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空襲的合法性──英國下議會第二場辯論

空襲的合法性──英國下議會第二場辯論
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英國工黨作為反對派,在空襲敘利亞事件上的質疑主要是:文翠珊在發動攻擊前必須獲得國會支持,因而,文翠珊的獨自決定的立法性成疑(註一)。蘇格蘭民族黨也有類似立場(註二)。

反對派角色

在西方議會民主中,反對派監察政府的方法是在重大事件上提出一個與政府不同的意見,空襲敘利亞就是一重大事件。問題之一是工黨的議會權力議案是否恰當(註三)?

今次辯論在某程度上是對英國工黨的照妖鏡,對激進的工黨黨魁科爾賓的壓力很大。因為,工黨內的老餅議員不喜歡他,指他靠群眾壓力,討好基層黨員,脅迫他們。

工黨內有一個強大的青年激進黨團 ,Momentum(動能),圍繞著科爾賓,支持他。保守的工黨老 seafood,很討厭這群青年,認為他們是托派的滲透,騎劫工黨。

介入還是另起旗幟?

這一問題對香港的傘後討論有一定參考意義。本土青年在進入議會吃虧後,本來應該「小小苦楚等於激勵」,但他們大叫議會已經無用,呼籲將選票射落大海,十分可笑。英國社運有更長的歷史,更多的激進小團體,與警察的對壘更激烈,對工黨更加不客氣。它們一直徘徊在介入工黨還是另起旗幟之間。

在脫歐公投運動中,他們發現轉入工黨更有機會做到嘢。由於他們有很高的機動性,透過每年的暑假的為期5天的夏令營,吸引了3萬青年人參加!十分成功。

敘利亞事件必然是他們關心的議題。若工黨不能滿足他們,他們可以振盪工黨的。今次的議會權利爭論還有一深層意義── 不能對現實帶來實質改變的權利,是否權利?

合法性爭議

Parliament's rights in relation to the approval of military action by British forces overseas.
工黨的理據是:

一, 2011年的內閣手冊保證,「除非發生緊急情況並且不合適」政府在對外進行軍事行動前應尋求國會批准;

二,兩年前,當時的國防部長邁克爾法倫爵士在本議院保證,政府「在英國部隊部署到作戰前向議會通報......和尋求其批准。」 [官方報告,2016年4月18日;卷。 608,c。630]

危險先例

科爾賓指出,「政府不向議會尋求批准,為未來可能發生的和更危險的行動開創了危險先例。」

科爾賓進一步認為:「正如政府需要在制訂重要政策時諮詢公眾,軍事行動或戰爭行為更需要議會批准,以確保其合符民主和合法性原則。」

文翠珊如何認定化攻是敘利亞政權所為?

一,在緊接著化武攻擊度馬的平民區前,多個訊息發現有直昇機投「油桶炸彈」。而這種攻擊方法是敘利亞政府軍的慣常手法。反政府軍沒有直昇機;其他反政府力量如伊斯蘭共和國在度馬沒有勢力;

二,政府軍有濫用化武紀錄。

2013年8月21日,在Ghouta的一次化學攻擊中,800多人遇害,數千人受傷;在那個夏天之前另外有14次較小規模的化學攻擊;2014年和2015年發生過三起氯襲擊事件,聯合國安理會授權進行的獨立調查歸因於該政權;以及去年4月4日在敘利亞政府在Shaykhun對其平民使用沙林,造成約100人死亡, 500人受傷。

「我們認為敘利亞政權很可能在Shaykhun襲擊事件後至少再多四次繼續使用化學武器。」

三,普京六度運用否決權阻撓安理會派獨立調查團到敘利亞,在最近的度馬事件後,再次否決安理會決議。

文翠珊為何出兵符合國際法?

文翠珊表示,這類軍事行動需要滿足三個條件。

首先,必須有令人信服的證據。現在整個國際社會普遍認為今次事件是大規模人道主義危機,需要立即採取行動;

其次,必須客觀地明確,為挽救無辜生命別無他法;

第三,建議的武力與減輕人道主義痛苦的目標相稱,並且必須嚴格限制在這個目標的範圍之內。

文翠珊認為,這三個標準與英國參與北約介入科索沃事件的法律依據是相同的。

文翠珊為何不先與國會商討?

