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 do not have time. Will the hon. Gentleman forgive me, please?

Who gives assent in such circumstances? It can, in truth, only be the representatives of those who sent us here: ourselves, the House of Commons. We must say that we are prepared to go to war, that taxation shall be raised if necessary, and young people shall lose their lives if necessary. Therefore the principle must be a very great one, and the clarity with which we commit the resources of this nation must be affirmed. That is what the motion and the amendment are about.

I commend the speech of my right hon. Friend Mr. Hague. It covered the ground in relation to the difficulties of capturing the prerogative power. The War Powers Act in the United States and the Canadian approach are relevant instances. We seem somehow to be trapped in an imperial past when the very notion of the imperium was itself sufficient to justify any and every war—but we are no longer in that age. As my hon. Friend Mr. Ellwood said, this is a world of instant communication. We know the details now.

We have been reminded of Churchill in the last war. It was inconceivable that Parliament could not debate the conduct of the war—and it did, in closed session. Those were often very bitter and anxious debates, because we knew that we were committing the lives and well-being of the nation. Such action hangs on judgment, and that judgment should not reside in the hands of one person, who knows only what he or she believes. We must reach out and affirm what the House believes is right for our country.