PM accused of trampling on rights of Parliament
Jeremy Corbyn has led angry criticism of Theresa May’s decision to bomb Syria without a vote in Parliament.
The Labour leader accused the Prime Minister of taking military action on the “whims of a US president” rather than consulting MPs.
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas meanwhi le said May had shown “contempt for parliamentary democracy” as she “trampled over an important safeguard”.
The criticism was echoed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who said there was “no explanation from the Prime Minister or the president on how this action, taken without parliament’s approval, will halt the use of chemical weapons or contribute to peace”.
Their fury highlights deep divisions among political leaders over yesterday’s air strikes by the US, UK and France.
While all are united in condemning the brutal actions of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, there is clear disagreement over the response – with May’s insistence there was “no practicable alternative to the use of force” clearly not shared.
In a letter to the PM, Corbyn said: “The UK Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament, not to the whims of a US president.
“The action was legally questionable and this morning the UN secretary general has said as much, reiterating that all countries must act in line with the UN charter.
“You assured me that the attorney general had given clear legal advice approving the action.
“I would therefore be grateful if you would publish this advice in full today.
“Given that neither the United Nations nor the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have yet investigated, it is clear that diplomatic and non-military means have not been fully exhausted.”
He added: “We have the grotesque spectacle of a wider geopolitical proxy battle being waged, with the Syrian people used as pawns by all sides.” Sturgeon meanwhile agreed that the use of chemical weapons could not be tolerated but questioned whether bombing would “contribute to a longterm peace”. She said: “We cannot tolerate Syria’s use of chemical weapons on a civilian population – but there has been no explanation from the Prime Minister or the president on how this action, taken without parliament’s approval, will halt the use of chemical weapons or contribute to a long term peace in the area. “Air strikes by US and UK forces have not resolved the situation in Syria in the past and I am not persuaded they’ll do so now. “This action risks not just further escalating the civil war in Syria but also a dangerous escalation of international tensions.” Sturgeon called for “urgent confirmation” from May there would be no further action, and no change to the role of the UK military in regards to Syria “without a full parliamentary debate”.
She added: “UK foreign policy should be aimed at reaching an international consensus, not simply complying with presidential wishes.”
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson backed the air strikes, insisting the international community recognised that “chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity”.
She said: “Last night’s air strikes were targeted at the Syrian regime’s chemical weapon facilities and in direct response to the chemical attack on Syria’s civilian population in Douma last week.
“While carried out by UK, US and French military personnel, the strikes have the express support of the EU and NATO, as well as the governments of Canada, Australia and Germany, among others.
“The international community recognise that chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity and that last night’s targeted action will degrade the ability of the Assad regime to further develop and deploy chemical weapons in future.”
But Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard refused to back the military action.
He said: “Just two days ago Theresa May met her Cabinet to discuss Syria – today we wake to the news that she has been led by Donald Trump into air strikes, dangerously escalating an already devastating conflict.
“Despite having no major ity, there has been no consultation with Parliament on any military action, and no agreement with the UN.
“Pol it ical avenues should be exhausted before such a serious step is ever taken, yet the Prime Minister has been rushed into legally, morally and democratically questionable air strikes at the behest of Donald Trump.
“Britain should be taking a lead role in negotiating an end to the Syrian conflict and halting the abhorrent use of chemical weapons, rather than putting more innocent civilians at risk, and British military personnel too.
“The Government must do all in their power to secure agreement from Russia and the US to an independent UN
investigation of the chemical weapons attack, so that those who are responsible can be held to account.”
The wave of strikes was the most significant intervention by the UK in seven years of Syrian civil war.
Russia has said the attack on its ally “will not be left without consequences”.
In a blistering attack on the government, Lucas said: “The launch of military action in Syria is a deeply troubling move. The fact the timing seems to have been dictated at least in part by a prime minister running scared of a parliamentary vote is little short of scandalous.
“By refusing to engage Parliament on the issue, Theresa May has shown a contempt for parliamentary democracy, and trampled over an important safeguard against unwanted military action.”
Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie MSP added: “There is no credible basis for believing a wave of air strikes will make the people of Syria safer. It’s easy to condemn the Assad regime and Russia but the history of UK and US military intervention shows the huge danger that we make matters worse.” Scottish Lib Dem chief Willie Rennie said: “This was a hasty act potential ly plunging our country into a series of events out of our control without the consent of the UK Parliament. I was appalled by the chemical attack but ‘something must be done’ is not a strategy.”
Around the world there was more support for America, Britain and France’s action.
German chancellor Angela Merkel said the air strikes against the Syrian regime were “necessary and appropriate”.
She added: “We support the fact our US, British and French allies assumed their responsibilities. Everything leads us to believe Assad is responsible for the Douma attack.”
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, ruled out Canadian help in the strikes but said his country supported the action. He said: “Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in last week’s attack in eastern Ghouta, Syria.
“Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime’s ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against their own people.”
In the Middle East, however, there were warnings that the strikes would only worsen the situation.
Yadol lah Java n i , of I ran’s Revolutionary Guards, said: “With this attack, the situation will become more complex and this will surely be at the expense of the United States, which will be responsible for the aftermath of upcoming regional events that will certainly not be in their interest.”
A small anti-war demo took place in Glasgow yesterday with Labour MP for Glasgow North East Paul Sweeney making a speech condemning the action.
The timing seems to have been dictated by a PM running scared of a vote
HARD TO SWALLOW May was slated over air strikes.
LEFT Russian consulate-general in Edinburgh
ANGER Corbyn, right, Sturgeon, top, and Leonard
BRUTAL Assad used chemical weapons on his own people