DEFENCE Secretary Geoff Hoon was rebuked by MPs yesterday over his handling of the decision to allow America to use the RAF Fylingdales radar base for its controversial missile defence system.

The Commons defence select committee broadly backed the decision to agree to the upgrade of the early warning station on the North Yorkshire moors as part of the Americans' so-called ''Son of Star Wars'' system.

But in a report out yesterday, the committee fiercely criticised the failure of the Ministry of Defence to allow a proper public debate on the issue.

It said that by announcing earlier this month his "preliminary conclusion" that he would agree to the US request to upgrade the base, Mr Hoon had effectively pre-empted any public discussion.

''We deplore the manner in which the public debate on the issue of the upgrade of facilities at RAF Fylingdales has been handled,'' the report said.

''It has shown no respect for either the views of those affected locally by the decision or for the arguments of those opposed to the upgrade in principle.

''Despite the Secretary of State's unequivocal statement that he wanted the decision to be informed by public and parliamentary discussion, he has acted in a way that has effectively curtailed that discussion.''