STATEMENT ON SYRIA

On Saturday 7th April, 75 people, including many young children, were killed in a despicable and barbaric attack in Douma, with as many as 500 further casualties. We have seen the harrowing images of men, women and children lying dead with foam in their mouths. These were innocent families who, at the time this chemical weapon was unleashed, were seeking shelter underground, in basements.

A significant body of information, including intelligence, clearly demonstrates that the Syrian Regime is responsible for this latest attack. This is not the first time the Regime has used chemical weapons against its own people.

It is, therefore, highly likely that the Regime will continue to use chemical weapons in this way, and, as a leading member of the global community, we must take a stand and defend the global rules and standards that keep us safe.

That is why, with our allies France and America, we have undertaken co-ordinated and targeted action, which has degraded the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability. I fully support these strikes, because they are limited, targeted and essential to degrade Assad’s chemical weapons capability and deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria and around the world.

Evil succeeds when good men do nothing, and we simply cannot walk by and allow another atrocity to go unpunished. The people of Syria are currently suffering because of our decision not to intervene in 2013, when we could have had much more effective influence over Assad and his regime. They are suffering, in ways we can only imagine, because we in the West stood by and did nothing.

In this country, we have the luxury of Parliamentary democracy and the opportunity to discuss our concerns in safety and in good time. However, the people of Syria do not have that luxury, they are suffering under a despot, with whom reasoning rarely works.

Moreover, Parliament can, sometimes, get it wrong, as we saw in 2003 and 2013, and can take too long to decide. In times of humanitarian crisis, such as the one the Syrian people are currently experiencing, the executive – the PM and the Cabinet – must have the flexibility to intervene quickly and decisively. That is why the Government were right to act in the way that they did.

Going forward, this military action cannot stand alone: it needs to be part of a wider diplomatic effort to strengthen the global norms prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. I know that the Government is continuing to work closely with our allies on this issue, and I fully support those efforts.