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Government Wins Fracking Vote But Tory Rebels Face Expulsion

Tory MP face suspension for rebelling over the fracking vote (Alamy)

3 min read

A number of Tory MPs are expected to be ejected from the party after opposing the government in a chaotic Opposition Day Motion on fracking.

The government defeated the Commons attempt by Labour to force through a new law banning fracking by 326 to 230 despite a rebellion by Conservative MPs.

Conservative whips – MPs in charge of party discipline – had warned they considered the vote a confidence motion for the government, and said any MPs who failed to support the government would face suspension.

In an email to MPs, deputy chief whip Craig Whittaker said the government "cannot, under any circumstances, let the Labour Party take control of the order paper and put through their own legislation".

He added: "I know this is difficult for some colleagues, but we simply cannot allow this. Please speak with your whip with any issues."

But in a chaotic last minute intervention, climate minister Graham Stuart appeared to suggest in the final minutes of the debate that: "Quite clearly this is not a confidence vote."

Pressed by angry Conservative MPs over whether those who voted against the government could still be suspended, he said the decision would be a "matter for party managers", meaning many MPs went into the lobbies unsure of the consequences of their vote.

The latest push for fracking by Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg has been controversial among many Conservative MPs who have proposed fracking sites in their constituencies.

In an attempt to limit the rebellion, Rees-Mogg insisted there would continue to be an "absolute lock" on giving local communities the opportunity to veto any fracking projects in their area.

But despite warnings from whips, several Conservative MPs openly revolted against the plans ahead of the vote, with former energy minister Chris Skidmore tweeting: "As the former energy minister who signed Net Zero into law, for the sake of our environment and climate, I cannot personally vote tonight to support fracking and undermine the pledges I made at the 2019 general election.

"I am prepared to face the consequences of my decision."

Two other senior MPs, including former sports minister Tracey Crouch replied: "Ditto".

A number of other Conservative MPs spoke during the debate to say that while they were opposed to fracking, they would not vote for the Labour motion, saying it was an attempt by Keir Starmer to sieze control of Commons business.

Others expressed anger at the party's threat to Tory MPs over the vote, with fellow former minister Paul Maynard telling MPs he felt "despair and infuriation" over the decision.

The decision to kick out Tory rebels would pile further pressure on Liz Truss's beleaguered premiership, which was dealt a further blow on Wednesday after Home Secretary Suella Braverman was forced to step down after she shared an official document with a colleague from a personal email address.

In a pointed resignation letter, Braverman suggested the Prime Minister should consider stepping down, writing: "Pretending we haven't made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can't see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics."

She added: "The business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes."

"I have made a mistake, I accept responsibility, I resign."

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