Cameron rules out UK military action in Syria after Government suffers shock Commons defeat (From The Northern Echo)
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Cameron rules out UK military action in Syria after Government suffers shock Commons defeat
11:06pm Thursday 29th August 2013 in News
PRIME Minister David Cameron has ruled out UK involvement in military action against Syria after the Government suffered a shock defeat on the issue in the House of Commons.
In what is thought to be an unprecedented parliamentary reverse over British military action, coalition rebels joined with Labour to inflict a humiliating defeat on the Prime Minister.
A motion backing the use of force if necessary in response to last week's deadly chemical weapons attack was rejected by 272 votes to 285,a majority of 13.
Mr Cameron had already been forced to water down his stance - accepting Labour demands that direct British involvement would require a second vote following an investigation by United Nations weapons inspectors.
But the concession was not enough to win over enough coalition MPs, conscious that public opinion is heavily against any intervention and wary of the decade-long controversy over the Iraq war.
Among them was Ian Swales, Liberal Democrat MP for Redcar, who voted against the Government.
He said tonight: "I'm not convinced that there is any credible military option in Syria without being seen to take sides in the civil war.
"Obviously I'm shocked and horrified at the idea that chemical weapons are being used, but equally we shouldn't be dragging western countries, including ourselves, into that conflict."
Mr Swales added that it was very difficult for him to vote against the Government, but added: "I polled my constituents and had hundreds of responses and people are overwhelmingly against it - I wanted my vote to reflect that."
The outcome is expected to raise serious doubts about Mr Cameron's leadership.
Jenny Chapman, Labour MP for Darlington, said after the vote: "I think that the Prime Minister is seriously damaged. I can't think of a time when the Prime Minister has lost a whipped vote."
And she added: "The view of the Commons I think reflects the view of my constituents that they've got serious misgivings against action in Syria."
After the shock result and to shouts of resign from the Labour benches, Mr Cameron told MPs: "I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons.
"But I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons.
"It is clear to me that the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that and the Government will act accordingly."
Mr Cameron had been forced to pull back from the brink yesterday and table a motion in the Commons, which said the Government would support military action only if further evidence from the United Nations supported the view that Syrian president Bashar Assad's regime had used chemical weapons.
The result will dismay allies in Washington and elsewhere seeking a wide coalition of support for air strikes to punish the regime.
It is also a blow for Liberal Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who firmly backed the Government's position.
Mr Cameron had told MPs there could be no 100 per cent certainty about who committed the attack but the evidence convinced him beyond doubt the regime was responsible.
He said the biggest danger of escalation in the Syrian civil war, which has so far cost more than 100,000 lives, was for the world to stand back and do nothing, encouraging more such attacks.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband, while not ruling out supporting military action, said he required compelling evidence that the regime was responsible before backing even the principle of a military response.
The permanent members of the UN Security Council - the UK, America, France, Russia and China - met for an hour this evening to discuss the situation.
The UK has tabled a draft resolution seeking approval for military action.
But Moscow, a key ally of Assad, is opposed to any military intervention and with China has vetoed all previous attempts to secure resolutions critical of the regime and imposing sanctions.
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