'Where is he?' Labour fury as Boris Johnson skips Commons Iran debate

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace today condemned Qassem Soleimani for 'fomenting instability' as he updated MPs on the Iran crisis - but Boris Johnson stayed away from the Commons.

Mr Wallace said the assassinated general had not been a 'friend' to peace, and said Tehran's actions had been stoking problems in the region.

Citing Washington's view that Soleimani had been plotting attacks on their assets when he was killed in a drone strike in Baghdad, he said: 'The UK has always defended the right of countries to defend themselves.' 

He also dismissed criticism of the PM's handling of the situation, saying he had been 'engaging' with fellow world leaders. He said ships and helicopters were on high alert in the region to respond to any reprisals from Iran, and non-essential personnel were being moved out of the Iraqi capital. 

But Jeremy Corbyn immediately questioned why Mr Johnson had not come to the House himself, swiping that he was 'hiding'. 

'Can he tell me where he is?' he said.

However, Mr Wallace accused the Labour leader of 'anti-American tripe' for his blanket condemnation of the US action. 

'Funnily enough the PM is running the country, something the leader of the opposition failed to do,' he said. 

Ben Wallace said the assassinated general had not been a 'friend' to peace, and said Tehran's actions had been stoking issues in the region

Ben Wallace said the assassinated general had not been a 'friend' to peace, and said Tehran's actions had been stoking issues in the region

Mr Wallace dismissed criticism of the PM's handling of the situation, saying he had been 'engaging' with fellow world leaders

Mr Wallace dismissed criticism of the PM's handling of the situation, saying he had been 'engaging' with fellow world leaders

Jeremy Corbyn immediately questioned why Mr Johnson had not come to the House himself

Jeremy Corbyn immediately questioned why Mr Johnson had not come to the House himself

Boris Johnson has been desperately trying to ease tensions in the wake of the dramatic US strike that killed general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday

Boris Johnson has been desperately trying to ease tensions in the wake of the dramatic US strike that killed general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday

The bruising exchanges came after Dominic Raab warned that ISIS would be the 'only winners' from war with Iran.

As Britons brace for revenge attacks after the drone strike on Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday, the Foreign Secretary stressed the need to 'de-escalate' tensions, saying it was crucial to keep hold of the 'hard-won gains' against the terrorist group in Iraq.

The comments came as Mr Raab headed to Brussels for talks with European counterparts on the mounting crisis. 

But although Mr Johnson gathered Cabinet earlier and is taking stock with security chiefs this evening, he has still yet to be seen in public since returning from a Caribbean holiday on Sunday.  

Asked why Mr Wallace is speaking today instead of the PM, who has made no public appearance to discuss Iran since returning from a Caribbean holiday on Sunday, Mr Johnson's spokesman said: 'The PM leads a Cabinet government and the response to events in the Middle East is a collective Cabinet response.' 

Quizzed on the premier's movements, his official spokesman said: 'I believe the PM is working from Number 10 today.' 

Tehran has threatened to make British forces 'collateral damage' in reprisals against Donald .  

Mr Wallace said the Government had taken 'urgent measures' to protect British nationals and interests in the Gulf following the killing of Soleimani. 

He said UK forces in the region including helicopters and ships were on standby to assist if needed, while non-essential personnel had been relocated from Baghdad to Taji. 

'As part of prudent planning, a small team has been sent to the region to provide additional situational awareness and contingency planning assistance,' he told MPs.  

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today stressed the need to 'de-escalate' tensions with Iran

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today stressed the need to 'de-escalate' tensions with Iran

Housing minister Esther McVey (left) and Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry were at the first Cabinet meeting since Christmas today

Housing minister Esther McVey (left) and Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry were at the first Cabinet meeting since Christmas today 

Zac Goldsmith (right) and Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers were at Cabinet today

Ben Wallace

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (right), Zac Goldsmith (right) and Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers were among the ministers at Cabinet today

Soleimani's death has galvanized Iranians around revenge for the 'martyr'; Hundreds of thousands crowded into Tehran streets to see his coffin on Monday

Soleimani's death has galvanized Iranians around revenge for the 'martyr'; Hundreds of thousands crowded into Tehran streets to see his coffin on Monday

Liz Truss

Andrea Leadsom

Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom were in Downing Street as ministers were updated on the Iran situation

Mr Wallace said Iran's pattern of 'aggressive behaviour' including targeting dissidents in Europe and hijacking civilian ships 'was never going to go unchallenged'. 

'Her Majesty's Government urges Iran to return to the normal behaviour of the country it aspires to be and resist the urge to retaliate.' 

He repeated his calls for calm, adding: 'None of us wants conflict, none of us wants our citizens, our friends and our allies to be put at risk.' 

He said the Government was looking at the implications of the vote in the Iraqi parliament which called for the expulsion of foreign troops but urged the Baghdad government to allow them to remain in order to fight ISIS. 

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'Our commitment to Iraq's stability and sovereignty is unwavering and we urge the Iraqi government to ensure the coalition is able to continue our work countering this shared threat,' he said. 

Mr Raab will have a bilateral meeting with the French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, before they join their German and Italian counterparts and

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