MPs demand recall of Commons

MORE than a third of backbench MPs from all parties are demanding a recall of Parliament to debate the Lebanon crisis.Several former Labour ministers are among those who have signed a letter to Commons leader Jack Straw as are Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell and former cabinet minister for international development Clare Short.

By Graham Dines

MORE than a third of backbench MPs from all parties are demanding a recall of Parliament to debate the Lebanon crisis.

Several former Labour ministers are among those who have signed a letter to Commons leader Jack Straw as are Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell and former cabinet minister for international development Clare Short.

The letter noted that the use of British airports by US arms flights to Israel had given the impression that the UK has assumed a tacitly active and less than impartial role in the conflict.


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“Given the massive concern in the country . . . we believe it is right to allow the Commons to meet in order that the Government's strategy can be fully discussed. Parliament is seriously hamstrung at times of crisis by the fact that only the government can recall parliament,” says the letter.

“It should be noted that 202 cross party members of parliament have signed a petition calling for an immediate ceasefire. In light of the seriousness of current events and the overwhelming parliamentary and public interest in them, I urge you to give the utmost consideration to this letter.

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“It is absolutely vital to the quality of democracy in the United Kingdom that elected representatives voice the concerns of our constituents at such a crucial time.”

Although Parliament is a sovereign body, the Speaker Michael Martin is powerless to recall the Commons without the consent of the Government's business managers. And with the Prime Minister now relaxing on his holiday in the Caribbean, any recall is unlikely to happen before the August Bank Holiday weekend.

If a workable ceasefire is agreed in the next few days or weeks, Mr Blair will hope that is enough to draw the sting from the MPs' demand.

Ex-ministers who have signed the letter include Clare Short, Denis MacShane, John Denham, Michael Meacher and Glenda Jackson. Mr MacShane said: “MPs cannot wait until October to hear from the Prime Minister a full account of the crisis and to express the concern of our constituents about the continuing carnage.”

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