MPs have rejected Labour’s motion to allocate Commons time to consider banning fracking, in a vote initially designated by the Tory whips as a “confidence motion” in Liz Truss’s government.
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.
Allegations of bullying were also levelled against Government whips, with Labour former minister Chris Bryant saying some MPs had been “physically manhandled into another lobby and being bullied”.
Ruth Edwards, the Conservative MP for Rushcliffe, said she is against fracking but added: “My final observation tonight is for our own front bench, for they have enabled the opposition to force colleagues to choose between voting against our manifesto and voting to lose the whip.
“They should take a look at the faces of colleagues behind them, colleagues who have fracking sites in their constituencies, and they should hang their heads in shame.
“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.”
The division list showed 40 Conservative MPs did not take part in the fracking vote.
They cannot all be considered to be abstentions, with some likely to have been on Government business.
One of those to have abstained included none other than the Prime Minister Liz Truss.
MP and governmental net-zero tsar Chris Skidmore and Angela Richardson also abstained.
Tory MPs had been issued with a three-line whip on Labour’s motion, meaning that Tory MPs who vote against the government could lose the whip, and subsequently would no longer be able to sit as Conservative MPs.
The vote was an attempt by the Labour party to introduce draft legislation banning the extraction of shale gas.
The business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, had earlier spoke out against the motion in the House of Commons, saying communities will have a “veto” on fracking in their area.
He added that 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.
But Labour's Shadow Climate Secretary Ed Miliband urged Tory MPs to vote for his parties motion: “I say to the House and I say to members opposite, they all know that the prime minister will be gone in a matter of weeks, if not days, if not hours.
“They know fracking will go with her. Why defend the indefensible?" he said.
Earlier, Deputy Chief Whip Craig Whittaker wrote to the Conservatives telling them it is a “100% hard 3 line whip!”
“We cannot, under any circumstances, let the Labour Party take control of the order paper and put through their own legislation and whatever other bits of legislation they desire,” he said.
“We are voting NO and I reiterate, this is a hard 3 line whip with all slips withdrawn.”
“I know this is difficult for some colleagues, but we simply cannot allow this.”
Speaking ahead of the vote, however, Climate Minister Graham Stuart said the motion “is not a confidence vote”.
He accused Labour of trying to “seize” the order paper and added: “Quite clearly this is not a confidence vote.”
Whilst the government is not expected to lose the vote, some MPs have already broken cover to suggest they will vote against it.
Andrew Griffith, a serving minister, said on Twitter: “Personally, I do not and have never supported fracking in #WestSussex as our dangerous local roads would never support the additional vehicle movements even if residents consented."
Conservatives Angela Richardson, Tracey Crouch, and current climate Tsar Chris Skidmore have also said they intended to vote against the government.
Skidmore said: "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.”