Following the Prime Minister's statement to the House of Commons today, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander has sent this message to Labour party members.
As you will have no doubt have seen, last night the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on Libya.
I wanted to write to you at the earliest opportunity to let you know Labour’s position as Ed Miliband set out in the House of Commons this morning.
Any decision to commit British armed forces is a grave and serious one and must be based on a clear and compelling case.
In this instance it is based on the clear evidence of Colonel Gaddafi brutalising his own people in response to their demand for democratic change.
It is action backed in the region, most importantly in the clear resolution of the Arab League. And it is backed now by a legal mandate from the United Nations.
The resolution aims to prevent the slaughter of the people of Benghazi.
It authorises force to protect the civilian population in Libya and establish a no-fly zone, while at the same time making clear there is no mandate and no appetite for a “foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”.
Of course the responsibility for this crisis rests squarely with the Gaddafi Regime, but by this Resolution the United Nations has now placed a responsibility on its members to act to protect the Libyan people.
Next week, the House of Commons will vote on the deployment of British military force as our contribution to this international effort.
Labour will support that decision by the Government. No one – not Ed Miliband, Jim Murphy, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, myself as Shadow Foreign Secretary, or the Shadow Cabinet – takes this decision lightly.
We have been ready to criticise the Government when they have been slow off the mark evacuating British nationals from Libya and I have asked tough questions of the Foreign Secretary about the unsuccessful mission to contact opposition forces in Benghazi.
But on the question of military action, Labour has been clear from the outset that all options should be on the table, given the record of the Gaddafi regime.
And today, Ed Miliband said in a debate in the House of Commons “it would be quite wrong given what is happening in Libya for us to stand by and do nothing”.
Already, today the Gaddafi regime have suggested they will implement an immediate ceasefire, but this regime must be judged on its deeds and not simply its words.
Tomorrow in Paris leaders from Europe and across the Arab world will discuss the way ahead in light of the Security Council Resolution.
The situation remains fluid. I will endeavour to provide more information to Labour members who I know will have deep concerns not only for the people of Libya, but for our own armed forces personnel and the future of the wider region. If you would like to read the UN Security Council Resolution, it is available here.
As Ed said in the Commons, in the days ahead, as befits the Official Opposition, we will support this mission to protect civilian lives, while asking the questions of the Government that the British public would expect us to, and making clear our support for the Armed Forces in the difficult days ahead.
Douglas Alexander MP
Shadow Foreign Secretary