文翠珊表示,支持目前在大馬士革的禁化武組織實況調查團的工作。但俄羅斯多次否決聯合國安理會新的決議。只要俄羅斯繼續否決,聯合國安理會仍然無法採取行動。 所以英國無法等待(註五)。而且,時間緊迫,不容許先到國會交代(註六)。

文翠珊對議會權力的回應

文翠珊指出:「2011年議會制定了一項公約,在對外軍事行動前,下議院應有機會就此事進行辯論。」但這一公約有但書的,在「緊急情況」,這公約不適用(註七)。

2016年時任國防部長Michael Fallon爵士的書面陳述解釋這一但書:

「公約的例外對於確保政府能夠運用權力,如何最好地保護英國的安全和利益很重要。 在遵守公約的情況下,我們必須確保我們的武裝部隊迅速果斷採取行動並維護其行動的安全的能力不會受到損害......如果我們在採取軍事行動之前,試圖與議會磋商詳情,我們將限制武裝部隊的行動靈活性,並損害這些部隊的能力,效力或安全」 - [官方報告,2016年4月18日;卷。 608,c。10WS]

文翠珊強調,軍事行動前必須諮詢國會是對2011公約的錯誤詮釋。

運用2011公約的但書的四項理由

文翠珊解釋為何今次運用但書(註八),不先向國會交代。

第一,敘利亞政權擁有當今世界上最完善的防空系統之一。 為了對付這樣的系統,我們需盡可能混淆敵人並隱藏攻擊的時間和目標。如果他們知道我們的目標是化學武器,他們可以集中其防空力量。 他們也可以預先分散化學武器庫存,而不是把它們留在我們確定的目標地點。

第二,我們有義務保護我們消息來源的安全。 我們有義務保護我們的合作夥伴,以保護他們與我們分享的情報,就像他們保護我們與他們分享的情報一樣,即使我們披露情報的類型,我們的對手也有機會從中找到重要線索。

第三個原因是我們需要與我們最親密的盟友合作。一年前,在Shaykhun發生沙林襲擊事件之後,美國為阻止進一步的化學武器攻擊,對Shaykhun機場發射59枚戰斧式巡航導彈。但是阿薩德政權並沒有停止使用化學武器,所以我們的攻擊比一年前的美國行動大得多。但如果我們在國會預先張揚了這點,它不單有可能限制其迅速採取行動的靈活性,而且會從根本上破壞其行動的有效性,並危及我們美國和法國盟友的安全。

第四個原因是英國行動的法律基礎先前已經得到議會的同意。如Mike Gapes議員在昨天所說,本議會有一個悠久的傳統,認同軍事行動是在例外的基礎的三項原則── 必要和相稱、別無選擇和符合國際法的人道救援。 這三個標準與英國在北約下介入科索沃事件、1991年以及1992年執行伊拉克禁飛區的是一致的。

沒有實效的權力是否權力?

科爾賓以2003年入侵伊拉克戰爭作例子,試圖說明在採取軍事行動前尋求國會授權是可能的,而且合符民主原則。

「它是關於民主的,是關於問責制,是關於做出非常嚴肅的決定。 這就是民選國會議員的目的。 它將使我們的政府和未來的政府對這個基本的民主原則具有約束力,以處理最嚴肅和最重大的公共政策。 正如我剛才所說,所有在座的人都非常記得他們在2003年就伊拉克問題進行辯論,正如他們記住公眾對他們望期和質詢。這就是我們被選出的原因。

我希望下議院批准這項議案,它是民主問責制的前進。」

結論一

正正是2003年例子說明英國國會的授權不單沒有推動英國民主的進展,它還為一場錯誤的行動鍍金。民主不能監察戰爭!

可以肯定,無論2003年的國會如何辯論,它都會支持那場戰爭。沒有實效的權力不是真正的權力,也不是人民的權力。

結論二

工黨提出「國會權力」議案不單沒有滿足其反對派角色,還凸顯其偽善。因為,在英國現行法制下,首相有獨自作出重大決定的權力,包括這類軍事行動。科爾賓不會不知道的。文翠珊有力地解釋了2011公約的但書的前因、國會傳統和運用但書的理由。「國會權力」議案以317對256通過支持政府決定。而工黨有259席,只有205位議員投票支持科爾賓的議案。

結論三

從文翠珊的國會發言看到,敘利亞政府軍濫用化武的指控是充份的。普京包庇敘利亞總統巴沙爾·阿薩德的指控是充份的。普京濫用否決權癱瘓聯合國安理會的指控是充份的。

【備註】

註一

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab)
I want to start by thanking the Prime Minister for our phone conversation in advance of the bombing raids on Friday night and for the advance copy of her statement today. I also join her in paying tribute to Sergeant Matt Tonroe, the SAS sniper from Manchester who was killed on 28 March with US forces in northern Syria, and Master Sergeant Jonathan Dunbar from Texas, who was killed in the same attack.

I welcome the fact that all British military personnel involved have returned home safely from this mission. The attack in Douma was an horrific attack on civilians using chemical weapons—part of a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

This statement serves as a reminder that the Prime Minister is accountable to this Parliament, not to the whims of the US President. We clearly need a war powers Act in this country to transform a now broken convention into a legal obligation. Her predecessor came to this House to seek authority for military action in Libya, and in Syria in 2015, and the House had a vote on Iraq in 2003. There is no more serious issue than the life-and-death matters of military action. It is right that Parliament has the power to support or stop the Government from taking planned military action. The BBC reports that the Prime Minister argued for the bombing to be brought forward to avoid parliamentary scrutiny. Will she today confirm or deny those reports?

