這辯論雖然是由一位工黨議員Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab)提出，但工黨和保守黨都不挑戰空襲本身。
Alison McGovern 只關注，事後的醫療救援、被難者支援、防止未來暴行、經濟制裁、收容難民(註四)。民間最關注的這是否不義之戰的這一點，沒有得到議員關注。
發言的Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)表示 (註七)：“
禁化武組織聯合國聯合調查機制發現，2014年至2017年期間，敘利亞政府有四次使用化學武器，包括2014年4月在塔拉梅內斯，2015年3月在Sarmin和Qamenas--均涉及使用氯氣- 並在Khan Shaykhun去年4月4日，政府軍使用沙林殺死大約100人，另有500人傷亡。單靠外交行動不能緩解化學武器在這些案件中造成的人道主義痛苦。它並沒有阻止4月7日杜馬的暴行，也不能阻止未來的化學武器襲擊。
文翠珊回應英國政黨最關注的事，周末行動是否有用。文翠珊表示：“我的答案是否。我們的行動具體而確切。 這一行動不是干涉內戰，不是為了政權更替。 我們不計劃長期的軍事行動; 我們採取的行動是有限和有針對性的。 這完全是為了減輕敘利亞進一步的人道主義痛苦，這是由於化學武器襲擊造成的。行動打擊了敘利亞政權使用化學武器的能力。 所以這是一次有限的，有針對性和有效的攻擊。其界線明確，力求避免升級，並儘一切可能防止平民傷亡。
俄羅斯的行為意味著僅僅依靠聯合國安理會就等於接受不用對這些化學武器襲擊敘利亞無辜平民採取行動。正如尊貴的國會議員Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock)指出，依靠這一點意味著將我們的外交政策否決給俄羅斯，這不是我們願意接受的。
一，文明是否走向盡頭。Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud.
a Member of Parliament who does not hold office in the government or opposition and who sits behind the front benches in the House of Commons.
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I rise to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration—namely, the current situation in Syria and the UK Government’s approach.
The need for this debate first arose last week, during recess. As we know, on Saturday 7 April, two incidents were reported of bombs filled with toxic chemicals being dropped on Douma in Syria. The hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) and I agreed during the recess that, on the House’s return, we would seek an emergency opportunity for the House to discuss the atrocity. The need for such a debate is all the stronger now, given the Government’s action in response. Members will have different views on the Government’s action. However, whatever their view, it is pretty clear that the House ought to have the opportunity to debate the matter.
On the basis of that principle, and no other, I have been pleased to receive support for this SO24 application from the following Members: the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), the Father of the House; my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), the Mother of the House; the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis); my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper); the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling, as I mentioned earlier; the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell); my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty); and a whole host of Back Benchers who hold various different views on the situation in Syria and what the Government’s actions ought to be but none the less agree that we ought to discuss it in this House, whatever the Government’s attitude to process in Parliament. To quote the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield in a previous debate:
“In a hung Parliament, political power tends to pass from the Cabinet Room to the Floor of this House”.—[Official Report, 21 June 2017; Vol. 626, c. 109.]
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I am grateful to the hon. Lady, to whose application I have listened carefully. Colleagues, I am satisfied that the matter raised is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. Has the hon. Lady the leave of the House?
Application agreed to (not fewer than 40 Members standing in support).
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Very clearly, the hon. Lady does have the leave of the House, and to her debate, colleagues, you will be pleased to know, we will proceed momentarily. That debate will take place today for up to three hours.
Before I invite the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) to move her motion, it might perhaps be helpful if I explain the timing. Standing Orders do not expressly provide that a debate granted under Standing Order No. 24 is exempt from interruption at 10 o’clock on a Monday. They do, however, allow for business delayed as a result of such a debate to have injury time, 補時階段if necessary beyond the moment of interruption at 10 o’clock. I have taken advice and benefited from the contents of the scholarly cranium of the Clerk of the House. On the strength of that, I am ruling that the debate can continue despite the moment of interruption because I am interpreting the power given to me under subsection (2) of Standing Order No. 24 to determine the length of a debate as embracing the power to permit the debate to continue beyond the moment of interruption. It will therefore continue for up to three hours. We now come to that emergency debate on the current situation in Syria and the UK Government’s approach.
I will not give way at the moment.
First, on getting aid in, medical supplies are desperately needed. I have been hearing from professionals in the region who are trying to help to save lives, and Assad’s tactic has been simply to block them. We have the resources, and we have supplies in Jordan. We have to focus on getting medical supplies and other forms of necessary aid into the places where people are besieged. I will return to that in a moment.
