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Programme highlights Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Government keeps its counsel over 'Star Wars'
Menwith
Are you listening?... Yorkshire's Menwith Hill crucial to US plan to develop 'Son of Star Wars'

The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, was today called to the House of Commons to answer an emergency question on the Government's policy towards America's National Missile Defence plans.

Bush approves missile shield at Fort McNair, Washington on May Day

This followed yesterday's unorthodox intervention by the Prime Minister's official spokesman, Alistair Campbell.

Broadly a good idea

He told the press that the Government thought the US plan was broadly a good idea, only hours after Tony Blair had pointedly refused to give it such an endorsement during Prime Minister's Questions.


There is no doubt there was a substantial difference in emphasis between what the Prime Minister told the House and what the Official Spokesman told journalists

Menzies Campbell, Lib Dem, foreign affairs

Unrest from backbenchers

Facing unrest from its own backbenchers, the Government has so avoided putting on record any explicit support for the US plans.

But the Conservative's Foreign Affairs spokesman, Francis Maude, hopes to cause embarrassment for the Government by opening up splits over defence over the run up to the election.

Bush's favourite hawk Condoleeza Rice

Mr Cook immediately went on the counter-attack, claiming that the Conservatives were betraying the national interest by giving an answer to a question which had not yet been asked.

Mr Cook told Mr Maude that it was still not known whether the system would be land-based or sea-based, aimed at an in-coming or a re-entering missile, or whether it would be with or without agreement.

Hoon
As yet non-committal Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
And Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Donald Anderson, also refused to give his backing to the plan. Although America was an ally, "we don¿t' simply roll over and say 'whatever the question, whatever the request, we will say yes to it'."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Shadow Foreign Secretary, Francis Maude
Were you satisfied with Robin Cook's answers in the Commons?
Donald Anderson, chair foreign fffairs ccommittee
'We don't simply roll over to any request'
Links to more Programme highlights stories are at the foot of the page.


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