YORK MP Hugh Bayley today backed the Government in waging war against Iraq after taking the "toughest decision" of his political life.

Mr Bayley said he would reluctantly swing behind Tony Blair in tonight's crucial Westminster vote - as Labour rebels emboldened by the resignation of Robin Cook and Health Minister Lord Hunt predicted a massive revolt against the Prime Minister.

The Labour MP, who had repeatedly stressed the importance of a second United Nations resolution, said he had decided he would back military action without the full backing of the international community.

He told the Evening Press: "Iraq poses a serious threat to other countries in the Middle East and continues to torture and starve its own people. I wanted a further UN resolution, but by using its veto France has disarmed the UN rather than disarming Iraq.

"It would be wrong for Britain to walk away from this problem or ignore the plight of the Iraqi people." Selby's Labour MP John Grogan said he would be voting against the Government motion supporting military action now, and would instead vote for an amendment stating the case for war had not yet been made.

Scarborough and Whitby Labour MP Lawrie Quinn was facing the prospect of backing the Government in tonight's vote or having to quit his post as a Ministerial aide in the Trade Department.

North Yorkshire's Tory MPs, John Greenway and Anne McIntosh were expected to back military action.

Harrogate Liberal Democrat MP Phil Willis said the "case for war against Iraq has not yet been established". But he gave his full support to British troops in the event of war.

Updated: 10:37 Tuesday, March 18, 2003