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Security Breach Shuts Down British Prime Minister's Question Time in Parliament - 2004-05-19


A breach of security Wednesday shut down Prime Minister's Question Time in the British Parliament when purple colored cornflour was flung toward Tony Blair by protesters demanding more rights for fathers in child custody cases in Britain.

Eighteen minutes into the Prime Minister's weekly question session in the House of Commons, Mr. Blair was delivering a spirited response to a query raised by the leader of the main opposition party, when two salvos of a purple powder were flung at him from the direction of the public gallery.

TONY BLAIR: "It is interesting how the right honorable gentleman never actually wants to discuss the issues, does he? And I wonder why? I wonder why? I wonder why?" SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: " Order! This House is now suspended. Order, the House is now suspended."

As purple dust enveloped the well of the House of Commons, members of parliament were hustled out of the chamber.

Two men were arrested. Police later confirmed the powder was harmless, but it raises the very serious issue of security and what could have happened if the substance was toxic.

Before the incident, the prime minister commented on the current Israeli army incursion into the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza.

"We entirely understand the concerns of Israel about acts of terrorism. But what happened yesterday was unacceptable and wrong," said Mr. Blair.

Mr. Blair urged the Israelis to pull out of Gaza and negotiations begin to restart the "road map" peace process.

On Iraq, the prime minister was asked if the interim Iraq government that will assume power in six weeks will have control over the country's oil reserves and prisons.

"Yes, they must have full sovereignty after the 30th of June and that will give them the rights that any sovereign government has," he said.

He was also asked if Britain planned to send more troops to Iraq to augment the 7,500 British soldiers already there.

"The House will be informed and there will be consultation in the normal way," said Mr. Blair. "But I do not believe it is right to set a precedent of having a vote before any further deployment of troops is undertaken. Although I have to say to him [the questioner] no decision has yet been taken on whether to deploy further troops and if so, where."

The powder incident led to the abandonment of the prime minister's question time, but the house session resumed a little more than an hour later.

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