Armed Conflict (Parliamentary Approval)

Part of Opposition Day — [11th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 15th May 2007.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal 4:19 pm, 15th May 2007

No, it is not coincidence; and I think we have taken rather longer than St Paul. We said in response to their lordships' report that we were keeping the matter under review, and that is exactly what we have done.

Let me disabuse the right hon. and learned Gentleman of one notion—that our amendment was drafted in response, literally, to the Opposition motion. Because the Opposition have departed from our practice of tabling Supply day motions early and have been very dilatory, and because I had something else to do yesterday—as the House is well aware—I drafted the amendment on Sunday. Had it been clear that the Leader of the Opposition had used words similar to mine, no doubt we could have agreed on the matter without a Division.

I can tell the hon. Members for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) and for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), and indeed the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks, that if they examine the wording of the amendment they will see that we provide comfort for the Opposition that is absent from the Opposition's own motion. I hope that after further consultation they will accept our amendment without a Division.

Let me answer the hon. Member for Macclesfield by saying, first, that our amendment spells out in more detail why caveats are needed in the exercise of this House of Commons power. It is important to say that, because reports of debates of this kind are read by the military. Secondly, it spells out that there will be consultation, and—as I was going to say later in my speech—of course there will be consultation with the Opposition parties as well as the public. Thirdly, and in many ways most importantly, it is intended to reassure the hon. Member for North Essex in the light of his entirely justified suspicion that those who inhabit the Whips' Offices on either side at all times may just decide to cook something up for their own benefit. What the amendment says and the Opposition motion does not is that we are of the view that the processes adopted in 2002 and 2003 constitute a precedent, and that it is not conceivable that this House would ever depart from that precedent.