I believe the action was legally questionable. On Saturday—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. I urge Members to calm down. In my experience, some Members who shout from a sedentary position also entertain the fanciful idea that they might be called to ask a question. I wish to disabuse them of that idea. The Prime Minister was heard in an atmosphere of respectful quiet. That will happen for the Leader of the Opposition as well: no ifs, no buts, no sneers, no exceptions. That is the position.

Jeremy Corbyn

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I believe that the action was legally questionable, and on Saturday, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said as much, reiterating that all countries must act in line with the United Nations charter, which states that action must be in self-defence or be authorised by the United Nations Security Council. The Prime Minister has assured us that the Attorney General had given clear legal advice approving the action. I hope the Prime Minister will now publish this advice in full today.

The summary note references the disputed humanitarian intervention doctrine, but even against this, the Government fail their own tests. The overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe due to the civil war in Syria is absolutely indisputable, but the Foreign Secretary said yesterday that these strikes would have no bearing on the civil war. The Prime Minister has reiterated that today by saying that this is not what these military strikes were about.

Does, for example, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen entitle other countries to arrogate to themselves the right to bomb Saudi airfields or its positions in Yemen, especially given its use of banned cluster bombs and white phosphorus? Three United Nations agencies said in January that Yemen was the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, so will the Prime Minister today commit to ending support to the Saudi bombing campaign and arms sales to Saudi Arabia?

On the mission itself, what assessment have the Government made of the impact of bombing related military facilities, where the regime is assessed as storing chemical weapons? What about the impact on local people of chemicals being released into the local environment? News footage shows both journalists and local people in the rubble without any protective clothing. Why does the Prime Minister believe that these missile strikes will deter future chemical attacks?

As the Prime Minister will be aware, there were US strikes in 2017 in the wake of the use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun, for which the UN OPCW team held the Assad regime to be responsible. In relation to the air strikes against the Barzeh and Him Shinsar facilities, the Prime Minister will be aware that the OPCW carried out inspections on both those facilities in 2017 and concluded that

“the inspection team did not observe any activities inconsistent with obligations”

under the chemical weapons convention. Can the Prime Minister advise the House whether she believes that the OPCW was wrong in that assessment, or does she have separate intelligence that the nature of those activities has changed within the last five months? In the light of the Chilcot inquiry, does she agree with a key recommendation about the importance of strengthening the checks and assessments on intelligence information when it is used to make the case for Government policies? Given that neither the UN nor the OPCW has yet investigated the Douma attack, it is clear that diplomatic and non-military means have not been fully exhausted.

While much suspicion rightly points to the Assad Government, chemical weapons have been used by other groups in the conflict—for example, Jaish al-Islam, which was reported to have used gas in Aleppo in 2016, among other groups. It is now vital that the OPCW inspectors, who arrived in Damascus on Saturday, are allowed to do their work and publish their report into their findings, and report to the United Nations Security Council. They must be allowed to complete their inspections without hindrance, and I hope the UK will put all diplomatic pressure on Russia and Syria, and other influential states, to ensure that they are able to access the site in Douma.

There is a bigger question. More than 400,000 Syrians are estimated to have died in the Syrian conflict—the vast majority as a result of conventional weapons, as the Prime Minister indicated—and the UN estimates that 13.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance and that there are more than 5 million refugees. It is more important than ever that we take concrete steps to halt and finally end the suffering. Acting through the UN, she should now take a diplomatic lead to negotiate a pause in this abhorrent conflict. This means engaging with all parties involved, including Iran, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US, to ensure an immediate ceasefire.

We have the grotesque spectacle of a wider geopolitical battle being waged by proxy, with the Syrian people being used as pawns by all sides. Our first priority must be the safety and security of the Syrian people, which is best served by de-escalating this conflict so that aid can get in. Will the Prime Minister now embark, therefore, as I hope she will, on a renewed diplomatic effort to try to bring an end to this conflict, as she indicated she would in the latter part of her statement? She stated that diplomatic processes did not work. This is not exactly true. The initiative negotiated by John Kerry and Sergei Lavrov led to the destruction of 600 tonnes of chemical weapons, overseen by the OPCW. No one disputes that such diplomatic processes are difficult and imperfect, but that should not stop us from continuing diplomatic efforts.

The refugee crisis places a responsibility on all countries. Hundreds of unaccompanied children remain in Europe, but the UK has yet to take in even the small numbers it was committed to through the Dubs amendment. I hope that today the Government will increase their commitment to take additional Syrian refugees. Will the Prime Minister make that commitment today?

