Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Iraq inquiry - UK Parliament debates

"What a tangled web we weave" - David Blunkett
Whilst the bombings and attacks in Iraq take nearly one hundred lives in just two days a debate was launched in the UK Parliament to discuss the possibility of initiating a public inquiry. The Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett gave a resounding ‘no’ to those calling for such an inquiry and refused to make any commitment to an inquiry after troops had left Iraq. She said it “was not sensible to have an inquiry at this time”. She said that any inquiry would “send the wrong signal to those that might do us harm” that Britain’s commitment was not substantial. The Plaid Cymru MP opened the debate by saying the Iraq war was a "monumental catastrophe", which was about "the breakdown in our very system of government". Both Malcolm Rifkind MP, a former Conservative Party Defence Secretary, and Ken Clarke, former Conservative Party Chancellor of the Exchequer, both challenged her on not making a commitment to any future commitment to an inquiry. Ken Clarke MP said the Commons could send a "very united message" if an inquiry like the Franks inquiry, held after the Falklands war, could be promised. She reiterated her earlier comments that it was not the right time to announce such an enquiry. Another opposition MP, Douglas Hogg said the government's argument that an inquiry should not happen while the war was still happening was similar to that used by Neville Chamberlain's government during the troubled Norwegian campaign in 1940. (A debate at that time was forced by MPs and the size of the vote against the government led to Mr Chamberlain's resignation and Winston Churchill becoming PM). She insisted in her statement to the house that the situation in Iraq was getting better. “Besides the violence we are still making strides in the country…”, but she was again interrupted and asked why she was dismissing the prospect of any further debate as to the situation in the country.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague conceded agreement that debate about the future of Iraq was more important than looking back to the past. “What ever our position on the reasons for war… there are lessons to be learnt” He added that, “Any inquiry should debate what should happen in the coming months”, but he asked that date be set for such an inquiry. He said that the argument that such an inquiry would undermine moral within the British Army did not “hold scrutiny”. He acknowledged there had been positive developments in the country but insisted the government should examine the lessons of where mistakes had been made in Iraq.

David Blunkett stood to say, “What a tangled web we weave”. The commons fell into laughter. He then went on to describe the opposition as “hypocrites”. Liberal Democrat Foreign affairs spokes person Michael Moore described the ever increasing casualty list, 2000 dead Iraqi civilians and nearly 100 US troops this month alone, and went on to say “if now is not the time to have an inquiry, when is?” He asked why if President Bush can change his mantra of “staying the course”, why Tony Blair and his government could not change. He was referring to comments the President had said on the 11th October. Bush had said, “If what we’re doing isn’t working, then it’s time to change what we’re doing”.

MPs are set to vote at 19:30 GMT on the proposal. The SNP and Plaid are using their "Opposition Day" to table the motion calling for a committee of seven senior MPs to review "the way in which the responsibilities of government were discharged in relation to Iraq". [BBC] Posted by Picasa

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