Truss’s Tories win vote on UK fracking ban amid chaotic Commons scenes

Issue was originally seen as vote of confidence in prime minister's government

Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons in London on October 19, 2022. AFP PHOTO/Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament
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The British Conservative Party has defeated Labour’s bid to ban fracking amid farcical scenes in the House of Commons.

Conservative whips initially said the vote was being treated as a “confidence motion” in Prime Minister Liz Truss’s embattled government.

Some Tory MPs indicated they would not take part in the vote, leading Climate Minister Graham Stuart to cause confusion in the Commons by saying: “Quite clearly this is not a confidence vote.”

When Conservative MP Ruth Edwards asked to clarify if those Tories who abstain or vote against the motion will lose the party whip, Mr Stuart said: “That is a matter for party managers and I am not a party manager.”

Labour’s motion was defeated by 230 votes to 326.

In extraordinary scenes in the Commons, some Conservative MP’s were said to have been dragged into the lobby room to vote in favour of the government.

This is a Government that is functioning well
Jacob Rees-Mogg

MPs also complained of bullying by the party whips, who enforce discipline, to have people vote for Ms Truss.

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That will be a severe blow to Ms Truss’s authority and makes it ever more likely that she could be ousted as prime minister in a very short time. The prospects of a general election have also increased.

The turmoil within the Conservative Party was unleashed on Wednesday night after Home Secretary Suella Braverman appears to have been asked to resign following disputes with Ms Truss over immigration.

The feverish atmosphere in the Commons appeared to overwhelm senior government figures who reportedly pushed colleagues into the “Aye” lobby room that runs alongside the Commons’ chamber.

“I’ve never seen scenes like it at the entrance to a voting lobby,” tweeted Labour MP Ian Murray.

“Tories on open warfare. Jostling and [Jacob] Rees-Mogg shouting at his colleagues. Whips screaming at Tories.

“They are done and should call a general election. Two Tory whips dragging people in. Shocking.”

Another Labour MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, said he saw the Tory whips “manhandling a crying Tory MP into their lobby” for the fracking vote.

“You couldn’t make this toxic stuff up,” Mr Russell-Moyle tweeted. “Nasty to see the Tories at work. If this is how they treat their MPs, spare a thought for the country.”

It is understood that the government no longer called the poll a confidence vote because of the ill will among Conservative ranks over fracking.

Ruth Edwards, a backbencher representing a Nottingham constituency, said her senior frontbench colleagues should “hang their heads in shame” and had “severely tested” Tory MPs’ trust.

“My final observation tonight is for our own frontbench,” Ms Edwards told the Commons.

“For they have enabled the opposition to force colleagues to choose between voting against our manifesto and voting to lose the whip.

“A Conservative government will always have my confidence, but its leadership today has severely tested my trust and the trust of many colleagues, and I would advise them not to do so again.”

One Conservative MP has described the chaos in the House of Commons as “inexcusable” and an “absolute disgrace”.

Sir Charles Walker, the MP for Broxbourne since 2005, told the BBC: “To be perfectly honest, this whole affair is inexcusable.

“It is a pitiful reflection on the Conservative Parliamentary Party at every level and it reflects really badly obviously on the government of the day.”

Asked if there is any coming back from this, Sir Charles said: “I don’t think so. And I have to say, I’ve been of that view really since two weeks ago.

“This is an absolute disgrace, as a Tory MP of 17 years who’s never been a minister, who’s got on with it loyally most of the time, I think it’s a shambles and a disgrace. I think it is utterly appalling. I’m livid.”

Labour MP Chris Bryant has said Cabinet ministers Therese Coffey and Jacob Rees-Mogg were among a group of senior Tories who were putting pressure on Conservative MPs to vote against the Labour motion on fracking.

Mr Bryant told Sky News that one MP, Alex Stafford, had been “physically manhandled” into the “no” lobby.

“There was a bunch of Conservative members obviously completely uncertain whether they were allowed to vote with Labour or against it,” he said.

“There was a group including several Cabinet ministers who were basically shouting at them. At least one member was physically pulled through the door into the voting lobby. That is completely out of order.

“I know that Therese Coffey was in the group. I know that Jacob Rees-Mogg was in the group and there were others as well. The group all moved forward with one member.

“It was Alex Stafford. He was, to my mind, physically manhandled into the lobby.”

Shadow minister Anna McMorrin wrote on Twitter that she witnessed one Conservative MP “in tears” in the lobby.

Ms McMorrin, who is the Labour MP for Cardiff North, tweeted: “Extraordinary stuff happening here during the vote on fracking which is apparently ‘not a confidence vote’.

“I’ve just witnessed one Tory member in tears being manhandled into the lobby to vote against our motion to continue the ban on fracking.”

David Linden, MP for Glasgow East, tweeted that he had “just watched the deputy prime minister practically pick up a hesitant Tory MP and march him into the government lobby” and added that it was “astonishing”.

Mr Rees-Mogg said he did not witness any bullying when the fracking vote took place in Parliament

“I didn’t see any bullying. There were discussions going on, and there was a discussion about the vote that was taking place, and this was what normally goes on outside the division lobby,” he told the PA news agency.

“I heard one person swear and use an expletive … a Conservative when going into the division lobby, swear and say, sort of, ‘get on with it’, but he wasn’t saying it to an individual.

“I didn’t see any bullying and I saw nobody being manhandled.”

Asked if he was confident he saw everything that happened, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Nobody can claim they have seen everything, even Chris Bryant doesn’t have omnisight, if there is such a word.”

Ms Coffey denied she had “manhandled” Tory MPs to force them to support the government in the fracking vote, sources close to the deputy prime minister said.

“Absolutely she was encouraging Con MPs into the government lobby but she didn’t manhandle anyone,” the briefer told the PA news agency.

Updated: October 19, 2022, 9:36 PM