Ashdown demands MPs' recall

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PADDY Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, yesterday demanded the recall of Parliament over British troops being sent to Bosnia but received a similar rebuff from the Prime Minister to Labour's request last week, writes Nicholas Timmins.

Mr Ashdown said that with the UN poised to accept the 1,800 troops Britain had offered: 'I really must urge you to ensure that Parliament is recalled. I can think of no other time . . . when British troops have been committed to an area where their lives will be put seriously at risk and when this matter has not been debated in Parliament.'

As Labour renewed its criticism, Mr Ashdown said it would be 'scandalous' if proper scrutiny was not allowed. Since the troops were first offered, he said, two French soldiers had died and an Italian aircraft had been shot down. Mr Ashdown said he would support troops going, if there was a clear aim to the deployment, an effective command structure, and both the equipment and orders necessary for them to protect themselves was provided.

Mr Major said he had yet to see Mr Ashdown's letter but while he would consider it carefully: 'I see no reason to change the decision I made in the past unless something quite compelling is in Mr Ashdown's letter which I do not expect to find ther.'

Jack Cunningham, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, said: 'A number of serious questions need clarification and discussion.'