The Government Accidentally Voted For A Labour Amendment To One Of Its Flagship Bills
The government accidentally voted for a Labour amendment to its flagship Fisheries Bill this morning.
The amendment would have inserted a new clause requiring the environment secretary to consult on providing financial assistance for the promotion of recreational fishing, and to include representatives of recreational fishing when conducting a consultation under any other provisions of the bill. Recreational fishing represents the majority of fishing that takes place in the UK.
The new Clause 2 was nodded through in the Fisheries Public Bill Committee by Conservative MPs including the fisheries minister, Victoria Prentis, and Conservative Whips, who believed it to be a government clause.
Sources who were present say that Labour MPs, who had realised the mistake, didn’t raise it at the time, although the committee clerk quickly alerted Walker to the error. When made aware, Prentis responded “right, we don’t want [the Clause]”, and the session was hastily adjourned.
The embarrassing mistake came from an error in the script presented to Charles Walker MP, the Conservative chair of the meeting, by House of Commons staff. As a result, Mr Walker asked Prentis to formally move Labour’s recreational fishing New Clause 2, rather than the shadow minister Stephanie Peacock, leading Conservative MPs present to believe it was a government amendment.
A Labour source said: “The chair, the minister and the whips should have noticed – Prentis doesn't even know what amendments she's putting down.”
After a break in proceedings, and negotiation between the Labour and Conservative Whips, the earlier proceeding was re-run and the new Clause 2 removed.
Speaking to PoliticsHome after the event, Pollard said: "The confusion around this arisen because [the Tories] weren't following the Order Paper properly. It's surprising to see Conservative MPs so unaware of what their amendments are that they are happy to vote for anything if they think it's one of their own."
A Defra spokesperson said: “During the Fisheries Bill committee hearing today an opposition amendment was moved by the Government in error. The amendment was reheard this afternoon and did not proceed.”