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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 14:26 GMT
Iraq prompts MP shouting match
George Galloway MP
Mr Galloway is opposed to military action against Iraq
A debate on military action against Iraq had to be halted after a Labour backbencher was accused of being an "apologist" and "mouthpiece" to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Junior foreign office minister Ben Bradshaw made the charge against Labour's George Galloway at Westminster, prompting the Glasgow Kelvin MP to shout back: "You're a liar".

His imputation that I am a mouthpiece for a dictator is a clear imputation of dishonour

George Galloway
Labour MP

The row exploded in Westminster Hall at the end of a debate in which Labour MPs expressed their horror and opposition to the prospect of fresh military action against Iraq.

Mr Galloway was urged to withdraw his remark, but refused, prompting deputy speaker John McWilliam to suspend the sitting.

'Insane' war

In a passionate address minutes earlier, Mr Galloway, a staunch opponent of past attacks on Iraq expressed his amazement that another conflict was being considered at a time of intense bloodshed between Israel and Palestine.

"I am astounded that people are seriously contemplating at this time launching another war in the Middle East," he said.

The fact is I was simply expressing an opinion which is widely held

Ben Bradshaw
Junior foreign office minister

He stressed: "You would actually have to be insane to depart down that track."

The war in Afghanistan was "Vauxhall conference" league compared to the "premier league" style attack that was being considered on Iraq, he warned.

But as Mr Bradshaw wound up the debate, he told Mr Galloway: "Some good points that you made on the Middle East peace process would I believe carry more credibility if you hadn't made a career of being not just an apologist but a mouthpiece to the Iraqi regime over many years."

Mr Galloway jumped up, demanded a retraction, accusing the minister of "slander" and shouting: "You're a liar".

As Mr McWilliam urged the MP to withdraw the remark, Mr Galloway insisted: "His imputation that I am a mouthpiece for a dictator is a clear imputation of dishonour. He is the one who should be withdrawing, not me.

Moderate language

Mr McWilliam then said he had no choice but to suspend the sitting and to report the matter to the House.

Later, outside the chamber Mr McWilliam said no action would be taken until Commons Speaker Michael Martin had read the report of the exchanges in Hansard, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings, published on Thursday.

If Mr Martin decides to take action against Mr Galloway, such as "naming" him for suspension from the House, he will announce it to the Commons, said Mr McWilliam.

Ben Bradshaw
Mr Bradshaw accused Mr Galloway of being 'an apologist' for Iraq.

Outside the chamber, Mr Bradshaw said: "The fact is I was simply expressing an opinion which is widely held."

But Mr Galloway said: "If I truly was not just an apologist but a mouthpiece for a dictator whom I was marching in the streets against before Ben Bradshaw had ever been heard of in politics then I would be dishonourable.

"He refused to give way to allow me to place the true facts on the record."

Erskine May, the authority on parliamentary procedure, states that "good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language".

Earlier in the debate MPs called for "everything possible" to be done to avoid renewed conflict in the region and urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to share his thinking on Iraq.

The idea of bombing Iraq is both ill-conceived, unwise and some of us think, wicked

Tam Dalyell
Labour MP

Some 40 Labour backbenchers have signed a Commons motion stressing their "deep unease" about Britain's role in any air strike on Baghdad.

Their concern was spelt out as Mr Blair insisted that the country must "remain vigilant" about the threat posed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Father of the House Tam Daylell (Linlithgow), who instigated the debate argued: "The idea of bombing Iraq is both ill-conceived, unwise and some of us think, wicked."

He said: "Everything possible should be done to avoid war and that means talking to the government and the people of Iraq."

But writing in the Daily Express on Wednesday, Mr Blair warned: "If we fail to continue to restrain Saddam Hussein, what is already a volatile situation in the region could easily become a world crisis."

The BBC's Shaun Ley
"It is likely that Mr Galloway will face some sort of action"
See also:

04 Mar 02 | UK Politics
MP wants Iraq 'threat' published
09 Aug 01 | T-Z
Unparliamentary language
04 Mar 02 | Europe
German special forces in action
04 Mar 02 | Americas
Analysis: Last stand or long war?
02 Mar 02 | South Asia
Picture gallery: New Afghan army
28 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair hints at Iraq action
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