I have faced many challenges as your Member of Parliament, the most significant is deciding whether UK military intervention in another country should be undertaken. I fundamentally believe in our values enshrined in the rule of law and that wherever possible diplomacy should be used to resolve conflict. I know that any action has consequences, sometimes unforeseen, but so too does inaction.
I am also a mother of three children and am acutely aware that a decision to commit our armed services personnel will be putting another mother’s son or daughter in harms way. I know that during the Labour Government of Tony Blair, MPs were not always given accurate information upon which to base their decisions.
When I was elected in 2010, I joined colleagues calling for much greater Parliamentary scrutiny of national security policy and decision makers. I share the deep concerns arising from the Labour Government’s intervention in Iraq.
The Coalition Government led by David Cameron, put in place processes that are enabling far greater scrutiny of information about our national security, including intelligence, by MPs than previously.
The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament is composed of cross party members and its job is to scrutinise the work of those responsible for our national security.
The members of the committee are notified under the Official Secrets Act 1989 and are given access to highly classified material in carrying out their duties. The committee holds evidence sessions with Government ministers and senior officials.
The work of the committee is invariably conducted in secret, but its members do speak in debates in Parliament. I think that the work of this Committee provides MPs some assurance that decisions are being made on the best possible information.
Had this Committee with the new powers it acquired in 2013 been in operation during the Tony Blair years, I doubt so many MPs would have voted for military intervention in Iraq.
Most weeks in Parliament, we debate the UKs role in the world, including our involvement in the Middle East and Syria.
It is now almost 100 years since the treaty to prohibit use of chemical weapons. We have seen nation after nation sign up to this global consensus. The universal abhorrence of chemical weapons, and the programme of destruction of declared stockpiles is a considerable achievement.
In 2013 the Syrian regime committed to destroy its chemical arsenal while Russia – the mentor of Syrian Regime – guaranteed to the process overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The National Security Council of the United Nations, the Prime Minister and Cabinet have seen a significant body of information, including intelligence, that indicates that the Assad regime was behind the chemical attack at Douma on April 7 that killed about 75 people and resulted in hundreds of casualties.
The Douma massacre is part of a pattern of use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Regime. International investigators mandated by the UN Security Council have found the Assad regime responsible for using chemical weapons in four separate attacks since 2014.
The military action undertaken by the UK on Saturday was carried out to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian Regime’s Chemical Weapons capability and deterring their use. The legal basis for this intervention has been published. Many countries and organisations, including NATO and the EU support this action. In degrading Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities the Prime Minister made her intensions clear – we want to do what we can to protect Syrian people from chemical weapons.
These carefully targeted and calibrated strikes were not designed to intervene in the Syrian civil war or effect regime change.
At a time of understandable tension in our relations with Russia it has been important to stress that this action does not entail an attempt to frustrate Russian strategic objectives in Syria. This does not represent an escalation of UK or western involvement in Syria.
I don’t believe the global community can simply turn a blind eye to the use of chemical weapons. Along with partners and as members of the EU, we have tried non military interventions, including peace talks and sanctions.
The UN have considered resolutions but Russia has repeatedly shielded the Syrian Regime from investigation and censure, vetoing six separate UN Security Council resolutions, including the UN mandated Investigative Mechanism set up to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons attacks in Syria.
Of course every diplomatic effort must continue to be made to secure a political solution to the civil war in Syria but we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons with impunity.
First published in the Falmouth Wave