MPs are locked in a crucial debate to decide whether to back launching British air strikes against the Islamic State (Isis) in Syria. For much of the day, parliamentarians have been arguing their case for or against joining other countries in a bombing campaign against the terrorist group. The debate will culminate in a vote at around 10pm on 2 December, with RAF strikes potentially commencing within days if the MPs back the motion.
The government motion to be voted on would allow air strikes against Isis only and would not allow for British troops to be deployed in any ground combat operations. It notes the air strikes will run alongside supporting peace talks in Vienna, continuing providing humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees and preparing for "post-conflict stabilisation and reconstruction" in Syria.
Starting at 11.30am, David Cameron and his cabinet led the calls in favour of air strikes, arguing that Isis is a threat to the UK's national security. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, a former chair of the Stop the War Coalition, has strongly opposed taking further military action, describing the prime minister's case for bombing as "unconvincing". He argued that that a "comprehensive" peace settlement to the Syrian civil war is the only way to defeat the Isis militant group.
Labour has granted its MPs a free vote on the issue and Corbyn's own shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn, is in favour of air strikes. Some 110 MPs from six parties have already signed up to an amendment seeking to block air strikes.
Updates, including highlights of key moments of the debate, will be published here throughout the day.
UPDATE [22.24 GMT]
UPDATE [22.21 GMT]
MPs are now voting on the main motion on whether to attack Isis in Syria. The result is expected at about 22.30 GMT. Did Hilary Benn's speech do enough to sway the MPs sitting on the fence?
UPDATE [22.17 GMT]
MPs have soundly rejected the amendment to block military action in Syria with 390 noes to 211 ayes.
UPDATE [22.06 GMT]:
Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn was given a round of applause by fellow MPs, despite saying that he will vote for military action. Benn insisted that although his view differs from Corbyn's, he denied that the Labour leader is a terrorist sympathiser. "He is an honest, a principled, a decent and a good man," Benn said.
Benn said there is a "clear and unambiguous UN resolution" giving legal justification against Isis. "Why would we not uphold the settled will of the United Nations?" Benn asked. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that it would be remembered as one of the greatest speeches delivered in the Commons.
Benn's closing remarks:
"I hope the House will bear with me if I direct my closing remarks to my Labour friends and colleagues on this side of the House.
As a party we have always been defined by our internationalism. We believe we have a responsibility one to another; we never have and we never should walk by on the other side of the road. And we are here faced by fascists; not just their calculated brutality, but their belief they are superior to every single one of us in this chamber tonight and all of the people we represent; they hold us in contempt, they hold our values in contempt, they hold our belief in tolerance and democracy in contempt, they hold our democracy, the means by which we make our decision tonight, in contempt. What we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the international brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco; it's why this entire House stood up against Hitler and Mussolini; it is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice.
And my view, Mr Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil. It is now time for us to do our bit in Syria and that is why I ask my colleagues to vote for this motion tonight."
UPDATE [21.29 GMT]:
UPDATE [21.21 GMT]:
Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood will not vote for the motion. As a Sunni Muslim, she says that Isis does not represent Islam and that she does not want to see them simply defeated, but eradicated. In spite of this, she Mahmood said that she does not believe that the proposed action will not work.
She said: "There has been some suggestion in the last day or so that when the time for apportioning blame comes, those who have voted in favour will have to step forward and there will be nowhere to hide. If you vote against, as I will, the implication is that you can avoid the blame. To those who think this way, let me say this: if only the world were that simple. There are consequences and innocent people will die through action and in-action. Whatever we do tonight we will all bear a measure of responsibility."
UPDATE [20.43 GMT]:
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that RAF jets are in position to launch air strikes in Syria "very quickly" following tonight's vote. "Probably not tonight but it could be tomorrow night," Hammond said.
We are already flying reconnaissance missions over Syria," added Hammond. "Our planes are carrying weapons over Syria into Iraq, so it would be a relatively simple exercise to extend the permissions to allow them to release those weapons over Syria where they identify legitimate targets."
Hammond highlighted that Putin has the power to end the "madness" of the civil war in Syria. "There is one person in the world who can bring this madness to an end immediately and that is Mr Putin by picking up the telephone to Mr Assad and telling him the game is over," Hammond told Channel 4 News. "And, when the time is right, that is what I expect will happen".
