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Britain to abandon pledge in getting MPs’ consent to launch wars


The UK government is mulling over changing the course on whether it should win parliament’s consent before engaging in acts of war, media reports said.

A convention was created as per former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s decision in 2003 to seek MPs’ approval before joining the US-led invasion of Iraq in March that year, according to which the parliament was given the right to vote over the use of force.

Now, the government is indicating that it will renege on its pledge to do the same as far as the parliament’s consent and the convention are concerned, British media reported.

Although the prime minister of Britain enjoys the power to engage in wars and he or she is not legally-bound to have the parliament’s consent, Prime Minister David Cameron was dealt a serious blow earlier this year, when as per the convention he was forced to have MPs’ endorsement in his desperate attempt to invade Syria militarily, but he failed to win the endorsement.

Again, in March 2011, when the question of Libya invasion was put to MPs, foreign secretary William Hague boasted that the government wanted to change this ancient power.

“We will also enshrine in law for the future necessity of consulting Parliament on military action”, he told the House of Commons.

However, Lib Dem Cabinet Office minister Lord Wallace of Saltaire poured cold water on the whole idea today, when he told the Commons constitution committee that the government was about to abandon its pledge.

He talked of an increasing nervousness among ministers, who believed if the convention becomes law then the government’s future decisions to launch war would create court challenges over whether those decisions were legal or not.

“Whether we should legislate on it is a large question,” said Lord Wallace.

“Legislation and judicial review go together and the government has become much more sensitive about judicial review of military action”, he added.

Lord Wallace said while the government was happy to obey the convention that parliament be asked for its consent, it was “very hesitant” about going any further.

“Once one gets the legal dimension into it, it might be entering an area of morass rather than of certainty,” he said.

“The government has an evolving position on this,” he revealed. “It is a great deal more complex than one thought, the definition of armed conflict and deployment of armed forces has all sorts of ragged edges.”

This comes as the parliament’s consent in launching wars has its own critics and advocates.

Critics say getting parliament’s consent would cause delays in deployment when a rapid action is needed. But, advocates believe prime minister enjoys too much power as far as the issue of launching wars is concerned and that decisions about war and peace should be made by parliament.

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