Tory whips 'move to block' Philip Hammond’s Budget plans
Conservative whips have been working behind the scenes to prevent a backbench rebellion over Treasury plans to relax planning laws in tomorrow’s Budget, it has been reported.
According to the Times, whips have been gathering signatures from Tory MPs to demonstrate the level of opposition in the party to a change in policy that would threaten the green belt.
The move comes after the Chancellor suggested over the weekend that cash to solve the UK’s housing crisis would be significantly less than the £50bn demanded by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.
It promoted speculation that the Budget would instead focus on ripping up planning regulations, sparking fear among Tory MPs over a possible backlash on the doorstep.
The creation of such informal petitions to pile pressure on the Treasury is not normal practice ahead of the Budget, with one MP admitting: “The whip said they themselves knew it was madness.
“But [they] made clear that it would be useful if they were able to add my name to the list of people opposed to this, to feed back to the Treasury.”
Another Conservative MP said the whips had targeted members representing south of England constituencies and “encouraged us to make it known that liberalising the planning regulations would be a divisive move and would affect us disproportionately”.
A third MP told the newspaper: “This isn’t normal. It’s a function of perceived weakness in No 11, as was shown on [The Andrew Marr Show].”
“Hammond says things that set hares running, he lacks political antennae. This may be an attempt to inject some political thinking into the operation.”
The Chancellor has come under increasing pressure to change course, ditch austerity and invest in infrastructure and public services.
However, the UK’s economic performance and uncertainty around Brexit has given him little room for manoeuvre and Mr Hammond is resistant to calls to increase borrowing.