The House of Commons will on Wednesday hold a one-day debate and vote on a motion allowing the David Cameron government to launch air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, it was announced on Tuesday.
The motion is expected to be passed with the ruling Conservative party having a majority in the house, and between 40 and 100 Labour MPs likely to support it. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is not issuing a whip and has allowed MPs a free vote, despite his opposition to the motion.
Prime Minister Cameron and his ministers have been making the case for more British participation in global efforts to tackle the IS challenge, but have gone about it with some caution given continuing concerns over the way in which Britain went into the 2003 Iraq conflict.
The motion says the IS poses a “direct threat” to the UK, says the UN resolution urges states to take “all necessary measures” to combat the group, insists there is a legal basis for action, welcomes the Vienna peace talks as well as the ongoing humanitarian relief, stresses the importance of post-conflict planning and points out that the British government is not committing not to deploy ground troops.
Defence secretary Michael Fallon told the Defence Select Committee on Tuesday that Britain is already a target for IS extremists, and added that the threat had “intensified”. He said “air strikes alone” will not destroy the IS but can reduce its ability to attack the UK.
Corbyn had sought a two-day debate but the government scheduled it for a day. A spokesman for Corbyn said: “By refusing a full two-day debate, David Cameron is demonstrating he knows the debate is running away from him, and that the case he made last week is falling apart.”
In 2013, the coalition government’s motion allowing air strikes in Syria had been defeated, prompting Cameron to tread carefully this time. He announced last week that such a motion will be put to vote only if there is broad support for it to be passed in the house.