National Security Cases

A. United Kingdom

 

T1: National Service Act, 1947. Put forward by the Labour Party government as a means of reinstituting conscription, the bill was supported by the Conservatives but opposed by an important segment of the Labour Party. Dates of debate: 31 March, 1 April, 22 May (contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0). Key vote at end of second day (to continue debate and not kill the bill): 386 yes, 85 no. 53 speeches.

 

T2: Resolution supporting British forces in the Persian Gulf, 1991. Put forward by the Conservative government, with a Labour Party amendment, as a quasi-authorization for combat operations against Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, the bill was supported by the front bench of the Labour Party but opposed by Labour's left wing. Dates of debate: 15 January, 21 January (contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0). Key vote at end of second day (on the motion, as amended): 563 yes, 34 no. 60 speeches.

 

T3: Resolution supporting possible UK military action against Syrian military forces, 2013. Put forward by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government as a means of preventing and deterring further use of chemical weapons, the bill was opposed by the Labour Party and segments of the Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties. Date of debate: 29 August (contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0). Key vote at end of debate (on the motion): 272 yes, 285 no. 64 speeches.

B. Germany

T1: European Defense Community (Wehrdebatte), 1952. Put forward by the CDU-dominated coalition government to authorize rearmament, via membership in the proposed European Defense Community, the bill was opposed by the SPD, KPD, and a few smaller parties. Dates of debate: 7 February, 8 February. Key vote at end of second day (on the bill): 204 yes, 156 no. 47 speeches.

T2: Gulf War, 1991. Put forward by the SPD opposition, with support from a few other MPs, to refuse the CDU-dominated coalition government's policy of supporting military action by the US and other states against Iraq's annexation of Kuwait. Dates of debate: 14 January, 17 January. Key vote at end of debate (on the SPD motion): 227 yes, 353 no. 17 speeches.​

T3: Fighting terrorism (in Afghanistan), 2001. Put forward by the SPD-Green coalition government as a vote of confidence to its policy of supporting the commitment of German armed forces to combat in Afghanistan, the resolution was opposed by the CDU-CSU-FDP opposition as a ploy to hold the coalition together. Dates of debate: 8 November, 16 November. Key vote at end of debate (on the motion): 336 yes, 326 no. 29 speeches.

C. Japan

T1: San Francisco (Peace) and U.S.-Japan Security Treaties, 1951. Put forward by Liberal government to ratify both treaties; treaties were opposed by the Social Democratic and Communist opposition, though several of the former split, opposing only the security treaty. Dates of debate: 26 October (lower house), 18 November (upper house). Key votes at end of debate (on ratification): peace treaty, lower house: 307 yes, 47 no; security treaty, lower house: 284 yes, 71 no; peace treaty, upper house: 174 yes, 45 no; security treaty, upper house: 147 yes, 76 no. 15 speeches.

T2: UN Peace Cooperation Force, 1990. Put forward by LDP government to send a detachment of Self-Defense Forces to the Persian Gulf area as part of buildup designed to counter Iraq's annexation of Kuwait, opposed by the Socialist, the Social Democratic, and the Communist parties. Dates of debate: 12 October (lower house, session 1), 12 October (lower house, session 2), 12 October (upper house), 17 October (lower house), 17 October (upper house), 18 October (lower house), 18 October (upper house). No vote: government withdrew the bill. 54 speeches.

T3: Reconstruction of Iraq, 2003. Put forward by LDP government to send Self-Defense Forces to Iraq for reconstruction and related purposes, the bill was opposed by the Democratic, Social Democratic, and Communist parties. Dates of debate: 24 June (lower house), 4 July (lower house), 26 June (upper house). Key vote at end of debate: no recorded vote (lower house: vote by standing); 136 yes, 102 no (upper house). 

