Iraq: Backbench fury at lack of statement

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THE SPEAKER, Betty Boothroyd, was criticised by the Labour MP Tam Dalyell for refusing to allow an emergency Commons statement on Iraq before the threat of British and US forces going into action.

The veteran Labour backbencher, who recently returned from Baghdad, protested that the Speaker had allowed an emergency statement to be made on scare stories about CJD but she had turned down his request for a minister to make a statement on possible attacks on Iraq.

Mr Dalyell's colleague, Tony Benn, accused the Government of bypassing the supremacy of Parliament by endorsing, in Cabinet, the use of force against Baghdad without referring it to the Commons.

Mr Benn also led protests by furious Labour backbenchers over talks with the Liberal Democrats on wider co-operation,and accused the Prime Minister of "side-lining" Parliament.

"The relations between two political parties in this House are not a private matter between two leaders, but concern the relationship between the legislature and the executive," Mr Benn said. He asked whether Labour MPs would be able to table parliamentary questions Paddy Mr Ashdown as they did to the Prime Minister.

Gordon Prentice, the Labour MP for Pendle, angrily told Margaret Beckett, the Leader of the House, that there had been no discussions about the Lib-Lab pact within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Mr Prentice said: "I take it as a great relief that there are going to be no appointments of Liberal Democrats to cabinet sub-committees."

Mrs Beckett replied: "The fact is, it is sensible and mature politics to take forward ideas with those where there is common ground [but] there are very many issues where we do, indeed, disagree."