‘WHAT I am setting out today is a simple democratic demand, it is not taking an opinion one way or the other of what the government did last week, it is asserting the right, the right of Parliament to assert its view over a government. The executive must be the servant of Parliament, not the other way around,’ Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said yesterday.
He was moving an emergency motion after PM May launched missile strikes against Syria last weekend without getting Parliamentary approval first. Moving the motion ‘Parliamentary approval of military action overseas’, Corbyn said: ‘I beg to move that this House is considered Parliament’s rights in relation to the approval of military action by British forces overseas.’
He called for a new War Powers Act, which would bind the government by law to consult Parliament before launching military action. He said: ‘The principle of accountability to Parliament when it comes to warmaking, was established in 2003, when the Labour Party had a large majority in Parliament and it is that principle which I believe should now be enshrined in law.
‘The tombstone of the former foreign secretary, our friend, the late Robin Cook, warned so eloquently in the house against the decision to invade Iraq, records his words, “I may not have succeeded in halting the war, but I did secure the right of Parliament to decide on war,” the government, I am sorry to say, is now attempting to overturn that democratic advance.’
He added: ‘There is an established convention and I fear that the government has tried to breach that established convention with her actions yesterday. ‘The former Prime Minister came to this house to seek authority for military action in Libya in 2011, Syria 2015, and in 2013 sought authorisation for military action in Syria which this House denied.
‘I am sorry to say that the Prime Minister’s decision not to recall Parliament and engage in further military action last week, showed a flagrant disregard for this convention.’ He said that by doing this May had ‘tossed the convention aside’. Corbyn said: ‘The Prime Minister’s actions are a clear demonstration of why Parliament must assert its authority on this subject.
‘The people put us here to make decisions on their behalf. Enshrining the right of elected MPs to decide on matters of peace and war is an essential, vital development of hundreds of years of democratic development and parliamentary accountability.’
Neil Grey SNP MP intervened: ‘The President of the United States tweeted the week before the action suggesting that this would be happening and her own cabinet meeting indicated that they were supportive on Thursday. She could have perfectly well recalled Parliament. Is it not the case that she was just afraid of losing her vote and that is why she did not recall Parliament.’
The vote was taken and the motion was defeated 317 to 256. However, the movement which forced Corbyn to put the emergency motion after Labour abstained on the motion that the Tories put on Monday evening shows that powerful forces in the UK, in the working class and the middle class, are determined to get rid of May. Her work as Home Secretary which led to the Windrush crisis has only concentrated the anti-Tory mood.
The trade unions must now move into action to bring down this government and bring in a workers government and socialism.