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Syria airstrikes: Allowing MPs to vote on UK military action would be 'crazy', says Penny Mordaunt

Jack Maidment
Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary - AFP

Allowing MPs to vote on UK military action would be “crazy”, Penny Mordaunt has claimed as Theresa May prepares for a House of Commons showdown over her decision to bomb Syria.

Ms Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, said “outsourcing” military decisions to Parliament would be “quite wrong” as she argued briefing every MP on the relevant intelligence necessary to make an informed decision would not be feasible.

She also said that sharing classified information, like a list of targets earmarked for airstrikes, could “undermine” operations and limit their success.

Ms Mordaunt’s comments came ahead of what is likely to be a bruising afternoon in the Commons for the Prime Minister with Mrs May due to argue that joining airstrikes against the Assad regime was in Britain's national interest and had strong international support.

The Prime Minister is expected to face fierce criticism when she delivers her statement with many MPs furious that the Government did not consult them before going ahead with the attack.

Mrs May will seek to assuage concerns about Parliament’s involvement by seeking an emergency debate to give MPs the chance to have their say.

Intervention in Syria | Read more

However, it is unclear whether MPs will be given a binding vote on the decision to launch military action.

Mrs May will insist that joining the United States and France in co-ordinated strikes in response to a chemical weapons attack in Douma was the right thing to do in order to "alleviate further humanitarian suffering".

The Prime Minister’s decision to launch airstrikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has prompted calls for the introduction of new laws to make it harder to mobilise the Armed Forces without the permission of MPs with Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, demanding the introduction of a War Powers Act.

But Ms Mordaunt cautioned against such a move as she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the recent convention of MPs voting on military action, like the Iraq War, was “very wrong”.

She said: “We are expecting the Prime Minister to make a statement today and she is putting in an application for an emergency debate.

Syria airstrikes: Before and after images

“But what I would say to those that are calling for Parliament to be able to decide these things and not the Government is that we, and I very much understand the shadow of Chilcot that forms the backdrop to this, but to take a decision on whether something is legally justified and whether what we are actually intending on doing in terms of targets is appropriate, you would need to know information that could not be shared with every MP.

“Outsourcing that decision to people who do not have the full picture is, I think, quite wrong.

“The convention that was established, I think is very wrong. I support governments being able to take those decisions.

“Parliament should hold governments to account for that decision and of course MPs, they have always been able to raise their views with the prime minister and other members of the government.

“What they want is a debate and they want to hold the PM to account.”

Ms Mordaunt said that “you cannot ask Parliament to make decisions without the information necessary to make those decisions”.

Her comments are likely to further inflame tensions with opposition MPs who believe Parliament should be consulted ahead of the use of force.

The International Development Secretary said: “Yes, you can discuss and debate things in Parliament. Members of Parliament can make their views known. But it has always been the case that government has had the right to take this action.

“It has never been the case that it has been necessary to go to Parliament to get that and just the concept, a group of people who would not have the intelligence, you can’t for example share targets with members of Parliament.

“It would be a crazy thing to do and would undermine our ability to actually execute the operation successfully.”

Syria airstrikes - April 13

Ms Mordaunt’s comments came as Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general, questioned the Government’s legal case for taking military action.

She said: “How can they say there was no practical alternative to this particular bombardment when for example Mr Macron was on the phone to Mr Putin just a few hours before the bombardment?”

The airstrikes against Syria took place in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s joined the co-ordinated missile strikes at 2am, launching Storm Shadow missiles at a base 15 miles west of Homs.