David Cameron was warned by Tory MPs on an influential committee not to press ahead with a vote on UK air strikes against Islamic State in Syria.
It emerged overnight that the Prime Minister would delay seeking a vote on airstrikes because Tory rebels and Labour MPs were likely to be strong enough in numbers to defeat the government.
Whitehall sources claimed that Mr Cameron was unable to persuade enough of Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs to defy their leader on the issue.
The Foreign Affairs Committee, which has a Conservative majority, has told Mr Cameron to focus his efforts on ending civil war in Syria.
he group also raised concerns about the legal basis for UK action unless it formed part of a “coherent international strategy” to defeat Islamic State.
Conservative MP John Baron, who sits on the committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We just don’t need the deployment of more force. We need fresh thinking as to the West’s approach to this five-year civil war. The government has proposed military intervention on both sides.
“What the West needs to do now is focus its efforts on forging a regional plan to combat the greater threat, Isil, even if it means dropping our opposition to Assad in order to achieve this goal, otherwise we risk displaying the same strategic deficit and foreign policy mistakes of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
“The mistakes we’ve made in the past is that we’ve not properly thought through the rationale of intervening in the way we have.
“We’ve got to put together, if we are going to intervene at all, a regional strategy which actually means talking to people we may not like talking to, like the Russians and the Iranians, co-ordinating the efforts on the ground through neighbours, not our own troops, and actually putting in place a proper military operation.
“I think most experts accept that military strikes alone will not defeat this enemy and could be counter-productive.”
he added that recent Russian air strikes had been a “game changer” and that “the stakes have been raised”.
MPs on the committee set out seven demands which the Prime Minister must satisfy before asking Parliament to support allowing RAF jets to bomb Islamic State jihadists in Syria.
hey include how Mr Cameron would defend the legality of the action if there is no United Nations mandate, and whether “key regional powers” like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran are in favour.
Crispin Blunt, the committee’s Tory chairman said: “We are saying to the Government ‘don’t come to Parliament and seek a vote until you are clear what the answers to these points are’.
“We are persuaded that it is not yet possible for the Government to give a satisfactory explanation on the points listed in the report.”
Mr Cameron, who only has a majority of 12, had hoped to put a vote before the Commons as early as the Autumn but it was expected that there would be between 20 or 30 Tory rebels.
The situation had echoes of Mr Cameron’s previous defeat in 2013 on a vote for UK military action against Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad’s government.
A Downing Street source said that Mr Cameron’s position “has not changed” and that he will only go back to Parliament for a vote on the issue if there is a “clear consensus”.
The source said that the government will “inject greater momentum” into efforts to find a “political solution” to the conflict in Syria.
Less than two months ago, Mr Cameron had appeared intent on bringing a vote on military airstrikes in Syria before the Commons.
“We can do all we can as the moral, humanitarian nation at taking people and spending money on aid and helping in refugee camps,” Mr Cameron said in Prime Minister’s Question on September 9.
“But we have to be part of the international alliance that says we need an approach in Syria which will mean we have a government that can look after its people.
“Assad has to go, Isil has to go and some of that will require not just spending money, not just aid, not just diplomacy, but it will on occasion require hard military force.”