Britain’s main opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn repeated his call Tuesday for a War Powers Act to force Prime Minister Theresa May to seek parliamentary approval ahead of any military action.
Corbyn led a three-hour debate in the House of Commons over parliament’s rights in relation to the approval of military action by British forces overseas. Although Corbyn won by 317 to 256, a majority of 61, political commentators described it as a symbolic victory.
The vote did however highlight mixed feelings among politicians of different parties over whether the prime minister and her senior ministers can send British troops into battle and military action without first seeking approval from lawmakers at Westminster.
Corbyn said the debate has been about the rights and role of parliament, and with no written constitution, he said there was need a war powers act to formalize the process of Britain engaging in military action.
The debate, and six hours of debate Monday, came as a result of Britain’s involvement in weekend air strikes in Syria alongside France and the United States.
Labor has called for a “war powers act” to enshrine into British law that the government must seek parliamentary approval before committing to planned military action.
Corbyn said May ordered the weekend air strikes on Syria without observing a 2011 convention by the previous Conservative coalition government that the House of Commons should have a chance to debate before troops were committed to military operations.
During today’s debate Corbyn said May’s decision not to recall parliament last week ahead of the military action showed a flagrant disregard for the convention.
May told MPs it would have been wrong to recall the British parliament before the air strikes last weekend in Syria as it might have helped the enemy, adding that uncertainty was crucial.
She said: “Our ability to exploit uncertainty was a critical part of the operation, and that uncertainty was also a critical part of its success.”
May said a war powers act proposed by Corbyn would mean interventions, like the action have taken last week in Syria, would become unviable.
May has refuted suggestions that Britain joined the military action in Syria on the orders of U.S. President Donald Trump.
She said it was her job as prime minister to make decisions about military action, and parliament’s responsibility to hold her to account for the decisions she takes.
During Monday’s debates in the House of Commons, May refused to give an assurance that she would ask for parliamentary approval before she sanctioned military action