AS you are probably aware, Parliament was recalled three days early from its summer recess to discuss the issue of intervention in Syria, ultimately deciding not to approve military action at the moment.
As one of nine UK delegates to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in South Africa I had made clear to the Whips that were I forced to return at taxpayers' expense I would vote against the government.
As the MPs with me had different views that would have cancelled one another out, the Whips' ensured the UK remained represented at the conference with no additional cost to the already significant bill for the early recall.
A number of local people have raised concerns that we should be wary of intervening with haste and that we should think and consult far more carefully about what our intentions are in any intervention and more importantly what the ramifications of such intervention would be.
To me a few crucial issues need to be considered.
One is the aim of any action we take; what exactly do we want to achieve if we use military force? Another is how we actually uphold international law.
It is clear there has been a deliberate use of chemical weapons; would it be better to try to respond with force or by trying to apprehend the culprits and bring them to the international courts?
We also need to consider the wider ramifications. The responses of Iran, Hezbollah, the various factions within Syria for a start to any action we take.
The reality seems to be that whatever we do, there will continue to be much pain and suffering in Syria; the question is whether what we do simply adds to this.
The next question is what next. I appreciate many will consider we need to do 'something', but until we really know what this is and what it entails, I would urge extreme caution.
Our attention should now focus on what we can do to help the human beings affected by the crisis both within Syria and the tens of thousands of refugees pouring out into neighbouring countries every week.
Parliament should debate what the UK Government and its allies can do to assist Middle Eastern countries to resolve the conflict within Syria and some of the issues contributing to it from outside the country.
Perhaps the one thing events in Parliament have done is focus public attention more on the crisis within Syria and the humanitarian actions we can take to help resolve it, rather than the military responses which so often lead to more complex and irresolvable consequences in the longer-term.
These are my thoughts as we enter the next stage of the debate, but I am very keen to hear your views so please, as many of you have already done so, let me know.
THE conference I attended in South Africa was the 59th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference.
The CPA is a forum for elected politicians and those who support them, such as clerks and speakers, and throughout the year it holds seminars and workshops, mostly at Westminster, for visiting members from around the world.
The Commonwealth consists of one third of the world's population, more than half of which is under 25, and accounts for US$3 trillion worth of trade, so nurturing our relationships within the Commonwealth is essential to maintaining the UK's position in the global economy.
The CPA is unique in bringing together legislators from a vast range of nations, from all geographic regions and at all stages of development, from established and wealthy states such as the UK and Australia, to fast-growing powerhouse economies, such as India, to fledgling democracies such as South Sudan.
The work of the CPA over the last 100 years has been central in supporting emerging democracies such as Mozambique and Rwanda, which demonstrated its commitment to the values of the Commonwealth and the CPA by applying to join both in 2009, despite never having had a prior relationship to the UK.
The UK sends nine Westminster delegates to the conference, four Labour, four Conservative and one Lib Dem, as well as members from the Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies. All delegations have equal status whether from the Norfolk Islands (population 2,000) or India (population 1.2 billion).
Together the CPA can be a powerful voice and I was pleased to have been part of the movement to get the issue of self-determination debated and linked to the future of the people of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, both of whom had delegations at the conference. I have written up a report of the trip and have published it on my website www.adriansanders.org and I will post a full report of the conference proceedings there as well when the CPA publishes it.
I BUMPED into Guernsey Deputy Heidi Soulsby at the conference. She hails from Furzeham and attended Churston Grammar School.
She now sits in government carrying out a number of ministerial functions. Small world indeed from when we both campaigned for Mike Mitchell, the Liberal Alliance candidate, in the 1983 General Election.
Saturday, September 14, 10am to 11.30am, Chelston Methodist Church Hall, Old Mill Road, Torquay.
Friday, September 20, 4pm to 5.30pm, Preston Baptist Church Hall, Old Torquay Road, Paignton.