Brown faces opposition on war vote

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Indy Politics

Gordon Brown is on a collision course with senior ministers over whether MPs should be given the statutory right to vote on whether British forces are sent to war.

He believes that Parliament, and not the Prime Minister, should have the ultimate decision on the deployment of troops. The Chancellor has said such a move could help to restore public confidence in the political process.

But Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, and Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, have spoken out against the move, making clear the Government's differences.

Lord Falconer insisted it would be "positively detrimental" to the ability of the armed forces to protect British interests.

"The Government's position is that the current arrangement on the power to deploy UK troops abroad should remain as it is," he told the House of Lords Constitution Committee.

He accepted that the Royal Prerogative, which allows a Prime Minister to declare war and make peace, deploy troops, conduct diplomacy and conclude treaties without parliamentary approval, was a "historical anachronism". But he argued that it guaranteed ministers the flexibility to respond quickly to complex and dangerous situations.

"Formal constraints, either in statute or a convention, do not work when faced with the reality of deployments," he told the committee, which is investigating the Royal Prerogative.

"It would risk the courts being involved inappropriately. The present arrangements, we believe, serve the country well and we would be wise to keep them."

Lord Goldsmith also told the committee he opposed giving MPs the legal advice that they would require to authorise the deployment of troops.

He said law officers had to be able to produce "full and frank" advice without the fear it would eventually be published. Troops required a straightforward "yes or no" decision on the legality of a war.