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Military Action Overseas: Parliamentary Approval

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:39 pm on 17th April 2018.

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Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Labour/Co-operative, Nottingham North 3:39 pm, 17th April 2018

I am not arguing for that. We could weave into the statute circumstances in which there was a clear and immediate need to act in the national interest, and the right hon. Gentleman will be glad to hear that I am getting to that very point.

I want to draw on the work of the former Political and Constitutional Reform Committee. I know that you have a keen eye for detail and strong powers of recall, Mr Speaker, so you will remember that it was my predecessor, Graham Allen, who chaired that Committee. I am afraid that a keen interest in constitutional reform and all those sorts of matters does not pass down through the generations of Nottingham North parliamentarians—or if it does, it has skipped me. Nevertheless, I say to hon. Members that the Committee’s excellent documents are a manual for how we might have such a statute in our law. They offer comprehensive insight. They list the hurdles that we would face, including those regarding the courts, and outline the solutions that are there at our disposal. The solutions are there, so this can be done if there is a will to do it.

The previous Prime Minister said that consulting Parliament regarding military action was a “good convention”. Clearly that convention leaves too much room for debate, as I think this week has shown. As the Leader of the Opposition said, it is broken. Now is the time to settle this one way or another. We should put Parliament’s role in statute. Even if the position is for Parliament to play no role at all, that ought to be written down, and that is why we need a war powers Act. What happened last week was a fudge. It will not do that we are doing a hokey cokey over whether we are coming to London to discuss these matters when we are dealing with really significant incidents across the globe.

The Prime Minister says that the convention still stands, so she believes that Parliament ought to have a role in military action. Well, now is the time to make good on that. Through legislation, we can show once and for all what Parliament does and does not do, and how—in the popular words of the day—we have taken back control for this Parliament.