PM ac­cused of tram­pling on rights of Par­lia­ment

Sunday Mail (UK) - - News - John Fer­gu­son Po­lit­i­cal Editor

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

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