New Forest East


Lymington Times – 27 April 2018

The Prime Minister was urged by a New Forest MP to guarantee that airstrikes in Syria would not turn the RAF into the "air arm of the jihadist-led rebel forces".

Julian Lewis, of New Forest East and chair of the Commons Defence Committee, spoke out during a debate on Monday after the UK had joined the USA and France in bombing operations in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed 75 people in the Syrian city of Douma

In the run-up to the UK's involvement, Dr Lewis had cautioned against military action, although he welcomed Theresa May's "calm and measured assessment". He demanded an "absolute and unequivocal guarantee" that deterring chemical atrocities will not be allowed to

"lead to the RAF becoming, in effect, the air arm of the jihadist-led rebel forces in Syria? The two roles are and should be held to be entirely separate".

Mrs May insisted the action against President Assad's forces was about the degrading of chemical weapons capability, and not regime change or an intervention in the civil war in Syria.

Dr Lewis warned later that the attack should be a "one-off" as it was

"a choice between monsters and maniacs, with the inhuman Assad regime on one side and the jihadist fanatics dominating the other".

He added:

"I have been concerned about suggestions in the debate, once again, that we should widen this out into a broader intervention in the Syrian civil war. That will be to repeat the mistakes we made in Libya and Iraq."

New Forest West MP Sir Desmond Swayne was more helpful to the Prime Minister, backing her controversial refusal to have a vote before the bombing, by pointedly asking what detail might have persuaded the Commons

"without fundamentally compromising our intelligence-gathering capability?"

Mrs May replied:

"My Right Honourable Friend has put his finger on a particular aspect of this issue. It is not possible to bring all the intelligence through to this House; it is not possible to make all that intelligence public. Sometimes, actually, more information can be made available after the event than in advance of the event, because we do need to maintain the operational security of our Armed Forces."