Brighton Pavilion Green MP Caroline Lucas voted against Britain taking military action in Libya in the House of Commons late last night (Monday 21 March).
She was one of only 13 MPs to vote against British military personnel enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya, credited with preventing a massacre in Baghazi.
She intervened early on in the debate as the Prime Minister, David Cameron, spelt out the case for Britain’s involvement.
She asked him a pointed question about the weapons sold to Colonel Gaddafi by British companies.
She said: “Any military action needs to be principled and consistent.
“But last year the UK issued £231 million worth of arms exports licences to Libya and £55 million of licences to Saudi Arabia, including the very personnel carriers that were rolling into Bahrain just last week.
“Does he not agree that our position would be a lot more consistent and a lot more principled if we stopped selling arms to repressive regimes anywhere in that region?”
Mr Cameron said: “The honourable lady makes an important point, which we have discussed several times during statements and questions.
“We are having a proper review of not just arms exports, but training licences and other relations.
“Of the 118 single and open licences for Libya, we have revoked all licences that cover equipment of concern.
“However, I agree with the honourable lady that there will be lessons to learn from the conflict for the future.”
Later she spoke for five minutes and opened by paying tribute to British servicemen and women “whose courage and commitment are beyond question”.
But she said: “We owe it to them, and indeed to all in the Middle East and North African region, to ensure that the role that Britain plays is beyond reproach or misunderstanding.
“That means that it must be consistent, that it must be principled, and that it must be likely to do good rather than harm.
“Measuring the military intervention that has taken place so far against those benchmarks, I am not sure that they are being met.
“We are also told that the fact that we cannot do good everywhere should not be an argument against doing whatever we can.
“The fact that we are operating in the same week as invading Saudi forces are executing unarmed democracy protesters on the streets of Bahrain raises serious questions.
“Colonel Gaddafi who has been rightly described today as a murderous dictator has not suddenly become one.
“He was already a murderous dictator a few months, or weeks, ago, when we were happy to sell him tear gas, crowd control equipment, ammunition for wall and door-breaching projectile launchers, and plenty of other military equipment as well.
“We cannot ignore our own complicity in arriving at this point.
“We cannot continue to arm regimes that abuse their own citizens, and try to claim the moral high ground when addressing the conflicts that those same arms have helped to perpetuate.
“I hope very much that the commitment that we are hearing today – the commitment to upholding human rights in the Middle East – will extend to our policies on arms exports so that we can finally not just review but end the policy of selling arms to repressive regimes.”
In Libya, she said: “There is a real risk of our making matters worse.
“If there is a stalemate – if Gaddafi does not fall in the next few weeks – we could face a civil war, a partitioned Libya and even a potential breeding ground for al-Qaeda.”
And she called for a Middle East peace conference to be convened urgently.
The Prime Minister opened the debate by putting a motion to the House of Commons:
“I beg to move that this House
- welcomes United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1973
- deplores the ongoing use of violence by the Libyan regime
- acknowledges the demonstrable need, regional support and clear legal basis for urgent action to protect the people of Libya
- accordingly supports Her Majesty’s Government, working with others, in the taking of all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya and to enforce the No Fly Zone
- including the use of UK armed forces and military assets in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1973 and
- offers its wholehearted support to the men and women of Her Majesty’s armed forces.”
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