My thoughts on military action in Syria and events locally

The dominant national news, and for the right reasons, is the involvement of UK forces with its allies in the targeted strike on Syrian installations responsible for the manufacture and stock-piling of chemical weapons. The debate will continue as to who has or who should have the final say on sanctioning the mobilisation of British forces – the Prime Minister and the Cabinet through the long-established principle of the use of the Royal Prerogative, or Parliament?

The issue was always constitutionally clear and settled in the past – it was the decision of the Government with Parliament’s responsibility to hold the executive to account after the event. This was the basis upon which, for instance, the UK’s response to the Argentine invasion of the Falklands was initiated. The concept has been blurred over the last 15 years, across successive governments, with Parliament having an increasingly primary role. This all sounds very noble and democratic, but realistically when I look back at the debate in December 2015 in advance of a decision to bomb ISIS targets in Syria, beyond grandstanding speeches, some of which were good in themselves, no back-bencher would have been armed with the full strategic or intelligence picture, nor would we have expected to have been so. Decisions have to be taken, and in the case of action over the weekend, very quickly and it is right that the executive makes those decisions, and for Parliament, after the event, to debate, ask questions and to monitor the situation. For some to say now that such action should only be undertaken after agreement of the United Nations ignores the fact that Russia has a veto as a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council: a recipe for perpetual inaction when the civilised world clearly needed to come together to avert further humanitarian outrages and to re-establish international rules.

The Easter break gave me an opportunity to be in the constituency rather than the usual weekly necessity of being mainly in London. It was a pleasure to present a cheque for £1,010 following fundraising to Oasis Domestic Abuse Service at their Northdown Road shop. By the way the shop is always looking for additional volunteers. I had the opportunity of another walkabout with Trevor Shonk, the Mayor of Ramsgate, largely around East Cliff and the town centre, which was, as ever, hugely worthwhile. I had a meeting with bosses at NHS Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group with wide-ranging discussions about GP ‘super-centres’ and potential changes to stroke services. I came away satisfied that the direction of travel is being well considered and is sensible for the future health needs of East Kent residents.

It has been truly refreshing to finally have a more positive dialogue with the leadership at Thanet District Council. The same political colour obviously helps, but that should never have been the pre-requisite for positive working, it is Thanet that matters. Leader, Cllr Bob Bayford represents safe hands with vision for Thanet and I wish him and his team well across many local issues that are important to us all.