In what was one of the most extraordinary days at Westminster, even by recent standards, Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore last night defied party orders and refused to vote with his government on fracking.
On a day which saw the resignation of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister’s first appearance in front of the House since the reversal of the mini-budget, it was actually an Opposition Day motion which stole the headlines. The Labour motion aimed to create parliamentary time for a bill to ban fracking.
Normally, Conservative MPs would simply abstain from voting on opposition motions, thus ensuring they would fail. But on this occasion the Whip’s office ordered them to vote against the fracking motion, labelling it a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. MPs who disobeyed the order would be sanctioned. As a result, several Conservative MPs were left conflicted by their opposition to fracking and their desire to keep the parliamentary whip.
As we have reported previously in The Week In, the decision announced by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Jacob Rees-Mogg last month to lift the moratorium on fracking has already caused controversy in this area. Not only did the North East Somerset MP double down on his announcement by saying he would welcome fracking in his West Harptree back garden, but one of his constituency neighbours, Kingswood’s Chris Skidmore is currently leading a review on the Government drive to net zero by 2050.
Prior to the vote Mr Skidmore took to Twitter, announcing: “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.”
Since being elected in 2010 the MP for Kingswood has never defied the party whip.
Although the Labour motion still failed as expected, he was joined by a significant number of his party colleagues in abstaining. Luke Hall, MP for Thornbury and Yate and Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) both obeyed the party whip and voted down the motion.