Row over PM's refusal to call debate

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair flew back to London today to face protests over his refusal to face MPs at Westminster next week in a full-scale debate on Iraq.

Mr Blair and President George Bush appeared to remain in denial about the growing belief that the coalition forces are not winning the war in Iraq, and MPs are furious that the Commons will be debating fish all day next Thursday but there is no Iraq debate planned.

Mr Blair's aides brushed aside demands for a statement in the Commons about his talks with President Bush. Downing Street said that Mr Blair will face MPs at Prime Minister's question time.

The Conservative MP Theresa May called for a statement on the Iraq Study Group Report and future UK involvement in Iraq. "It is not unreasonable to expect the Prime Minister to make a statement to the House of Commons on a matter of this gravity," she said last night.

New figures released last night on the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed they are costing the tax payer £1.4bn this year. The figures, which do not include pay for soldiers, were published by the Commons defence committee.

The former head of the armed forces, General Sir Mike Jackson, yesterday made a stinging attack on the Government for failing to provide sufficient resources to back up their decisions to go to war.

In response, Mr Blair referred to the "substantial" increase in defence spending announced in the Pre-Budget Report. However, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said the £600m was "not new money".

There is also growing pressure on Mr Blair from within the Cabinet to distance himself from the White House over report.