註二

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP)
May I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks on the sad demise of Sergeant Matt Tonroe and pass on condolences to his family and friends? May I also thank the Prime Minister for the phone call ahead of the engagement at the weekend, as well as for advance sight of her statement today?

All of us in this House have an absolute revulsion of the use of chemical weapons, and we need to work here and internationally to make sure that we remove the scourge of chemical weapons from the landscape in Syria and elsewhere.

The Government now seem to have accepted that this House needed time to debate Syria, but why have we had to wait for today? When the Prime Minister called a Cabinet meeting last week, she should have recalled Parliament. The Prime Minister leads a minority Government. As was the case with the action against Daesh in 2015, this should only have happened with Parliamentary approval. It was perfectly possible for the House to have been recalled in advance of the Saturday morning airstrikes. Why was that not done? And what does this mean for the Prime Minister’s position if there are further chemical attacks in Syria? Will she continue to authorise military action without consulting and without the authorisation of Parliament?

I am glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition support our calls for a war powers Act, because that is the best way to protect us from getting into this situation again. Have the Government learned nothing from the Chilcot review? Once again we have been dragged into military action with little regard for the humanitarian situation on the ground and no long-term strategic plan. The human suffering in Syria knows no bounds: hundreds of thousands dead; millions fleeing for their lives and 400,000 civilians still trapped in appalling conditions, deprived of food, medicine and basic aid; and over 13 million civilians in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Will the Prime Minister revisit the issue of refugees, particularly child refugees? We must do more than we have been.

Why was action taken before international weapons inspectors completed their investigation? In February the Prime Minister told me in this House that she was committed to

“finding a political solution for Syria.”—[Official Report, 21 February 2018; Vol. 636, c. 153.]

Why, then, did the UK not support Sweden’s draft UN resolution calling for an international investigation into chemical stockpiles reportedly held by the Syrian regime?

Is the Prime Minister as surprised and concerned as I am at the US President’s language that the situation in Syria was “mission accomplished”? Who does she agree with, the US President or the UN Secretary-General, who like most of us is clear:

“There is no military solution to the crisis. The solution must be political”?

註三

Military Action Overseas: Parliamentary Approval

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

 7.53 pm

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Lab)

I rise to propose that this House should debate Parliament’s rights in relation to the approval of military action by British forces overseas. In the light of Friday’s airstrikes on Syria, this House should urgently debate the important matter of the Government’s obligations under parliamentary convention to seek the approval of the House before committing UK forces to premeditated, hostile military action overseas.

The Cabinet manual
The Cabinet manual, published by the Government in 2011, confirms the Government’s acceptance of that convention and guarantees that the Government will“observe that convention except when there was an emergency and such action would not be appropriate.”

Defence Secretary
Two years ago, even while reneging on the Government’s previous commitment to enshrine that convention into law, the then Defence Secretary, the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon), guaranteed in this House that the Government would“keep Parliament informed and…of course seek its approval before deploying British forces in combat roles into a conflict situation.”—[Official Report, 18 April 2016; Vol. 608, c. 630.]

Members on all sides are therefore rightly concerned that no such approval was sought by the Government prior to the air strikes against Syrian Government installations, to which the UK was a party last Friday night, alongside the USA and France. Indeed, this House was not only denied a vote, but did not even have the opportunity to question the Government in advance on the legal and evidential basis for their participation in this action, on their new strategy in regard to Syrian intervention, or on why they acted before the conclusion of the ongoing inspection in Douma by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

future action
Members will also be concerned that these strikes have been explicitly presented, by the Government and by the United States, as a possible precursor to even stronger intervention against the Syrian regime if that is judged to be necessary. Therefore, the Government’s failure to seek—let alone obtain—parliamentary approval for these air strikes sets a precedent for potential and more dangerous future action, not just in Syria but in other countries where similar situations may arise.

I therefore ask, Mr Speaker, that you allow urgent consideration by this House of the Government’s approach when it comes to the rights of Parliament to debate and approve military action overseas.

註四

Syria

16:19:00

The Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May)

Before I come to the substance of my statement, I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in offering our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Sergeant Matt Tonroe from the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on 29 March. Sergeant Tonroe was embedded with US forces on a counter-Daesh operation. He served his country with great distinction, and it is clear he was a gifted and intelligent instructor who was respected by everyone he served with. Sergeant Tonroe fought to protect British values, our freedoms and to keep this country safe.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the actions that we have taken, together with our American and French allies, to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capabilities and to deter their future use.

