LONDON – The British government has agreed to a full parliamentary debate on the Iraq war next month following pressure from lawmakers.
In October, lawmakers debated an opposition motion demanding an inquiry into the war. The government defeated the motion by just 25 votes and, with the situation in Iraq worsening, pressure has been building for a full-scale debate.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, answering questions in the Commons on Wednesday, indicated that the government planned to schedule a debate.
Alan Simpson, of the governing Labour Party, asked Blair "whether he has any plans to visit the House of Commons to lead a debate on the current and deteriorating situation in Iraq, so that the House can exercise the duty of scrutiny that has so far been accorded only to the Americans?"
Blair said he had often been questioned on the issue.
"Over the next few weeks, there will be the U.S. administration's response to the Baker-Hamilton (Iraq Study Group) report," Blair said. "We will also come to a different position ourselves in respect of how we deploy troops in Iraq, provided that the operation currently being conducted in Basra is successful."
British troops are responsible for security in Basra, in the south of the country. Ministers have said they hope Iraqi forces will be ready to take over security duties in the first half of 2007.
Opposition Conservatives protested after being told that Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, not Blair, would lead the government side in the debate.
"Given that it was the prime minister who led us to war, and given his apparent willingness to discuss the issue with everybody else — including politicians in the U.S. — can you ask the prime minister to come to this house and lead the debate?" Conservative legislator John Baron said.
Straw said it was normal for the foreign secretary to lead debates on foreign policy.
Conservative party leaders have shied from criticizing the decision to join the U.S.-led invasion because the party supported the decision to go to war. Blair would have been defeated in a crucial debate just before the invasion if he had not had strong support from the Conservatives.Click here for more coverage of the war in Iraq.