Syria

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

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Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader 4:36 pm, 16th April 2018

May I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks on the sad demise of Sergeant Matt Tonroe and pass on condolences to his family and friends? May I also thank the Prime Minister for the phone call ahead of the engagement at the weekend, as well as for advance sight of her statement today?

All of us in this House have an absolute revulsion of the use of chemical weapons, and we need to work here and internationally to make sure that we remove the scourge of chemical weapons from the landscape in Syria and elsewhere.

The Government now seem to have accepted that this House needed time to debate Syria, but why have we had to wait for today? When the Prime Minister called a Cabinet meeting last week, she should have recalled Parliament. The Prime Minister leads a minority Government. As was the case with the action against Daesh in 2015, this should only have happened with Parliamentary approval. It was perfectly possible for the House to have been recalled in advance of the Saturday morning airstrikes. Why was that not done? And what does this mean for the Prime Minister’s position if there are further chemical attacks in Syria? Will she continue to authorise military action without consulting and without the authorisation of Parliament?

I am glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition support our calls for a war powers Act, because that is the best way to protect us from getting into this situation again. Have the Government learned nothing from the Chilcot review? Once again we have been dragged into military action with little regard for the humanitarian situation on the ground and no long-term strategic plan. The human suffering in Syria knows no bounds: hundreds of thousands dead; millions fleeing for their lives and 400,000 civilians still trapped in appalling conditions, deprived of food, medicine and basic aid; and over 13 million civilians in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Will the Prime Minister revisit the issue of refugees, particularly child refugees? We must do more than we have been.

Why was action taken before international weapons inspectors completed their investigation? In February the Prime Minister told me in this House that she was committed to

“finding a political solution for Syria.”—[Official Report, 21 February 2018;
Vol. 636, c. 153.]

Why, then, did the UK not support Sweden’s draft UN resolution calling for an international investigation into chemical stockpiles reportedly held by the Syrian regime?

Is the Prime Minister as surprised and concerned as I am at the US President’s language that the situation in Syria was “mission accomplished”? Who does she agree with, the US President or the UN Secretary-General, who like most of us is clear:

“There is no military solution to the crisis. The solution must be political”?