Dr James Strong looks to history to understand the influence of the House of Commons over the UK’s use of military force abroad, in a blog from our recent Making Sense of Parliaments conference.
Please note that this piece was published on the UK Constitutional Law Association’s blog on 01 December 2015, and is available here. It has been re-published here with the permission of the author.
By Hayley J. Hooper
This post is intended as a follow on to Veronika Fikfak’s recent post on the international law dimensions of armed conflict as they affect the role of the UK Parliament. Recent reports suggest that a parliamentary vote on extending military action against ISIS/ISIL from Iraq into Syrian territory may take place this week. However, the Prime Minister in his statement to Parliament announced that: ‘there will not be a vote in this House unless there is a clear majority for action, because we will not hand a publicity coup to ISIL.’ So, it seems the ‘historic’ democratisation of the war prerogative via the Consultation Convention is already in doubt. But equally, we should caution against the view that any parliamentary involvement, even in the sense of legitimation which Cameron’s statement seems to suggest is the preferred option is an unqualified good. The availability of a vote in the House of Commons does not automatically signal a reduction in the ‘democratic deficit’ which exists in relation to the British control of armed conflict powers. Instead, this blog posits that any such engagement of Parliament must be both informed and principled before it can be worthwhile. Three barriers to such informed and principled engagement currently exist in the British parliamentary constitution which are perhaps under-discussed by constitutional lawyers. The purpose of this piece, then, is to bring them into the open to stimulate further discussion.
Please note that this piece was published on the UK Constitutional Law Association’s blog on 28 November 2015, and is available here. It has been re-published here with the permission of the author.
By Veronika Fikfak
Next week Members of Parliament will debate and vote on whether to support the Government’s proposal to extend military action against Islamic State (IS) to Syria. On Thursday, the Prime Minister made his case to the House, relying on the new Security Council Resolution to insist that the intervention would be legal. In this post, I analyse the limits of this argument, showing that the Resolution adopted by the Security Council does not unequivocally make the use of force legal. More importantly, however, I make the case that next week MPs should not limit their questions and therefore scrutiny of the Government’s proposals to international (legal) questions but rather turn their attention inwards – to domestic interest, concerns and implications of any future action.
Please note that this piece was originally published on the Revolts blog (available here) and has been re-published with permission from the author.
By Philip Cowley
It now looks very likely that the Labour Party will give free votes to its MPs in the upcoming Commons votes on Trident renewal and possible air strikes in Syria.
The party is split on both issues, and in particular its new leadership is at odds with large numbers of MPs. Free votes are often granted when there are divisions like this within parties; splits are never as newsworthy when they take place on free votes. So the tactical reasons for having free votes are pretty obvious.