Statement on Syria

I can understand that many people were concerned by the way in which this issue was being reported prior to any military action being undertaken. Some of that reporting was irresponsible, much of it inaccurate.

On Saturday 7 April up to 75 people including young children were killed with up to 500 further casualties. All the indications are that this was an illegal toxic chemical attack, based on expert analysis in the UK but also from independent aid agencies. Only the Syrian regime has the military means to deliver these weapons and as we know they have done this before in 2013. When the House of Commons voted against responding in 2013, Assad was then free to repeat these attacks in 2014 and 2015. Our inaction then has had dreadful consequences.

These attacks are barbaric and breach the international law against the use of chemical weapons. We cannot turn a blind eye, or the use of chemical weapons will become normalised in conflicts around the world.

I therefore support the Government’s decision on the basis that our intervention was about chemical weapons. It was not about trying to change the regime in Syria or any other political ambition. It was I believe a targeted and proportionate response.

I would like to think we could resolve all this by diplomacy. However every time attempts are made to bring the perpetrators to account at the UN Security Council, Russia has used its veto – six times in the last year alone. So if we were – as Jeremy Corbyn has suggested – only to act when the UN Security Council has passed a motion it would mean that Russia has a veto on our foreign policy. That cannot be right.

So I believe that the action taken was appropriate and merited. We need to be robust with those who would use such weapons, not least to send a clear signal that this action will not be tolerated.