Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:36 pm on 16th April 2018.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Father of the House of Commons 4:36 pm, 16th April 2018

I fully support the proportionate, targeted action that we have taken against these sites, and I hope that the Government will consider similar action in future if anyone is so foolish as to repeat chemical weapons attacks. We can all debate these matters, but it takes a real Prime Minister to actually face up to the grave responsibility.

As for the question of the parliamentary role, I think that the Prime Minister was not relying on the archaic narrow interpretation of the royal prerogative, which no Government have invoked in this country for more than 50 years. Governments will always come to Parliament for debate, and votes if possible, on any military action. The Prime Minister said that there was a problem of time, but surely once President Trump had announced to the world what he was proposing, a widespread debate was taking place everywhere—including among many Members of Parliament in the media. However, there was no debate in Parliament.

Would the Prime Minister consider establishing, once the immediate issues are over, a cross-party commission of some kind to set out precisely what the role of Parliament is in modern times in the use of military power against another state, and what exceptions, if any, there can be to the usual rule that the Government need parliamentary approval before taking grave actions of this kind?