'Commons vote needed' to arm Syrian rebels

There would need to be a vote in the House of Commons in order to approve any decision to supply arms to the opposition forces in Syria, a Foreign Office minister told a parliamentary committee.

Alistair Burt said that it was "difficult to imagine" that the will of MPs would be disregarded by the Government on the issue, but he added that any vote on Syria would not create a precedent that the Commons must be consulted on every future decision to take military action.

Although Foreign Secretary William Hague told MPs in 2011 that the Government intended to "enshrine in law for the future the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action", Mr Burt said that there remain "differences" within the Cabinet about whether and how this can be done.

A Free Syrian Army fighters rocket. Credit: Reuters

Mr Burt told the House of Lords Constitution Committee that it was not regarded as necessary to obtain parliamentary approval before pressing the European Union to lift its arms embargo on the Syrian rebel forces, as this fell within the Government's existing policy on the crisis.

However, taking the next step of implementing a decision to supply arms would involve a change in policy and would therefore require a vote.