On Saturday 7 April, up to 75 people, including young children, were killed in a horrific attack in Douma, with as many as 500 further casualties. All indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack. UK medical and scientific experts have analysed open-source reports, images and video footage from the incident and concluded that the victims were exposed to a toxic chemical. That is corroborated by first-hand accounts from NGOs and aid workers, while the World Health Organisation received reports that hundreds of patients arrived at Syrian health facilities on Saturday night with

“signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals”.

Based on our assessment, we do not think that those reports could be falsified on that scale. Furthermore, the Syrian regime has reportedly been attempting to conceal the evidence by searching evacuees from Douma to ensure samples are not being smuggled from the area, and a wider operation to conceal the facts of the attack is under way, supported by the Russians.

The images of this suffering are utterly haunting: innocent families seeking shelter in underground bunkers found dead with foam in their mouths, burns to their eyes and their bodies surrounded by a chlorine-like odour, and children gasping for life as chemicals choked their lungs. The fact that such an atrocity can take place in our world today is a stain on our humanity, and we are clear about who is responsible.

helicopters
A significant body of information, including intelligence, indicates that the Syrian regime is responsible for this latest attack. Open-source accounts state that barrel bombs were used to deliver the chemicals. Barrel bombs are usually delivered by helicopters. Multiple open-source reports and intelligence indicate that regime helicopters operated over Douma on the evening of 7 April, shortly before reports emerged in social media of a chemical attack, and that Syrian military officials co-ordinated what appears to be the use of chlorine weapons. No other group could have carried out this attack. The opposition do not operate helicopters or use barrel bombs. Daesh does not even have a presence in Douma.

previous regime attacks
The reports of this attack are consistent with previous regime attacks. Those include the attack on 21 August 2013, where over 800 people were killed and thousands more injured in a chemical attack also in Ghouta; 14 further smaller-scale chemical attacks reported prior to that summer; three further chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015, which the independent UN Security Council-mandated investigation attributed to the regime; and the attack at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April last year, where the Syrian regime used sarin against its people, killing around 100, with a further 500 casualties.

Based on the regime’s persistent pattern of behaviour and the cumulative analysis of specific incidents, we judged it highly likely that the Syrian regime had continued to use chemical weapons on at least four occasions since the attack in Khan Shaykhun and we judged that it would have continued to do so, so we needed to intervene rapidly to alleviate further indiscriminate humanitarian suffering. We have explored every possible diplomatic channel to do so, but our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted.

Following the sarin attack in eastern Damascus back in August 2013, the Syrian regime committed to dismantle its chemical weapons programme, and Russia promised to ensure that Syria did that, overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. At the weekend, the Leader of the Opposition cited that diplomatic agreement as a

“precedent that this process can work”,

but this process did not work. It did not eradicate the chemical weapons capability of the Syrian regime, with the OPCW finding only last month that Syria’s declaration of its former chemical weapons programme is incomplete. And, as I have already set out, it did not stop the Syrian regime carrying out the most abhorrent atrocities using these weapons.

Veto
Furthermore, on each occasion when we have seen every sign of chemical weapons being used, Russia has blocked any attempt to hold the perpetrators to account at the UN Security Council, with six such vetoes since the start of 2017. Just last week, Russia blocked a UN resolution that would have established an independent investigation able to determine responsibility for this latest attack. Regrettably, we had no choice but to conclude that diplomatic action on its own is not going to work. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he can

“only countenance involvement in Syria if there is UN authority behind it”.

The House should be clear that that would mean a Russian veto on our foreign policy.

When the Cabinet met on Thursday, we considered the advice of the Attorney General. Based on this advice, we agreed that it was not just morally right but legally right to take military action, together with our closest allies, to alleviate further humanitarian suffering. This was not about intervening in a civil war and it was not about regime change: it was about a limited, targeted and effective strike that sought to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the Syrian people by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their use.

international law.
We have published the legal basis for this action. It required three conditions to be met. First, there must be convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief. Secondly, it must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved. Thirdly, the proposed use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering, and must be strictly limited in time and in scope to this aim.

These are the same three criteria used as the legal justification for the UK’s role in the NATO intervention in Kosovo. Our intervention in 1991 with the US and France, and in 1992 with the US, to create safe havens and enforce the no-fly zones in Iraq following the Gulf war were also justified on the basis of humanitarian intervention. So Governments of all colours have long considered that military action on an exceptional basis—where necessary and proportionate, and as a last resort to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe—is permissible under international law.

I have set out why we are convinced by the evidence and why there was no practicable alternative. Let me set out how this military response was also proportionate. This was a limited, targeted and effective strike that would significantly degrade Syrian chemical weapons capabilities and deter their future use, and with clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

As a result, the co-ordinated actions of the US, UK and France were successfully and specifically targeted at three sites. Contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said at the weekend, these were not “empty buildings”. The first was the Barzeh branch of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre in northern Damascus. This was a centre for the research and development of Syria’s chemical and biological programme. It was hit by 57 American TLAMs and 19 American JASSMs. The second site was the Him Shinsar chemical weapons bunkers, 15 miles west of the city of Homs, which contained both a chemical weapons equipment and storage facility and an important command post. These were successfully hit by seven French SCALP cruise missiles.

