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British government 'not contemplating' sending ground troops to Libya

By Emma Clark and Richard Wheeler

The Government is "not contemplating" sending ground troops to Libya but a future decision to do so may not need parliamentary approval, the Defence Secretary has said.

Michael Fallon told the House of Commons it is "too early" to say what kind of assistance Libya is seeking in its fight against Isis militants.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond visited Libya on Monday to show support for the country's new UN-backed national unity government.

During defence questions, the SNP's Brendan O'Hara referred to reports that the UK is about to deploy a 1,000-strong training mission to the region.

He asked: "It's been widely speculated that the Government are considering sending ground troops into Libya.

"Could you give us a cast-iron guarantee that any such deployment of foot soldiers, British ground troops, into Libya would be a matter that would be discussed on the floor of this House and voted on by this House?"

Mr Fallon said: "No such decision has been taken and we are not contemplating at the moment a commitment of that kind.

"But what I can say to you is that if we are in the future to deploy military forces in a combat role into a conflict zone, we would of course, as the Prime Minister has made clear, come to this House first."

A written statement released on Monday by Mr Fallon made clear that the Government reserves the right not to seek approval for routine deployments or emergency combat decisions.

The statement also confirmed that the convention to debate the deployment of combat troops to war zones would not be made law, to avoid decisions becoming subject to legal action.

During questions, Tory MP Derek Twigg said: "Do you believe that we can only stabilise Libya by having ground forces and do you accept that that may include British forces?"

Mr Fallon replied: "It is up to the new government of national accord being established in Libya with our support, led by prime minister (Fayez) Serraj, to make clear what assistance he needs.

"A number of countries including ourselves have already indicated that we will be part of a Libyan international assistance mission but it is far too early to speculate as to what form that assistance might take, whether it is training, advice in the ministries or other support."

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