March 22, 2019

Jeremy Corbyn calls for vote to limit Prime Minister’s war powers

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today called for a vote in Parliament to limit the powers of the Prime Minister to wage war after British forces were involved in attacks against suspected Syrian chemical weapons facilities.

The missile strikes carried out by the US, France and the UK came in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma a week ago.

Prime Minister Theresa May will make a statement in the House of Commons tomorrow on the strikes, which were carried out without consulting Parliament.

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn urges Theresa May to take in more refugees after Syria strike

Corbyn said Parliament should have been given a vote on the strikes, and called for a "War Powers Act" to set out the process by which the government can launch military action. Such an act could require the government to consult Parliament before taking military action.

"What I would like is a vote which outlines a process which could now happen," he said, speaking to the BBC.

Corbyn, who has previously opposed military action in Syria, among other war zones, said he "can only countenance involvement in Syria if there is UN authority behind it".

He added that a parliamentary vote on the military action would give "a very strong steer to our government to now go back to the UN and promote a resolution and work might and main to bring Russia and the United States together on this, so that we do get a political process in Syria as well of course the removal of chemical weapons."

Read more: UN calls security council meeting over Syria strikes at Russia's request

The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad denies it used chemical weapons, although the British, US and French governments all say they have significant amounts of evidence indicating that it was indeed behind the attack. The attack killed "up to 75 people", according to the government.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson declined to say whether he would back such a vote, but told the BBC the strikes against suspected chemical weapons facilities were intended to send a message.

"The primary purpose is to say no to the use of barbaric chemical weapons," he said. "This is not about regime change; this is not about turning the tide" in the long-running Syrian civil war.

Questions put to the Prime Minister tomorrow "will be an opportunity for Parliament to hold the executive to account," Johnson said.

Speaking to ITV, Cabinet Office minister David Lidington said: "We've got no plans for legislation."

Read more: US, UK and France launch air strikes on Syrian government targets

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