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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 14:38 GMT
MP thrown out of House of Commons
Perth MP Annabelle Ewing
Annabelle Ewing said she had 'no respect' for Mr Hoon
An MP has been thrown out of the Commons for calling Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon a "back-stabbing coward".

Perth SNP MP Annabelle Ewing made the comments during exchanges over Mr Hoon's plans to merge Scottish Regiments, including the Black Watch.

Deputy Speaker Sir Alan Haselhurst asked her to withdraw the remarks.

When she refused Ms Ewing was told to leave the Commons chamber. She walked out and was followed by her colleagues from the Scottish National Party.

Surely it's a massive betrayal of our brave soldiers whose bravery can be contrasted with the defence secretary who is nothing but a backstabbing coward
Annabelle Ewing

The defence secretary has announced that Scotland's six historic infantry regiments are to be replaced by a "single super regiment".

During the statement Ms Ewing said she was "amazed at the gall" of the defence secretary because the Black Watch had just returned home from the frontline in Iraq where they were deemed "indispensable to the US Army".

"Why then are the Black Watch not indispensable to this government?

"Surely it's a massive betrayal of our brave soldiers whose bravery can be contrasted with the defence secretary who is nothing but a backstabbing coward."

MPs responded with jeers and Sir Alan called on Ms Ewing to apologise.

'Serious consequences'

She replied saying that while she had the "utmost respect" for the Speaker, she had "no respect for the defence secretary" and that she could not withdraw the comments.

Ms Ewing refused to withdraw the remark twice more, despite Sir Alan warning that "serious consequences" would follow.

She was then asked to leave the Chamber and was followed by colleagues SNP leader Alex Salmond, Angus MP Mike Weir and North Tayside MP Peter Wishart.

Mr Salmond gave Ms Ewing his full backing in a statement saying that she may have broken the Commons rules, but Mr Hoon had "broken the hearts of Scottish soldiers".

Mr Hoon later hit back at the SNP saying they did not believe in NATO or European defence and that it had "opposed every single deployment of British troops in recent years and I do wonder what would be the point of having an Army in the United Kingdom if they ever got into any kind of power anywhere."

In a move which had been feared by many campaigning to save the regiments, the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers will merge and along with four other battalions, including the Black Watch, will become The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

More flexible

The military says the reorganisation will make troops more flexible and rapidly deployable.

But critics say it will make it harder to recruit from the traditional bases serving the existing structure.

Ms Ewing later told BBC News 24 the government's claims the changes were driven by the military were not true.

She said: "This whole exercise has been Treasury driven it comes straight from the door of Gordon Brown."

Many senior military men had spoken out against the changes, she said, adding that those in the lower ranks had been "gagged".

SNP MPs have been particularly outspoken about the planned changes.




SEE ALSO:
Hoon challenge as soldiers return
11 Dec 04 |  Scotland
Heroes' welcome for Black Watch
15 Dec 04 |  Wiltshire


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