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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:39 pm on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union) 3:39 pm, 10th September 2018

I am grateful to the Minister for his answers and I commend Stephen Doughty for securing the urgent question and for the well-informed and passionate way he set out the background. He reminded us of the humanitarian catastrophe that is happening even as we speak.

May I press the right hon. Gentleman on something about which I asked the Minister for Europe and the Americas on 24 July? When the House voted in December 2015 for military action in Syria, it was in expectation that that would help in the establishment of an interim Government in about six months. Clearly that prediction went badly wrong, and it is not enough for the Government to say, as they did last time, that these predictions are difficult. Will the Minister for the Middle East say what lessons we learning about the reliability, or otherwise, of such predictions, especially if, as now seems might be the case, we are heading towards a scenario where the House is once again asked to give its consent to military action?

Secondly, I welcome the Minister’s mention of something else that I asked about in July: the UK following the lead of others in establishing a national mechanism for the prevention and prediction of, and the rapid response to, mass atrocities, chemical weapons attacks and so on? Will he give us more detail about, or at least an indication of, what he intends to do to keep Members updated and to improve on the response so far?

Finally, given the very clear evidence of the commission of war crimes, does the Minister agree that if there is an all-out, indiscriminate offensive in Idlib, the terrorists there will be able to get away, but the babies—as the Minister said, they outnumber the terrorists—will not? They are the ones who will be left behind to die. In those circumstances, should not such an all-out, indiscriminate offensive be classified as a crime against humanity, because it is clearly designed to cause civilian casualties? Will the Minister give an assurance that the pursuit of all those responsible for war crimes in Syria will also apply to members of the Russian military who are involved, including, if necessary, the commander-in- chief who has given the orders for these atrocities to take place?