Britain’s influence in the world may be less than it used to be, but protecting the weak, the vulnerable and the oppressed should be a role that we seek to maintain.
Chemical weapons are unique in that they are totally indiscriminate. It is my view that if we allow these weapons to remain either in the Syrian leader’s hands or to get into the hands of Salafist Islamic rebel groups (such as Al Qaeda) then hundreds more lives will be put in danger. 9/11 and 7/7 have taught us, that given the opportunity, the jihadists who now form many of the rebel groups would be as committed to using chemical weapons on British streets as the Syrian Government is to using them in Damascus. What we witnessed last week, showed that chemical weapons are available and in use. The international community must show it is determined to not only stop their use but also their proliferation. I, therefore, believe that if the Prime Minister and defence chiefs can convince me that we have the capability to surgically destroy the chemical weapon stocks and capability then I must support such action.
I will not be easily persuaded and for the Prime Minister to secure my vote it will take considerable reassurances and information.
I will NOT, however, support any attempt to broaden action or to become directly involved in regime change. That must remain a matter for the Middle East and Syria.
In situations like this I ask myself what I would do if had the responsibility, as Prime Minister, for keeping British citizens and my constituents safe. In this case, first and foremost, I would be worried that chemical weapons in Syria co-exist in a civil war zone with Islamic fundamentalists sworn to destroy Britain. We cannot let chemical weapons in Syria remain in place.
I welcome the Government motion (copied below) and its commitment to wait for the UN to finish its inspections and report back. I am pleased the Prime Minister has confirmed that a second Parliamentary vote would take place ahead of any direct military action.
- SYRIA AND THE USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS
- The Prime Minister
- The Deputy Prime Minister
- Secretary William Hague
- Secretary Theresa May
- Secretary Philip Hammond
- Mr Dominic Grieve
- Deplores the use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August 2013 by the Assad regime, which caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries of Syrian civilians;
- Recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons under international law;
- Agrees that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons;
- Notes the failure of the United Nations Security Council over the last two years to take united action in response to the Syrian crisis;
- Notes that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime under customary law and a crime against humanity, and that the principle of humanitarian intervention provides a sound legal basis for taking action;
- Notes the wide international support for such a response, including the statement from the United Nations Security Council, to “overcome internal disagreements and take action against those who committed this crime, for which the Syrian regime is responsible”;
- Believes, in spite of the difficulties at the United Nations, that a United Nations process must be followed as far as possible to ensure the maximum legitimacy for any such action;
- Therefore welcomes the work of the United Nations investigating team currently in Damascus, and whilst noting that the team’s mandate is to confirm whether chemical weapons were used and not to apportion blame, agrees that the United Nations Secretary General should ensure a briefing to the United Nations Security Council immediately upon the completion of the team’s initial mission;
- Believes that the United Nations Security Council must have the opportunity immediately to consider that briefing and that every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken, and that any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place; and
- notes that this resolution relates solely to efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering by deterring use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any action in Syria with wider objectives.