Below are the views of Lib Dem Lord Tony Greaves – I agree with him entirely.
My Lords, if we had the Motion in front of us to vote on tonight I would vote against it. In doing so, I would be voting for the views of the majority of members of my party. Last night, when the Liberal Democrat MPs said they were going to support the Government, with various caveats, a ripple of surprise and shock went through the party. Some of us spent a great deal of time last night talking to people who were angry and felt they had been let down by our MPs.
British bombing will have little effect in practice. On its own it will not make any real difference. In that and many other respects I associate myself with the remarks that have just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. The danger of ‘mission creep’ is a real problem.
The main impact of the Government’s Motion, this debate and the debate in the past few days has not been on international politics but on British politics. I have tried to understand why the Government have brought this forward at this time but I find it difficult to do so. My noble friend Lord Taverne may have some ideas.
Last week, the Liberal Democrats and Tim Farron, as leader, stated five conditions for supporting the Government today. He wrote to members of the party and said:
“We are writing to outline the criteria against which we will judge our response”.
He referred to five conditions. I emphasise the word “conditions”. The first was legal and I do not want to say anything more than my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford has said because he is an expert on these matters and I am not. The second was a wider diplomatic framework,
“including efforts towards a no-bomb zone to protect civilians.”
I see no evidence that there has been any progress on that.
The third was the United Kingdom to lead—I underline the word “lead”—a concerted international effort to put pressure on Gulf states, specifically Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, to stop the funding of jihadi groups and to do much more to assist in the effort to defeat ISIL, establish peace in Syria and help with the refugee situation. It was added:
“They are currently doing very little”.
I think that was a reference to the Government. I see no progress whatever on that or any commitments given. The fifth was domestic. Among other things he said:
“We call on the Government to step up its acceptance of Syrian refugees, and opt in to Save the Children’s proposal to re-home 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from within Europe”.
The chances of this Government agreeing to that are close to zero. If I am wrong, I will hold my hand up and praise them to the heavens.
We are also told that things have changed because the Vienna talks are taking place and that this means there will be co-ordinated international action, a plan for the future, plans for the regeneration of Syria, rebuilding and so on. That seems to be an argument for waiting until that is in place before taking the kind of action now being proposed.
I do not believe that what is being put forward by the Government will work. In three or four or six months’ time we will be debating this issue again and people will want to do more. There is an old maxim: if you are in doubt about things and not completely convinced, first do no harm. Bombing at this time in Syria and Raqqa will do more harm than good.
With thanks to Tony Dawson for the lead to this posting