"Let me first reaffirm the support of the Opposition for the Government's continued resolve and determination, to change the Taliban government so that it ceases to sustain terrorism; to root out their al Qa'ida allies; and to bring Usama bin Laden to justice. To falter would be a fatal signal of encouragement to the terrorists, and to those who sustain them, not just in Afghanistan, but across the whole world.
"The government has taken a serious step. Nevertheless, this is merely a decision to maintain a range of military options.
"Could I first ask the Minister to confirm that no decisions about large scale operational deployments in Afghanistan have been made?
"And may I ask for the government to reassure the House that any decisions to commit to ground operations in Afghanistan will be based on concrete intelligence, clear and achievable objectives, to enable them to define and to maintain clear operational aims?
"Her Majesty's Opposition will not compromise the safety of our troops by inviting irresponsible speculation. But will he comment on the interview given to the New York Times in which the Chief of the Defence Staff said that ground operations might extend to many weeks at a time?
"The Secretary of State for International Development has referred to the possible creation of so-called 'safe areas' to assist the aid effort in Afghanistan. If this is part of the plan, is he aware of the aid agencies' concern about the militarisation of the aid programme and that we must win them over on this point for this strategy to succeed?
"Can I also ask the minister to give a reassurance that the military personnel concerned are not going to be left in limbo for a lengthy period, thousands of miles from their families and long after they were due to go home? If this proves to be a lengthy deployment, can he confirm that we have the capacity to provide for periods of leave and that replacement forces will be available when needed?
"Can I ask the Minister what facilities will be provided for the personnel deployed so that they can have full and regular contact with their families, especially by telephone and e-mail?
"And will he confirm that every effort will be made to keep their families fully informed ahead of any announcements in the press? He will be aware of how perplexing it is when it appears that the press knows far more than those whose lives are so directly affected. And I understand that families have been contacted in advance of this statement, but this does follow a lengthy period of speculation which must have been extremely difficult for them.
"May I congratulate members of the armed forces who have made Exercise Saif Sareea such a success? Does the minister agree that there are lessons to be learned - of particular relevance to the logistics of a possible deployment of troops in Afghanistan - but that it has also proved the UK's capability to deploy considerable military force over very long distances, and yet again, the sheer prowess and professionalism of our armed forces.
"We have faith in them. We admire them and are proud of them. They deserve nothing less than the unreserved support of the House."
For further information contact Jonathan Collett on 020 7984 8224 or 0774 089 6805