STONE'S MP Bill Cash said he abstained on last night's controversial vote on plans for military intervention in Syria because of a lack of compelling evidence.
Speaking after the vote, which saw the Coalition government defeated by 285 votes to 272, a majority of 13, Mr Cash said: “I deliberately refused to support either the Coalition Government motion or that of the Opposition – and Parliament did so as well.
“My first priority was to the country and my constituents," he said. "The Coalition Government did not have a credible policy and strategy.
"Nor was there the compelling evidence which we had been promised. "
“The Joint Intelligence Committee merely concluded that it was ‘highly likely’ that chemical weapons had been used by the Assad regime and yet both the Government motion and the Attorney-General opinion asserted that the Assad regime had done so," said Mr Cash.
He added there was no UN Resolution at all and Britain 'should not be taken into war in these circumstances'.
“Everybody should abhor chemical weapons and the Assad regime’s brutal policies," said Mr Cash. "But going to war has to be based upon principle and overwhelming evidence."
Below is the complete wording of the motion tabled by the Coalition Government and the Labour Party amendment.
This House -
Deplores the use of chemical weapons in Syria on 21 August 2013 by the Assad regime, which caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries of Syrian civilians;
Recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons under international law;
Agrees that a strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on savings lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons;
Notes the failure of the United Nations Security Council over the last two years to take united action in response to the Syrian crisis;
Notes that the use of chemical weapons is a war crime under customary law and a crime against humanity – and that the principle of humanitarian intervention provides a sound legal basis for taking action;
Notes the wide international support for such a response, including the statement from the Arab League on 27 August which calls on the international community, represented in the United Nations Security Council, to “overcome internal disagreements and take action against those who committed this crime, for which the Syrian regime is responsible”;
Believes, in spite of the difficulties at the United Nations, that a United Nations process must be followed as far as possible to ensure the maximum legitimacy for any such action;
Therefore welcomes the work of the United Nations investigating team currently in Damascus. Whilst noting that the team’s mandate is to confirm whether chemical weapons were used and not to apportion blame, agrees that the United Nations Secretary General should ensure a briefing to the United Nations Security Council immediately upon the completion of the team’s initial mission;
Believes that the United Nations Security Council must have the opportunity immediately to consider that briefing and that every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken. Before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place.
Notes that this motion relates solely to efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering by deterring use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any action in Syria with wider objectives.
And the full wording of the Labour Party amendment:
This House -
Expresses its revulsion at the killing of hundreds of civilians in Ghutah, Syria on 21 August 2013; believes that this was a moral outrage; recalls the importance of upholding the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons; makes clear that the use of chemical weapons is a grave breach of international law; agrees with the UN Secretary General that the UN weapons inspectors must be able to report to the UN Security Council and that the Security Council must live up to its responsibilities to protect civilians; supports steps to provide humanitarian protection to the people of Syria but will only support military action involving UK forces if and when the following conditions have been met:
- The UN weapons inspectors, upon the conclusion of their mission in the Eastern Ghutah, being given the necessary opportunity to make a report to the Security Council on the evidence and their findings, and confirmation by them that chemical weapons have been used in Syria;
- The production of compelling evidence that the Syrian regime was responsible for the use of these weapons;
- The UN Security Council having considered and voted on this matter in the light of the reports of the weapons inspectors and the evidence submitted;
- There being a clear legal basis in international law for taking collective military action to protect the Syrian people on humanitarian grounds;
- That such action must have regard to the potential consequences in the region, and must therefore be legal, proportionate, time-limited and have precise and achievable objectives designed to deter the future use of prohibited chemical weapons in Syria; aan
- That the Prime Minister reports further to the House on the achievement of these conditions so that the House can vote on UK participation in such action.
This House further notes that such action relates solely to efforts to deter the use of chemical weapons and does not sanction any wider action in Syria.