Here is my column in today’s South Manchester Reporter. It was written before the Government committed another £52million in humanitarian aid, and before Russia’s offer to put Syria’s chemical weapons under UN control.
Decisions about whether Britain should get involved in military intervention abroad divides opinion, but we can all agree that the pictures from Syria show the tragic consequences of conflict.
My view has always been that any intervention in Syria needs to be from the international community and not unilateral action by America, with or without the support of other countries including the UK.
While I have been deeply frustrated by the failure of the international community to persuade the Russians of the need to apply the necessary pressure on Assad, action without UN Security Council approval would, in my opinion, be counter-productive.
I was therefore disappointed that the Prime Minister rushed to recall Parliament to gain parliamentary approval for action against the Syrian regime without approval from the Security Council in response to evidence of a chemical weapons attack in August, particularly when you consider that UN weapons inspectors had not completed their work.
In response to widespread political opposition from Liberal Democrats, some back-bench Conservatives and Labour, the motion to grant Parliamentary approval for military action was shelved, and instead an alternative motion was agreed, condemning the use of chemical weapons, not ruling out legal intervention, but making it clear that there would have to be a further vote in Parliament before there could be any UK involvement.
Labour’s amendment was almost identical to the Government motion, including not ruling out legal military intervention. The Labour amendment was defeated, but the Government motion was also, rejected.
I voted for the Government motion, but I certainly would not have voted for it, had it been a motion to commit the UK to military intervention.
I had been attempting to speak in the debate, but unfortunately I failed to be called by the Speaker on this occasion.
Some people have questioned why I voted for the Government motion, when I have made my opposition to military action clear.
I voted for the motion to ensure that there was a vote in Parliament on whether the UK should be involved to allow MPs to make that decision.
In fact, by the motion being defeated, under the Royal Prerogative, the Prime Minister could have subsequently committed the UK to taking part in military action, because Parliament had rejected the need for MPs to have a vote.
I remain committed to a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria, and I remain convinced that Russia holds the key to bringing this conflict to an end.