Michael Fallon: MPs will not have right to vote on sending troops overseas

Posted On: 
18th April 2016

MPs will not be given an automatic right to vote on sending British troops overseas, Michael Fallon has revealed.

The Government has paved the way to sending out troops without asking Parliament first

His announcement comes amid mounting speculation that 1,000 UK forces could be sent into Libya to help in the fight against Islamic State.

Since the Iraq War in 2003, MPs have been given a vote whenever the Government has wanted to send UK forces into conflict.

Philip Hammond in unannounced visit to Libya

Defence chief 'to pave way' for 1,000 British troops to be sent to Libya

Senior Tory: Philip Hammond 'not straightforward' over Libya military plans

It was used as recently as December last year, when MPs voted to extend airstrikes against Islamic State into Syrian territory.

But in a statement today, the Defence Secretary said the Government would not be enshrining it in law so that ministers can deploy troops quickly in emergency situations.

He said: "After careful consideration, the Government has decided that it will not be codifying the convention in law or by resolution of the House in order to retain the ability of this and future governments and the Armed Forces to protect the security and interests of the UK in circumstances that we cannot predict, and to avoid such decisions becoming subject to legal action.

"We will continue to ensure that parliament is kept informed of significant major operations and deployments of the Armed Forces."

LIBYA

The news comes after reports senior defence officials will lay the ground to send troops to Libya during talks in Rome this week.

Claims that Britain was planning to send military personnel to the north African country emerged last month, after members of the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) were tipped off during a visit to Libya.

Air Vice Marshal Edward Stringer will fly to Italy this week to tell fellow commanders of the proposals to deploy the troops to help train the Libyan military defeat Islamic State, according to the Daily Mail.

The FAC said last month troops would operate in non-combat roles as trainers for the Libyan army and to provide security for the newly-formed ‘Government of National Accord’.

Italy had been assembling a non-combat force of 6,000 people, including French and British military personnel, to help train Libyan forces to tackle the Isis contingent in Libya.

A defence source told the Mail it is unclear whether the troops would be deployed to hostile areas: “It is not clear yet whether this would be behind the wire or not”.

FAC chair Crispin Blunt said sending over troops without a clear plan could exacerbate the turmoil in the north African country.

“The idea that you could put a training force of that size in the country and it would not be seen as Western intervention is the view of someone living on cloud cuckoo land,” he said.

“We would find ourselves a target for those who wish the West ill."

“Unless there is a clear policy objective explaining how troops would deliver the desired outcome, it will almost certainly make things worse.”

Mr Fallon told the Commons this afternoon: "Let me be very clear that no such decision has been taken and we are not contemplating at the moment a commitment of that kind.

"If we are in the future to deploy military forces in a combat role into a conflict zone we would, of course, as the Prime Minister has made clear, come to this House first."