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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 November 2006, 02:03 GMT
Iraq inquiry call rejected by MPs
British troops in Basra
The last full Commons debate on Iraq was in 2004
An attempt to force the government to hold an inquiry into the Iraq war has failed in the House of Commons.

A Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru motion for an immediate probe was opposed by a majority of 25 despite support from 12 rebel Labour MPs.

Afterwards, Defence Secretary Des Browne told the BBC there would be an inquiry "when the time is right".

A government source later said this had been a "slip of the tongue" and that Mr Browne supported its Iraq policy.

In the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said: "I have no doubt that there will be a time when we want to learn lessons."

Plaid Cymru's Adam Price said of the motion: "The issue at its heart is far bigger than party politics - it's about accountability, it's about the monumental catastrophe of the Iraq war - the worst foreign policy disaster certainly since Suez, possibly since Munich and it's about the morass in which we regrettably still find ourselves."

'Very long way'

The government was supported by 298 MPs and opposed by 273. Twelve Labour MPs rebelled.

The Tories supported the SNP/Plaid motion after the government said it would not support their own call for an inquiry within the next year.

Mrs Beckett warned that agreeing to either inquiry now would send the wrong signal "at the wrong time" to Iraq.

Instead of being retrospective why not look into what can be done to help Iraq now?
Qwerty, UK

She urged MPs to remember that "our words... will be heard a very long way away. They can be heard by our troops who are already in great danger in Iraq".

Mrs Beckett said there had been four inquiries related to the Iraq war already.

She declined calls for a commitment to hold another once UK troops had left the country.

But speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme, Labour MP Denis MacShane said: "I think it will take place... the full government inquiry, when we are out of Iraq and we can analyse in tranquillity all the lessons that need to be learned."


It was the first full Commons debate on Iraq since July 2004.

The SNP and Plaid motion called for a committee of seven senior MPs to review "the way in which the responsibilities of government were discharged in relation to Iraq".

SNP MP Angus MacNeil said after the vote: "The government whips applied the thumbscrews. There is clear unrest in the House of Commons about this issue.

"It is unacceptable that there has been no Commons debate on this issue for three years, and if it had not been for us and Plaid Cymru there would have been no debate today."

The Conservatives favoured an investigation similar to the Franks inquiry carried out after the Falklands war, involving former generals and civil servants rather than just MPs.

They said it should take place in about a year's time, by when ministers have said Iraqi security forces should be taking over responsibilities from UK troops.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said the government had "made a mistake" by not making a firm commitment to hold an inquiry at some point.

"None of us can credibly argue that there will not be lessons to be learnt of huge importance for this government and future governments, and ministers should have no hesitation in acknowledging that."

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Michael Moore said: "There needs to be accountability for the mistakes that were made and there needs to be lessons learned."

Des Browne's "slip of the tongue" on future inquiry

Key speakers in the debate over the Iraq invasion


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