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Tuesday, January 26, 1999 Published at 17:43 GMT

UK Politics

'Consult MPs on air strikes'

MPs debated the air strikes on Iraq the day after they began

The allied air strikes on Iraq should have been approved by Parliament before a final decision was taken, veteran backbencher Tam Dalyell has told MPs.

Mr Dalyell, Labour MP for Linlithgow, was presenting his Military Action Against Iraq Parliamentary Approval Bill under the 10-minute rule.

The bill would ban new air strikes unless they were first backed by two-thirds of MPs. It will receive a second reading on 25 April, but stands little chance of becoming law.

MPs did not have an opportunity to debate military action against Iraq until a day after the raids in December, Mr Dalyell said.

The government called an emergency debate on 17 December after Operation Desert Fox had started.

[ image: Tam Dalyell:
Tam Dalyell: "Imagine young children screaming every night"
Mr Dalyell said even members of the Cabinet had not been consulted about the bombing raids.

He said: "Britain is after all supposedly a parliamentary democracy and not a presidential state."

Mr Dalyell said the object of his bill was to bring home to MPs the action they were supporting and the moral dilemmas such as death of civilians.

He told MPs: "Let us not pretend this is a clear legislative proposal in its final form. I make no such claim.

"There may be occasions when an SAS strike is justified, it could be a rescue operation of British nationals when surprise is of the essence.

"There may be other occasions when a response may be called for to a perceived or actual missile, Scud, attack.

"What this Bill is about is a simple proposition. In circumstances where Britain is embarking on a protracted military operation with no clear end in sight, Parliament must be formally consulted and a decision made by a majority vote before our country drifts into conflict with consequences and end objectives which are far from clear."

Mr Dalyell said before getting deeper and deeper into a Vietnam-style conflict the pros and cons should have been hammered out on the "anvil of parliamentary democracy".

He told MPs that at least Mrs Thatcher had recalled Parliament before sending the fleet to the Falklands in 1982.

'Death and destruction"

Sanctions and bombing harm nobody but the Iraqi people, said Mr Dalyell.

He said the smell of cordite from his experience on a rifle range was enough to give him the impression of the awfulness of bombardment.

"Those colleagues for age reasons who have never served in the forces and who watching ... Indiana Jones and the like on TV, may have little real grasp of the enormities on the being perpetrated at the moment in our name.

"We all gaped at the fireworks over Baghdad from the comfort of our living rooms.

"It is not actually a matter simply of death and destruction.

"Imagine having your young children in a city of four and a half million screaming every night, traumatised, and the deafening sounds all around them.

"We have to imagine terrified old people, bewildered by the west using hi-tech to frighten them out of their wits."

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