Government defeats bid to ban fracking amid chaotic Commons scenes
Labour’s motion was defeated by 230 votes to 326
The Government has defeated Labour’s bid to ban fracking amid farcical scenes in the House of Commons.
Conservative whips initially stated the vote on whether to allocate Commons time to consider legislation to stop shale gas extraction was being treated as a “confidence motion” in Liz Truss’ embattled Government.
But after a series of Tory MPs signalled they would not take part in the vote, climate minister Graham Stuart caused confusion by telling the Commons: “Quite clearly this is not a confidence vote.”
When Conservative MP Ruth Edwards (Rushcliffe) asked to clarify if those Tories who abstain or vote against the motion will lose the party whip, Mr Stuart added: “That is a matter for party managers, and I am not a party manager.”
Labour’s motion was defeated by 230 votes to 326, majority 96, but the Commons heard there were “very strong rumours” the Government chief whip Wendy Morton had resigned.
Allegations of bullying were also levelled against Government whips, with Labour former minister Chris Bryant saying some MPs had been “physically manhandled into another lobby and being bullied”.
Earlier, Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg sought to limit the rebellion by insisting communities will have a “veto” on fracking in their area.
He said national government would be unable to overrule the objections from communities, with one option under consideration involving local referendums for areas where fracking is proposed.
Mr Rees-Mogg, in a message directed at Conservative MPs, told the Commons: “There’s an absolute local consent lock.
“Any process to determine local consent must be run independently and this House will vote on any scheme that we bring forward.”
A Labour former minister has asked the Commons Deputy Speaker to investigate into “the scenes outside the entrance to the No lobby” after he saw “members being physically manhandled into another lobby and being bullied”.
Raising a point of order, Chris Bryant said: “I would urge you to launch an investigation into the scenes outside the entrance to the no lobby earlier. As you know, members are expected to be able to vote without fear or favour and the behaviour code which is agreed by the whole of the House says there shall never be bullying or harassment.
“I saw members being physically manhandled into another lobby and being bullied.
“If we want to stand up against bullying in this House of our staff, we have to stop bullying in this chamber as well.”
The division list showed 40 Conservative MPs did not take part in the fracking vote.
They cannot all be considered to be abstentions, with some likely to have been on Government business.
Those known to be abstaining include Chris Skidmore and Angela Richardson.