The Prime Minister will today insist that the UK had to strike Syria ‘in our national interest’ to deter chemical weapon attacks on British streets.
Facing the threat of a knife-edge Commons vote, Theresa May will invoke the Salisbury poisonings in her defence of the military action.
In a statement to MPs, she will point to the need to ensure the use of chemical weapons does not become normalised – ‘either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere’.
The Prime Minister will today insist that the UK had to strike Syria ‘in our national interest’ to deter chemical weapon attacks on British streets
She will ask Speaker John Bercow for an emergency six-hour debate on the action, giving MPs from both sides of the House the chance to have a say.
But Labour will try to force a vote after the debate – raising the prospect of a humiliating, retrospective defeat.
Mrs May has faced considerable criticism for not recalling Parliament to gain approval for joining the US-led action against Bashar al-Assad’s despotic regime.
Tory MPs have been told they must be in the Commons today and tomorrow in case there is a vote on her handling of the Syria crisis.
Mrs May has faced considerable criticism for not recalling Parliament to gain approval for joining the US-led action against Bashar al-Assad’s despotic regime
Downing Street officials said they believed a vote was unlikely – but did not rule out the possibility of other parties forcing one later in the week.
Mrs May will tell MPs: ‘Let me be absolutely clear. We have acted because it is in our national interest to do so.
‘It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in Syria – and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should not be used. For we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.’
Jeremy Corbyn again questioned the legality of the UK’s role in the 105-missile strike – and called for legislation to stop military action without MPs’ support. Mrs May will point to strong international backing from world leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and European Council president Donald Tusk since the strike.
‘UN Security Council-mandated inspectors have investigated previous attacks and on four occasions decided that the regime was indeed responsible,’ she will say. ‘We are confident in our own assessment that the Syrian regime was highly likely responsible for this attack and that its persistent pattern of behaviour meant that it was highly likely to continue using chemical weapons.
Jeremy Corbyn again questioned the legality of the UK’s role in the 105-missile strike – and called for legislation to stop military action without MPs’ support
‘Furthermore, there were clearly attempts to block any proper investigation, as we saw with the Russian veto at the UN earlier in the week. And we cannot wait to alleviate further humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons attacks.
‘We have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do. And we are not alone. There is broad based international support for the action we have taken.’
Mr Corbyn told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that legislation was needed.
The Labour leader said: ‘There is precedent over previous interventions when Parliament has had a vote.
‘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.’
Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry said any such law would not apply to urgent cases such as ‘when we are under attack or the prime minister has been kidnapped’.
But Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, the Prime Minister’s deputy, said there were ‘no plans’ for legislation. The decision on whether there will be a vote – on a motion saying ‘the House has considered this’ – is technically a matter for the Speaker.
On Saturday, Government Whips asked Tory MPs if they backed the action – with some asked if they would back Mrs May in a vote. One MP said: ‘The feeling is nobody will vote against her now it’s done and it’s punitive and there’s been no consequences to our troops.’
Yesterday it emerged Chief Whip Julian Smith had emailed MPs putting them on a three-line whip for tomorrow afternoon. Government sources said they were confident the PM had MPs’ backing.
A senior Whitehall source said they did not want a vote before military action to become a precedent, adding: ‘The creeping convention of Parliament votes needs to be halted.’