To help my speech and the thought processes I have drawn up a rough list of the questions I want to be addressed by tomorrow night when the vote is at 10pm: I have put in to speak, as have over 50 MPs, so I may not be called by the Speaker.
- what is the hard evidence that Assad carried out these chemical attacks?
- who has seen it and assessed it?
- is it certain that the Russians will continue to block a UN Security Council Resolution - it certainly appears so, based on everything they have said and done over the last 2 years.
- what is the up to date position in relation to the findings of the UN team on the ground in Syria?
- what is the legal basis for any proposed action by British or alternatively NATO troops?
- what is being proposed in terms of any parliamentary motion? [none has yet been laid before parliament]
- in terms of military action: are we proposing physically to act on our own [ie by the use of cruise missiles], with allies, or as supporters of allies who are actually carrying out any punitive strikes? I have presumed for now, the latter.
- it seems certain that under no circumstances are we proposing boots on the ground. This will need to be confirmed in the House of Commons.
- what is our objective of any proposed action?
- what is our strategy to pursue this?
- if we are intially unsuccessful are we proposing to go further to fulfil our objective?
- what would this entail?
- what are the upsides to this strategy in the wider context, particularly addressing the importance of global actions on certain key issues - eg the prevention of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea, which will probably happen without strong global leadership?
- what are the immediate and potential downsides to our strategy / objective?
- are we able to delay a final decision pending further information, diplomacy, alternative action?
- is the risk of doing nothing greater than an attempt to stop the use of chemical weapons?
- do we have a clear exit strategy?
I have received plenty of emails and letters over the summer, and in particular over the last 72 hours, and have read them all. My constituents know that my fundamental approach is a reluctance to get involved, but I accept the PMs point that things have changed over the last 10 days. That does not mean I have changed my provisional view. I can assure one and all that all communications will be read and considered before any decision is made. Apologies if I do not reply to emails at present - we are a little busy here in Westminster, but I will reply in full after the debate.