YORK MP Hugh Bayley today urged Britain to stand against a gung-ho rush towards war with Iraq.

He asked Prime Minister Tony Blair to avoid entering war through a misplaced loyalty to the United States.

And, in an echo of the warning given by Cabinet "rebel" Claire Short, he said Britain must be seen to act in accordance with international law.

He said: "If any military action was being contemplated by Britain, then I would want the British Government to go back to the UN Security Council and get approval.

"What Britain does must be in accordance with international law."

His warning came as Britain's Government was criticised for refusing to debate Son Of Star Wars, the U.S. defence system which could utilise North Yorkshire military bases as a central component.

Bruce George, the chairman of Westminster's defence committee. who made a fact-finding visit to one of the bases, RAF Fylingdales, yesterday, said he now feared consultation would be "rushed".

He spoke out before Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon stands before the committee's ongoing missile defence committee tomorrow.

Mr George said: "On a personal note, I fear the MoD was wrong to let the best part of a year go by without engaging with this very important and sensitive subject.

"There is a risk now the debate will suffer from being rushed and also that positions will have become more entrenched."

The last time Mr Hoon stood before the committee, he was accused of "batting away questions like Geoffrey Boycott" and "hiding behind a fig leaf."

Mr George said: "We tried, without success, to persuade the secretary of state that it was time to encourage a public debate on the issues surrounding missile defence in the UK, including how we should respond to the inevitable request from the Americans to use British bases for the programme.

"Mr Hoon stuck to the line that, in the absence of a specific request from the Americans, there was in effect nothing to talk about. It was not our most constructive session."

The secretary of state has now announced that a request has been received.

A committee spokesman declined to speak in detail about yesterday's trip to Fylingdales.

He said: "It was a fact-finding visit whose purpose is to allow us to gain an improved understanding of the technical components of the upgrade of the facilities which has been requested by the U.S. Government."

Updated: 12:04 Tuesday, January 14, 2003