Coffee House

Audio coverage of the Syria debate in House of Commons

29 August 2013

Welcome to Coffee House’s rolling coverage of the Syria debate in the House of Commons this afternoon. We will be detailing the best speeches in favour of and against the motion below, with full quotes and audio clips.

Jump to speeches: David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Jack Straw, Liam Fox, David Davis, Andrew Mitchell, Ming Campbell, Justin Welby

Friday 9:10:  Chancellor George Osborne was on the Today programme, discussing the government’s defeat. Fraser thinks his logic was rather tendentious:

23:00: Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond was interviewed on Newsnight just as the news came through the government’s motion had been defeated:

22:49: Motions by both Labour and the government have been defeated in the House of Commons. This is what Ed Miliband and David Cameron had to say:

…and the announcement that the government’s motion was defeated:

22:20: And finally here is Nick Clegg summing the debate on behalf of the government:

21:55pm: Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has summed the debate for Labour, stating that the House is ‘united in its revulsion at the reports of use of chemical weapons’ but ‘w

e are being pushed too quickly to military action on a timetable set elsewhere, without due process being taken':

9:07pm: Jim Fitzpatrick has resigned from the Labour frontbench over tonight’s vote, his party confirmed. Here is the speech he delivered in the Commons just over an hour ago:

6:17pm: Across in the House of Lords, Archbishop Justin Welby has expressed concern at how intervention may affect Christians:

Dove‘Intervention from abroad will declare open season on the Christian communities. They have already been devastated – 2 million Christians in Iraq 12 years ago, less than half a million today. These are not just churches that go back to St Paul but in the case of Damascus pre date him. And they  hey will surely suffer terribly, as they already are, if action goes ahead. That consequence has to be weighed against inaction. ”

Robin Harris discussed the persecution of Christians in Syria in this week’s Spectator.

6:06pm: Respect MP George Galloway has unsurprisingly, spoken out very strongly against any action while questioning the intelligence that Assad was behind the chemical weapons attacks:

Dove‘It’s absolutely evident that if it were not for the democratic revolt which has been underway in this House of Commons and outside in the wider public against this war, that the engines in Cyprus would now be revving and the cruise missiles  ready to fly this very weekend.’


5:40pm: Former Chief Whip and International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell backs the government motion and makes the case for intervention:

Hawk‘In my view failure by the international community to act, would be far dangerous than taking evidence-based proportionate and legal military action, as a clear lesson to human rights abusers and dictators who murder and terrorist innocent civilian populations’

5:23pm: Former minister and chairman of the Conservative party David Davis has questioned the timing of taking  action now and has suggested the government needs to test the strength of the evidence ‘very very hard':

Dove‘Many have asked why intervene now? To press its case, the government and the American government, now supported by the JIC have assertion that the gassing of the large number of Syrian civilians could only have been carried out by the Assad regime.’

5:00pm: Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Ming Campbell, like Liam Fox, has expressed reservations about the role of the United Nations in the Syria but can see little different with Labour’s motion so will voting for the government’s motion this evening:

Hawk‘I’ve read the motion and I’ve read the amendment of the opposition. I believe both are motivated by the same determination to do what is right…I can find no difference of substance or principle anywhere between these two offerings and that is why I shall support the Government in the lobby this evening and I very much hope the Opposition will too.’

4:15pm: The former Defence Secretary Liam Fox says despite scepticism from from the public and a lack of national interest, we need to think  carefully about what would happen if we didn’t take action:

Hawk‘There is a separate issue upon which we need to have very great clarity and that issue is how we respond to a regime that has used chemical weapons against its own civilian population. Something that is against international war and is in fact a war crime.

‘But we must also focus on the consequences of not taking action, on the consequences for the Syrian people. Does it make them more or less safe from the use of such weapons in the future. From the implications Syrian regime, does it make them feel more or less secure in taking such actions again in the future?’

‘What signal would we send to them (other regimes) about the international community’s willingness to stop such use in the future if we do nothing.’

