Labour rebels to defy ministers over inquiry into Iraq war

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Rebel Labour MPs who opposed the invasion of Iraq plan to defy ministers on Wednesday by abstaining at the end of a Tory-sponsored debate demanding a full judicial inquiry into the war.

The Conservative motion will argue that an investigation is justified in the light of conflicting accounts of intelligence received by ministers in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq.

It will say that the inquiry should also cover the conduct of the war, and its aftermath, as well as the role of the Attorney-General in advising ministers that the action was legal.

The Liberal Democrats, who also support the idea of an independent inquiry, are expected to back the motion. They will take a final decision on their stance tomorrow.

Menzies Campbell, their deputy leader, said: "The crucial question on Iraq remains: did we go to war on a flawed perspective, inadequate intelligence or the mishandling of intelligence by the Government? Only an independent judicial inquiry can resolve that."

The Conservatives said their motion had been couched in broad enough terms to command support from all sections of the Commons.

But the Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle, a former defence minister and vehement critic of the war, accused the Tories, who were more gung-ho over invading Iraq than the Government, of being disingenuous and opportunistic. For that reason he would abstain rather than support their motion.

He would continue his own efforts to force "an explanation as to why we went to war and who misled," he said.

Another anti-war Labour MP said: "We will be sitting on our hands and abstaining when it comes to the vote." But Robin Cook pulled back from his demands for a judicial inquiry . He said that an investigation was now unnecessary because the Hutton inquiry had demonstrated that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction.