Donald Macintyre's Sketch: If Syria was on everyone’s mind, why was no one talking about it?

The Commons chamber was visited with a  welcome onset of  grown-upness on Iran

MPs proved again on Monday that just because a subject is dominating the news, it doesn’t mean they will ask questions about it. Here was Philip Hammond who, as Defence Secretary, would be responsible for arming Syrian rebel forces, if it happens. And first up with “topical questions” was John Baron, the Tory backbencher leading opposition to any such act. And Baron asked him a question about Army reservists.

In fairness, this was not as odd as it often is. For Baron probably judged that Hammond had refused to offer any new information on the lifting of the EU arms embargo in an answer to the Shadow Defence spokesman Jim Murphy.

David Cameron has repeatedly stonewalled when pressed to say how his pledge to ensure that any such weapons would not fall into the “wrong” rebel hands would actually be fulfilled. So Murphy tried a subtly different, tack. What “precedent” was there for a “vetting process”, to “ensure that weapons... don't fall into the possession of those whose aims we do not share?"

The question was “hypothetical”, Hammond insisted in wearisomely familiar language. The focus was on a Geneva conference but “we must leave all options on the table.” We were none the wiser.

The Commons chamber was then visited with a welcome onset of grown-upness on Iran, thanks to Jack Straw’s Urgent Question to William Hague on whether the election as Iranian President of Dr Hassan Rouhani might mean a fresh start in relations between Tehran and the West.

Straw said that when he had "many dealings" with Dr Rouhani as head of Iran's security he found him "courteous, engaged and straightforward". If this was name-dropping on a global scale, it was pretty pardonable since as Labour’s Foreign Secretary, Straw was involved in kick-starting the fraught talks on Iran’s nuclear programme now taking place between Tehran and the big powers. Hague was circumspect - but hoped that Iran would take the “opportunity” to “open a new relationship” with the international community.

Earlier - and sensationally - the normally super-impassive Hammond made a joke. Or that’s presumably what it was, rather than a baleful warning to dissident service brass. Confronted by the LibDems’ Tessa Munt with a declaration by Rear-Admiral Patrick Middleton that the argument for the government’s precious Trident “is rapidly becoming a losing one”, he said: “I suspect this is a retired rear admiral... and if it isn’t, he soon will be.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Service Engineer - Television & HI-FI

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Engineers for field & bench ser...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer - Award Winning Agency

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global provider of call ce...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada