Graham Allen comments on Parliament’s role in conflict decisions

27 August 2013

The Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, Graham Allen MP, said today

"Events in Syria have brought to the fore the question of Parliament’s role in decisions to commit British forces to armed conflict overseas.  The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee carried out an inquiry in 2011 into this subject. Currently this is a prerogative power that can be exercised by the Government. 

There is allegedly a convention that Parliament should be consulted, though this did not operate without considerable parliamentary pressure before the Iraq war. Also current rules prevent even an Early Day Motion calling for a parliamentary debate to be accepted while the House is not sitting. Faced with the most important national event—taking military action—Parliament cannot participate and react in the same way, or with comparable flexibility, as the media or the Government it is meant to hold to account. I will be asking my Committee to review all this after this immediate crisis has passed.

Our original inquiry concluded that the Government needed to honour the Foreign Secretary’s undertaking to the House of Commons to ‘enshrine in law for the future the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action’.  The Foreign Secretary’s statement was made in March 2011, but the necessity of consulting Parliament still isn’t enshrined in law.  It is a matter of some urgency that it should be, so that in future there can be no doubt about the necessity of involving Parliament before making conflict decisions." 

Image: Parliamentary copyright  

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