To mark the tenth anniversary of the anti-Iraq War march, MPs are urging the government to fulfil its pledge to give parliament the right to block any future decision to take the country into armed conflict.
The coalition has committed itself to enshrining in law the convention that MPs be given prior approval for war, a precedent set in 2003 when Tony Blair gave parliament the final say on whether the UK would join the US invasion of Iraq.
During the Commons debate on the decision to take military action in Libya on 21 March 2011, foreign secretary William Hague said ministers remained committed to introducing legislation. However this has yet to happen.
Hague said: "We will also enshrine in law for the future the necessity of consulting parliament on military action."
A parliamentary motion tabled by Green MP Caroline Lucas and signed by 12 other Lib Dem and Labour MPs says: "15 February 2013 marks 10 years since the largest ever political demonstration in UK history, with between one and two million people marching in London against the then-imminent Iraq war."
Arguing that the "will of the people was ignored" as the then Labour government chose to go to war despite the march, the MPs add any decision to engage in armed conflict "should be subject to prior approval via a free vote by parliament rather than relying on prerogative power".
Lucas said: “Ten years ago this week, more than one million people took to the streets of London to peacefully oppose British involvement in the Iraq war – determined to tell the world, in no uncertain terms, ‘not in our name’.
“It was the biggest political demonstration in UK history, yet the will of the British people, and that of millions of anti war campaigners around the world, was shamefully ignored.
“We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and all the British servicemen and women who lost their lives in this disastrous conflict to stop such a thing from ever happening again, at the very least by changing the law to ensure that any future decision to take us to war is subject to a free vote by Parliament.
“When MPs voted on Iraq in 2003, it was only because Tony Blair allowed it – it was not their right – and since Members were whipped, they generally didn't challenge the false information they were given to.
“That's why I've put down an Early Day Motion that would require a free vote on whether or not to engage Britain in armed conflict in future, and am seeking a debate on Iraq on the floor of the House.”
MPs have most recently been denied a vote on the UK's contribution to the French led operation in Mali. The government has argued that as no combat troops have been deployed this is not necessary.
Critics of the move to grant parliament the power to give prior approval to all military interventions also question how this would be possible in an emergency when troops needed to be deployed swiftly.
A Guardian/ICM poll published today showed that a majority of voters, 55%, agree that the anti-Iraq war marchers were right because "a war sold on a false prospectus delivered little but bloodshed".
Just 28% believe the marchers were wrong, agreeing that "toppling the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein" eventually made the world a better place.
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