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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Blair 'rejects call for Mid-East debate'
Israeli soldier at entrance to West Bank city of Ramallah
Isreal is pressing ahead with its military offensive
Downing Street has reportedly rejected calls from backbench Labour MPs for a House of Commons debate on the crisis in the Middle East.

I just despair of what is happening and yet there is no condemnation from our Prime Minister

Labour MP Tam Dalyell
Veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell asked House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin to extend Wednesday's emergency recall of Parliament to include a statement and a short debate on the Isreali Palestinian conflict.

Parliament is being recalled for three hours as a mark of respect for the Queen Mother, who died on Saturday.

Downing Street is reported to have rejected Mr Dalyell's request, as Isreali tanks moved into Bethlehem in the latest of a series of raids on cities in the West Bank.

'Moral obligation'

Mr Dalyell - the longest-serving member - welcomed the decision to recall Parliament to allow MPs to give their tributes to the Queen Mother.

But he said Prime Minister Tony Blair had a "moral obligation" to hear what the House of Commons had to say about the conflict ahead of his meeting with US President George Bush.

He told the Mirror newspaper: "I just despair of what is happening and yet there is no condemnation from our Prime Minister.

"I want him to tell Sharon (Ariel Sharon, Israel's president) that his policy has no hope of success, it is making everything worse.

"And for the Prime Minister to be thinking of attacking Iraq at such a time is sheer folly."

Paying tribute

George Galloway, MP for Glasgow Kelvin, told the Independent newspaper he did not wish to be disrespectful to the Queen Mother.

But he said the UK had a "special responsibility" for the crisis in the Middle East and he said there should be an adjournment debate on the issue.

His view was supported by backbench Labour colleagues Jeremy Corbyn and David Hinchliffe.

"Obviously the purpose of the recall is to pay tribute to the Queen Mother.

"But we have got to live in the real world and, looking at the seriousness of the situation, I would be supportive of at least some form of statement," Mr Hinchliffe told the Independent.


Earlier, Downing Street confirmed that the prime minister will go ahead with his planned meeting with President Bush in the United States at the weekend.

The talks have the full agreement of Buckingham Palace and Tony Blair will be back for the funeral on Tuesday.

The House of Commons and House of Lords are currently in recess for the Easter break, and the Commons was not due to sit again until Tuesday 9 April, a day after the Lords was to return - and the day of the Queen Mother's funeral.

Mr Blair will lead tributes in the House of Commons, followed by Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and Father of the House

National importance

The Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is expected to lead peers' tributes, followed by Conservative Leader of the Lords, Lord Strathclyde.

It is only at times of great national importance that the Houses of Parliament hold sittings during their scheduled breaks.

In Autumn last year the House of Commons was recalled in the wake of the 11 September terror attacks on the US and subsequent military action in Afghanistan.

The move is normally taken when a General Election is imminent, during a national emergency or when there is a threat to UK security.

When the Queen Mother's husband, King George VI, died in February 1952, Parliament was already sitting but a day was set aside to enable MPs and peers to pay tributes.

See also:

31 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Parliament to be recalled
02 Apr 02 | Middle East
Israeli tanks move into Bethlehem
30 Mar 02 | UK Politics
When Parliament has been recalled
30 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Political tributes flow for Queen Mum
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