb Syria, we will be sowing a further 1,000 dragons’ teeth. Not bombing is also a serious security consideration, however. It is not just a matter of keeping our heads down.

I was in this House when Tony Blair, at his persuasive best, convinced a majority that Britain was in imminent danger of attack and that we should wage war in Iraq. As has already been said, 2003 is not 2015, but we are still waiting for the Chilcot report. I am not starry-eyed about the prospects for that report, but I believe its earlier publication would have been valuable in informing this debate. The delay is deeply regrettable.