Sunday 15 April 2018 / 11:24 AM Foreign Policy / Jeremy Corbyn

Labour calls for War Powers Act

In the most serious matters of peace and security, the Prime Minister of Britain should be accountable to Parliament, not to the whims of any other governments.

Labour has called for a ‘War Powers Act’ for the UK, which would enshrine in law that the government must seek parliamentary approval before committing to planned military action.

In 2011, the Coalition Government suggested a convention that the House of Commons should have a chance to debate before troops were committed to military operations, however Theresa May ordered air strikes on Syria without observing this convention. Labour’s proposal will codify this into law.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show about the UK air strikes in Syria, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“I think parliament should have a say in this and I think the Prime Minister could have quite easily done that.

“She took a decision sometime last week that we were going to work with Macron and Trump in order to have an impact on the chemical weapons establishment in Syria.

“She could have recalled parliament last week – it is only the Prime Minister who can recall parliament – or she could have delayed until tomorrow when parliament returns. There is precedent over previous interventions when parliament has had a vote.

“I think what we need in this country is something more robust like a War Powers Act so governments do get held to account by parliament for what they do in our name.”

Ends

Notes to editors

• David Cameron pledged in the 2010 general election to reduce the powers of the prime minister and boost the role of parliament in order to build public trust in politics.
https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2009/may/26/david-cameron-redistribution-of-power

• Jeremy Corbyn called for a War Powers Act to be introduced in his response to the Chilcot Report in 2016:

“We also need much stronger oversight of the security and intelligence services, full restoration of proper cabinet government, and to give parliament the decisive say over any future decision to go to war based on objective information and not just through government discretion but through a War Powers Act –which I hope this Parliament will pass.”

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/07/jeremy-corbyns-full-response-chilcot-report-act-military-aggression-launched

• Plans for a war powers act were dropped by Michael Fallon in 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/apr/18/ministers-abandon-plan-war-powers-law-mps-troops

• A Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday found that 54% of people thought it was wrong that Theresa May ordered air strikes in Syria without parliamentary approval.

http://home.bt.com/news/uk-news/airstrikes-hailed-a-success-as-syria-threatened-with-further-action-11364264554348