Decisions about the circumstances in which UK forces should be sent into action are amongst the gravest that any government can take. In a modern democracy, government also has a responsibility to listen and the elected parliament should not be cut out of the process that precedes those decisions being made. That, however, is what has happened this weekend. The Prime Minister could and should have consulted Parliament before involving UK forces in air strikes on Syria, including on their strategic purpose and how she believed the action proposed would achieve that purpose.
The reality we all now face, though, is that the airstrikes have gone ahead and the key issues now are what happens from here, including:
- Diplomatic strategies to guard against escalation both on the ground in Syria and between third parties in the region and beyond.
- The need to redouble international efforts to build a peace plan for Syria. The failure of the international community to end the appalling bloodshed in Syria so far does not alter the need to keep trying.
- An urgent and renewed focus on the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people – both those still in the firing line and those who have fled.
In all of this, it is vital to reaffirm an indivisible commitment to international law and internationally-agreed rules governing the behaviour and actions of states, especially in relation to the use of chemical weapons. The current investigation into the Douma attack by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is an important part of that process in relation to Syria.
The ongoing challenges for the international community are to build effective mechanisms to hold to account those who break international law and to uphold the UN’s constitutional responsibility to protect civilians under threat. Nowhere is that more important than in relation to the abhorrent use of chemical weapons, in contravention of international law.
Whatever the immediate results of the US/UK/French airstrikes on Syria, they have not taken away the imperative of addressing those challenges.
Welcome to my latest Parliamentary newsletter which gives me the opportunity to wish you a Happy Easter!
Space prevents the newsletter covering all of what I have been doing over the past month. However, hopefully it provides a flavour of some of the local issues I have taken up as well as my actions in Parliament. You’ll find updates on local planning applications, legal aid for families of the victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings and other issues. As ever, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me on these or any other issues.
Yesterday I led a debate in Parliament calling for legal aid to be granted for the families of the victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings.
The families are contesting a ruling by the Coroner that suspects cannot be identified during the reopened Inquest into the Birmingham Pub Bombings. They won their case in the High Court. The Coroner has lodged an Appeal as he has every right to do. While the Corner will receive public funding to present his appeal however, the families are being denied Legal Aid to defend the judgement of the High Court.
The issue is a simple one. Why shouldn’t both sides be treated equally?
A cross party group of 23 MPs and Peers have today written to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calling on him to outline what steps he will take to secure the release of British-Sudanese national Dr Sidqi Kaballo.
Dr Kaballo is detained without charge or trial after participating in peaceful protests in Khartoum on 16th January 2018.
Today on Dr Kaballo’s 70th birthday MPs and Peers who are members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sudan and South Sudan or who have been by contacted by constituents about the human rights situation in Sudan have called for renewed efforts to ensure the safe release of Dr Kaballo.
On Tuesday I will be calling for legal aid to be granted for the families of the victims of the Birmingham Pub Bombings.
For years, families of the victims have already had to overcome many hurdles to get answers about what happened on that fateful day of 21st November 1974. They had to fight for an inquest in the first place and they had to fight to be granted legal aid. They eventually won that battle, but now they have once again been denied legal aid. This time, the issue is a ruling by the Coroner that people suspected of carrying out the Pub Bombings cannot be identified at the Inquest. The families contested that ruling at the High Court and won. The Coroner has responded by taking the case to the Court of Appeal as he has every right to do. Whereas public funds will be available to present the Coroner’s appeal against the High Court’s judgement, however, the families have been told they will have to pay for their own legal representation to defend the judgement.