Syria

I have had many constituents contact me to share their views on the ongoing conflict in Syria and the debate that took place in the House of Commons on Thursday 29th August.

I appreciate how strongly many people feel about the prospect of the UK supporting international action in Syria. There is, of course, no more difficult decision than that of committing our armed forces and I can assure you that I have sought to consider the issues fully.

As you know, the recall of Parliament on Thursday 29th August followed speculation that the UK Government may take part in military action against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in light of recent allegations that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on a number of occasions against the civilian population. The largest of these reported chemical weapons attacks took place in several suburbs of Damascus on 21st August 2013 – attacks that Medecins Sans Frontieres states has led to 3,600 people being treated in hospitals with neurotoxic symptoms and the death of at least 355 people.

These recent chemical weapon attacks come after more than two years of an increasingly bloody civil war in Syria. More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed so far and 2 million Syrians have been made refugees, one million of whom are children. 4 million Syrians have been internally displaced and 6.8 million are in urgent humanitarian need.

The use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians is, of course, abhorrent and cannot be ignored by the international community. The question for Parliament is what is the right response? In my view the Prime Minister recalled Parliament to make a rushed decision to use military force before the weapons inspectors had reported, before the UN Security Council had debated and voted on the basis of the evidence presented, and before the wider impact of military action on the region had been properly weighed up.

I voted in favour of the amendments put forward by Ed Miliband which argued that the evidence should come before the decision, not the other way around. I then voted against the Government motion which did not contain the safeguards needed, and which Downing Street said would give ‘in principle’ support for military action.

As both votes were lost, the Prime Minister indicated that there will not now be military action. I have written to him following the vote to urge the government to focus on a renewed diplomatic, political and humanitarian effort to ease the suffering and help end the conflict in Syria.

Thank you once again to everyone who contacted me and for sharing their views on this incredibly important issue.

As always, please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any other concerns.

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