A HARD-hitting cross party report has condemned the UK’s failure to protect civilians in war-torn Syria, while warning that urgent action is need to prevent further mass atrocities.

The Foreign Affairs Committee is today calling for an independent inquiry into the decision-making processes that led to non-intervention – saying that the cost of the refusal to act at an early stage has been “unacceptably high”.

The committee warns this has not only had fatal consequences in Syria but also “fundamentally undermines” the security of people in the UK.

“Choosing not to act, standing aside, can have consequences every bit as real and horrific as the decision to act,” said committee chair Tom Tugendhat. “During this inquiry we heard from those who have first-hand experience of what life is like in Syria right now and the impact the conflict there has had on people. The government must do more to protect civilians ... With the situation in Idlib reaching crisis point, action to prevent mass atrocities is ever more urgent.”

The Tory MP added: “Prevention is always better than attempting to respond later. As the situation in Syria has shown us, waiting to respond can have devastating consequences. Everything we have heard during this inquiry – and our first inquiry into Violence in Rakhine State – convinces us of the need to prioritise atrocity prevention in political and diplomatic conversations.

“Now, more than ever, the government needs to produce a comprehensive atrocity prevention strategy and implementation plan. The cost of inaction has been unacceptably high.”

Calls for intervention to establish No Fly Zones or humanitarian corridors to protect civilians in Syria were first made in Westminster in 2011 and 2012. In August 2013, following a significant chemical weapons attack, the Government put forward a motion in the House of Commons to agree to military action in Syria if necessary. The motion was defeated.

This April, the UK, US and France authorised air strikes against military targets in Syria in response to the suspected use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime in Douma causing the deaths of 75 people, including children, and up to 500 casualties. In the wake of these airstrikes the committee began an inquiry into the legal basis for such interventions, whether more could be done to protect civilian populations at an earlier point in violent conflicts, and the impact of decisions taken in relation to Syria.

It has found the humanitarian situation in Syria remains “desperate”. An estimated 400,000 people have been killed, 11 million displaced and many more are living in “untenable” conditions, with fears that the situation in Idlib province may also deteriorate “significantly” in the near future.

“The UK must bear its share of the responsibility for the atrocity crimes committed in Syria”, says the new report, Global Britain: The Responsibility to Protect.