MPs attempt to impeach Blair over Iraq

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Tony Blair has become the first prime minister in nearly 200 years to face a formal attempt at impeachment.

Tony Blair has become the first prime minister in nearly 200 years to face a formal attempt at impeachment.

A group of MPs tabled a little-used motion yesterday to trigger an investigation into claims that he was guilty of "gross misconduct" in the run-up to war in Iraq.

Celebrities critical of the war joined 23 MPs to call for Mr Blair's impeachment in a motion calling for a special committee to investigate his claims in the months before the invasion. The authors Frederick Forsyth and Iain Banks, the actors Susan Wooldridge, Andy de la Tour and Corin Redgrave and the musician Brian Eno visited the House of Commons to show their support, along with Reg and Sally Keys, whose son Thomas, 20, a soldier, died in Iraq last year.

Campaigners hope to secure a Commons debate on impeachment, putting Mr Blair's claims about Saddam Hussein's weaponry and the threat he posed under further scrutiny.

Signatories to the motion include the former Tory frontbencher Boris Johnson, the former Tory ministers Douglas Hogg and John Gummer, Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader, Elfyn Llwyd, Paul Marsden, who defected from Labour to the Liberal Democrats, and the Respect MP George Galloway, who was expelled from the Labour Party for his comments on Iraq. No Labour backbenchers have signed the motion despite claims by campaigners that several have privately expressed their support.

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party and one of the signatories, said he was optimistic that the Speaker, Michael Martin, would grant a debate. "This is no gimmick," he said. "No speaker in history has turned down a motion on impeachment for debate. My estimation is that, given there are 23 names on the order paper, it will depend entirely on the breadth and substance of support. The Speaker is an extremely fair man and I have got every confidence in his ability to judge that."

Another backer of the motion, Roger Gale, Tory MP for Thanet North, said: "I doubt there's a single person here that doesn't accept that Parliament was misled, that the House was told there were weapons of mass destruction when there were not and that the UK was 45 minutes from doom when it was not. What the committee must establish is whether the Prime Minister knew those things were false when he told the House of Commons."

A source said: "If we had said in August that we would have an impeachment motion on the order paper, people would have laughed. It's there now and has been ruled to be in order. Whatever the Speaker decides it will be constitutionally important."

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