I want to highlight the pledging conference coming up in Brussels shortly, which the Prime Minister mentioned. I am pleased that there is an overwhelming majority in the House in favour of our aid budget. Given that support, all we ask is that the Prime Minister makes the best possible use of the aid budget for people in Syria.
Secondly, on getting people out, the tactic of Assad and his regime has been to direct civilians to a concentrated area and to group them together, saying that that will make them safe, and then to attack them. It is a bitter falsehood to say to people, “We’re going to shift you out of here to make sure that you’re safe,” before later coming back to attack them. We need to help to mount a rescue, and that means searching for the people who humanitarian organisations know are the most injured, as well as disabled children, and helping to get them out of there.
Thirdly, we ought to deter further violence. I caution everyone in the House against engaging in the behaviour of an armchair general. We should not be coming up with military solutions off the top of our head, but that does not mean we should not use the skill of our armed forces or that we should not say to our military advisers, “Look at the different groups of people in Syria, be they besieged or attacked, and give us a strategy to help each and every one of them. Tell us what we can do to deter further violence.” It is not just chemical weapons that people are facing there. Barrel bombs ought not to be dropped on children’s heads—it is as simple as that. If we cannot get the best advice on how we can deter that, I am not sure what we are for.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I will give way in a moment, but I will come back to others first.
In addition, surveillance and reconnaissance assets can conduct monitoring and reporting of attacks against civilians. The UK and its coalition partners should be providing protection and support to the UN. It is within the coalition’s gift to establish a favourable air situation so that we can ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian aid. We have to get the right supplies in, and I simply ask the Government to go back and find what more they can do to open humanitarian corridors and get aid in.
As a guarantor of the rules-based international order, the Government must now ask all parties to the conflict to permit the unrestricted delivery and distribution of that aid. This has to be put in as simple and stark terms as possible. We have to articulate what we see as the next stage for accountability and whether there is a role for other routes through the UN and the International Criminal Court. The Government ought to say what they think now. The French Government recently made a number of suggestions, and I ask the Government to look at those and work with the French to see what can be done.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and congratulate her on the case she is making. Like all hon. Members, I have had contact over the last few days from constituents who are very concerned about the plight of the Syrian people. Does she agree that what she is describing is not the kind of one-off event that occurred over the weekend, for reasons that I understand—immediately to degrade chemical weapons—but a long-term and sustained diplomatic, political and, if necessary, military response? Part of that must be a communications strategy to ensure that the public in this country and more widely understand what we are seeking to achieve?
My hon. Friend makes an important and wise point, as she does normally.
We have been coming back to this place after each horrific event and asking ourselves, “How did we let this happen?” Let this time be different. Let this be the moment when we decide to take a long-term view and bring together all the best efforts of everybody in Britain to secure peace.
Mrs Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con)
The hon. Lady is making a powerful case, particularly about the importance of aid. What does she think should be done to ensure that other countries follow the UK in standing by their responsibilities to deliver aid to Syria?
I thank the right hon. Lady for her intervention. As someone who fought the battle to get a Bill through Parliament to guarantee the aid of this country, I would happily talk to parliamentarians in other countries about what they ought to do, but this debate is not about what others should do. Our Prime Minister is here, and my focus is on what she can do and what our country can do to try to assist vulnerable Syrians.
Fourthly, we need to defund Assad. Unfortunately, Syria has still managed to function as an economic actor in the world, but that cannot be right. It cannot be okay that business goes on as normal in the face of such brutality and inhumane actions by that country’s Government. I ask the Prime Minister to investigate what actions we can take to remove Syria from the SWIFT system, which provides for international financial transactions. That would send a strong signal that we are no longer prepared to tolerate Syria just going on as normal. It has involvement in a number of forums around the world, and we must go through each one and remove Syria. We need to send a message that the Syrian Government are beyond the pale and that their actions prove that they can no longer be treated as a normal member of the international community in any sphere of life, especially economically.
Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab)
One thing that has been absent from these debates—whether we are talking about Iraq, Libya or Syria—is that what would offer the people of Syria a lot of hope is a reconstruction plan for after we achieve peace in Syria. That has always been absent from the Government’s thinking.
