Theresa May says Syria strikes 'right and legal' - as she defends decision not to give MPs a say

Posted On: 
14th April 2018

Theresa May has insisted that last night’s airstrikes on Syria were "right and legal", as she defended her decision to join the US-led action without consulting Parliament.

PA - The Prime Minister said the UK "cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised"
Credit: 
PA

The Prime Minister said the decision to send RAF Tornados to join US and French jets in bombing targets controlled by the Assad regime showed that the UK would not “stand by and tolerate” the use of chemical weapons.

“The lesson of history is when the global rules and standard that keep us safe come under threat we must take a stand and defend them,” she said. “That’s what we’ve always done and will continue to do.”

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Ms May added: "We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised, within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path but on this occasion there is none."

The Prime Minister stressed that the latest Western intervention in the brutal seven-year civil war in Syria was aimed squarely at deterring chemical weapons use, saying the intervention was “not about regime change” and had been taken following the legal advice of the Attorney General.

“It was a limited, targeted, effective strike with clear boundaries," Ms May said.

But the Government has today come under fire from Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats for pressing ahead with fresh military intervention before allowing MPs to have a say.

Mr Corbyn has accused Ms May of presiding over “legally questionable” action and kowtowing to US President Donald Trump, while the SNP is pushing for an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Monday.

While Ms May confirmed that she would give a statement to MPs when they return from recess on Monday, she would not commit to seeking Parliamentary authorisation for the latest round of airstrikes and stressed the urgency of UK action.

"We’ve been working with our allies and partners to make a full assessment of what happened on the ground, then to consider what action was necessary - then do that in a timely fashion. One of the gravest decisions a Prime Minister can take is to send our service personnel into action, into combat. We owe it to them to protect their safety and security."

Ms May meanwhile received a boost from her parliamentary allies the DUP this morning, with the party’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds hitting back at claims that Ms May could not commit the UK to action without first asking MPs.

“The Prime Minister has the full authority, on the basis of all the information at her disposal, to order the type of military action which has been carried out this morning and we reject any suggestion that she was not entitled to do so,” he said.

“We are reassured that the military action is strictly targeted and limited in its purpose. Also that it is not about a wider intervention in the Syrian civil war which would, in our view, be counter-productive.

“Given the context of the recent international response to the use of a nerve agent in the UK, the clear targeted purpose of the strikes, and the repeated blocking by Russia of diplomatic solutions through the UN, we believe the Prime Minister was justified in standing with our American and French allies in this concerted action.”