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War on Gaza: UK opposition parties criticise Yemen strikes and demand parliament recall

Decision to strike Houthis in tandem with US criticised for bypassing parliamentary approval
An RAF Typhoon aircraft takes off to join the U.S.-led coalition from RAF Akrotiri to conduct air strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen (12 January/Reuters)
An RAF Typhoon aircraft takes off to join the U.S.-led coalition from RAF Akrotiri to conduct air strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen (12 January/Reuters)

UK opposition parties have criticised involvement in US-led air strikes against Yemen's Houthi rebels, demanding parliament be recalled.

Parties including the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party (SNP), Plaid Cymru and some members of the main opposition Labour Party expressed concerns at the overnight attacks, which were carried out without a parliamentary vote.

Layla Moran, foreign affairs spokeswoman of Liberal Democrats, described bypassing the parliament as “shameful”.

“Parliament shouldn’t ever be bypassed- and certainly not when it comes to military action,” she posted on X.

Speaking later to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Moran said her party was calling “for a recall of parliament immediately and a retrospective vote”.

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She pointed out parliament had held retrospective votes before during military action in Libya in 2011.

The UK and US strikes targeted Houthi sites in the late hours of Thursday, and were described by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as "necessary and proportionate".

He said it comes as part of his country’s “self-defence” and in an effort to protect global shipping in the Red Sea.

'Before action was taken, the correct and appropriate thing to have done would have been to have recalled parliament'

- Hamza Yusuf, Scotland’s first minister

Explosions were reported in several cities across the war-ravaged country, including the capital Sanaa, the western port city of Hodeidah, the Houthi stronghold of Saada and the south-western city of Dhamar.

The Houthis said the 73 attacks had killed five people and injured six, and warned there would be a “heavy price” to be paid.

Scotland’s first minister, Hamza Yusuf, has echoed Moran’s calls to recall the House of Commons, saying there were “significant questions” around the attacks.

"Before action was taken, the correct and appropriate thing to have done would have been to have recalled parliament, who [should] have [been] given serious detail about any proposed military action," he told BBC’s Radio Good Morning Scotland programme.

The leader of Plaid Cymru, a Welsh nationalist party, also said parliament should have been consulted before the UK military action against Yemen was taken.

“MPs must surely be allowed to debate this before the UK embarks on this course of action. Briefings for a select few are not enough in a parliamentary democracy,” Rhun ap Iorwerth posted on X.

'Parliamentary statement'

The Labour Party was debriefed ahead of the operation in a late-night cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer said he supported the strikes, but demanded a statement to parliament “as soon as possible” on the unauthorised attacks.

“I do want the prime minister obviously to make a statement to Parliament as soon as possible because the scope, nature and extent of the operation needs to be explained,” he told the BBC.

In a previous interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show in 2020, Starmer had said in power he would pass legislation that would allow military activity only “if a lawful case for it was made,” and “you got the consent of the Commons”.

US and UK launch air strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen after Red Sea attacks
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The House of Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle said he “would be happy to facilitate a recall at any time” after he was invited late Thursday to be debriefed about the air strikes.

“I made representations to the deputy prime minister [Oliver Dowden] about the need for the House to be informed at the earliest possible opportunity and that I would be happy to facilitate a recall at any time,” an official statement from his office stated.

Constitutionally, the UK government is not obliged to inform parliament about military activities.

But it has been the norm, since the Second World War, to consult the House of Commons about decisions to use military forces in advance.

Seeking parliamentary approval for the Iraq War in 2003 was the first example in which a British government sought prior consent from the House of Commons for a specific military operation.

The US-UK military move comes after Houthis launched a series of non-lethal attacks on vessels that have links to Israel.

The Houthi military spokesman said in response to the attacks: "The American and British enemy bears full responsibility for its criminal aggression against our Yemeni people, and it will not go unanswered and unpunished."

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