Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:31 am on 31st January 2013.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley The Leader of the House of Commons 10:31 am, 31st January 2013

In the first instance, I simply reiterate to the hon. Gentleman and the House that I believe Ministers have had several substantive opportunities to explain the nature and circumstances of our engagement, and to be questioned on that. I am not sure that I take the analogy with Iraq, or indeed Afghanistan; as my hon. Friends and Ministers have said at the Dispatch Box, an analogy with the situation in Somalia is probably closer.

As the Government have made clear, we will observe the existing convention that before UK troops are committed to conflict, the House of Commons should have an opportunity to debate and vote on the matter, except when there is an emergency and such action would not be appropriate. One should also recognise, as my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary said in the House this week, that the role of British troops is clearly not a combat role and it is not our intention to deploy combat troops. We are clear about the risks of mission creep—that was the nature of the question being asked—and have defined carefully the support that we are willing and able to provide to the French and Malian authorities. I would not carry the analogy to the point where the convention is engaged in the sense of a requirement for a debate and vote in this House.