MPs back defeated vote on Syria action

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Lancashire’s MPs were divided in the vote on possible military action against the Syrian government to deter the use of chemical weapons.

The Prime Minister David Cameron said he would respect the defeat of a government motion by 285-272, ruling out joining US-led strikes, in the House of Commons.

Conservative MPs including Eric Ollerenshaw, the MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, and Preston North and Wyre’s MP, Ben Wallace, voted in favour of the possibility of military intervention.

Preston’s Labour MP Mark Hendrick voted against the motion, while Ribble Valley Conservative MP Nigel Evans was ineligible to vote due to his role as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. The call for a military response in Syria followed a suspected chemical weapons attack on August 21, in which hundreds of people died.

MPs say conclusive evidence of chemical warfare must be sought before Britain consents to military intervention in Syria.

Mr Hendrick said: “I think the best approach is to do exactly what Ed Miliband has decided, which is to make sure before we commit British forces we have got the evidence before the UN, so the UN security council has the chance to look at that evidence and decide whether military action is justifiable, and not just go straight into military conflict.

“This is a big lesson we have learned from Iraq. It was an error not getting proper UN support for what happened in Iraq and we’ve been living with the impact ever since.”

Mr Wallace said he had opposed intervention in Syria due to concerns over inconsistencies in Britain’s Middle Eastern policies, but had rethought some of his views after recent chemical attacks.

He said: “If we allow these weapons to remain either in the Syrian leader’s hands, or to get into the hands of Salafist Islamic rebel groups such as Al Qaeda, then hundreds more lives will be put in danger. 9/11 and 7/7 has taught us, that, given the opportunity, the jihadists who now form many of the rebel groups would be as committed to using chemical weapons on British streets as the Syrian Government is to using them in Damascus.

“I, therefore, believe that if the Prime Minister and defence chiefs can convince me that we have the capability to surgically destroy the chemical weapon stocks and capability then I must support such action.

“I will not, however, support any attempt to broaden action or to become directly involved in regime change. That must remain a matter for the Middle East and Syria.”

Mr Ollerenshaw said whether or not to intervene was the most difficult decision an MP is called to make.

He said: “We can all refer back to the so-called evidence over Iraq. I think MPs will need some convincing. I don’t care what your party is – these are not easy decisions.

“I want to hear what is the evidence and what is the proposal and, even more importantly, what’s the long term plan. Looking at what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, we haven’t a good track record when it comes to these involvements.”

Mr Evans said: “It is important any decisions taken are legal and with support of the international community. Full knowledge of the appalling murderous gas attacks must be known prior to any decisions being taken.”