“This is an issue which has weighed heavily on my conscience and I have deliberated over this decision more than any other since I was elected as your Member of Parliament in 2010. This matter is too serious to be turned into an issue of personalities and, in particular, of support or otherwise for the leader of the Labour party -; it is nothing to do with that.
“This is the most serious issue I have been asked to make a decision on since becoming an MP -; that of the very real threat of ISIL to our communities, an issue of national security. My priority in making this decision is firstly to do what is best for my constituents of Sunderland Central and, secondly, the wider United Kingdom.
“I listened carefully to the case the Prime Minister made to Parliament last week and since then, I have attended various briefings on the issue. I have also received hundreds of emails, phone calls and messages on social media from constituents both for and against military action. I have also spoken to a wide range of party members and constituents to help inform my decision.
“We should be in no doubt about the danger we face from ISIL. We know of their despicable beheadings, crucifixions, throwing gay men off buildings, the enslavement of women and the discovery of a mass grave of women in Sinjar. We know that they are responsible for the deaths of 30 British tourists on a beach in Tunisia, possibly 224 Russian holidaymakers on a plane, 178 people in suicide bombings in Beirut, Ankara and Suruc and 130 people in Paris.
“We also know that ISIL is plotting more attacks on the United Kingdom and other countries from their headquarters in Raqqa. Recent events in Paris confirm the threat that ISIL poses to our own safety. In the past six months, our intelligence services have foiled seven attacks in Britain. The Head of MI5 and the Chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee have confirmed that ISIL plans to attack our country and MPs have confirmed that ISIL plans to attack our country and MPs have a responsibility to ensure that the people of the UK are safe on their streets. It is clear, therefore, that drastic action needs to be taken to eradicate ISIL and doing nothing is not an option.
“At present, however, I do not believe that the answer to eradiating this evil is to rush to war. There must be a comprehensive strategy in place to bring about an end to the Syrian civil war and defeat ISIL. I am not convinced that extending air strikes into Syria will make our country safer nor will they destroy ISIL.
“In the end, my decision to vote against the extension of military airstrikes against ISIL in Syria came down to a failure of the Government to satisfy me that there was a coherent plan of what would follow airstrikes. Their talk of 70,000 ground troops made up of a combination of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ plus other moderate groups signed up to ‘Geneva 1’ was simply not convincing. ISIL cannot be defeated by airstrikes alone. There needs to be more action by the international community to tackle sources of funding and arms for ISIL. Without a wider strategic plan, the Government’s decision may make a desperate situation much worse.”