Chance of VAT upset missed by Opposition

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Indy Politics
A FULL turn-out of Opposition MPs would have defeated plans to impose value-added tax on domestic fuel bills in the Commons vote on Monday night.

Just nine MPs could have turned the tables on the Government, and Labour whips were last night pointing the finger at six Ulster MPs, two Liberal Democrats and a Plaid Cymru Member who did not vote in the division, on which the Government defeated a Tory rebel amendment opposing the VAT charge by 307 votes to 299; a majority of 8. With Christchurch vacant, the Government's official majority stands at 18.

Three Tories - William Powell (Corby); Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth); and Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) - voted with the Opposition. Four Conservatives abstained - Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross); Michael Lord (Suffolk C); Tony Marlow (North ampton N); and Ann Winterton (Cong leton). That would have accounted for the 8-strong government majority, were it not for the fact that a number of other Conservatives did not vote - including Norman Lamont, the former Chancellor who proposed the VAT charge in the first place. It was said last night that he had been 'paired' off with Labour's Andrew Faulds.

Other Conservative non-voters included Tristan Garel-Jones, the former Foreign Office minister; John Biffen, the former minister who favours tax increases; Peter Fry (Wellingborough); David Knox (Moorlands); and Bill Walker, (Tayside North). Altogether, there were seven absent Labour MPs, seven absent ministers, and 13 other absent Conservatives.

The nine minority party MPs who did not vote were: Joe Hendron, John Hume, Seamus Mallon, and Eddy McGrady, SDLP; two Liberal Democrats, Alex Carlile and Robert Maclennan; Robert McCrea, DUP; Ken Maginnis, UUP; and Ieuan Jones, PC.