December 20 2013 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Editor
Thursday, August 29, 2013
David Cameron ruled out UK involvement in military action against Syria after his authority and international standing were dealt a severe blow by defeat on the issue in the Commons.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham: ABSTAIN
South-West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss: FOR
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb: FOR
Broadland MP Keith Simpson: FOR
Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman: FOR
South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon: AGAINST
Norwich North MP Chloe Smith: FOR
Norwich South MP Simon Wright: FOR
Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis: FOR
Waveney MP Peter Aldous: FOR
East Cambridgeshire MP Stephen Barclay: FOR
Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley: ABSTAIN
In what is thought to be an unprecedented parliamentary reverse over British military action, Tory rebels joined with Labour to inflict a humiliating defeat on the Prime Minister.
A motion backing the use of force “if necessary” in response to last week’s deadly chemical weapons attack was rejected by 272 votes to 285, majority 13.
Most of the region’s MPs backed the defeated government motion, but South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon voted against the motion and Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley and North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham abstained.
Mr Bacon said he had voted against the government because he was voting against the principle of military action.
Mr Ruffley said: “I declined to vote for Mr Cameron’s motion because I did not believe he made the case for UK military intervention. I made clear to him personally this morning that I had grave concerns about a so-called surgical strike that could easily escalate into regional war and I do not think it was wise that the UK should be seen acting as some sort of global policeman.”
He said he had not gone into any lobby because he did not want to vote with the cynically opportunist Labour leadership.
Following the defeat Mr Cameron said it was clear Parliament “does not want to see British military action” in Syria.
He added: “I get that, and the Government will act accordingly.”
Mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman said he was very cautious of getting drawn into a complex regional conflict, but he had voted with the government on the basis of very strong reassurances given by the prime minister.
He said he had a one-to-one meeting with the foreign secretary and was told that it was not about regime change or taking sides in the Syrian civil war, and that the government would follow the UN process and have a further vote before military action.
A number of Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs –- who have spoken out regularly against military intervention in Syria – either supported Labour and voted against the government or did not cast a vote.
The government put forward a motion in support of military action in Syria if it was supported by evidence from United Nations weapons inspectors who are investigating claims President Bashar Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons against civilians.
The defeat came amid bitter party political divisions.
On Wednesday Mr Cameron was forced to accept the need to give United Nations inspectors time to report on the attack and for MPs to be given a further vote before authorising direct British involvement in any strike against Syria.
But the government’s concessions did not go far enough for Labour leader Ed Miliband, who tabled an alternative motion demanding “compelling evidence” that the Assad regime was responsible, which was also defeated.
In the House of Lords, which also sat yesterday, former head of the British Army Lord Dannatt said he did not support military intervention in Syria in any shape or form at this time.
He said the UK had previously pulled back from intervening in Syria because the risks and consequences were too great and there were too many uncertainties.
The crossbench peer said a campaign plan must have a beginning, a middle and an end plus an exit strategy which leaves the country visited in a better position.
Ahead of the emergency debate in the Commons, documents published by Downing Street showed Britain would be permitted to launch a targeted strike on humanitarian grounds, even if Russia and China block an agreement at the United Nations.
Evidence from the Joint Intelligence Committee found that a chemical weapons attack did occur in Damascus last week and it is “highly likely” that Bashar Assad’s regime was responsible.