The Government last night saw off an attempt to force an inquiry into the Iraq war.
At the end of a highly charged Commons debate, a motion tabled by the Scottish and Welsh nationalists calling for a wide-ranging review of the Government’s conduct was defeated by 298 votes to 273 votes – a majority of 25.
There were angry scenes in the Commons chamber as the Tories – who supported the war – joined the other opposition parties in voting for an inquiry.
However with just 12 Labour MPs voting against the Government, Ministers were able to avoid defeat.
A number of West Midland MPs backed calls for an investigation. Mark Pritchard (Con The Wrekin) said: "What if, God forbid, this Government has to vote to send our brave men and women in to war again?
"That is why we need to an inquiry now – to ensure the British people can once again trust their Government."
Ladywood MP Clare Short said: "Unless we have an exit strategy from Iraq we will be there for many years to come. To get an exit strategy, we need to know why we are there."
The former Labour MP, who resigned the party whip, sat on the opposition benches alongside fellow independent MP Richard Taylor (Wyre Forest).
John Maples (Con Stratford upon Avon) accused the Government of obstructing an earlier inquiry to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, of which he was a member, by refusing to supply evidence.
Paul Keetch (Lib Dem Hereford) criticised Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett's argument that no inquiry should take place while British forces were deployed, saying the House of Commons had debated the conduct of the campaign in Norway in 1940, during the Second World War.
Many Labour MPs critical of the war were nevertheless unwilling to join the Conservatives in what they regarded as an opportunistic attempt to embarrass the Government.
Mrs Beckett told the debate: "Our words in the House today will be heard a very long way. They can be heard by our troops who are already in great danger in Iraq.
"They can be heard by the Iraqi people and by their Government – people whose bravery and fortitude is humbling and who still need our support, not the rehashing of issues that have been gone over umpteen times in this House."
Closing the debate, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram bitterly attacked the Tories for allying themselves with the nationalists who, he said, were seeking to "undermine" the United Kingdom.
"What they want is a show trial for narrow political ends. It is not about establishing new facts or new evidence," he said.
For the Tories, shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague dismissed the claim that British forces would be undermined.
"The British Army is both tougher and more thoughtful than that and its operations should not be used as an excuse to avoid examining any of our political processes and judgments," he said.
He said he was not arguing for an inquiry now, but at the "appropriate time" and urged Tory MPs to back the nationalists’ motion.
Afterwards, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats said they would continue to keep up the pressure for an inquiry.
Mr Hague said: "The very clear message from today’s debate and vote was that the Government cannot resist indefinitely holding an inquiry at the appropriate time.
"Today has served to push the Government in the right direction and to hold an inquiry in due course."
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "The Government was on the defensive throughout. Ministers were unconvincing and their backbenchers unconvinced.
"There is deep unease about Iraq in the House of Commons, which the Prime Minister ignores at his peril."
The Midland MPs among the 12 Labour MPs who voted against the Government and for an inquiry were: Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent Central) and Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath).