Osborne Defends U.K. Syria Vote, Rules Out Future Action

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told reporters, “We’re not going to keep asking the same question of Parliament again and again.” Photographer: Leon Neal/AFP via Getty Images

Senior U.K. ministers ruled out any second parliamentary vote on military action against Syria after lawmakers rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal for intervention last week.

“We’re not going to keep asking the same question of Parliament again and again,” Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the head of the minority Liberal Democrats in Cameron’s coalition, told reporters in London today. “We live in a democracy, the executive cannot act in a way which clearly is not welcome to Parliament or the British people, so we’re not proposing to do so.”

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, a member of Cameron’s Conservative Party, told lawmakers in the House of Commons that “circumstances would have to change very significantly before Parliament would want to look again at this issue.”

Their comments echoed remarks yesterday by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague, both Tories, who defended Cameron’s decision last week to recall Parliament to vote on action over the use of chemical weapons against civilians by the Syrian government.

“I don’t think the country is going to think less of government or of David Cameron,” Osborne said on BBC Television’s “Andrew Marr Show.” Lawmakers “were skeptical of another foreign entanglement” and further United Nations reports on Syrian chemical-weapons use would make little difference to that, he said.

No Regrets

Hague told Sky News television there shouldn’t be “any regrets or recriminations” about the decision.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to think we can go back to Parliament every week with the same question, having received an answer,” Hague said. “Let me be clear about that. We will respect the decision of the House of Commons. Our support will be diplomatic, political.”

Thirty Tories joined the Labour opposition on Aug. 29 to reject Cameron’s request to authorize strikes on Syria. The announcement of the result in the House of Commons drew shouts of “resign” from the Labour benches. It was the first time a British prime minister lost a parliamentary vote on military action in at least 150 years.

Summer Recall

Both Osborne and Hague defended the timing of the vote and said waiting for more evidence from the UN would have made little difference to the outcome. Cameron recalled lawmakers from their summer recess after the alleged chemical-weapons attacks Aug. 21 by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The assault killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week.

Hague, asked whether the government should have waited for more evidence on Syria, said lawmakers should be able to “consider things as quickly as possible.”

Britons back the lawmakers’ vote against military action by a ratio of four to one, with 68 percent supporting Parliament’s rejection and 16 percent disagreeing, according to a YouGov Plc poll for the Sunday Times newspaper. YouGov polled 1,822 adults Aug. 30-31. It didn’t provide a margin of error.

The poll showed Labour extending its lead in voter support over the Tories to 10 percentage points, from as little as three points last week.

Osborne also rejected the idea that further evidence provided by the UN may prompt another vote on action.

“I think Parliament has spoken,” he said. “I don’t think another UN report or whatever would make a difference.”

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