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Military Action Overseas: Parliamentary Approval

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:20 pm on 17th April 2018.

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Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley 2:20 pm, 17th April 2018

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who I think is just saying what I said using different words. In so far as that is the argument that I am using, I accept what he is saying.

Before I move on to another matter, I want to say a further word about Russia. There is a view in some quarters that Russia is, if not benign, then a neutral force in all these matters—[Interruption.] I said on the part of some people. Although Ms Dorries is shaking her head, I would never have thought such of her. However, some people do genuinely and sincerely believe that. I spent 11 years as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee—I resigned because I thought that was long enough—and members of that Committee find out some things they cannot talk openly about. However, one thing I will say is that I have seen in real time how Russia tries repeatedly to interfere with the apparatus of state through cyber-attacks and even in terms of the confidentiality of products in the defence industry. Any idea that Russia is this friendly state that we can all rely on is frankly not borne out by the facts.

I want to conclude with a word about what the Prime Minister had to say earlier. First, she said that she came to the House at the first possible opportunity, but I ask the question: did she? Secondly, she referred to intelligence that cannot be shared with Parliament, and I will deal with each point separately.

Unlike Mr Jenkin, I accept that the convention that the Prime Minister has relied upon to justify what she did is appropriate. It says, basically, that

“parliament will be given the opportunity to debate the decision to commit troops to armed conflict and, except in emergency situations, that debate would take place before they are committed.”

I accept that there have to be exceptions, and any legislation or convention would have to allow for that fact. I would argue, however, that the Prime Minister could have recalled Parliament last week. We could have had a debate not about the intelligence that was involved, but about the open-source materials that she referred to, and this Parliament could, on the basis of a general resolution about humanitarian aims, have come to a conclusion, so I reject that assertion on the Prime Minister’s part.