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Imminent Threats

Volume 623: debated on Thursday 16 March 2017

10. What the Government’s policy is on which factors to take into account when deciding whether responding to an imminent threat is permitted under international law. (909282)

It is the long-standing position of successive UK Governments that a state may use force in self-defence not only in response to armed attacks but to prevent an armed attack that is imminent. In each exercise of the use of force in self-defence, the UK asks itself questions such as: how certain is it that an attack will come; how soon do we believe an attack could be; what could be the scale of the attack; could this be our last opportunity to take action; and is there anything else we could credibly do to prevent that attack?

I thank the Attorney General for that answer. Does he agree with me that there is an important difference between the threats we face now and the threats that have not materialised but that may develop later?

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and there is a significant difference between those two things. What I have sought to make clear is that the UK Government are saying they have authority under the law to respond to threats that have emerged, not to threats that may yet emerge in the future but have not yet done so.