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Labour MPs will not be forced to block SNP bid over Tony Blair probe

Published 30/11/2016

Alex Salmond has accused Tony Blair of presenting misleading information to Parliament.
Alex Salmond has accused Tony Blair of presenting misleading information to Parliament.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will not force his MPs to block an SNP attempt to trigger a parliamentary investigation into whether Tony Blair misled the Commons in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Mr Corbyn has decided to impose only a one-line whip on his MPs for Wednesday's vote on the SNP bid, meaning they are not obliged to attend, and could even back the former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond's motion without fear of sanction.

Mr Salmond has drawn cross-party support for his motion calling on the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee to probe any differences between Mr Blair's public statements in the lead-up to the invasion, and private correspondence with then US president George Bush revealed by the Chilcot inquiry.

How to respond to the motion was reported to have caused ructions at the weekly meeting of Labour MPs, with some demanding a stringent three-line whip be imposed to emphasise the party's opposition.

A source close to the Labour leadership said that Mr Corbyn expected MPs to oppose the motion.

Mr Salmond has accused the ex-prime minister of presenting misleading information to Parliament, and the motion notes the "contrast between private correspondence to the United States government and public statements to Parliament and people and also in the presentation of intelligence information".

The SNP points to a note Mr Blair wrote to the US president in 2002 stating: "I'll be with you, whatever," as proof that he misled MPs about his intentions.

The motion calls on the parliamentary committee to " conduct a further specific examination of this contrast in public and private policy and of the presentation of intelligence".

The motion is backed by the Greens, Plaid Cymru, Tory MP Sir David Amess, and Labour's Kate Hoey.

Mr Salmond said: "MPs from parties from across the House of Commons have put their political differences aside in a stand to call for Parliament to investigate the extent to which this House was held in such blatant contempt.

"At a time when Blair is planning his political comeback, it is high time that this parliament and its committees at long last brought this dark stain on UK foreign policy to a close by investigating how such grave misleading occurred and taking the appropriate action to avoid it happening again."

Plaid Cymru's Westminster group leader Hywel Williams said: "The Iraq War was one of the greatest disasters to befall the world in the 21st century. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in Iraq. In the UK, families grieved for their loved ones, and survivors who served their country suffer terribly.

"The wars in the Middle East continue and terrorism is spreading across northern Africa, Europe and worldwide. Today in the UK the threat level is 'severe', meaning an attack is highly likely, and much of all this can be traced back to the illegal and immoral war in Iraq, that parliament voted for after being misled by the former prime minister.

"The Government's response so far has been deeply insufficient. The victims of this catastrophe deserve justice."

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