Absent MPs face whips' ire

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Indy Politics
Two Labour frontbenchers, Ann Clwyd and Jim Cousins, face disciplinary action by whips for missing Commons votes while "absent without leave" in Turkey and northern Iraq, writes John Rentoul.

Both MPs missed votes yesterday and Monday on the Disability Discrimination Bill. On Monday, the Government won by just 13 votes as one Tory - Alan Howarth, MP for Stratford-on-Avon - rebelled.

The MPs were believed to be on their way back last night. A senior Labour whip said they would be interviewed on their return and an explanation sought.If they cannot explain their absence satisfactorily they could be sacked from their positions.

Ms Clwyd and Mr Cousins are both members of Robin Cook's foreign affairs team. Ms Clwyd is also assistant to John Prescott, the deputy leader. Labour's failure to mobilise its full strength for Monday's attempt to defeat the Government also caused friction between Labour and the Scottish National Party.

Labour whips dismissed a complaint from Andrew Welsh, the SNP chief whip, that Tony Blair missed the vote. A spokesman said: "He was campaigning for victory in the local elections in Scotland, which is why the SNP are so annoyed."