At some point, Syria must be rebuilt, but right now the bombs are falling. We ought not to have an idea that we can somehow put money into Syria and that will make it better, because my argument is actually the opposite: that would make it worse. My hon. Friend is right, however, in the sense that we have to work with Syrians—especially those in this country, and all those who are our constituents—and talk to them about the kind of vision they have for Syria post conflict. I will come on to the precise point he mentioned in a moment.
Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
I thank my hon. Friend for her excellent work not just on this, but, like all its members, on the all-party friends of Syria group. Does she agree that, in relation to Russia and finance, the UK could look at taking a similar approach to that of the US towards oligarchs? The rouble actually dropped 30% 10 days ago because of measures that the Trump Government brought in. Does she think that such an approach would be relevant, to apply financial pressure on Russia?
I do. My hon. Friend pre-empts me, and she is quite right. In my view, the sanctions we have currently levied against Syria and its backers are insufficient. She is no longer in her place, but the Chair of the Treasury Committee, the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), spoke very well earlier about the need to look again at this situation and to consider secondary sanctions to reach those who trade with those trading with Syria and its backers. I am pleased that the Treasury Committee is going to investigate this matter in detail.
Fifthly and finally, we have to demonstrate our commitments to the victims of this war. We now have a large number of Syrians—people from Syria who were here before the conflict and those who have come in since—who form part of our UK society. I really think we ought to listen to and work with them and that we should build up another track of peace building. We know that the Geneva talks have stalled and that the Astana process is not going to produce what we would see as an answer, so why do we not learn the lessons of Northern Ireland and recognise that peace needs to involve not just the warring parties but all those with a stake in Syrian society? Why can we not reach out across Syrian civil society and have a British-led effort to consult those impacted by the war and who hold no power but may do so in the future? I really believe that in working with Syrian civil society, most especially women, we would find some of the answers to peace. That will not come immediately or straightaway, but by doing such early work, we could put in train a better Syria for the future.
Scottish National Party 35
Liberal Democrat 12
Democratic Unionist Party 10
Sinn Féin 6
Plaid Cymru 4
Green Party 1
Total number of seats 650
I congratulate the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) on securing this debate.
I, like many, am horrified by the Assad regime’s actions against its own people. It is beyond belief that any regime would use conventional weapons, let alone chemical weapons, against civilians, and I would expect any Government to condemn the regime and take action. The UK has the capability and the world standing to act for those who cannot. The Prime Minister has the heavy burden of judging the security assessments and making decisions to act in defence of the British people or to act on humanitarian grounds.
It therefore disappointed me that the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, chose to describe the action in Syria as “a macho strongman stand-off.”
I am proud that we have a United Kingdom Prime Minister who can take the difficult ultimate decisions, because to ignore the use of chemical weapons is to encourage their use, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) made clear. If the SNP is waiting for the UN, it is clear that Russia will block it. If it is waiting for absolute proof, how? Again, the Russians and the Assad regime will block it.
This is important because it is now that we should stand shoulder to shoulder and show leadership. The hon. Member for Wirral South spoke passionately about the suffering, and we must stop the atrocities. We must act to defend international law. It is more likely that the Assad regime will take notice if the protection of its Russian overlords is undermined.
The precision of the proportionate response has demonstrated to Assad and his forces that they are not beyond the reach of international action, and I ask hon. Members here and in Holyrood to show leadership and to recognise that we can achieve our humanitarian aid ambitions, as the hon. Lady said, only if we take action. I implore the Prime Minister to take action if intelligence shows it is needed.
To argue for no action is to turn a blind eye to a far-off atrocity. We cannot say, “This is not our country and not our cause.” This is chemical weapons, this is a war crime and this is our cause.
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I want to focus on what I would like to call the Westminster paradox. While there are those who have taken the view that the something that must be done was the something done at the weekend, I cannot help but draw the conclusion that instead of reasserting the very best of the international rules-based system, we have set a precedent for an unfortunate and disturbing new normal that will be far more to the liking of those in the Kremlin than they would want.
我想集中討論我想稱之為威斯敏斯特的悖論。 雖然有些人認為必須完成的事情是周末完成的事情，但我不得不得出這樣一個結論，即我們不是重申最好的國際規則為基礎的製度，而是製定了一個 一個不幸和令人不安的新常態的先例，將會更多地克服克里姆林宮的人的喜好。
It is important for all Members to recognise the difficulty that the Prime Minister faced last week. While I may not agree with the decision, I think every Member of the House should reflect on it. It was a difficult decision to make, as I think every Member recognises.
