Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament on Paris attacks and G20 Summit


With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the terrorist attack in Paris and the G20 in Turkey this weekend. On Paris, the Home Secretary gave the House the chilling statistics yesterday. And we know that among the victims, was a 36 year old Briton – Nick Alexander – who was killed at the Bataclan. I know the thoughts and prayers of the whole House will be with the families and friends of all those affected. On Saturday I spoke to President Hollande to express the condolences of the British people and our commitment to help in whatever way we can. Mr Speaker, after our horror and our anger, must come our resolve and our determination to rid this world of this evil. So let me set out the steps we are taking to deal with this terrorist threat.

Full spectrum

The more we learn about what happened in Paris, the more it justifies the full spectrum approach we have discussed before in this House. When you are dealing with radicalised European Muslims, linked to ISIL in Syria and inspired by a poisonous narrative of extremism… …you need an approach that covers the full range… …military power… …counter-terrorism expertise… …and defeating the poisonous narrative that is the root cause of this evil. Let me take each in turn.

Military power

First, we should be clear that this murderous violence requires a strong security response. That means continuing our efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq. And where necessary it means working with our allies to strike against those who pose a direct threat to the safety of British people around the world. Together, coalition forces have now damaged over 13,500 targets. We have helped local forces to regain 30% of ISIL territory in Iraq… …we’ve helped to retake Kobane and push ISIL back towards Raqqa. And on Friday, Kurdish forces retook Sinjar. The UK is playing its part – training local forces, striking targets in Iraq and providing vital intelligence support. Last Thursday, the United States carried out an air strike in Raqqa, Syria, targeting Mohammed Emwazi – the ISIL executioner known as Jihadi John. This was a result of months of painstaking work in which America and Britain worked hand in glove to stop this vicious murderer. Mr Speaker, it is important that the whole House understands the reality of the situation we are in. There is no government in Syria we can work with, particularly not in that part of Syria. There are no rigorous police investigations or independent courts upholding justice in Raqqa. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots against our people. In this situation, we do not protect the British people by sitting back and wishing that things were different. We have to act to keep our people safe. And that is what this government will always do.


Second, counter-terrorism here in the UK. Over the past year alone our outstanding police and security services have already foiled no fewer than 7 terrorist plots right here in Britain. The people in our security services work incredibly hard. They are a credit to our nation. And we should pay tribute to them in our House today. And now we must do more to help them in their vital work. So in next week’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, we will make a major additional investment in our world class intelligence agencies. This will include over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff… …and more money to increase our network of counter-terrorism experts in the Middle East, in North Africa, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. At the G20 Summit in Turkey this weekend we agreed additional steps to better protect ourselves from the threat of foreign fighters, by sharing intelligence and stopping them from travelling. We also agreed for the first time to work together to strengthen global aviation security. We need robust and consistent standards of aviation security in every airport in the world. And the UK will at least double its spending in this area.

Defeating the ideology

Third, to defeat this terrorist threat in the long run, we must also understand and address its root causes. That means confronting the poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism itself. As I’ve argued before that means going after both violent and non-violent extremists. Those that sow the poison but stop short of actually promoting violence: they are part of the problem. We will improve integration – not least by inspecting and shutting down any educational institutions that are teaching intolerance. And we will actively encourage reforming and moderate Muslim voices to speak up and challenge the extremists as so many do. Mr Speaker, it cannot be said enough that the extremist ideology is not true Islam. But it doesn’t work to deny any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists… Not least because these extremists self-identify themselves as Muslims. There is no point denying that. We need to take apart their arguments and demonstrate they are wrong. In doing so we need the continued help of Muslim communities and Muslim scholars. They are playing a powerful role and I commend them for their absolutely essential work. We cannot stand neutral is this battle of ideas. We have to back those who share our values – with practical help, funding, campaigns, protection and political representation. This is a fundamental part of how we can defeat this terrorism both at home and abroad.

G20 Summit

Mr Speaker, turning to the G20 Summit, there were also important discussions on Syria… …and on dealing with other long term threats to our security, such as climate change. Let me briefly address those.


