Clarify and formalise Parliament's role in war decisions

27 March 2014

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee produces draft resolution setting out how Parliament should be consulted on the use of force

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee publishes its own draft parliamentary resolution setting out the process that should be followed to consult Parliament on conflict decisions, to serve as an interim step towards putting Parliament’s role in war making decisions on a legal footing. The Committee has repeatedly called on Government to make progress on the Foreign Secretary’s commitment in 2011 to “enshrine in law for the future the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action”.

Chairman's Comments

Graham Allen, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The decision to take military action is the most momentous a Government can make, and so it is crucial that the role of the UK Parliament in conflict decisions be clarified and formalised, and not left to the discretion of the Prime Minister.

In 2011 the Foreign Secretary committed to enshrine in law the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action. Since then the Government has made no progress on this commitment, nor set out how it intends to do so.

It is in light of that the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has produced a draft parliamentary resolution, setting out the process we believe should be followed to consult Parliament on conflict decisions. We have recommended that the Government consider our draft resolution with a view to consulting on a revised version and tabling it for consideration by the House no later than November 2014. This would serve to embed the current convention and clearly set out the process that Parliament expects to be followed in the event of a conflict decision being considered.”

Key points

  • The debate in the House of Commons on 29 August 2013 regarding Syria and the use of chemical weapons highlighted the important role Parliament plays in conflict decisions.
  • The Government needs to make a clear statement of how it intends to honour the Foreign Secretary’s commitment of 2011, and give a specific Minister responsibility for making progress on this.
  • A parliamentary resolution would serve as a useful interim step towards enshrining Parliament’s role in law, by embedding the current convention and clarifying some of the ambiguities that exist under current arrangements.

The Committee has called on the Government to consider the draft resolution appended to its Report, and produce its own version for consultation by June, and a final version presented to the House of Commons by November.

Further information

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