D. Switzerland

T1: Purchase of fighter jets, 1947. Put forward by government and upper house to buy warplanes from the UK; opposed as to the number of planes or the urgency of buying them by several independents and socialists. Dates of debate: 18 June, lower house; 23 September, upper house. Key votes at end of debate (on the government's proposed number): 74 yes, 59 no (lower house); 21 yes, 8 no (upper house). 27 speeches.

T2:  Surveillance by federal police (Affaire des fiches), 1990. Following a scandal involving widespread and secret surveillance of both foreigners and Swiss citizens by a branch of the Swiss federal police, a motion to abolish the political police was put forward by the Socialist Parliamentary Group. It was supported by the Socialists and the Greens, and opposed by centrist and conservative parties. Dates of debate: 5-6 March. Key vote (at end of second day, on abolition): 60 yes, 123 no. 68 speeches.

T3: New law on Swiss Intelligence Service (Loi sur le reseignement), 2015. Drafted by the Federal Council, this law sought to give the intelligence service greater powers to surveil private communications and to use new surveillance measures such as drones and satellites. The law was opposed by the Greens and two-thirds of the Socialists; it was supported almost unanimously by bourgeois and right-wing MPs. After the final vote in parliament, Swiss voters called for a referendum against the law, which was clearly rejected by 65.5% of voters. Dates of debate: 16-17 March. Key vote (18 days after completion of the debate): 145 yes, 41 no, 8 abstentions (lower house). 33 speeches.**

E. France

T1: European Defense Community (EDC), 1952. Put forward by coalition government to permit them to continue negotiating German rearmament in the framework of the European Defense Community, transformed into vote of confidence, opposed by numerous MPs, particularly, but not only, some socialists and all communists. Dates of debate: 11 February, 12 February, 13 February, 16 February, 19 February (Archives de l’Assemblée nationale). Key vote (at end of last day): 327 yes, 287 no. 49 speeches.

T2: Military equipment, 1989. Put forward by the government to outline future military expenses; transformed into a bill that the government passed without parliamentary approval under article 49.3 of the constitution. It was opposed in part by the communists and the greens. Dates of debate: 3 October (first session), 3 October (second session), 4 October, 27 November (Archives de l’Assemblée nationale). No vote, adopted with art. 49.3. 37 speeches.** 

T3: Domestic security and terrorism, 2017. Put forward by the government, this bill focused on security perimeters around buildings, closing places of worship in case of suspicion of terrorist activities, the creation of a special prosecutor for terrorism, and more readily authorized police searches and detentions. The groups les Républicains and la France insoumise voted against the bill. Dates of debate: September 25 (first session), September 25 (second session), October 3rd (first session) (Archives de l’Assemblée nationale). Vote: 415 yes, 127 no, 19 abstentions. 47 speeches.

F. New Zealand

T1: No confidence, 1951. Put forward by Labour opposition to condemn government's handling of the waterfront strike and related issues, particularly alleged communist propaganda, opposed by the government. Dates of debate: 4 July, 5 July, 6 July, 10 July, 12 July. Key vote (at end of last day): 29 yes, 41 no (plus 4 pairs). 43 speeches.

T2: New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Bill, 1987. Put forward by the Labour Government to ban nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed warships from entering New Zealand waters, the bill was opposed by the National party. Dates of debate: 12 February, 17 February4 June. Key vote at end of third day (on the motion): 39 yes, 29 no (plus 7 pairs). 38 speeches.

T3: The GCSB Amendment Bill, 2013. Put forward by the National Party government as a means of expanding the powers of the Government Communication Security Bureau, one of the two main intelligence agencies in New Zealand. Dates of debate: 8 May, 1 August, 21 August. Key vote at the end of the third day (to pass the third reading): 61 yes, 59 no. 40 speeches.

G. United States

T1: Truman Doctrine, 1947. Put forward by the Republican leadership, with Democratic support, to provide economic and military aid to Greece and Turkey, opposed mostly by other Republicans. Dates of debate: 6 May, 7 May, 8 May, 9 May. Key vote (at end of last day): 287 yes, 107 no. 26 speeches.

