A cross-party alliance of 30 MPs, including former Labour ministers and Liberal Democrat front-benchers is trying to force Gordon Brown to reveal to Parliament the escalating cost of keeping troops in Iraq.
The MPs led by Clare Short, the former cabinet minister and, until recently, a strong supporter of the Chancellor to take over from Tony Blair, have tabled a joint amendment to the Finance Bill requiring Mr Brown to report to Parliament annually on the cost of keeping troops in Iraq with a vote to approve the expenditure.
The move threatens to cause a full-scale Labour rebellion over Iraq. With emotions running high after Labour's defeats in Thursday's by-elections, more Labour MPs are expected to rally behind the amendment next week.
The Treasury team working on the Bill led by Ed Balls, Mr Brown's former economic adviser, are determined defeat the amendment which is also intended as a shot across the bows for Mr Brown's plans to take over from Mr Blair.
Ms Short said last week she could no longer support Mr Brown after he backed a replacement for Britain's Trident nuclear system, and a number of Labour left-wingers say he has lost support. The MPs have also signed a second amendment that would require the Chancellor to give an annual report to Parliament on the cost of Britain's nuclear weapons, with a vote to approve that expenditure too. That motion has been signed by the Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, Vincent Cable.
Alan Simpson, a leading member of the left-wing Campaign Group of Labour MPs who tabled both motions, said: "This is about MPs demanding a right to a vote. It's about democracy rather than the Blair-Brown dynasty."
The Iraq amendment has been signed by Danny Alexander, a Liberal Democrat spokesman on welfare, Norman Baker, former Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, Peter Kilfoyle, a former Labour defence minister, and the Tory MP David Amess.
There is growing pressure for the troops to be brought back as early as possible, with the senior Tory Michael Ancram breaking ranks to call for British forces to be withdrawn immediately.Reuse content