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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 11:48 GMT
MPs rebel over war vote
B52 bomber in action
B52s are the latest aircraft in action over Afghanistan
The government has easily defeated a rebellion by some of its MPs over the bombing campaign in Afghanistan.

A total of 13 MPs voted on a technicality in what was described as a symbolic move to register protest against the war.

Welsh and Scottish nationalists joined with the rebels for the vote.

Rebel Labour MPs
Diane Abbott
Jeremy Corbyn
Tam Dalyell
George Galloway
Lynne Jones
Bob Marshall-Andrews
lan Simpson
Mike Wood
A further four MPs, three Labour and one Plaid Cymru, who acted as tellers in the vote, also opposed the government.

Labour MP George Galloway suggested that the "huge number of abstentions" were a reflection of widespread public unease about the bombing.

The government had argued there was no need to allow a vote directly on the issue of the military campaign as the vast majority of MPs support the action.

And in the end 373 MPs supported the Labour leadership.

But the rebel MPs still hope their move will increase the pressure on the government to allow a full Commons vote.

Opening the debate on the military campaign, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon challenged those opposed to military action to say what they would do to counter the "very, very, very real" terror threat.

"We are right to take military action, we simply have no choice," Mr Hoon told MPs.

The defence secretary said the campaign was effectively "degrading" Taleban and terrorist military capabilities.

Targeted action

And he tried to allay fears over the use of "carpet bombing", which he said was an inaccurate term for what was in fact carefully targeted action.

Mr Hoon faced down complaints too over the use of cluster bombs, which had one MP arguing: "Even a just cause can be jeopardised by using unjust weapons."

The minister said the bombs were not land mines and it was right to use them against certain targets.

But during what were often bad tempered exchanges a series of Labour MPs attacked the policy of bombing.

Geoff Hoon, Defence Secretary
Hoon challenged dissenters to argue an alternative
Mr Galloway, said: "You wouldn't think, listening to the secretary of state for defence, that more than half of the population of the country want the bombing to stop now so that humanitarian aid could be flooded in."

He said there was great unease and opposition to the war and he called for a pause in bombing during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Another MP, Brian Sedgemore attacked Prime Minister Tony Blair's tone in talking about the action.

"He should stop being so damned preachy about the alleged moral superiority of this backward, fractious island of ours off the coast of north west Europe whose culture sometimes seems to me to be close to irreversible decline."

"He should realise, thank God, that everyone doesn't want to be British."

Shadow defence secretary Bernard Jenkin stressed the full support of the Conservatives for the military action.

Linking action to security

Mr Jenkin welcomed Mr Blair's "unambiguous" reiteration of the campaign's fundamental purpose, made in a speech earlier this week.

But he raised concerns about government media briefings about the military campaign.

He said that the public would "hate the idea that ministers may be feeding speculation, might actually help the enemy and even put the lives of British servicemen at risk".

"This is not like managing the media for the usual domestic political agenda. Our adage should be 'less is more'.

"The less the government says about our plans, the more confidence people are likely to have that the right decisions are being made."

Cluster bombs

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell urged the government to be cautious over the use of cluster bombs against Afghanistan.

He acknowledged the weapons could be extremely effective against some military targets but there was "no disguising the revulsion with which they are regarded by many in the UK".

"Sometimes it's worth giving up a military capability, because the benefits of the political advantage are so substantial as to outweigh any military advantage that may be discarded," he said.

At one point the debate was interrupted as two people in the public gallery threw leaflets into the Commons' chamber.

A 22-year-old man and 40-year-old woman were led from the public gallery by staff and were then detained by police.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Shaun Ley
"A number of MP's feel this is the week to do it"
George Galloway MP
"We think it is important people know where their parliamentarians stand"

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See also:

02 Nov 01 | Scotland
Dalyell calls for military rethink
31 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Understudy Prescott makes good
31 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Arab world gives Blair tough message
31 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Tory leader criticises war 'confusion'
30 Oct 01 | UK Politics
We will not falter, says Blair
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