Nevertheless, I disagree with the answer the Prime Minister gave me earlier, which was that by asking that the United Nations is respected, we somehow give the Russian state—specifically the Russian regime—a veto on UK foreign policy. It seems that it is now United Kingdom Government policy that United Nations Security Council vetoes are no longer binding on the UK. That seems to be the precedent the UK Government are setting. Whether we like it or not, Vladimir Putin will be rubbing his hands at this small yet significant hypocrisy—magnified a thousandfold on Russia Today, in internet memes and in Stop the War coalition whataboutery—which contains just enough of a grain of truth to be accepted by the many who believe such things all too easily.
英國政府似乎正在做成先例。 無論我們喜不喜歡，普京都高興得搓手，抓住這一小但顯著的虛偽不放，在俄羅斯、互聯網和反戰集會中無限放大，它當中的小小道理 足以讓許多人輕信俄羅斯的解說。
We know that the United Kingdom has not used its Security Council veto unilaterally since September 1972. It was, of all things, on a colonial legacy issue about the place formerly known as Rhodesia, and I am sure that the Government would not like to be reminded about that during this week of all weeks. Why does the United Kingdom have this veto? Many people have noticed the precedent that has been set. I do not doubt that the corrupt regime in Moscow will stop at nothing to prop up the wicked regime in Damascus. Equally, it will do so in relation to the various slivers of eastern Europe and the Caucasus that it has occupied, while China will supposedly do so in relation to North Korea or Burma.
So—this is a specific question that requires an answer—do the Government have any substantive policy suggestions for the structure and procedures of the United Nations Security Council now that it would seem that veto powers have ceased to work? To embark on a brave new world of UK foreign policy once since 2016 was foolish; to do so twice would be indescribable.
Let us get to the final point of the Westminster paradox. Over the course of the two referendums we have had on these islands in recent years, it would be fair to say we have been given the impression, particularly by Government Members, that the UK’s position on the Security Council was one of great responsibility and power that gave us immense privileges and, secondly, that it was derived in part from the status of this place as a cradle of liberal parliamentary democracy—something that should be restored to a supposed former glory. I fear that, in the same period in which they have diminished themselves by being about to leave the European Union, this Government have diminished the United Kingdom yet further by laying dynamite under the foundations of the international rules-based system that it did so much to create.
The Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May)
Let me start by thanking the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) for securing the debate—I congratulate her on doing so. I welcomed her powerful contribution, which included her support for the action that we have taken. Nobody can doubt the passion with which she spoke about this subject. She has shown care, concern and compassion for Syrian refugees in many of her contributions in this House.
The persistent and abhorrent use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime cannot go unanswered. It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of these weapons in Syria, and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should never, ever be used.
Although I recognise that there are some issues on which there have been disagreements this evening, I welcome the widespread revulsion of this House over the use of chemical weapons, whether in Syria, on the streets of the UK, or elsewhere in the world. I welcome, too, the universal admiration and support that has been expressed today for the remarkable men and women in our armed forces. They once again put their lives on the line to serve this country, and their bravery and professionalism was essential to the success of this mission.
I would like to address head-on some of the most critical questions that have been posed about the military action that was taken. First, there was the question of whether we should have just tried harder at diplomacy. Together with our international partners, we have tried time and time again to use diplomatic channels to prevent the Assad regime from using chemical weapons against its people. The chemical weapons convention, UN Security Council resolutions and decisions of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons executive council all require Syria to produce a comprehensive declaration of its chemical weapons programme.
Following the sarin attack in eastern Damascus back in August 2013, the Syrian regime even committed to dismantle its chemical weapons programme, and Russia promised to ensure that Syria did this, overseen by the OPCW. The Leader of the Opposition referred to action that was taken, but more than five years later, the reality is that Syria did not dismantle its chemical weapons programme and the Russian guarantee had no value. Indeed, the director general of the OPCW reported just last month that Syria had not provided credible evidence to account for 22 serious issues. This includes agents present at facilities that have not been declared and types of chemical warfare agent that Syria has not declared at all. Furthermore, the OPCW has recorded more than 390 allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria since its fact-finding mission was established in 2014.
The OPCW-UN joint investigative mechanism has found Syria responsible for using chemical weapons on four occasions between 2014 and 2017, including at Talamenes in April 2014, at Sarmin and Qamenas in March 2015—both involved the regime using chlorine—and at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April last year, when the regime used sarin to kill around 100 people, with a further 500 casualties. Relying on diplomatic action alone has failed to alleviate the humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons in each of these cases. It did not prevent the atrocity in Douma on 7 April, and it would not prevent future chemical weapons attacks either.
