Britain must decide whether to take on the evil of so-called Islamic State or “wait for them to attack us”, says PM

Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement to MPs in the House of Commons where he is setting ou

Prime Minister David Cameron makes a statement to MPs in the House of Commons where he is setting out his case for the extension of RAF airstrikes from Iraq into Syria. PA Wire - Credit: PA

Britain must decide whether to take on the 'evil' of so-called Islamic State in its Syrian heartlands or 'wait for them to attack us', Prime Minister David Cameron has told MPs as he made the case for air strikes.

Protesters at Whitehall in London, during a demonstration organised by Stop the War Coalition agains

Protesters at Whitehall in London, during a demonstration organised by Stop the War Coalition against proposed bombing of the Islamic State in Syria. Photo: Hannah McKay/PA Wire - Credit: PA

The Commons is due to vote on military action at 10pm tonight with more than 150 MPs wishing to speak in a marathon debate.

Starting that debate Mr Cameron insisted he had 'respect' for those who will vote 'no' as he sought to play down a row over comments he made to Tory backbenchers last night, when he reportedly urged them not to vote with a 'bunch of terrorist sympathisers'

But he warned MPs: 'Isil have brutally murdered British hostages. They have inspired the worst terrorist attack against British people since 7/7 on the beaches of Tunisia.

'And they have plotted atrocity after atrocity on the streets here at home.

Islamic State militants preparing to fire a mortar to shell towards Syrian government forces positio

Islamic State militants preparing to fire a mortar to shell towards Syrian government forces positions at Tal Arn in Aleppo province, Syria. (Islamic State militant website via AP) - Credit: AP

'Since November last year, our security services have foiled no fewer than seven different plots against our people. So this threat is very real.

'The question is this: do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat and do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands, from where they are plotting to kill British people.

Most Read

'Or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us.'

Mr Cameron promised to take dozens of interventions as he made his case for war ahead of the crunch vote.

He told MPs: 'I am not pretending the answers are simple. The situation in Syria is incredibly complex - I am not overstating the contribution that our incredible servicemen and women can make.

'Nor am I ignoring the risks of military action, nor am I pretending military action is any more than one part of the answer - I am absolutely clear we must pursue a comprehensive strategy that also includes, political, diplomatic and humanitarian action.

'I know the long-term solution in Syria, as in Iraq, must ultimately be a government that represents all of its people. One that can work with us to defeat the evil organisation of Isil for good.

'But not withstanding all of this, there is a simple question at the heart of the debate today.'

Seeking to head off complaints about his attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Cameron told MPs: 'The question before the House today is how we keep the British people safe from the threat posed by Isil.

'Let me be clear from the outset. This is not about whether we want to fight terrorism, it's about how best we do that. I respect governments of all political colours in this country have had to fight terrorism and had to take the people with them as they do so.

'I respect people have come to a different view from the Government than the one I will set out today and those who vote accordingly.'

Former Labour minister Caroline Flint was the first to call on Mr Cameron to retract his remark, intervening to say: 'Will you apologise for the remarks made?'

Mr Cameron said he could 'not have been clearer' in his opening remarks.

'No shortage of countries bombing Isil'

There is 'no shortage' of countries bombing Islamic State in Syria, Angus Robertson said, as he sought to make the case against expanding UK military action.

Speaking on an amendment signed by more than 100 MPs from six parties - including Tories and Labour - the SNP's leader in Westminster said his party does 'share the concerns of everybody else' about the terrorist threat posed by Daesh (Isil).

But he does not believe UK air strikes should be expanded into the country.

He said: 'There is agreement across this House that the threat from Daesh is real and doing nothing is not an option.

'However, we recall that only two years ago this Prime Minister, this Government, wanted us to bomb the opponents of Daesh which would no doubt have strengthened them.

'Now of course we haven't heard it yet but there is no shortage of countries currently bombing in Syria.'

He added: 'The point is, there is bombing currently under way in Syria and to pretend that what is being proposed while not taking that into account is highly misleading.'

The Commons is due to vote on military action at 10pm tonight with more than 150 MPs wishing to speak in a marathon debate.

Earlier, David Cameron insisted that Britain must decide whether to take on the 'evil' of so-called Islamic State in its Syrian heartlands or 'wait for them to attack us'.

The Prime Minister refused to apologise for branding anti-war Labour MPs 'terrorist sympathisers' but insisted that he respects those who will vote against military action.

He sought to head off criticisms of his case for action, admitting that the 70,000 so-called moderate Syrian rebels were not all ideal partners but saying he was prepared to work with them and insisting that Britain's precision weapons would lead to fewer civilian casualties.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said air strikes would 'almost inevitably lead to the deaths of innocents' and accused the PM of rushing a Commons vote through before public opinion turns against military action.

Mr Corbyn questioned whether air strikes would contribute to a peaceful settlement for Syria and warned that they could increase the possibility of terror attacks in Britain.