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MPs speak out on Syria vote

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: August 30, 2013

  • South Derbyshire District Council councillors..Heather Wheeler

  • 09/06/13 Children of courage awards Burton Mail children of courage awards, Pirelli Stadium..Andrew Griffiths MP

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ON Thursday evening, after Burton MP Andrew Griffiths had cast his vote in the defeated motion over action in Syria, he went home and turned on the television.

He was greeted with rolling footage from the war-torn country which he claims he found so shocking that it made him ashamed of the way the government he is part of had reacted to a choice of whether or not to strike the nation over its use of chemical weapons.

Mr Griffiths, along with South Derbyshire MP Heather Wheeler and North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen, was among the 272 people in the House of Commons who voted in favour of the principle of taking military action in the middle eastern country after the government was believed to have used sarin gas against its own citizens.

But their collective voice was not the one which was heard, as the motion was narrowly defeated with a majority of just 13 people, with 285 voting against action, which had been the only topic of discussion throughout the day.

Mr Griffiths said he thought some ‘searching questions’ would now have to be asked by all those involved.

He told the Mail: “I turned on the television to see footage of young children who had been burned in their playgrounds and covered in napalm.

“I think, sadly, people who voted last night voted to stand idly by and let these horrific scenes continue.

“Nobody wanted to see British soldiers on the ground in Syria, but I don’t think we can allow evil people to sue chemical weapons without any fear that the international community will act against them.

“If we see more horrific pictures of children dying from chemical burns, I think searching questions need to be asked about why we didn’t intervene.”

The use of chemical weapons has been banned since the First World War, when tens of thousands of people died because of their use.

Footage showing a suspected chemical weapons attack has been released worldwide in recent weeks.

Western nations have said they believe the attacks to have been carried out by President Bashar al Assad against his own people, in the long-running civil war between the government and rebel forces opposed to its rule.

American president Barack Obama has made it clear he is willing to take action against the regime for this breach of international laws, and the UK Parliament was recalled from its summer break to discuss whether or not it supported the notion of British involvement in any strikes against the troubled state to deter further use of the weapons.

Heather Wheeler said there was now no way to predict what Britain’s involvement would be.

“All bets are off now because Parliament didn’t speak with one voice. Nothing was passed,” she said.

Mrs Wheeler voted in favour of the principle of action, but said she would have ‘grave doubts’ about British troops being sent into the country at the moment.

North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen was one of the first people to call for Parliament to be recalled to discuss Britain’s response to the international crisis.

He also voted for action, and told the Mail: “I voted with the Government as I wanted to give the Prime Minister a chance to present any further evidence that the Assad regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attack.

“The motion did not approve any kind of military action.

“Had we had a further vote for military action, it was my intention to vote against as I am not convinced about the aims and exit strategy of a military strike.”

Jon Wheale, Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Burton and Uttoxeter, said he had concerns about the situation following the vote in Parliament.

He added: “Firstly, and most importantly, the safety of the Syrian civilian population remains paramount. Children, women and men should not suffer and the responsibility to protect continues.

Secondly, through the failure of his own poorly enacted plan the Prime Minister has lost authority to lead on matters of foreign policy in the certainty that a majority of MPs and the UK public will be supportive.

During my time in the military the necessity of planning was drilled into me. Planning and leadership go hand-in-hand if the mission is to be accomplished. Sadly today Mr Cameron has no plan and his ability to lead is in doubt. The reaction to seeing the images of children suffering on the streets of Aleppo and elsewhere reminds me that to avoid taking action is not instinctive, but for action to be effective it must be well planned and well led.”

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