Blair should win Commons vote on Iraq

MPs tomorrow at last get a chance to voice their concerns about the looming war with Iraq – but it will be on the Government's terms and strictly controlled.

By Graham Dines

MPs tomorrow at last get a chance to voice their concerns about the looming war with Iraq – but it will be on the Government's terms and strictly controlled.

Yesterday afternoon, Commons Leader Robin Cook said the motion "will confirm the commitment of the Government, and of the House, to our strategy of handling the Iraq crisis through the United Nations. It will repeat our support for resolution 1441 which the House overwhelmingly endorsed on 25th November."

And he insisted the motion would not be a trap. "No MP need fear that support of it will be interpreted as support for any specific military action. The House will have other opportunities in the future to debate Iraq and if necessary another specific opportunity to vote on military action."

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Around 150 dissident Labour MPs, plus Liberal Democrats, various Nationalists, and a handful of senior Conservatives are expected to show their opposition – they are not against the United Nations route, but they want to voice the concerns of the majority of the British people.

Tony Blair need have no fears – even though the Tories are in turmoil, they will deliver enough MPs for the Prime Minister to win the vote.

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UP until a few years back, Ipswich languished as the Cinderella of East Anglia, lagging behind the county towns of Norwich, Cambridge, and Chelmsford. It was even overtaken in the shopping stakes by Colchester.

The other day I came across a copy of Ipswich Information, a bi-monthly bulletin published by the Ipswich Corporation, dated September-October 1967 which helps explains why.

The pamphlet was highly indignant with Trust Houses Ltd, for seeking planning permission to convert that fine old Dickensian hotel the Great White Horse into shops and offices.

Trust Houses said the hotel was "incapable of improvement to standards that will be expected in the 1970s." Narrow, winding corridors, the lack of bedrooms with "bathrooms en suite" and the absence of car parking were not what punters required. The company could not afford to carry out the necessary modernisation.

Thundered Ipswich Corporation in its best Dame Edith Evans stentorian tones: "Does everyone require, or wish to pay for, a bedroom with a bathroom?" And it reasoned that as many businessmen arrived by rail in the town, they were not concerned with car parking.

The town's planners turned down the plans for the Great White Horse saying "not for nothing, is it the last tavern in Tavern Street" and so did the Minister of Housing and Local Government on appeal.

Thus Ipswich remained a relatively obscure, provincial market town, without "bathrooms en suite," for another 20 or so years until major hotels offering comforts in keeping with the needs of today's travellers were enticed to open.

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