Democracy campaign group Charter 88 have written thanking Jo Swinson MP for turning up in Parliament on Friday 21st October to support the Armed Forces (Parliamentary Approval for Participation in Armed Conflict) Bill, which would require parliament’s approval for the use of the country’s armed forces, by making the Government obtain Parliament’s authority to go to war.
The Prime Minister can currently go to war without the House of Commons’ support by using the Royal Prerogative. Britain contrasts with other developed democracies such as the US in that its Parliament does not have a formal say in the use of armed forces. Surveys have shown that the vast majority of people feel this must change.
The Private Members’ Bill proposed by Rt Hon Clare Short MP was backed by a cross-party team including the Rt Hon Sir Menzies Campbell MP, Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP, The Rt Hon William Hague MP, but the Government succeeded in ‘talking out’ the Bill as the number of MPs voting for it fell just 9 short of the 100 required by parliamentary rules to prevent the government blocking the Bill.
Charter 88 co-director Ron Bailey said “It is disgraceful that the government used parliamentary procedure to refuse to allow a direct vote on Bill. We would, however, like to thank Jo Swinson MP who attended Parliament to support this measure, which is of great constitutional importance.
“Private Members Bills always have a difficult passage because they are debated on Fridays, and the MPs who were in Parliament on Friday 21st had to re-arrange constituency business in order to vote for this important Bill. We would particularly like to thank the Liberal Democrats: every single Lib Dem MP has supported the Bill, and 32 of them turned out to vote.
“The Bill will have another chance on Friday March 10th, and we hope that all the MPs who support it will be in Parliament on the day to stand up for the rights of parliament and Democracy.
“The Royal Prerogative is a relic of the past: in a parliamentary democracy parliament must have the legal right to sanction the use of armed force by this country. There is no decision more important: it can result in our fellow citizens being killed: it is a matter for parliament and Charter 88 will do all it can to ensure that this Bill becomes law.”
Jo Swinson MP said, “It was frustrating to see the Government blocking this important Bill. Sending troops into battle is the ultimate responsibility, and must be a decision for Parliament rather than the Prime Minister. Many people feel that they were misled by the Government over the reasons for going to war on Iraq. Enshrining in law the requirement to get Parliamentary approval for armed conflict would help to restore public confidence, and it is a shame this opportunity has been missed.”