Supporting motion 'gives green light to US'
A Westcountry MP has warned Parliament risks giving the "green light" to bombing Syria by backing the Government on intervention.
Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, spoke of the "slippery slope" to air strikes as the Government sought to seal Commons support for military action in principle following chemical weapons attacks on civilians allegedly carried out by Bashar Assad's regime.
While MPs had yet to vote late last night following an eight-hour debate, it was thought David Cameron would squeeze his motion through.
The vote would not authorise British missile attacks, as the Government has pledged further attempts at UN support and a second Commons vote. But it moves Britain a step closer to backing possible US-led bombings.
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But backbencher Mr George told fellow MPs the vote itself "softens up Parliament" and "puts a foot on the slippery slope towards military intervention". He added the US and France, another possible ally, would see a vote in favour of the Government motion as an "amber light, even green light" to unleash a limited strike.
He said: "It makes it easier for such action to be taken in future. While the motion itself might be a tactical decision, we are now on that slippery slope.
"No matter what I may think about the appalling Assad regime – I accept there is very little other plausible explanation for the chemical attack – I still don't believe this justifies military attacks."
Mr George went on that strikes risked making President Assad "even more irrational".
"The situation may escalate into war – may involve other countries stepping in. Nobody today has persuaded me it will quell the situation," he said, adding: "There's also the risk of mission creep."
And potential Government rebels were last night warning that, while they backed the Prime Minister and his Lib Dem deputy, Nick Clegg, support for a second vote was not guaranteed.
The 10pm vote came amid a growing row between the Government and Labour after the Opposition was accused of "giving succour" to the Assad regime by shifting position.
Labour, which earlier in the week indicated support for the coalition's position, officially complained over the "infantile and irresponsible" remarks.
During the debate, Mr Cameron repeatedly attempted to distance the decision from Tony Blair's path to the conflict in Iraq in 2003 – saying he understood why it had "poisoned" the well of public opinion. And he admitted in the Commons there is not "one smoking piece of intelligence" to pin the blame on the Assad regime. But he insisted he was convinced by the evidence, published in part yesterday. Mr Cameron told MPs: "You have to make a judgement."
Labour said it would vote against the Government's motion – but it is not ruling out military intervention in Syria.
Moving his alternative amendment to the Government motion, Mr Miliband, who is pushing for more time to examine evidence, said: "I think we need to be clear-eyed about the impact that [intervention] would have."
An attack would likely involve military personnel stationed in the South West.
The Response Force Task Group – a Royal Naval force of four warships and five support vessels – is already in the region in the Mediterranean, along with almost 1,000 Westcountry-based Royal Marines.
Devonport-based nuclear submarine HMS Tireless is also thought to be in the Mediterranean, whose waters run to the Syrian coastline.
Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, told the Commons that Britain was "damned if you do, and damned if you don't".
He said: "You can either accept chemical weapons and you can destroy your own people like the Assad regime is doing in Syria and the terrible consequences – but if we do do something you've got to make sure it's not too much to extricate ourselves from another war."