UPDATE [20.21 GMT]:
UPDATE [20.15 GMT]:
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has taken to social media to condemn reports of abuse that some Labour party members and MPs have been subjected to as tensions run high ahead of the crucial vote on Syria. Corbyn wrote: "Over recent days I have received a number of reports that there have been some incidents where Labour Party members and MPs have been abused. Unfortunately the Prime Minister took part in this himself by downgrading this debate by calling those who vote against extending airstrikes 'terrorist sympathisers.'
"I want to be very clear - there is no place in the Labour Party or from those that support us - for bullying of any sort, from any side of the debate. It flies in the face of everything I believe and everything I stand for."
UPDATE [20.03 GMT]:
Labour MP Alison McGovern has delivered a powerful speech and said that her support is conditional. On the bring of tears, McGovern told the house that should she vote for air strikes in Syria tonight, she will be holding David Cameron to account going forward. Here's what she said:
"If I vote for airstrikes today, I need to believe that the prime minister will stand beside those in the world who need him tomorrow. Part of the justification for the strikes is to show our commitment to the coalition against Daesh, that we are truly part of the fight, but if the prime minister wants my support, I want to see his commitment to the bigger fight ahead of us. Because the biggest recruitment for vile extremism is want. It is dissatisfaction with the chances the world is offering you, whether in the back streets of Britain or the cities of Africa and the Middle East where young people find that the powerful in our world forget them far too quickly."
UPDATE [19.43 GMT]:
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has just imposed a three minute time limit on speeches.
UPDATE [19.40 GMT]:
Former Labour Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett appears to have been a key figure in the debate, with a Labour source supporting air strikes saying that at least 45 MPs from the party will vote with the government, according to the Guardian. The source added that the figure could rise to 50 due to Dame Beckett's speech. Here is an extract from her speech:
"Some say simply innocent people are more likely to be killed. Military action does create casualties, however much we try to minimise them. So should we on those grounds abandon action in Iraq, even though undertaken at the request of Iraq's government and it does seem to be making a difference? Should we take no further action against Daesh, who are themselves killing innocent people and striving to kill more every day of the week? Or should we simply leave it to others?"
Watch her speech below:
UPDATE [19.26 GMT]:
Mary Creagh, Labour MP for Wakefield has said that she will vote in favour of air strikes. She said: "Isil [Isis] poses a clear threat to Britain" and that there is "no hope" of negotiating with the terror group.
UPDATE [19.22 GMT]:
Labour peer Viscount Hanway has labelled bombing a "blunt and heavy handed way of attacking the enemy." He said: "I am well appraised of the logic that if we are bombing ISIL in Iraq then we should also be bombing them in Syria - my conclusion is that we should be bombing them in neither".
UPDATE [19.18 GMT]:
An increasing number of people are gathering at Parliament Square to protest air strikes in Syria. A woman who demonstrated by climbing under a lorry has been arrested by police.
UPDATE [18.58 GMT]:
Here are the top five questions that people are asking on Google:
UPDATE [18.53 GMT]:
Tom Tugendhat, Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling has wrapped up a powerful and passionate plea for air strikes in Syria. He said: "We must stand with he French today, we might need them to stand with us tomorrow."
UPDATE [18.16 GMT]:
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband has said that he will vote against air strikes in Syria, saying that Isis cannot be defeated from the air alone. Miliband said that the argument for what British air strikes will contribute in the fight against Isis is weak and that a clear strategy is lacking. Here is an extract from his statement:
"A strategy for the defeat of ISIL [Isis] depends crucially on ground troops and a political settlement, or the path towards a political settlement. That is because ISIL cannot be defeated from the air alone, as even supporters of air strikes acknowledge, and because ISIL's success depends on the vacuum created from a multi-sided civil war.
"Neither an explanation of who the ground troops will be, nor the political settlement we are seeking in Syria, or how we get there, has been provided by the government. We would be going ahead without an adequate road-map or a clear strategy.
"The other case made for extending air strikes is that it will make us safer here at home. But I do not believe this case has been adequately made either.
"ISIL is a network, not simply an organisation with a headquarters. What is more, nearly 3000 coalition air strikes have already been aimed at Syria and the case for what British air strikes will add is weak.
