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’s 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.
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.”