BBC BLOGS - Mark D'Arcy Blog
« Previous | Main | Next »

Backbench voices are being heard

Mark D'Arcy | 11:43 UK time, Thursday, 9 September 2010

There's a frisson of excitement this morning over today's Commons debate on Afghanistan - placed on the agenda by the Backbench Business Committee.

The motion is that the House "supports the continued deployment of UK armed forces in Afghanistan", and according to the rumour mill a "senior Conservative" is expected to vote against.

There's also a "troops out" amendment proposed by the Greens' Caroline Lucas, Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Edwards and three Labour left wingers; and the Conservative defence specialist Julian Lewis might attract a fair amount of support for his amendment making the House's support conditional on the adoption of "a more realistic military strategy...designed to fulfil the UK's long-term interests in the region at lesser cost in life, limb and financial resources".

The government whips, it is said, were not at all keen on having this debate, but their pressure was resisted - so the Backbench Business Committee has provided MPs with a valuable opportunity to debate one of the most pressing issues on the national agenda.

There's also a bit of annoyance among some of the more diligent backbenchers about an e-mail circulated by one of the whips, Michael Fabricant, apologising for the regular imposition of a three-line whip for Backbench Business Committee debates, which has meant that MPs have had to make the supreme sacrifice of attending the Commons on Thursday afternoons.

Since the government, he says, often doesn't know the subjects for these debates till quite late on, MPs have to assume they must attend. Greater love hath no man than that...

But the Afghanistan debate, and next week's on the ultra-sensitive subject of the Strategic Defence Review (should the government cancel Trident replacement, scrap aircraft carriers, downsize the Army, or Navy or RAF, or cancel any number of vital weapons programmes, with huge implications for defence industry jobs?) are subjects on which backbenchers are gagging to give their views.

It's refreshing; Parliament is actually debating key issues.


or register to comment.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.