The third site was the Him Shinsar chemical weapons storage site and former missile base, which is now a military facility. This was assessed to be a location of Syrian sarin and precursor production equipment, whose destruction would degrade Syria’s ability to deliver sarin in the future. This was hit by nine US TLAMs, five naval and two SCALP cruise missiles from France and eight Storm Shadow missiles launched by our four RAF Tornado GR4s. Very careful scientific analysis was used to determine where best to target these missiles to maximise the destruction of stockpiled chemicals and to minimise any risks to the surrounding area. The facility that we targeted is located some distance from any known population centres, reducing yet further any such risk of civilian casualties.

While targeted and limited, these strikes by the US, UK and France were significantly larger than the US action a year ago after the attack at Khan Shaykhun, and specifically designed to have a greater impact on the regime’s capability and willingness to use chemical weapons. We also minimised the chances of wider escalation through our carefully targeted approach, and the House will note that Russia has not reported any losses of personnel or equipment as a result of the strikes. I am sure the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to all the British servicemen and women, and their American and French allies, who successfully carried out this mission with such courage and professionalism.

Let me deal specifically with three important questions. First, why did we not wait for the investigation from the OPCW? UNSC-mandated inspectors have investigated previous attacks and, on four occasions, decided that the regime was indeed responsible. We are confident in our own assessment that the Syrian regime was highly likely responsible for this attack and that its persistent pattern of behaviour meant that it was highly likely to continue using chemical weapons. Furthermore, there were clearly attempts to block any proper investigation, as we saw with the Russian veto at the UN earlier in the week.

And let me set this out in detail: we support strongly the work of the OPCW fact-finding mission that is currently in Damascus, but that mission is only able to make an assessment of whether chemical weapons were used. Even if the OPCW team is able to visit Douma to gather information to make that assessment—and it is currently being prevented from doing so by the regime and the Russians—it cannot attribute responsibility. This is because Russia vetoed, in November 2017, an extension of the joint investigatory mechanism set up to do this, and last week, in the wake of the Douma attack, it again vetoed a new UNSC resolution to re-establish such a mechanism. Even if we had the OPCW’s findings and a mechanism to attribute, for as long as Russia continued to veto the UN Security Council would still not be able to act. So we cannot wait to alleviate further humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons attacks.

Secondly, were we not just following orders from America? Let me be absolutely clear: we have acted because it is in our national interest to do so. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in Syria and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should not be used, for we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised—within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere.

So we have not done this because President Trump asked us to; we have done it because we believed it was the right thing to do. And we are not alone. There is broad-based international support for the action we have taken. NATO has issued a statement setting out its support, as have the Gulf Co-operation Council and a number of countries in the region. Over the weekend I have spoken to a range of world leaders, including Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Gentiloni, Prime Minister Trudeau, Prime Minister Turnbull and European Union Council President Donald Tusk. All have expressed their support for the actions that Britain, France and America have taken.

Thirdly, why did we not recall Parliament? The speed with which we acted was essential in co-operating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to maintain the vital security of our operations. This was a limited, targeted strike on a legal basis that has been used before. And it was a decision that required the evaluation of intelligence and information, much of which was of a nature that could not be shared with Parliament. We have always been clear that the Government have the right to act quickly in the national interest. I am absolutely clear, Mr Speaker, that it is Parliament’s responsibility to hold me to account for such decisions, and Parliament will do so. But it is my responsibility as Prime Minster to make these decisions—and I will make them. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]

As I have been clear, this military action was not about intervening in the civil war in Syria or about regime change, but we are determined to do our utmost to help resolve the conflict in Syria. That means concluding the fight against Daesh, which still holds pockets of territory in Syria. It means working to enable humanitarian access and continuing our efforts at the forefront of global response, where the UK has already committed almost £2.5 billion—our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.

Next week, we will attend the second Brussels conference on supporting the future of Syria and the region, which will focus on humanitarian support, bolstering the UN-led political process in Geneva and ensuring continued international support to refugees and host countries, driving forward the legacy of our own London conference held in 2016. And it means supporting international efforts to reinvigorate the process to deliver a political solution, for this is the best long-term hope for the Syrian people. The UK will do all of these things. But as I have also been clear, that is not what these military strikes were about.

As I have set out, the military action we have taken this weekend was specifically focused on degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their future use. In order to achieve this, there must also be a wider diplomatic effort, including the full range of political and economic levers, to strengthen the global norms prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, which have stood for nearly a century. So we will continue to work with our international partners on tough economic action against those involved with the production or dissemination of chemical weapons.

