May still thinks it was OK to bomb with­out MPs’ vote

Daily Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW GRE­GORY Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor an­drew.gre­gory@mir­

THERESA May was forced to deny be­ing Don­ald Trump’s lap­dog as she suf­fered a three-hour grilling from 140 MPs over the blitz on Syria.

The Prime Min­is­ter faced a ma­jor Com­mons back­lash yes­ter­day over her con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion to launch strikes with­out the con­sent of Par­lia­ment.

Labour’s Laura Smith de­manded to know ex­actly when the US Pres­i­dent had told her the of­fen­sive against despot Bashar al-As­sad’s regime would hap­pen.

And Mrs May replied: “The an­swer to her ques­tion is – at no point at all.”

She said it was in our na­tional in­ter­est to act and “we have not done this be­cause Pres­i­dent Trump asked us to but be­cause it was the right thing to do”.

But the clash con­jured mem­o­ries of how Tony Blair was mock­ingly re­ferred to as Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W Bush’s poo­dle over his re­la­tion­ship with the US leader dur­ing the Iraq con­flict.

The scenes were heated as MPs got their first chance to ques­tion Mrs May over Satur­day’s mis­sile at­tacks.

The co-or­di­nated strikes with the US and France were re­tal­i­a­tion for a chem­i­cal weapons at­tack in Douma, al­legedly by the As­sad regime. Mrs May said it was “legally and morally right”, that there was “clear ev­i­dence” As­sad was be­hind the atroc­ity and she had “ex­plored ev­ery diplo­matic chan­nel”.

But blast­ing her for snub­bing MPs, Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn said: “The Prime Min­is­ter is ac­count­able to this Par­lia­ment, not to the whims of the US Pres­i­dent. 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.” He also de­manded to know if France and the US were urged to bring strikes

for­ward to avoid par­lia­men­tary scru­tiny, as has been claimed, adding: “I be­lieve the ac­tion was legally ques­tion­able.”

And Mr Cor­byn in­sisted the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s le­gal ad­vice be pub­lished in full, later cit­ing the Chilcot In­quiry into the Iraq War. He asked the PM if she agreed with its key rec­om­men­da­tion for greater checks on in­tel­li­gence used to make the case for Gov­ern­ment poli­cies.

Mr Cor­byn said: “Given nei­ther the UN nor the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons has yet in­ves­ti­gated Douma, it is clear diplo­matic and non-mil­i­tary means have not been fully ex­hausted. While much sus­pi­cion rightly points to the As­sad gov­ern­ment, chem­i­cal weapons have been used by other groups in the con­flict.”

Tory Ken Clarke de­manded Mrs May es­tab­lish a cross-party com­mis­sion to look at Par­lia­ment’s role in ap­prov­ing mil­i­tary ac­tion. Cur­rently, the Gov­ern­ment does not tech­ni­cally need MPs’ con­sent – but seeks it by con­ven­tion.

Mrs May pointed to a writ­ten min­is­te­rial state­ment in 2016 that said the Gov­ern­ment would not put the con­ven­tion in law to re­tain the abil­ity to pro­tect the UK in un­pre­dictable cir­cum­stances.

But Ian Black­ford, the SNP’s leader in West­min­ster, said it was “per­fectly pos­si­ble” for the House to have been re­called be­fore the blitz.

Tory for­mer Defence Sec­re­tary Sir Michael Fal­lon said: “Would the Prime Min­is­ter ac­cept the pub­lic well un­der­stand that when our forces need to act quickly and de­ci­sively and safely in con­cert with our al­lies, it must be right to au­tho­rise strikes with­out giv­ing no­tice?”

Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Ca­ble asked if the PM would or­der strikes over any further chem­i­cal at­tack, to which she replied: “No­body should be in any doubt of our re­solve to en­sure we can­not see a sit­u­a­tion where use of chem­i­cal weapons is nor­malised.”

MPs last night sup­ported an emer­gency de­bate ap­pli­ca­tion from Labour’s Ali­son McGovern, al­low­ing a de­bate on the Syria sit­u­a­tion. It be­gan at 8pm, set to last three hours. They also backed an emer­gency de­bate ap­pli­ca­tion by Mr Cor­byn on the right of Par­lia­ment to de­bate and clear ac­tion over­seas, tak­ing place today.

Mean­while, in the Lords, Ex-Lib Dem leader Lord Camp­bell said it was dif­fi­cult to con­clude that the at­tack was “any­thing other than law­ful”. But he said the Gov­ern­ment made “a mis­take in not re­call­ing Par­lia­ment” be­fore act­ing.

Sep­a­rately, Mrs May yes­ter­day ac­cused Rus­sia of pre­vent­ing in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors from reach­ing Douma.

The OPCW said Syr­ian and Rus­sian of­fi­cials cited “se­cu­rity is­sues”. Rus­sia sug­gested the air strikes were part of it and de­nied in­ter­fer­ing with in­spec­tions.

Mrs May said: “The Syr­ian regime has re­port­edly been at­tempt­ing to con­ceal ev­i­dence by search­ing evac­uees to en­sure sam­ples are not be­ing smug­gled and a wider op­er­a­tion to con­ceal facts is un­der way, sup­ported by the Rus­sians.”

POW­ERS Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn

MIS­SION Trump led al­lied at­tack As­sad regime has been ac­cused of chem­i­cal atroc­ity Rus­sia and Syria have al­legedly stopped in­spec­tors DOUMA YES­TER­DAY DOUMA 9 DAYS AGO


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