Theresa May insisted the Syrian airstrike on Bashar al Assad’s forces was in “Britain’s best interest” following the chemical weapons attack which killed at least 75 people and caused a further 500 casualties.
The Prime Minister described the attack as a “significant stain on humanity” as she added that previous actions by Assad meant the UK could not rely on diplomatic solutions alone.
Mrs May said: “The strikes that took place were about degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability, but I believe they should have given a message to others as well – that we will not accept the use of chemical weapons with impunity.”Speaking about the decision to launch the air strikes with the US and France, the Prime Minister continued:“United Nations Security Council-mandated inspectors have investigated previous attacks and on four occasions decided that the regime was indeed responsible.
“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.
“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 cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to be normalise either in Syria or on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.
“So we have not done this because President Donald Trump has asked us to.
“We have done it because we believe it was the right thing to do and we are not alone.”
The Prime Minister added:“This was a limited targeted and effective strike that would significantly degrade Syrian chemical weapons capabilities and defer their future use and with clear boundaries that expressly sought de-escalation and we did everything we could to minimise civilian casualties.”
Theresa May faces MPs in the House of Commons over her decision to launch air strikes against Syria
However, Jeremy Corbyn responding to Mrs May’s remarks hit back saying “we clearly need a War Powers Act” as he criticised her decision to launch the air strike without parliamentary approval.
Labour leader described the chemical attack in Douma as “horrific” but faced shouts of “shame” from Tory MPs as he told the Commons: “This statement serves as a reminder that the Prime Minister is accountable to this Parliament, not to the whims of the US President.
“We clearly need a War Powers Act in this country to transform a now broken convention into a legal obligation.
“Her predecessor came to this House to seek authority for military action in Libya and in Syria in 2015, and the House had a vote over Iraq in 2003.
“There is no more serious issue than the life and death matters of military action. It is right that Parliament has the power to support or stop the Government from taking planned military action.”
Mr Corbyn continued his scathing attack on the air strikes on Syria as he cited the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War and asked the Prime Minister whether she agreed with its “key recommendation” that there needed to be greater checks on intelligence when it was used to make the case for Government policies.
He said: “Given that neither the UN nor the OPCW has yet investigated the Douma attack it is clear that diplomatic and non-military means have not been fully exhausted. While much suspicion rightly points to the Assad government chemical weapons have been used by other groups in the conflict.”
Mr Corbyn added that it was now “vitally important” that OPCW inspectors were allowed to investigate and report their findings.
He continued: “We have the grotesque spectacle of a wider geopolitical battle being waged by proxy, with the Syrian people used as pawns on all sides.”
SNP MP Ian Blackford also lambasted the Prime Minister over her decision to back air strike on Syria without parliamentary apporval.
Mr Blackford said: “The Government has now accepted that this House need time to debate Syria but why have we had to wait for toay.
“When the Prime Minister called a cabinet meeting last week, she should have recalled Parliament.
Jeremy Corbyn described the chemical attack in Douma as ‘horrific’
“The Prime Minister lead a minority government as was the case with the action against Daesh (ISIS) in 2015.
“This only happened with parliamentary approval. It was perfectly possible for the House to be recalled in advance of Saturday morning’s strikes.
Mr Blackford backed Mr Corbyn’s called for a War Powers Act as he questioned: “What does this mean for the PM’s position if there are further chemical attacks in Syria will she continue to authorise military action without consulting and without the authorisation of Parliament.”
Mrs May was back by her Conservative MPs in the Commons as they highlighted the difficult decision the Prime Minister had to make as they repeatedly cited Russia’s veto power in the UN Security Council as blocking an investigation into the chemical weapons attack.
Tory MP Dominic Grieve said:“If the leader of the opposition persists on behalf of the Labour Party in changing its previous adherence to the previous rule of international law, justifying taking unilateral action in the event of there being a humanitarian necessity.
“Does my right honourable friend agree with me that the consequence of that will be any tyrant, megalomaniac, person intent on carrying out genocide, if they have the support of ammoral state within the security council will be able to conduct that genocide with total impunity – even if it was within or power to act.”
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Priti Patel urged the Prime Minister to “give an assurance in the face of the abhorrent abuses perpetrated by the Assad regime that she will continue to be a strong voice for the international rules based system and show that Britain will not stand idly by while cruel weapons are used to murder children and innocent families.
The Tory MP also said: “There are no words to describe the appalling nature of humanitarian disaster confronting Syria.”
Ahead of the Mrs May Common’s statement the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said an emergency debate on Syria was intended to provide MPs with the opportunity to discuss the airstrikes in the Commons at the earliest possible opportunity.
The spokesman said that the “co-ordinated and targeted strike to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and alleviate human suffering” was judged to have been successful.
Theresa May was backed by her Tory MPs including Priti Patel
He added: ”The early indications are that the action which was carried out has been a success and there has been strong international backing from our allies.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson insisted the strikes – co-ordinated with action by the United States and France – were “right for the UK and right for the world”.
Mr Johnson, speaking at a summit of European Union foreign ministers today, stressed it was “not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have regime change” and “the Syrian war in many ways will go on in its horrible, miserable way”.
The Foreign Secretary added: ”But it was the world saying that we have had enough of the use of chemical weapons, the erosion of that taboo that has been in place for 100 years has gone too far under Bashar Assad.”
However shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti questioned the Government’s justification for the air strikes, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “You can’t use force under international law just to punish Syria for bad behaviour.
“You have to actually be using urgent, necessary and proportionate force. And you have to do it with the will of the world behind you.”
She added: “I think that Parliament should have been recalled before the strike.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, writing in The Guardian, also said: “The military action at the weekend was legally questionable.
“Without UN authority it was again a matter of the US and British governments arrogating to themselves an authority to act unilaterally which they do not possess.”
Meanwhile International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has opposed calls from MPs including Mr Corbyn – who has called for a War Powers Act – to give Parliament greater powers over military interventions.
Ms Mordaunt told Today: “To take a decision on whether something is legally justified, and whether what we are actually intending on doing in terms of targets is appropriate, you would need to know information that could not be shared with every MP.”
She added that it would be a “crazy thing to do” to share information on targets with MPs.