On Syria, we discussed how we do more to help all those in desperate humanitarian need… …and how to find a political solution to the conflict… Britain as is often said is already providing £1.1 billion in vital life-saving assistance. We are the second largest bi-lateral donor in the world. Last week we committed a further £275 million to be spent in Turkey, a country hosting over 2 million refugees. And in February the United Kingdom will seek to raise further significant new funding… …by co-hosting a donors conference in London – together with Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations. But none of this is a substitute for the most urgent need of all – to find a political solution that brings peace to Syria and enables the millions of refugees to return home. Yesterday I held talks with President Putin. We reviewed the progress made by our foreign ministers in Vienna to deliver a transition in Syria. We still have disagreements – there are still big gaps between us – but there is progress. I also met with President Obama and European leaders in the G20. We agreed some important concrete steps forward, including basing some British aircraft, alongside other NATO allies, at the airbase at Incirlik if that is the decision of the North Atlantic Council which meets shortly. These will be in an air defence role to support Turkey at this difficult time. We also agreed the importance of stepping up our joint effort to deal with ISIL – in Iraq, in Syria and wherever it manifests itself. This raises important questions for our country. We must ask ourselves if we are really doing all we can be doing, all we should be doing, to deal with the threat that ISIL poses to us directly – not just through the measures we are taking at home, but by dealing with ISIL on the ground, in the territory that it controls. Now we are taking part in air strikes over Iraq – and have struck over 350 targets and significant action has been taken in recent hours. But ISIL is not just present in Iraq. It operates across the border in Syria, a border that is meaningless for it – to ISIL it is all one space. And it is in Syria – in Raqqa – that ISIL has its headquarters, and it is from Raqqa that some of the main threats against this country are planned and orchestrated. Raqqa is the head of the snake. Over Syria we are supporting our allies – the US, France, Jordan and Gulf countries – with intelligence, surveillance and refuelling. But I believe as I’ve said many times before we should be doing more. We face a direct and growing threat to our country, and we need to deal with it, not just in Iraq, but in Syria too. I have always said there is a strong case for us doing so; our allies are asking us to; and the case for doing so has only grown stronger after the Paris attacks. We cannot expect, we should not expect others to carry the burdens – and the risks – of protecting our country. Now I recognise that there are concerns in this House. What difference would action by the UK really make? Would it make the situation worse? How does the recent Russian action affect the situation? How, above all, how would a decision by Britain to join in strikes against ISIL in Syria fit into a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL… …and a diplomatic strategy to bring the war in Syria to an end? I understand those concerns, and I know they must be answered. I believe they can be answered. Many of them were expressed in the recent report by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. My firm conviction is that we need to act against ISIL in Syria. There is a compelling case for doing so. It is for the government, I accept, to make that case to this House and to the country. I can therefore announce that as a first important step to do so, I will respond personally to the report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. I will set out our comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and our vision for a more stable and peaceful Middle East. This strategy – in my view – should include taking action in Syria which I’ve spoken about. And I hope that setting out the arguments in this way will help to build support right across this House for the action that I believe is necessary to take.

Global challenges

That is what I am going to be putting in place over the coming days and I hope that colleagues from across the House will engage with that and make clear their views so we can have a strong vote in this House of Commons and do the right thing for our country. Finally, the G20 also addressed other longer term threats to global security. In just two weeks’ time, we will gather in Paris to agree a global climate change deal. This time – unlike Kyoto – it will include the USA and China. Here at this summit, I urged leaders to keep up the ambition of limiting global warming by 2050 to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Every country needs to put forward its programme for reducing carbon emissions. And as G20 countries, we also need to do more to provide the financing that is needed to help poorer countries around the world switch to greener forms of energy… …and adapt to the effects of climate change. We also agreed that we should do more to wipe out the corruption that chokes off development… ….and deal with antimicrobial resistance. Corruption is the cancer at the heart of so many of the problems the world faces today… …from migrants fleeing corrupt African states… …to corrupt governments undermining our efforts on global poverty by preventing people from getting the revenues and the services that are rightfully theirs. While if antibiotics stop working properly, the antimicrobial resistant issue, millions will die unnecessarily. So these are both vital issues on which the United Kingdom is taking a real lead.


Mr Speaker, let me conclude by returning to the terrorist threat. Here in the UK, the threat level is already severe – which means an attack is highly likely, and will remain so. That is why we continue to encourage the public to remain vigilant. And we will do all we can to support our police and intelligence agencies as they work around the clock. The terrorist aim is clear. It is to divide us and to destroy our way of life. So now more than ever we must come together and stand united – carrying on with the way of life that we know and love. Tonight England will play France at Wembley. This match is going ahead. Our people stand together… …as they have done so many times throughout history when faced with evil. And once again – together – we will prevail. And I commend this statement to the House.
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