MP wanted to keep options open on Syria

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Tory MP John Hayes says it’s unlikely Parliament will be asked again in the short term about possible military intervention in Syria following chemical weapons attacks on civilians there.

The South Holland and The Deepings MP sided with his Government on Thursday night, but the vote on “keeping our options open” was lost and effectively ruled out Britain taking part in military strikes against the Assad regime.

Mr Hayes said: “There was no vote on military action, the vote was to keep our options open.”

Since Parliament delivered its verdict – with the Government losing by 272 votes to 285 – fresh evidence about the use of chemical weapons has emerged listing higher numbers killed, but this is unlikely to spark a fresh debate.

Mr Hayes said: “You can never say never, frankly, but it’s very unlikely that the matter will return to the House in the short term. Parliament has spoken and the Prime Minister has said the Government has heard very clearly.”

Asked whether he favoured military action against Syrian targets, Mr Hayes said: “As I illustrated with my vote, I was certainly not wanting to rule out Britain taking a stand on these things.

“There was never any suggestion last week that Britain should be involved in a full-scale military involvement.

“I can understand people’s reticence given the legacy of Iraq – people do believe that Tony Blair failed the British people with Iraq.”

In Thursday’s Spalding Guardian, a retired frontline military intelligence officer, Lt Cdr Frank Ledwidge, wrote an open letter to Mr Hayes asking him to show moral courage and vote against Britain taking military action in Syria.

Mr Hayes said he had read the letter but already understood that military action needed to be considered extremely carefully and “you need an exit strategy as well as an entry strategy”.

The MP also says pointedly: “We are not the world’s policeman, are we?”

But he also fears the worst if the West does nothing.

“What I am worried about is if the West does absolutely nothing, Assad will continue his brutal handling of his opponents and there is nothing more harrowing than seeing the scenes of people being poisoned by nerve gas – it’s something we have not really experienced in the West since the First World War.”

Mr Hayes said many more people died in the Syrian gas attacks than first thought.

He said: “It’s just horrible that this may go on.”