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Plan on MPs backing military moves

MPs could be given the formal right to decide on whether to commit UK forces to future military conflicts by the end of the year, under plans set out by a Commons committee.

Under the proposals the Commons would have to authorise military action before it took place, unless the use of force was a matter of urgency or a military operation needed to be kept secret.

The Commons Political and Constitutional Reform select committee said a resolution setting out the new process should be put to a vote by November this year.

The refusal by MPs to authorise the use of British military force in Syria highlighted the convention that the Commons should have the opportunity to debate the deployment of troops.

The committee said David Cameron's d ecision to follow the view expressed by the Commons, after MPs rejected the participation of UK forces in operations against Bashar Assad's regime, was " particularly significant".

Foreign Secretary William Hague has committed to enshrine in law the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action, but there has been little progress on the agenda - partly down to a fear that legislation could lead to decisions on conflicts being open to judicial review.

The committee said it could "understand the Government's wariness" about the risk of judicial review if Parliament's role was set out in law.

But the report added: "We have heard evidence that suggested the courts would only be concerned if there was a serious failure by the Government to abide by the process set out in legislation."

A parliamentary resolution would escape the risk of a judicial review and was a "sensible interim step" while the implications of legislation were considered, the cross-party committee said.

Under the draft resolution prepared by the committee, the Prime Minister would have to seek the approval of MPs "as soon as practicable after the Government has formulated a policy involving the use of force outside the United Kingdom by UK forces".

If a decision was needed in an emergency, the PM would have to seek retrospective approval within 20 days, and similar provisions would apply if secrecy about any proposed operation was necessary.

Special forces operations would not require approval under the draft resolution drawn up by the committee.

The MPs called on the Government to consider the draft resolution and produce its own version for consultation by June, with a final version presented to the House of Commons by November.

The committee's Labour chairman Graham Allen said: "The decision to take military action is the most momentous a government can make, and so it is crucial that the role of the UK Parliament in conflict decisions be clarified and formalised, and not left to the discretion of the Prime Minister.

"In 2011 the Foreign Secretary committed to enshrine in law the necessity of consulting Parliament on military action. Since then the Government has made no progress on this commitment, nor set out how it intends to do so."

He said the committee's resolution " would serve to embed the current convention and clearly set out the process that Parliament expects to be followed in the event of a conflict decision being considered".

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