New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis: The Minister knows that my greatest concern is about the dangerous folly of doing anything to assist an alliance of groups that contain thousands of al-Qaeda fighters to get their hands on Assad’s chemical weapons. Rather than reiterate that, may I ask for an assurance that before there is any lifting of the arms embargo, there will be a full debate, with a vote, in this House?

[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Alistair Burt): In response to my hon. Friend’s first point, let me again make it clear that the efforts of the United Kingdom Government – this should not be left unsaid – are directed to supporting those who do not have the ideology and the declared aims of al-Qaeda. It is very important that that distinction is made, because those moderate forces are looking for recognition. They want to be able to say that they can hold areas and provide support to civilian populations, because they want to be able to provide a contrast with those who might not have Syria’s long-term interests at heart. That is why our support for the National Coalition is so important.

In response to my hon. Friend’s second point, I can do no better than repeat the words of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who said yesterday:

“I regularly come back to the House whenever there is the slightest variation in the situation, so if there are any developments in the Government’s policy I would certainly seek to do so.”

He later said:

“If we come to a choice about that, it is a very important foreign policy and moral choice, which of course should be discussed fully in this House.”—[Official Report, 20 May 2013; Vol. 563, c. 908-909.] ]