Alan Whitehead MP

Member of Parliament for Southampton Test

My Vote on Syria

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As you will know, last Thursday, David Cameron recalled Parliament to vote on whether to support military action in Syria following the alleged use of Sarin gas by the Assad regime against Syrian citizens. 

As you will know, last Thursday, David Cameron recalled Parliament to vote on whether to support military action in Syria following the alleged use of Sarin gas by the Assad regime against Syrian citizens. This vote took place before the UN weapons inspectors had even left Syria, before the publication of the US intelligence report and before evidence had been presented at the UN Security Council. Labour had pressed for an amendment which called for the Government to wait for the results of the report by UN weapons inspectors and outlined a series of stringent conditions which would have needed to be met before any military action was considered.

Whilst I condemn the killings of the hundreds of civilians in Ghutah, Syria in the strongest terms, I voted against taking military action. To me, the Government seemed to be making a rushed and hurried decision to go to war without waiting for the report of UN weapons inspectors and without confirmation of who was responsible for the attack. In my opinion evidence should precede decision and not the other way around.  In any event, the purpose of any military action must be clear. Bombing, which makes the position of the Syrian people worse rather than better, does not seem to be a reasonable course of action to take. Throughout the debate on Thursday there remained a lack of clarity as to what military action would achieve.

The result of the vote on Thursday was to deny support for a motion committing the UK, in principle, to military action. I am pleased to see that the Government has ruled out proceeding by Royal Prerogative, which it could have well done.

What we need now is calm and measured leadership on this very difficult issue. The focus now must turn to the upcoming G20 where a renewed diplomatic, political and humanitarian effort must be made to ease the suffering and help end the conflict in Syria. The UK must work with our allies, to ensure that the meeting:

  • marks the start of a renewed diplomatic initiative to bring together the warring sides of conflict
  • to contain the crisis within Syria and minimise its spill over across the region
  • to address the shameful shortfall in international humanitarian support to victims of this conflict.

The situation in Syria is a complex one that won’t be solved by rushing into a war with uncertain and potentially catastrophic consequences for all concerned.

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