3:58pm: Leader of the opposition Ed Miliband’s opening remarks:

Dove‘As the Prime Minister said, everyone in this House and most people in the country will have seen the pictures of men, women and children gasping for breath and dying…the divide that exists does not exist over the condemnation of the use of chemical weapons…nor does it lie in the willingness to condemn the regime of President Assad. The question is what if any military action we should take and what criteria should affect that decision.’

…his attempts to explain why we need to be ‘clear eyed':

…and his full speech to the House of Commons:

3:55pm:  Conservative MP for Basildon and Billericay  John Baron, who has  spoken out against military action in Syria before, asks the Prime Minister how he can ensure violence wouldn’t escalated: 

Dove‘The reason many of us in Parliament oppose the arming of the rebels is not only that there is atrocities committed by both sides in this vicious civil war but there is a real risk of escalating the violence and therefore the suffering. No matter how clinical the strikes, there is a real risk I suggest, that the violence is escalated. It can only result in that. What assurances can he give it won’t escalate that this won’t violence in the country and beyond Syria’s borders?’

3:10pm: Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has intervened to ask how the government proposes to ‘degrade’ the Assad regime’s chemical weapons capabilities:

Dove‘The Prime Minister said a moment ago in that a hearing of the House, the purposes of any action would be the degrading of the chemical weapons capability of the Assad regime. In a letter which General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent to Carl Levin in the United States Congress a couple of months ago, he spelt out fully to do that would involve hundreds of ships and aircraft and thousands of ground troops at a cost of $1 billion a month. Could the PM since he is not proposing that, would would his objectives be in degrading the chemicals capability?’

2:55pm: Isabel Hardman on how the Prime Minister is presenting his statement to the House:

and here’s his full speech to the House of Commons:

2:20pm: The debate on the government’s motion (read here) on intervention in Syria will begin at 2.30. While we’re waiting for MPs to file into the Commons, here are some pieces to get you up to speed.

Thanks to the Spectator’s cartoon editor Michael Heath for the illustrations above







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  • alabenn

    He has just finished his opposition motion, that was as bad a speech anyone could make, stuttering and totally without substance.
    If the Labour party do not remove him soon they are lined up for a catastrophic defeat, even the BBC cannot save this idiotic clown

    • dalai guevara


    • the viceroy’s gin

      Yes, but he’s likely facing Dave the Cameroon. See what I mean?

  • Shoe On Head

    what’s the point? with our strikes being so limited, cameron’s legal case for “humanitarian” intervention is on very shaky ground.

    it is all about sitting on the big table.

    (shoe on head)

    • Russell

      If missile strikes to Assads palaces, places of residence, airports and military bases make the maniac think twice about using Sarin or some other deadly poison gas, the action will indeed justify ‘humanitarian’ intervention.

    • HookesLaw


      • Shoe On Head

        Mirror. Take look. Long and hard.

        (hugs, kisses, bellyrubs)

    • Shoe On Head

      cameron is also misreading obama in a big way.

  • CraigStrachan

    Miliband is tanking. His stuck-record “we must be clear-eyed” moment was absolutely cringeworthy.

    • Russell

      Because he is absolutely cringeworthy.

      To think many idiots (some repeat offenders on here) think this equally idiotic man could be PM of this country and Balls his chancellor!
      One look at his incompetent record whilst in government should be enough to convince anyone with an IQ higher than 2, if that still doesn’t convince these fools, just let them look at their energy bill and find out how much Miliband is to blame for the exorbitant cost they are paying.

      A glance at how the Balls creation the FSA performed should wrap that one up.
      Then there is Burnham & Johnson the variety hall act which unfortunately killed many people here in the UK NHS!.
      The buffoon Prescott and his time ‘sorting out’ the UK transport system!
      The list covers every single member of previous labour government ministers and most of their present shadow cabinet ministers.

    • HookesLaw

      Miliband is simply playing to his own gallery and trying to paint the govt as being warmongers for his own propaganda purposes.
      Labour as at the first opportunity reverted to type. They are worthless.

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