MP urges fresh debate on Syria air strikes

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A West Norfolk MP has called for Parliament to look again at whether British forces should carry out air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria.

The comment from North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham came as defence chiefs announced plans to keep Tornado jets based at RAF Marham in service for another year.

Mr Bellingham has welcomed that move, but believes the crews’ current mission against so-called Islamic State (ISIL) fighters in Iraq must now be widened across the border.

He praised the crews who he said were doing a “fantastic job” at putting ISIL “on the back foot” in Iraq.

But he believes that the campaign could be even more effective if MPs reversed the narrow vote taken by the House of Commons two years ago not to endorse military action on the other side of the border in Syria.

He said: “It makes no sense not to extend it. We’re looking at a very porous border. The ISIL fighters will be on one side one day and the other the next.

“The sooner Parliament has another vote on Syria, the better.”

Defence chiefs say the decision to maintain the number 12 squadron, which is currently engaged in the campaign over Iraq, until the spring of 2017, will sustain the aerial effort in support of the Iraqi government’s ground forces.

They also claim that ISIL has lost around 25 per cent of the territory it held since operations began in the area last September.

Mr Bellingham said the move was “very good news” for the station, which is already set to benefit from around £300 million of investment in the introduction of the new Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft, which are due to come into service in 2018.

He said it would also benefit service personnel and their families, who would face longer periods on operations if the current Tornado squadrons had been reduced from the present three to two.