LONDON — BRITAIN'S Conservative government has survived an opposition assault over an arms-for-Iraq scandal after the stormiest debate in Parliament since Prime Minister John Major won last April's general election.
But an affair that goes to the heart of the government's honesty and competence looks set to rumble on with more allegations that the administration helped to arm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in breach of its own guidelines and then mounted a coverup.
Mr. Major has vehemently denied Labour charges that he knew of defense-related sales to Baghdad when he was foreign secretary and finance minister to his predecessor, Margaret Thatcher.
The prime minister has also announced a full judicial inquiry into the whole issue of arms sales to Iraq.
After a long debate members of Parliament voted along party lines on Nov. 23 to defeat by a margin of 45 a Labour motion which charged that government ministers had "misled the House, deceived the public, and then tried to muzzle the courts."
The restrictions on sales of arms to Baghdad began in 1984, when Iraq was at war with Iran.