I welcome the conclusions of today’s European Foreign Affairs Council, attended by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, which confirmed that the Council is willing to consider further restrictive measures on those involved in the development and use of chemical weapons in Syria. We will continue to push for the re-establishment of an international investigative mechanism that can attribute responsibility for chemical weapons use in Syria. We will advance with our French allies the new International Partnership against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons, which will meet in the coming weeks. We will continue to strengthen the international coalition we have built since the attack on Salisbury.

Last Thursday’s report from the OPCW has confirmed our findings that it was indeed a Novichok in Salisbury. I have placed a copy of that report’s executive summary in the House of Commons Library. While of a much lower order of magnitude, the use of a nerve agent on the streets of Salisbury is part of a pattern of disregard for the global norms that prohibit the use of chemical weapons. So while the action was taken to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria by degrading the regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring its use of these weapons, it will also send a clear message to anyone who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity. We cannot go back to a world where the use of chemical weapons becomes normalised.

I am deeply conscious of the gravity of these decisions. They affect all Members of this House and me personally. I understand the questions that, rightly, will be asked about British military action, particularly in such a complex region, but I am clear that the way we protect our national interest is to stand up for the global rules and standards that keep us safe. That is what we have done and what we will continue to do. I commend this statement to the House.

註五

And let me set this out in detail: we support strongly the work of the OPCW fact-finding mission that is currently in Damascus, but that mission is only able to make an assessment of whether chemical weapons were used. Even if the OPCW team is able to visit Douma to gather information to make that assessment—and it is currently being prevented from doing so by the regime and the Russians—it cannot attribute responsibility. This is because Russia vetoed, in November 2017, an extension of the joint investigatory mechanism set up to do this, and last week, in the wake of the Douma attack, it again vetoed a new UNSC resolution to re-establish such a mechanism. Even if we had the OPCW’s findings and a mechanism to attribute, for as long as Russia continued to veto the UN Security Council would still not be able to act. So we cannot wait to alleviate further humanitarian suffering caused by chemical weapons attacks.

註六

Thirdly, why did we not recall Parliament? The speed with which we acted was essential in co-operating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to maintain the vital security of our operations. This was a limited, targeted strike on a legal basis that has been used before. And it was a decision that required the evaluation of intelligence and information, much of which was of a nature that could not be shared with Parliament. We have always been clear that the Government have the right to act quickly in the national interest. I am absolutely clear, Mr Speaker, that it is Parliament’s responsibility to hold me to account for such decisions, and Parliament will do so. But it is my responsibility as Prime Minster to make these decisions—and I will make them. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]

註七

The Prime Minister (Mrs Theresa May)

I start by paying tribute to the professionalism, dedication and courage of our armed forces. As I said in the House yesterday, there is no graver decision for a Prime Minister than to commit our servicemen and women to combat operations. Understanding where authority and accountability for their deployment and employment lies is of vital importance.

Let me begin by being absolutely clear about the Government’s policy in relation to the convention that has developed, because there is a fundamental difference between the policy and the perception of it that is conveyed in today’s motion. The Cabinet manual states:

“In 2011, the Government acknowledged that a convention had developed in Parliament that before troops were committed the House of Commons should have an opportunity to debate the matter and said that it proposed to observe that convention except where there was an emergency and such action would not be appropriate.”

More detail on the Government’s position was then set out in 2016 in a written ministerial statement from the then Defence Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon), who wrote:

“The exception to the convention is important to ensure that this and future Governments can use their judgment about how best to protect the security and interests of the UK. In observing the convention, we must ensure that the ability of our armed forces to act quickly and decisively, and to maintain the security of their operations, is not compromised…If we were to attempt to clarify more precisely circumstances in which we would consult Parliament before taking military action, we would constrain the operational flexibility of the armed forces and prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of those forces”—[Official Report, 18 April 2016; Vol. 608, c. 10WS.]

I have just set out the convention. I am very clear that the Government follow that convention, but the assumption that the convention means that no decision can be taken without parliamentary approval is incorrect—it is the wrong interpretation of the convention.

註八

The Prime Minister

I will make some progress. I want to set out for the House today four fundamental reasons why this exception is right and why it applied in the case of our military action last weekend.

First, coming to Parliament before undertaking military action could compromise the effectiveness of our operations and the safety of British servicemen and women. In the case of our actions last weekend, the Syrian regime has one of the most sophisticated air defence systems in the world today. To counter such a system, it is vital to confuse the enemy as much as possible and to conceal the timing and targets of any planned attack. For example, if they had known even the category of target we had identified—in other words, our narrow focus on chemical weapons—that would have allowed them to concentrate rather than disperse their air defences. They could also have pre-empted our attack by dispersing their chemical weapons stocks, instead of leaving them at the target sites that we had identified.

