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Hunt urges 'robust' action on IS

Published 03/07/2015

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that failure to hit Islamic State could be taken as weakness by the terror group
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that failure to hit Islamic State could be taken as weakness by the terror group

Failing to take on Islamic State (IS) in its Syrian heartland could be seen as "weakness" by the jihadis, a Cabinet minister has claimed as the Government moved towards recommending British military action to take on the terror group.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Government wanted to re-examine the case for a bombing campaign in Syria, but stressed that it would need the support of MPs and the public.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon set out the evidence yesterday for extending RAF air strikes into Syria, telling MPs that was where IS organised and directed its operations.

He made clear, however, that the Government would not stage a new vote of MPs unless there was "some consensus" across the House for widening the existing RAF operations against IS in Iraq.

Mr Hunt told BBC2's Question Time: "The Defence Secretary has said ... that he thinks we need to relook at the case for bombing in Syria because the situation internationally has changed and Parliament has changed. We have to carry the British people with us on such an important thing.

"In the end, these people thrive on our weakness and the big decision we have to take is: they stand up for what they believe in, are we going to stand up for what we believe in?"

He said a "robust" response would involve "t aking them on at source, taking them on in their home country, tackling the ideology they espouse, making sure we support the intelligence services".

"There are things we are doing now and there are more things that we will consider in due course," he said.

With senior Conservative MPs continuing to their voice their opposition, the support of Labour is crucial if ministers are to be sure of a Commons majority.

In a reversal of its previous position last September - when Ed Miliband made clear his MPs would block strikes on Syria - shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker said Labour would "carefully consider" any new proposals from the Government.

Nevertheless, with a leadership contest continuing, the signs are that David Cameron will wait until September when a successor to Mr Miliband is in place before going back to the Commons with a new motion.

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn set out his opposition to military action , telling Question Time: "I'm not convinced that bombing from 30,000 feet is actually going to do anything other than make the situation rather worse. There is already a four-way civil war in Syria."

Mr Cameron's official spokeswoman said there was a need for "more thought, more deliberation, more time" before any decision was taken, although she stressed that he still believed that ultimately IS had to be dealt with in Syria.

"The PM has long thought that Isil poses a threat to Britain and Isil needs to be destroyed in Syria as well as in Iraq," she said.

"The PM's views haven't changed. What has changed is the growing evidence that Isil represents a threat to Britain and our national security."

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