I remind the House that, as a number of right hon. and hon. Members have said, inaction is not an option—my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) made that very clear. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) said that inaction would have led to more significant chemical attacks. The right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), who I think we all recall making a passionate speech in this House on the issue of action in Syria in 2015, said that selective silence in the face of brutality is not a principle and is not a policy.
Let me address one of the biggest concerns that I know many people had in advance of the decision to take this military action in Syria: would such action make things worse? I was clear that the answer is no, but only because of the specific and precise nature of the intervention that we have made. This action was not about intervening in a civil war and it was not about regime change. Neither have we begun a long military campaign; the action that we have taken was limited and targeted. It was purely about alleviating further humanitarian suffering in Syria caused by chemical weapons attacks by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring the use of these weapons in Syria and beyond. So this was a limited, targeted and effective strike with clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.
Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP)
Did the prospect of a retaliation of a cyber nature from the Government of Russia feature in the Prime Minister’s calculation?
The Prime Minister
As I said during my statement, of course, when we were considering taking this action, we considered a whole variety of ways in which it might be possible that there was reaction, but as I also said in response to a number of hon. Members, we ensured that we took the action in a way that reduced the risk of escalation taking place. As I have said, the way we did this expressly sought to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties. But if the hon. Gentleman is talking about the possibility of Russian cyber-attacks, he does not have to wait for us to take action in Syria for Russia to get involved in cyber-attacks on this country or, indeed, on many other countries.
Together with our allies, we have hit a centre for the research and development of Syria’s chemical and biological programme, we have hit a chemical weapons bunker, which contained both a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and an important command post, and we have hit a location of Syrian sarin and precursor production equipment whose destruction would degrade Syria’s ability to deliver sarin in the future. Hitting these targets with the force we have used will not have a negative impact on the already complex situation in Syria. What it will do is significantly degrade the Syrian regime’s ability and willingness to research, develop and deploy chemical weapons. That is a good thing for the Syrian people and for the security of the wider world.
As we consider our action, we should recognise the role that Russia has played in Syria. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) brought home to the House the reality of Russian activity. We should recognise not only the support being given to the Assad regime by Russia but also Russia’s actions in the United Nations. I want to set out what has happened to the recent resolutions that we and our international partners have tried to secure to constrain the chemical weapons use of the Syrian regime.
On 28 February last year, a resolution to impose sanctions on Syria for the use of chemical weapons was vetoed by Russia. On 12 April, a resolution to condemn the reported use of chemical weapons in Syria calling on the regime to co-operate with an investigation was vetoed by Russia. On 24 October, a resolution to renew the mandate of the mission that investigates the use of chemical weapons in Syria was vetoed by Russia. On 16 November, a resolution to renew an international inquiry into who is to blame for chemical weapons attacks in Syria was vetoed by Russia. On 17 November, a resolution to extend the joint investigative mechanism inquiry for one month was vetoed by Russia.
On 10 April this year, a resolution to establish an independent mechanism investigation to attribute responsibility for chemical weapons use in Syria was vetoed by Russia. Russia’s behaviour means that relying solely on the United Nations Security Council is tantamount to accepting that no action should be taken in response to these chemical weapons attacks on innocent civilians in Syria. As the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) pointed out, relying on that would mean giving the veto on our foreign policy to Russia, and that is not something that we are willing to accept.
I just want to mention one issue about which the hon. Member for Wirral South spoke particularly passionately, as she has done previously—that of refugees. She welcomed and valued the aid that we have given. I continue to believe that it is important that we are providing this significant amount of support in the region as the second-biggest bilateral donor. We have been able to provide healthcare, educational and other support to hundreds of thousands of children in Syria and the surrounding countries for the same investment that it would take to support 3,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children here in the United Kingdom.
These are not easy decisions to take, but it is right to get a balance of support in the region, which enables us to give more support to more people and more children, and at the same time to bring here those who are particularly vulnerable and in need. The hon. Lady is right: while the military action was focused on degrading chemical weapons, we need that wider effort in terms of resolving the conflict in Syria, dealing with Daesh and continuing to press for action in the Geneva process.
This year, we mark the centenary of the end of the first world war, brought home to us starkly this evening by my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois). The international community came together at that point to stop the use of chemical weapons. This weekend Britain, France and America sent a clear message to those who seek to rip up the international rulebook: stop, and stop now.