openDemocracyUK

Who says if we go to war

Graham Allen
12 March 2011

Graham Allen MP, Chair of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has just written the following, after the Committee hearings that Stuart Weir reported on for OurKingdom yesterday.
 
It’s been many years since I began campaigning for the House of Commons to have a say on whether we went to war or not, so I was delighted that the Cabinet Secretary in a so far unreported statement  told the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee this week that he would examine the words needed to put the right of Parliament to be involved in the war-making process into the Cabinet Manual.
 
Even on the Iraq war, the votes that took place were not mandatory but came about only after pressure on the Government. Had such a right existed at the time of the build up to the Iraq war  in addition to the two largest rebellions within a governing party in British political history, it is possible the Parliamentary outcome could have been different. I have never held that Parliament should be consulted before going to war but that it should have the right  to be able to ratify or endorse the decision.
 
I kept this issue on the agenda every day for five years by submitting a resolution daily to the Table Office in Parliament. Of course the Cabinet Manual is not a Written Constitution but it is currently the closest we have and writing this right out will make it more certain and defensible than it’s vague status as an 'emerging convention'. I’m delighted that progress is at last being made so that, in future, decisions on going to war will always be legitimate and carry the support of the nation and not be seen as being purely at the whim and gift of the Prime Minister. If parliamentary accountability means anything it must apply to that most solemn of decisions; going to war.

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