Our ability to exploit uncertainty was a critical part of the operation, and that uncertainty was also a critical part of its success. We know that the Syrian regime was not aware in advance of our detailed plans. If I had come here to the House to make the case for action in advance, I could not have concealed our plans and retained that uncertainty. I would quite understandably have faced questions about the legality of our action. The only way I could have reassured the House would have been to set out in advance—as I did yesterday after the event—the limited, targeted and proportionate nature of our proposed action. I would have faced questions about what aircraft and weapons we were planning to use, when the operation was going to take place, how long it was going to last and what we were going to do.

All of that would have provided invaluable information that would have put our armed forces at greater risk and greatly increased the likelihood of the regime being able to shoot down our missiles and get their chemical weapons away from our targets. I was not prepared to compromise their safety and the efficacy of the mission. [Interruption.] To the shadow Foreign Secretary, who from a sedentary position is saying that it is nonsense to argue about the security of our armed forces, I say that that should be at the forefront of our thinking.

The second reason
The second reason is the nature of the information that I see as Prime Minister, along with the National Security Council and the Cabinet. The Government make use of a wide range of sources of information, both those in the public domain and secret intelligence. In this case, drawing on the lessons of the past, we made a rigorous assessment of the available open-source material and intelligence about the Douma attack. Indeed, when my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) looked me in the eye and asked me to tell him that it was the Syrian regime that was responsible, I could do so in part because of the intelligence and assessment I had seen, and because I had discussed that intelligence and assessment with senior security and military officials, the National Security Council and Cabinet.

In the post-Iraq era, it is natural for people to ask questions about the evidence base for our military actions, including when we cite intelligence. They want to see all the information themselves. But we have an obligation to protect the safety and security of our sources. We must maintain secrecy if our intelligence is to be effective now and in the future. We have obligations to our partners to protect the intelligence they share with us, just as they protect intelligence we share with them, and we have to be judicious even in explaining the types of intelligence we use in any given case, or risk giving our adversaries vital clues about where our information comes from.

The third reason
The third reason is our need to work together with our closest allies. A year ago, following the despicable sarin attack at Khan Shaykhun, the US immediately sought to deter further chemical weapons attacks by launching 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the airfield from which the Khan Shaykhun atrocity attack took place. But Assad and his regime have not stopped their use of chemical weapons, so this weekend’s strikes needed to be significantly larger than the US action a year ago and to be specifically designed to have a greater impact on the regime’s capability and willingness to use chemical weapons. That was firmly in the British national interest. Working together with America and France, and doing so at pace, was fundamental to achieving that effect.

If I had come to the House in advance of this operation to set out the totality of our effort, I would also have had to share with Parliament the breadth of our allies’ plans, for this was a combined operation where the totality of our effort was key to delivering the effect. Not only would this have constrained their flexibility to act swiftly, but it would have fundamentally undermined the effectiveness of their action and endangered the security of our American and French allies. In doing so, we would have failed to stand up to Assad in the face of this latest atrocity. We would have failed to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading Assad’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their future use, and we would have failed to uphold and defend the global consensus that says these weapons should never, ever be used.

The fourth reason is that the legal basis for UK action has previously been agreed by Parliament. As the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) said so movingly during the statement yesterday, there is a long tradition on both sides of this House that has considered that military action on an exceptional basis—where necessary and proportionate, and as a last resort—to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe is permissible under international law. The three criteria that I set out in my statement yesterday are the same three criteria used as the legal justification for the UK’s role in the NATO intervention in Kosovo. As I also explained, our intervention in 1991 with the US and France and in 1992 with the US to create safe havens and enforce the no-fly zones in Iraq following the Gulf war were also justified on the basis of humanitarian intervention.

So it was right for me, as Prime Minister—with the full support of the Cabinet, and drawing on the advice of security and military officials—to take the decision on this military strike last weekend, and for Parliament to be able to hold me to account for it. By contrast, a war powers Act would remove that capability from a Prime Minister and remove the vital flexibility from the convention that has been established, for it would not be possible to enshrine a convention in a way that is strong and meaningful but none the less flexible enough to deal with what are, by definition, unpredictable circumstances.

註九

Jeremy Corbyn

It is about democracy, it is about accountability and it is about making very serious decisions. That is what MPs are elected to do. It would bind this Government and future Governments to this basic democratic principle on the most serious and crucial issues of public policy that we are ever asked to take a decision on. As I said earlier, all those who were here during the debates on Iraq in 2003 remember them very well, just as they remember very well the questioning from the public about what they did and how they voted. That is why we are elected to Parliament.

I hope that the House will approve this motion on the principle that it is an assertion of the great tradition of the advancement of democratic accountability of this House on behalf of the people of this country.

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