Corbyn questions legality of strikes without approval
Theresa May’s decision to launch the Syria air strikes without parliamentary approval led to renewed criticism from MPs yesterday. And the government’s failure to actually lead a debate in the Commons led to further attacks last night.
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn faced cries of “shame” as he told the prime minister she was accountable to parliament and not to US president Donald Trump when it came to military action.
MPs were being given their first opportunity to quiz Theresa May over the missile strikes which took place early on Saturday on military targets.
Senior Tory Ken Clarke called on Mrs May to establish a cross-party commission to look at parliament’s role in approving military action.
Mr Corbyn said of Mrs May and David Cameron: “Her predecessor came to this House to seek authority for military action in Libya and in Syria in 2015, and the House had a vote over Iraq in 2003.
“There is no more serious issue than the life and death matters of military action. It is right parliament has power to support or stop the government from taking planned military action. I believe the action was legally questionable.”
But Mrs May defended her decision not to recall parliament, suggesting the “security” of the operation could have been compromised.
“The speed with which we acted was essential in co-operating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to maintain the vital security of our operations,” she said.
The decision required the evaluation of intelligence “much of which was of a nature that could not be shared with parliament”.
Speaker John Bercow had to intervene to calm MPs, telling them Mr Corbyn must be afforded the same “respectful quiet” given to Mrs May.
Ian Blackford, Highland MP and SNP leader in Westminster, said it was “perfectly possible” for the House to have been recalled before the air strikes.
Last night, Mr Bercow said ministers could have tabled an emergencydevate motion had they wanted to do so.
Commons leader Andrea Leadsom informed MPs of a revised schedule of business for the week, although there was no mention of a general debate in government time on Syria.
Shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz said: “The prime minister earlier said that she wanted to be held accountable but the government seems to rely on the outcome of an SO24 (emergency debate) application to debate this very important issue.”
Conservative former minister Mark Harper was among those to suggest the government should lead a debate on Syria, saying it would “strengthen” the government’s position.
Mr Bercow said: “It is open to the government to table a motion . . . on any matter it chooses. I am not an obstacle to an amendable government motion.”
Mrs Leadsom repeatedly said Mrs May had spent over three hours answering questions from MPs.
MPs supported a bid from Mr Corbyn for an emergency debate, to be held today, which will allow them to consider the rights of parliament to approve military action by British forces overseas.
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