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Sunak schedules debate for MPs – but no vote – after second strike on Houthis

Rishi Sunak was not setting up a vote for MPs (Hannah McKay/PA)
Rishi Sunak was not setting up a vote for MPs (Hannah McKay/PA)

Rishi Sunak has resisted calls to hold a vote on the air strikes on Houthi rebels after the Royal Air Force (RAF) joined a second bombing raid in Yemen.

The Prime Minister was instead allowing for a “general debate” on the military intervention to take place in the Commons on Wednesday.

Downing Street insisted that they were “acting in line with precedence” by not allowing MPs the chance to vote on whether they support the strikes or not.

Sir Ed Davey
Sir Ed Davey argues that a vote for MPs is ‘absolutely vital’ (James Manning/PA)

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said holding a vote was “absolutely vital”, as he warned that MPs were being “bypassed” on military action.

Monday night’s air strikes against the Iran-backed militants were the second joint US-UK raid aimed at stopping the attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Unlike after the first strikes earlier this month, however, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle were not told in advance that the RAF was taking part.

Mr Sunak took questions in the House on Tuesday and was scheduling a “general debate” for Wednesday that Downing Street anticipated would not be accompanied by a vote.

Seeking to justify the lack of a vote, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s important that parliamentarians are able to have their say, but we are acting in line with precedence.

“The powers to make a decision on this action rest with the Prime Minister.

“There isn’t a requirement, and in line with previous strikes, we have not sought a parliamentary vote before acting.”

Mr Sunak first told a Cobra committee meeting including key ministers of the decision after a call with US President Joe Biden, No 10 set out.

Red Sea air strikes graphic
(PA Graphics)

The wider Cabinet, as well as Sir Keir and Sir Lindsay, were then “informed at the time of the strikes”, around 10pm.

Both Sir Keir and Sir Ed have backed the strikes on a case-by-case basis, but the Lib Dem leader has been demanding that MPs are given a vote.

Sir Ed argued that “it is absolutely vital that Parliament has an opportunity to have its say, via a debate and a vote”.

“It is deeply disappointing that elected representatives are being bypassed on an issue as important as military action,” he added.

Sir Lindsay said that the Commons must always be informed “at the earliest opportunity” about military action.

He told Sky News: “If this is continuous action, therefore quite rightly, the Government must inform the House and it must put a big debate on.

“The House matters to me, it matters to MPs, they are elected by our constituents. So, we need to hear it in the House ASAP.”