Britain's prime minister, Theresa May, has warned that waiting for the United Nations to authorise military action in future would effectively give Russia a veto on British foreign policy, as she defended her decision to join United States and France in launching air and missile strikes against Syria.

She faced down her critics in a heated debate in the House of Commons, insisting the UK needed to act rapidly to prevent further chemical attacks in Syria. 

She said:  “I am absolutely clear that it is parliament’s responsibility to hold me to account for such decisions – and parliament will do so.  But it is my responsibility as prime minister to make these decisions. And I will make them."

However, Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said the airstrikes were “legally questionable” and that parliament should have been given the chance to approve the action, which he suggested was at “the whims” of the US president, Donald Trump.

Corbyn also called for a renewed diplomatic effort by the UK government and its allies to bring peace to the region.

Prime Minister, Theresa May warned: “The leader of the opposition has said that he can ‘only countenance involvement in Syria if there is UN authority behind it’. The house should be clear that would mean a Russian veto on our foreign policy.”

May also denied that Britain had joined the US-led airstrikes at the request of  Donald Trump, insisting it was the “legally and moral right” thing to do.