Syria crisis: David Cameron accuses Ed Miliband of 'dividing' Commons and expresses regret at Labour's stance over military action

PM says Labour have undermined Britain’s public response to the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons

Whitehall Editor

David Cameron today accused Ed Miliband of “dividing” the House of Commons in its condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

In a clearly angry response to the Labour leader at Prime Minister’s Questions Mr Cameron said it had been unnecessary for Labour undermine Britain’s public response to the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons because last week’s Government motion did not authorise military action.

But he pledged to renew efforts to push the stalled peace process in Syria at this week’s G20 meeting in Russia and increase humanitarian aid to the region.

“I accept that Britain can't be part and won't be part of any military action on that front but we must not in any degree give up our utter revulsion at the chemical weapons attacks that we have seen and we must press this point in every forum of which we are a member,” Mr Cameron told MPs.

“Last week the Commons voted clearly and I have said that I have respected the outcome out of that vote and I won't be bringing back plans for British participation in military action.

“My only regret of last week is that I don't think it was necessary to divide the House on a vote that could have led to a vote but you took the decision that it was.”

Senior Labour figures, including the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, used PMQs to urge Mr Cameron to involve Iran in any possible peace deal – noting the election of the moderate President Dr Rouhani earlier this year.

But Mr Cameron said while he had written to Dr Rouhani to congratulate him on his election Iran had to do much more to restore relations with Britain before being drawn in to the Geneva 2 process.

Mr Cameron said: "It is all very well for the countries supporting either side to want these peace talks to take place. What you also need is for those people involved in the conflict in Syria to recognise that it is in their interests to see a peace process start to begin.

"I think we can convince the Syrian National Council it is in their interests because a transition could lead to genuinely free elections and change for Syria, but we need Assad himself to realise that it is in his interests because there is no victory he can win against his own people.

"For that to happen we do need to take - and the world needs to take - a very tough response to things like chemical weapons attacks. 

The Prime Minister added he would be expressing the Government's anger at the use of chemical weapons when the G20 meets tomorrow in St Petersburg, Russia. He said talks had already taken place with Russian president Vladimir Putin on the issue.

He said Britain would also use the meeting to try to co-ordinate the international response to help Syria in its "hour of need".

Britain was also doing everything it could to support Syria's neighbours, including Turkey and Jordan, with international aid, as well as providing protection to victims of chemical attacks.

He said: "The truth is this - we won't get a peace process in Syria unless president Assad realises that his regime is under some sort of pressure, some sort of threat, not just from the rebels but from the millions of Syrians who we must be standing up for, who want democracy, who want freedom, who want a better future for their children. It is them whose side we should be truly on."

Mr Cameron added: "I agree with you that Britain should use all of its diplomatic muscle to discuss with those countries that have backed the regime and to join with those countries who have backed the rebels and the opposition to try and bring those talks about."

Mr Miliband said other countries must match the humanitarian effort Britain has put in to help the Syrian people as the United Nations has less than half the resources it needs.

He said talks between the Syrian National Council and Foreign Secretary William Hague must ensure further peace negotiations.

The Labour leader said there was no difference between his party and the Government on the issue of standing up for the Syrian people.

He added: “The point of issue is how to do that. Now there are large barriers, as we have found out over the last year or more, to the Geneva II peace talks actually happening. Can I ask you whether there isn't a case for immediate talks between those countries backing the rebels and those countries the regime?

“Those talks happened during the civil war in Lebanon and would at least form a basis for discussion.”

Sport
formula oneLive lap-by-lap coverage of championship decider
News
Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, entered the 2014 Celebrity Big Brother house
people
Arts and Entertainment
tvStrictly presenter returns to screens after Halloween accident
News
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin