Andrew Lansley On The Syria Vote

lansley08:25 Friday 30th August 2013
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[D]OTTY MCLEOD: Britain won’t be taking military action in Syria, after the Government was defeated in a late night Commons vote. In a close result, MPs have voted against any intervention after a rebellion by thirty Conservatives and nine Liberal Democrats, those nine including Cambridge’s Julian Huppert. Action could still be taken by the United States and possibly France, but the Prime Minister told Parliament that the UK would not now be involved. (TAPE)
DAVID CAMERON: It is very clear tonight that while the House has not passed a Motion, 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. (CHEERS) (LIVE)
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well South Cambridgeshire’s Conservative MP Andrew Lansley was sitting on the front bench for the debate, had a good view. Andrew, this sounds like an electric debate. What was the atmosphere like in the Chamber?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Yes. Good morning. Well I did indeed hear much of the debate, and actually it was rather a sombre debate. I think there was quite a sense of people finding it very difficult to work out what their personal positions were going to be. And I think that was partly because of a number of cross-currents in the debate. It was very curious in a sense in that it was a debate conducted about circumstances that we are presented with in Syria, but with many people trying to reinterpret current events in the light of what had happened ten years ago in relation to Iraq. I think in a sense that was a shadow right over the whole debate.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And you voted with your government. Tell me your reasons for doing that.
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well I did. And in a sense from my point of view alongside many others I was interpreting the situation we were in relative to Iraq, but taking a very different view from others. I did not support the invasion of Iraq, and I didn’t support it because I believed at that time that we had not exhausted the United Nations processes that we probably should go through in order for it to be a legal step for us to take.
DOTTY MCLEOD: But isn’t that exactly the same case here? The UN weapons inspectors haven’t ..
ANDREW LANSLEY: No. You see interestingly that’s exactly the opposite case, because the Government came forward and … we in the Government came forward to Parliament yesterday asking Parliament to sanction further processes involved in seeking United Nations action, and a Security Council resolution, and that in so far as action was going to be taken, either with the sanction of the United Nations, or on the basis of a clear legal view from the Attorney General, that action under these circumstances would be justified, if it was strictly confined and necessary in order to protect civilians and effect a humanitarian support to the people of Syria. But from my point of view you see I find it .. the circumstances we find ourselves in today I find very from my point of view perplexing, because it seemed to me that the British Parliament would quite rightly justifiably have resisted the invasion of Iraq ten years ago, but would have been entirely right and justified and morally and legally justified in supporting this very narrow intervention in Syria, if it had proved necessary to do so. So in a sense it seemed to me actually yesterday in many ways of course what happened was that the British Parliament, members from all political parties frankly, were in effect redefining what they though Britain’s role was in relation to circumstances like this, and doing so in a way because they had I think in many ways rightly rejected the basis upon which we intervened in Iraq, I think wrongly had reinterpreted that as a basis on which we should reject similar intervention in Syria.
DOTTY MCLEOD: This is the first time that a Prime Minister has been defeated on an issue of foreign military intervention for decades. Is this embarrassing for David Cameron?
ANDREW LANSLEY: Well I think it’s one of the very few occasions on which a British Prime Minister has enabled Parliament to take a prior view in relation to an issue of this kind, rather than putting, as has happened before, pretty much put Parliament in the situation of having to sanction something when it is about to happen, or when it’s already happened. So to that extent I think David Cameron was absolutely right, and of course as Leader of the House of Commons, from my point of view, it was very important I had made clear, as others, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary had made clear, that the British Parliament would be formally engaged in the sense of having a formal substantive debate and vote prior to any action being taken. That had happened, and I think the Prime Minister was quite right to do that, and I think to that extent of course it’s something which has very much strengthened the role of Parliament.
DOTTY MCLEOD: That’s Andrew Lansley the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire. He was in the Commons for the debate last night.