Armed Conflict (Parliamentary Approval)

Part of Opposition Day — [11th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 9:23 pm on 15th May 2007.

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Photo of Richard Shepherd Richard Shepherd Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills 9:23 pm, 15th May 2007

I can think of no greater and more important decision for the national interest than to go to war. It affects the lives of those whom we represent, the young people of this country. It affects the standing of the country in the international arena. It bears on the world's judgment on us. As Dr. Wright and his report pointed out, however, it is a prerogative power.

The struggle of the House has been to capture the Crown. We have never succeeded in that; the Crown just moved from the end of the Mall to reside in Downing street. I do not believe, however, that a decision so fundamental to the well-being of our national life and the unity of a country can be left to the Crown in Downing street. It must be embraced by every one of us who represent those who will provide the men and treasure that take us to war.

I have been in the House a little while, during which time, I suggest, there have been three great conflicts. The first was the Falklands. I remember collecting money from pubs across my constituency and sending cheques to the Ministry of Defence. We knew that that conflict had the assent of the people. The first Gulf war also had the assent of the people. The second Gulf war—the one that has brought us here to discuss this motion today—has been more equivocal.

By and large, Governments in the modern age do not launch wars without being satisfied at the back of their minds that that the nation understands and will support those wars—but who can express that?