Tories lose Iraq inquiry vote

The Conservatives have failed to convince MPs to launch an immediate inquiry into the war on Iraq.

A Conservative-led debate calling for an immediate investigation into the decision to go to war and failures of post-war planning was defeated by 299 to 271.

However, the government’s 67-strong majority was more than halved, with 12 Labour rebels voting with the Tories and Liberal Democrats for an inquiry.

A government-tabled amendment agreeing an inquiry was “appropriate” but only when “important operations” end was passed by 299 to 259 votes.

The Conservatives warn an inquiry will be compromised if it is delayed, arguing memories and records could fade or disappear.

Opening the debate in the Commons, shadow foreign secretary William Hague said the “time was right” for a probe.

Speaking as Britain marked the fifth-anniversary of the war in Iraq, Mr Hague said he had no regrets about voting for the war, along with the rest of the Conservative party.

But he said it was “vital” to learn “all possible lessons” about the decision making process and failures-of post war planning.

Gordon Brown last week signalled an inquiry would take place, but only when British troops have been withdrawn from the country.

Mr Hague rejected this argument, however, branding it “ludicrous” to suggest an inquiry would distract from operations in Iraq.

Foreign secretary David Miliband told MPs an inquiry, though necessary, could only take place when operations are complete.

Mr Miliband: “The war itself went better than most people expected but the building of the peace afterwards has gone much worse than people expected.

“The mission has not yet been accomplished.”

He insisted “most people” would see an immediate probe as a “bizarre choice of priority now”.

Attempting to ward of a rebellion, he said the dispute was about timing not substance, with all parties supporting an investigation.

The Liberal Democrats are supporting calls for an inquiry but question the Conservatives’ refusal to apologise for voting for the war.

Yesterday they launched a website highlighting which MPs supported the war and urged voters to “hold them to account”.