by RAY FLEMING
THERE is a danger of democracy breaking out in the mother of all Parliaments. This week Jack Straw, the leader of the House of Commons, announced that the decision on the renewal of Britain's ageing Trident nuclear deterrrent will be taken by MPs in a vote later this year. This has not been the practice in the past when ministers have simply told the House what they intended to do. Other than going to war (and Mr Blair has already said this should be matter for Parliament in future) it is hard to think of any government decision that more needs to be determined by the nation's elected representatives. However, pleasure at Mr Straw's announcement will be tempered by his admission that there would be a three–line whip operating for the vote so that all Labour MPs will be expected to back the government's intention to commit between 15 and 25 billion pounds on maintaining nuclear missiles. There are certain to be Labour dissidents as well as Liberal Democrat opponents, but the government will be able to rely on Conservative votes if it needs to do so. “Of course we should involve the House fully in a decision as important as the renewal of our nuclear deterrent,” said Mr Straw. But can it be called “involving the House” if all your own side has been told how to vote before the debate even begins? Is it really all that different from previous practice?

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