By Mark Wallace
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Paul reported yesterday on the start of a campaign by MPs to insist on a Commons debate before any action is taken against Assad over his use of chemical weapons.
That campaign is now gathering pace. Graham Allen, the Labour MP who chairs the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, sent out an appeal to his fellow MPs yesterday afternoon for signatures on an EDM which reads:
This House believes that Parliament should hold a full debate before any British commitment to military action in Syria
He tells me that he has already secured the signatures of 70 MPs. The incomplete list I have been sent includes no fewer than nine select committee chairmen:
Graham Allen, Richard Ottaway, David Davies, Hywel Francis, Malcolm Bruce, Graham Stuart, Tim Yeo, Keith Vaz and Clive Betts
and 52 other MPs:
George Mudie, Martin Caton, John Redwood, David Wright, Adrian Sanders, Bob Blackman, Mike Crockart, Nigel Mills, Stewart Jackson, Mark Lazarowicz, Sammy Wilson, Steve McCabe, Robert Ainsworth, David Ward, James Gray, Albert Owen, Douglas Carswell, Julian Huppert, Naomi Long, Fiona O’Donnell, Angus Robertson, John Leech, John Robertson, Adam Holloway, Jim Sheridan, Philip Davies, John Hemming, Kate Hoey, Robert Smith, Diane Abbot, Mike Weir, Sandra Osbourne, Martin Vickers, Bill Esterson, Grahame Morris, Mary Glindon, John McDonald, George Galloway, Michael Meacher, Dai Harvard, Katy Clark, Toby Perkins, Paul Flynn, Mike Gapes, David Anderson, Madeleine Moon, Graham Stringer, Gisela Stuart, Andrew George, Julian Lewis, Eleanor Laing and Stephen Doughty.
As you can see, support is drawn from a wide range of parties and opinions. Some undoubtedly support the motion as part of their opposition to any intervention against Assad, but others view it as a constitutional principle that Parliament should be able to scrutinise something as important as a decision to go to war.
As readers will be aware, I support military action against Assad – indeed, I think our policy of isolationism is responsible for the rise of Al Qaeda in Syria – but I cannot see why Parliament should be bypassed on this issue.
The Conservative manifesto pledged in 2010 to make Royal Prerogative powers, such as the declaration of war, subject to "greater democratic control". That promise should be honoured.