Government majority slashed in revolt

The Government's majority was slashed nearly in half to 39 tonight as ministers saw off a backbench revolt over the arrangements for an Iraq inquiry.





A Tory motion demanding a re-think and a vote for MPs on the inquiry's terms of reference was rejected by 299 to 260.



But the impassioned six-hour debate generated much anger and criticism from the Labour backbenchers of Gordon Brown's handling of the affair.



One, John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington), even urged him to admit the "game's up," withdraw the Government's plans and seek consensus with the other parties.



Mr Brown last week abandoned plans for a behind-closed-doors probe by Sir John Chilcot after they were met with scorn and derision by a stream of senior political and military figures.



Today, Foreign Secretary David Miliband offered a further concession by indicating it will be able to apportion blame.



Mr Miliband told the Commons the inquiry, which will be chaired by Sir John Chilcot, could "praise or blame whoever it likes".



In an indication of the controversy likely to be generated by the inquiry, senior Tory Michael Mates said he had seen papers circulating between ministers that would make people's "eyes water".



Mr Mates (Hampshire E), who sat on the Butler review of intelligence failings in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, implied that some of the legal advice given by the then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to former Prime Minister Tony Blair was not shown to the Cabinet.

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