Gordon MP sir malcolm bruce reports back

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In reality, Parliament did not vote for anything on Syria - voting down both the Opposition amendment and the Government motion. This well reflected the confusion and uncertainty afflicting MPs and the public.

Chemical weapons are a horrendous instrument and outlawed under international law. Most of us would support action that would be guaranteed to stop their use again.

However, it is hard to believe that a limited military strike would not lead to anything other than retaliation and a further loss of life and displacement of more people.

I told the House that, on the evidence put forward, it seemed likely that action would stimulate a response. I was in favour of giving the UN process maximum time and that no action would be taken without a further vote of the House which, on the basis of the evidence put forward so far, I would vote against. That remains my position.

I voted for proceeding with the UN process in advance of any possible action and for no UK deployment without a further vote of Parliament, which even before the vote on the Government motion looked like a lost-cause.

In addition, the UK has so far spent almost £400 million on humanitarian relief. I absolutely agree that we should help people in extreme distress but these are middle income countries that would not normally need help. If the crisis continues more aid money will be diverted from poor people elsewhere in the world.

Last week I was in Washington and had the opportunity of a briefing with the British Ambassador. He pointed out that President Obama and the US Congress were facing similar dilemmas. The special relationship is still intact although if America acts without us it could come under strain.

Two strands of the argument are being put forward. The first is that the strike would be limited, of short duration and purely designed to deter further use of chemical weapons. It is questionable if this would work and seems likely it would lead to a reaction and intensification of the conflict.

The second is that it will be a sustained attack designed to degrade Assad’s capability and force the adoption of the peace process in Geneva. While this may be a desirable outcome it is an uncertain outcome and hard to deliver. This is an ever changing situation. The question is whether we can make a useful contribution or stay on the touchlines, which is our current and likely position.

Retirement - but not for 18 months

Last week I made it known that I would not be a candidate at the next general election. It was a carefully considered decision but in the end a clear one. I wanted to leave Parliament when I was still enjoying it. 2015 will be the first opportunity to do so and will come at the termination of my role as chair of the International Development Select Committee.

I also have a young family aged 13, 11 and 8 who regularly complain that I am away so much and, although they have busy, active lives it will be good to be more fully a part of it.

It will of course be strange in 2015 not to be a candidate in a General Election for the first time in more than 40 years, although I will be working very hard to try and ensure the people of Gordon are well served by a new Liberal Democrat MP.

I will have been the MP for Gordon for nearly 32 years by 2015 and can look back on a very varied career. In 1983 we had no mobile phones, no email and only a memory typewriter making the job very demanding for just me and a shorthand typist. The local party provided me with an office and a part time secretary in the constituency paid for out of local fund raising events. In my first winter massive power cuts left thousands without power - some for up to two weeks and my office became a virtual helpline for Scottish Hydro. The BSE crisis came as a devastating blow to our area with more than 1000 people laid off within a week of the beef ban being imposed. We had to work tirelessly to ensure the viability of our livestock and meat processing industry. The Piper Alpha disaster directly affected numerous families in Gordon but had an impact on many thousands more.

The arrest of two helicopter engineers in Nigeria kept me in almost daily action on behalf of their families for two years before we secured their release. Sandra Gregory, arrested for drug offences, served seven years before the King of Thailand gave her a pardon and that also involved constant work.

As the first Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats I played a role in the Constitutional Convention which helped secure a Parliament with all the powers of the Scottish Office and more, elected by a reasonably fair voting system.

Of course, I have only announced that I will be retiring at the end of this Parliament and will continue to be as active as ever as your MP during that time.