Like many local residents, I woke up on Saturday morning to the news that UK forces had, in a joint operation with our allies France and the United States, launched a series of precision strikes to degrade and deter the Syrian Government’s ability to use chemical weapons against innocent civilians.
The Prime Minister addressed Parliament at the first opportunity on Monday, taking questions from 140 backbenchers and receiving considerable support from Labour members, although conspicuously not from the Leader of the Opposition. There have been in addition two debates on the actions taken by the Government and the wider, deeply concerning, situation in Syria. The Government has provided a clear account, based on the hard work of British intelligence officials and our international allies, as to why the only explanation for the atrocity that occurred in Douma on Saturday 7th April was that it was undertaken by the Syrian Government. As the Prime Minister made clear to Members of Parliament, the Assad regime has on numerous occasions since 2013 used chemical weapons, most often chlorine gas, against innocent men, women and children.
Extensive diplomatic attempts, including oversight by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, to commit Syria to dismantling its chemical weapon programme have manifestly failed and been further stymied by Russia at the UN. The international community cannot, and should not, simply stand idly by and allow the prohibition on these terrible weapons to be so flagrantly breached. This action was therefore absolutely in our national interest. I am encouraged by the support shown by the international community for the military strike conducted by the US, UK and France, including from Prime Minster Trudeau of Canada, President Erdogan of Turkey and Chancellor Merkel of Germany.
I know that many people in Rugby were concerned that Parliament was not consulted ahead of the decision to use military force. However, it is rightly the prerogative of the Government to make decisions of this nature and then to be held to account by Parliament at the first opportunity – which the Prime Minister has done this week. Whilst I understand the concerns raised by local residents, because the specific details of military action cannot always be made public in order to safeguard the lives of British service personnel, it will not always be possible or appropriate for Parliament to consider these matters ahead of time.