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UPDATE: North Devon Green Party activist Ricky Knight attacks MPs for missing Syria debate

By NDJPhilippa  |  Posted: August 30, 2013

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A North Devon Green Party activist has attacked MPs Nick Harvey and Geoffrey Cox for not attending a parliamentary debate over UK intervention in Syria.

Neither Nick Harvey, the MP for North Devon or Geoffrey Cox, the MP for Torridge and West Devon, joined their colleagues in airing their views in the House of Commons on the debate yesterday despite Parliament being recalled early from their summer recess.

Ministers were asked whether the UK should join in with any allied military action against the Assad regime in Syria after it was feared the regime had used chemical weapons on civilians in the country last week.

Ricky Knight, the secretary of the North Devon Green Party, was outraged to hear the MPs were not at the debate.

He said: "Neither Cox nor Harvey attended the vote yesterday - an absolute abrogation of their representative duties - at one of the most historic and crucial watershed moments in British political history.

"As much as I am gob-smacked and overjoyed, it is utterly shameful that Harvey, as former armed services minister and the guy who stood next to our anti-war banners in 2001 prior to the illegal Iraq invasion, was not there.

"I suppose there'll be perfectly good reasons but nonetheless."

Despite being away Mr Harvey made the following statement yesterday.

He said: “The world cannot ignore the kind of atrocities we have recently witnessed in Syria.

“The pain and suffering will continue whether intervention takes place or not: that it why we should only move towards military action cautiously and without haste.

“It’s good that today’s debate will therefore be on principles only, and a final vote on military action will be held with full sight of the weapons inspectors’ report.

“This is vital as the intelligence picture becomes clearer as to how firmly the outrage about last week’s attack can be pinned on the Assad regime – and it is also important that we wait for the Attorney General’s legal advice as to the legal basis for any action.

“There should be no action without international backing, which needs to be gathered for example from the EU, Arab League, and at least trying for a UN resolution.

“There are risks to any form of intervention and protecting civilians must be the top priority, so it is vital that only military targets are even considered. Syrian people have seen enough bloodshed.

“Fears of becoming embroiled in a conflict with no clear strategy and exit plan must weigh heavily: there needs to be a short-term specific authority and not in any way open-ended.

“It is also worth bearing in mind that the majority of any action undertaken would essentially be by the US – our contribution would likely be in a supportive role.”

Mr Cox was unavailable for comment but it was confirmed he would be unable to attend today’s debate.

The majority of MPs yesterday voted against the motion for UK military intervention in Syria and Prime Minister David Cameron said that decision will be respected.

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5 comments

  • peatbogs  |  September 02 2013, 1:26PM

    I have indeed checked the website. There is no other that I know than "They Work for You". That shows that the number of Cox's votes was "below average". If you mean by "one of the worst" that he could have been 326th out of 650, I suppose you are right. As for his return and whether it was possible with his family, I don't know all the facts - do you?

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  • Tacitus  |  September 02 2013, 11:49AM

    If Cox was travelling in the Middle East, not usually that difficult to get back in time given the notice that was given by the PM. Others managed it, and often ministers/MPs are brought back from much further afield at very short notice. As for his attendance in this and the last Parliament, I suggest peatbogs check the Parliamentary website where he will see that Cox was indeed one of the worst attenders in the last Parliament, and has improved in this one given the mounting criticism from many quarters. Of course voting, and attending to listen and participate in debates are very different things, and I would suggest that his outside income (amongst the highest of all MPs) suggest that he falls into the former category. Can't comment on Burnett as unable to check his record now, but, and although no great supporter of his, at least I recall his giving up external work whilst an MP.

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  • peatbogs  |  September 02 2013, 10:47AM

    The Liberal Democrats officially supported the Syria action. Cox says he was unable to make it back for the vote because he was traveling in the Middle East with his family. Correct or not, Cox was not one of the worst attenders of the last parliament. His record was much better than the previous Lib Dem MP Burnett. In this one, his attendance is around 70%, not including deliberate abstentions. He speaks infrequently but when he does is listened to. You cannot measure an MP by the volume of verbiage. He is a decent MP locally and helps a lot of people.

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  • Rockall2011  |  September 01 2013, 4:32PM

    I'm not so aware of Nick Harvey's record, but Geoffrey Cox has always been an infrequent speaker and poor attender in Parliament. In the last Parliament he had one of the worst attendance records, and in this one, many will have seen the recent report which showed Cox as having one of the highest incomes for work done outside Parliament. He owes it to his constituents to explain where he was and why he couldn't attend this most important of debates. Torridge and West Devon is ill-served by this very part-time MP.

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  • JohnF2011  |  August 29 2013, 2:07PM

    It is as well that there are voices of moderation like that of Sir Nick Harvey. It has required the Liberal Democrats, the Labour Party, and a few Tory backbenchers to check the Prime Minister's rush to military action. As former Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Nick Harvey speaks with particular authority on this issue.

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