"ISIL can only be defeated in Syria with an effective and comprehensive plan. That is what is required and the proposition fails to meet that test. That is why I will be voting against the motion."
Peers are also debating the Syria motion in the House of Lords. Former foreign secretary William Hague has spoken to fellow peers suggesting it may be necessary to break up Syria and Iraq in terms of territory. He said: "We should be open to new solutions. If communities and leaders cannot live peacefully together in Syria and Iraq then we will have to try them living peacefully but separately in the partition of those countries." Repeating comments made previously, Hague also spoke of the possible need for troops on the ground - something the motion currently being debated specifically rules out.
UPDATE [15.35 GMT]:
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, who refused to back air strikes against the Syrian regime back in 2013, has spoken on why he now supports the bombing of Syria. He said his decision had been guided by former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy's opposition to the "illegal" 2003 Iraq war, and his support for intervention in Bosnia. Farron said: "The spectre of the Iraq war in 2003 hangs over this house and hangs over the whole debate that we're having in this country." He went on to say while his instincts are "anti-war" and that this has been "one of the toughest if not toughest decisions that I have had to make in parliament", he would still back the motion. He said he was influenced by UN resolution 249, which he said "permits" and "urges" the UK to combat Isis, and by a visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. He spoke of coming across a young child arriving with his family on a boat there, who asked his father: "Daddy, are Isil here?"
UPDATE [15.00 GMT]:
Former defence secretary Liam Fox has urged MPs to back air strikes against Isis in Syria, saying Britain was seeking to expand an existing military campaign over a "non-existent" border in the sand. He said: "Our allies simply believe it is absurd for Britain to be part of a military campaign against Daesh but not in Syria." The Father of the House, Sir Gerald Kaufman, instead warned MPs that air strikes would result in the killing of civilians. He told the commons: "There is absolutely no evidence of any kind that bombing Daesh, bombing Raqqa, will result in an upsurge of other people in the region to get rid of them. What it would do, it might cause some damage - it won't undermine them. What it will undoubtedly do, despite the assurances of the Prime Minister, is it will kill innocent civilians. I am not going to be a party to killing innocent civilians for what will simply be a gesture."
UPDATE [12.50 GMT]:
MPs have started what has become an animated debate in parliament over whether Britain should launch air strikes against Isis in Syria. The speaker of the house John Bercow began by announcing that some 157 MPs had asked to speak.
Speaking to the house, David Cameron began by warning MPs that Isis had "brutally murdered British hostages". He said: "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. 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. Or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us."
Cameron was soon under pressure from opposition MPs over comments he reportedly made accusing those thinking of voting "no" at the end of today's debate as being "terrorist sympathisers". Former Labour minister Caroline Flint, Lib Dem former minister Tom Brake, and former SNP leader Alex Salmond all called for Cameron to apologise for the remarks. Cameron did not apologise, instead saying: "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."
Following a question from Brake MP, Cameron then attempted to reassure the house that the government would do all it could to minimise civilian casualties during any air strikes. The PM said: "In Iraq for a year and three months there have been no reports of civilian casualties related to the strikes that Britain has taken. Our starting point is to avoid civilian casualties altogether.
"And I have argued - and indeed I'll argue again today - that our precision weapons and the skill of our pilots make civilian casualties less likely so Britain being involved in the strikes in Iraq can both be effective in prosecuting the campaign against Isil but also can help us to avoid civilian casualties as well."
Jeremy Corbyn is currently delivering his speech, arguing against the motion. The full text of his speech can be seen here. He said since Cameron made his statement to MPs on Syria last week, doubts over airstrikes had only "grown and multiplied".
He said: "Whether it's the lack of a strategy worth the name, the absence of credible ground troops, the missing diplomatic plan for a Syrian settlement, the failure to address the impact on the terrorist threat, or the refugee crisis and civilian casualties: it's become increasingly clear that the Prime Minister's proposal for military action simply doesn't stack up."
Corbyn then went on to attack Cameron for his comments calling those opposed to air strikes as "terrorist sympathisers", adding: "The Prime Minister's attempt to brand those who plan to vote against the government as 'terrorist sympathisers' both demeans the office of the Prime Minister and undermines the seriousness of the deliberations we are having toeday."