PM faces parliament ‘criticism’ over Syria
Harry promises to listen
LONDON, April 16, (Agencies): British Prime Minister Theresa May faced criticism on Monday for bypassing parliament to join weekend air strikes against Syria, with some lawmakers calling for a potentially damaging vote on her future strategy.
May, who has regained confidence after winning support for her tough stance on Syria and Russia, made a statement to parliament on her decision to join the United States and France in Saturday’s strikes in retaliation for a suspected gas attack.
She repeated Saturday’s assertion that Britain is “confident in our own assessment that the Syrian regime was highly likely responsible” and that it could not wait “to alleviate further humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons attacks”, according to excerpts of her speech. But she wias grilled over why she broke with a convention to seek parliamentary approval for the action, a decision that she and her ministers say was driven by the need to act quickly.
Much of the criticism will come from opposition lawmakers, but the prime minister may also have to work hard to defend her speed of action to members of her own Conservative Party who had wanted parliament recalled.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, has questioned the legal basis for Britain’s involvement.
“She could have recalled parliament last week,” the veteran peace campaigner said on Sunday.
“I think what we need in this country is something more robust, like a War Powers Act, so governments do get held to account by parliament for what they do in our name,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
Britain has said there are no plans for future strikes against Syria, but foreign minister Boris Johnson warned President Bashar al-Assad that all options would be considered if chemical weapons were used against Syrians again.
At a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, he again said the strikes were not aimed at regime change in Syria, but rather sent the message that the world has “had enough of the use of chemical weapons”.
Corbyn’s drive for legislation to limit the government’s power to launch future military action could win support in parliament, where some Conservatives have expressed fears that taking military action could worsen the situation in Syria.
Despite winning international backing, May, who has weathered questions over her leadership due to Brexit and party scandals, has a precarious position in parliament after losing the Conservatives’ majority in an ill-judged election in June.
She now relies on the support of a small Northern Irish party, which has supported the action in Syria, and has tried to dodge votes that might not go her way.
Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, whose Scottish Nationalist party has 35 seats in parliament, told the BBC there was a danger that the strike “makes the situation worse, not better”.
May’s predecessor, David Cameron, lost a vote on air strikes against Assad’s forces in 2013, with many in Britain wary of entering another conflict, especially after an inquiry concluded that then-prime minister Tony Blair’s decision to join the 2003 US-led war against Iraq was based on flawed intelligence.
It was not clear whether Labour or other opposition parties would be able to force an emergency debate after May’s statement, or whether the speaker in the House of Commons would grant what one party source called a “meaningful vote”.
Outcry over treatment of immigrants:
A simmering dispute over Britain’s treatment of people who came to the country as children decades ago has erupted just as the country prepares to host leaders from the 53-nation Commonwealth.
Britain had wanted to use this week’s summit in London of the alliance of the UK and its former colonies to help Britain bolster trade and diplomatic ties around the world after it leaves the European Union next year. But trade topics are being overshadowed by anger over what some in the Commonwealth see as the UK’s shabby treatment of residents of Caribbean origin.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said Monday that she would meet with her Caribbean counterparts in London for the Commonwealth summit to discuss the situation of long-term UK residents who say they have been threatened with deportation to their countries of birth.
Members of the “Windrush generation” — named for the ship Empire Windrush, which brought the first big group of post-war Caribbean immigrants to Britain in 1948 — came from what were then British colonies or newly independent states and had an automatic right to settle in the UK.
But some from that generation, now aging and long-times residents in Britain, say they have been denied medical treatment or threatened with deportation because they can’t produce papers to prove it.
The British government has taken an increasingly tough line on immigration, which has increased dramatically over the last 10 or 15 years, largely as result of people moving to the UK from other EU countries. A desire to control immigration was a major factor for many who voted in 2016 for Britain to leave the bloc.
Harry starts Commonwealth job:
Prince Harry has been appointed a Commonwealth youth ambassador, his highest-profile public role to date and a job that will seee him working with his future wife encouraging young people to use the network of mostly former British colonies.
Queen Elizabeth awarded the position to her 33-year-old grandson who is fifth-in-line to the throne and has led a rebranding of the monarchy in a bid to make it more modern and relevant.
“I know that serving as ambassador to young people I’m going have to try to keep up with you all ... my job will be to listen to you, my duty will be to ensure that your ideas, concerns, thoughts and hopes are heard,” Harry told the opening of a Commonwealth forum discussing youth issues.
The announcement coincides with the start of a summit of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in London this week, which will seek to boost the network at a time when Britain is negotiating its departure from the European Union.