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Sunak and Starmer accused of ‘disregard for democracy’ after Yemen strikes

14 Jan 2024 4 minute read
One one of four RAF Typhoon aircraft taking off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus to join the US-led coalition conducting air strikes against military targets in Yemen. Photo MOD

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has accused Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer of a ‘disregard for democratic conventions’ after the UK Government conducted military strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen without parliamentary approval.

Both Sunak and Starmer agreed on the approach, despite the Labour leader previously committing to enshrining the convention of seeking parliamentary approval in law.

Several European countries declined to participate in the US-UK action on Thursday, with Italy not involved as parliamentary approval was required, and France, reportedly, did not believe the attack could be deemed legitimate self-defence.

US President Joe Biden was also denounced for bypassing Congress over the attacks.


Today (14 September) marks 100 days since Hamas’ attacks on innocent Israelis leading to a bloody campaign by Israel in Gaza.

Ms Saville Roberts said that the focus now should be on securing a ceasefire in Gaza, which she says “would inevitably ease tensions in the wider region.”

Ahead of an expected statement in Parliament by the Prime Minister on Monday, Liz Saville Roberts  said: “The Prime Minister’s decision to order RAF attacks on Houthi military bases in Yemen without any parliamentary scrutiny whatsoever reveals Rishi Sunak’s disregard for democratic conventions.

“The risk of escalation to the conflict in the Middle East demands a delicate and nuanced approach to prevent further instability in an already volatile region.

“In this context, there are questions as to whether the strikes could be deemed legitimate self-defence, and we are not convinced that the US and UK exhausted all options before committing to military action. These questions are why parliamentary scrutiny is so important.

“We have long known that Rishi Sunak and David Cameron, the unelected Foreign Secretary, have little interest in democracy or parliamentary conventions. It is disappointing, however, that Keir Starmer has joined them by backtracking from previous promises to enshrine parliamentary approval of military action in law.

“It has been 100 days since the horrific attacks on innocent Israelis by Hamas and the subsequent disproportionate response by Israel, which has resulted in over 23,000 people being killed. The focus should be on securing a ceasefire in Gaza, which would inevitably ease tensions in the wider region.

“Plaid Cymru aims to pose these questions to the Prime Minister tomorrow, marking the first opportunity, despite reports that Mr. Sunak made the decision last Tuesday. We hope other parties will join us in calling for strengthened parliamentary procedures in law to ensure that jingoism plays no part in military decisions.”

‘No inconsistency’

The Labour leader insisted on Sunday that there is “no inconsistency” between his previous promise to give the Commons a say before authorising action and his support for strikes against Houthis.

Sir Keir told BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg:  “There is obviously a huge distinction between an operation, the like of which we have seen in the last few days, and military action, a sustained campaign, military action usually involving troops on the ground.”

He argued that his proposed change to give the Commons a say only relates to sending in ground forces, adding that he stands by that “in principle, absolutely”.

The Labour leader insisted he still wants to bring in the change but now hinted the alteration may not need to be in law.

“I want to codify that – it could be by a law, it could be by some other means,” he said.

But he added: “I’m not ruling out law.”


UK ministers have published a summary of the legal position on the strikes, which states action was “lawfully taken” and was “the only feasible means available to deal with such attacks”.

Mr Sunak insisted the US and UK had acted “in self-defence” and said the allies will not hesitate to ensure the safety of commercial shipping.

The Prime Minister said: “We need to send a strong signal that this breach of international law is wrong.

“People can’t act like this with impunity, and that’s why together with allies we’ve decided to take this action.”


In constitutional terms Parliament has no legally established role in approving the deployment of the armed forces and the Government is under no legal obligation with respect to its conduct in such situations, including keeping Parliament informed.

In practice however, successive governments have consulted and informed the House of Commons about the decision to use force and the progress of military campaigns, although there has been little consistency in how that has been achieved.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago

I think the people have lost control of this Boy’s Own story Liz, you are like ‘Melita’, a lone outpost of good sense in a ‘Mare Horribilis’…

Seriously, we are so far up this particular length of rope it will be sufficient to hang us…

4 months ago

Remember when the UK government says actions lawfully taken, they want to break so many international laws to keep their seats at the next election, Rwanda, ECHR etc.
Remember Mr lewis in the HoC, “break the law in a very specific and limited way.” for brexit. Yeah, same party that has an issue with laws.

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