T2: Authorization for the Use of Military Force, 1991. Put forward by the Republicans with important Democratic support as authorization for the U.S. to go to war to counter Iraq's annexation of Kuwait, opposed by numerous Democrats. Dates of debate: 10 January, 11 January, 12 January. Key vote (at end of debate): 250 yes, 183 no. 

T3: TBD.

H. United Kingdom

T1: Indian Independence by a Fixed Date, 1947 & 1948. A policy put forward by the Labour Party government as a means of fixing a date to transfer power to India, the policy was supported by Irish Unionists and a Communist but opposed by the majority of Conservatives, the Scottish Unionists and a National Independent MP. Dates of debate: 5 March6 March (contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0). Vote at end of second day (on whether to reject the amendment by the opposition against a fixed date and to instead approve the policy of withdrawing by a fixed date): 337 yes, 185 no. 29 speeches.

T3: European Amendment Bill, 2008. Put forward by the Labour government, the bill was contentious in that it was set to give effect in UK law to the Lisbon Treaty. It was a lively debate that, in a large part, hinged on whether the Treaty was constitutionally significant enough to merit a referendum. HMG enjoyed Liberal Democrat support. However, speaking passionately both for and against the EU in a way that foreshadowed the current divisions over Brexit, a number of both Conservative and Labour MPs voted against their parties. Date of debate: 21 January (2nd Reading). Contains Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Parliament Licence v3.0). Key vote at end of second day (on the motion, as amended): 364 yes, 224 no. 24 speeches. 

I. Germany

T1: German accession to the Council of Europe, 1950. Put forward by the Federal Government to re-integrate the Federal Republic of Germany in the international community. The bill was supported by the governing parties, national-conservatives and liberals. The Social Democrats, the Communist Party and some smaller parties opposed the accession. Dates of debate: 13 June15 June. Key vote after the debate on the second day: 218 yes, 151 no, 9 abstentions. 31 speeches.

T3: German Immigration Law, 2002. Put forward by the coalition government (SPD and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) in order to regulate and restrict immigration in the interest of the German economy and labor market and to focus on the integration of immigrants. The bill was supported by the coalition parties SPD and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, and opposed by the CDU/CSU and the PDS. Date of debate: 1 March. Key vote at the end of the debate: 320 yes, 225 no, 41 abstentions. 21 speeches.

J. France

T1: Representative Elected Assembly in Cochinchina, 1949. Put forward by the coalition government to create an elected assembly in Cochinchina, which was a prerequisite to make it a French overseas territory after the revision of the French constitution in 1946. The bill was supported by the Popular Republican Movement (MRP), the Socialists, the Republican Party of Liberty (PRL), and opposed by the Communists, the Independent Republicans, and the Democratic and Socialist Union of the Resistance (UDSR). Dates of debate: 11 March, 12 March (Archives de l’Assemblée nationale). Key vote at the end of the second day (on the bill): 339 yes, 201 no. 24 speeches.

T3: Status of French Polynesia, 2004. Put forward by the Raffarin Government (UMP) as a means to update Polynesia’s status after the revision of the French constitution in 2003 and to transfer new powers to Polynesia. The bill was supported by the UMP group and opposed by the Socialists, the Communists and the Greens. Date of debate: 13 January (2nd session, 3rd session(Archives de l’Assemblée nationale). Key vote on 14 January (on the bill): no recorded vote. 22 speeches.

**Our sample includes complete speeches, minus interruptions. In several cases--National Security France T2, National Security United States T2, and National Security Switzerland T3--there were more days of debate with additional speeches than we report here. As these speeches were extremely technical and/or very long, they were not included in our sample.

NB: In most time periods, we coded only lower house speeches. In all three time periods for Japan and in T1 for Switzerland, we decided to include upper house speeches to augment our sample.

Last updated September 2019

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