Maastricht: All-night sitting on treaty lasted until mid-day: Tory speaks for 109 minutes

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Indy Politics
THE COMMONS completed more than 20 hours' debate on the Maastricht treaty legislation yesterday, having steamed through three of the 11 remaining batches of amendments in an all-night session that ended shortly after mid-day.

During the night, Sir Peter Tapsell, a Tory rebel, spoke for 63 minutes; Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield Attercliffe, for 70 minutes; and Peter Shore, the former Labour cabinet minister, for 75 minutes.

But the two contenders for the opponents' speaking prize were Denzil Davies, the former Labour frontbencher, who spoke for 107 minutes from 7.36am, and Nicholas Winterton, the veteran Tory rebel, who spoke for a total of 109 minutes - excluding an 11-minute break, at 3.10am, while the presence of 'strangers' was unsuccessfully challenged.

The critical vote allowing the House to sit beyond its normal time for close of business had taken place at 10pm on Wednesday night. The Government won that by 296 votes to 279, a majority of 17 - with the support of 17 Liberal Democrat MPs.

But analysis of the division list yesterday showed that the Government could have been defeated. While 18 normally supportive Conservatives had not been present for the vote, their absence was more than matched by 24 Labour MPs.

The half dozen Labour MPs whose absence surprised Opposition whips were: Joe Ashton, Tam Dalyell, John Gilbert, Harriet Harman, Roy Hattersley and Terry Rooney.

Paddy Ashdown, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said yesterday: 'Labour did not manage to muster all its troops. We are getting strong indications that there are many strong pro-Europeans in the Labour Party who are deeply unhappy about Labour Party tactics, for example Roy Hattersley.'

All four Plaid Cymru MPs also supported the Government. If they had voted against it, if another six Labour MPs had voted, and the four SDLP MPs had also voted, the Government would have been defeated by one vote.

As well as the 26 Tories who voted with the Opposition, a further 14 with a record of revolt abstained. They were: Rupert Allason, Torbay; Kenneth Baker, Mole Valley; Vivian Bendall, Ilford N; Sir Nicholas Bonsor, Upminster; Sir Rhodes Boyson, Brent N; Michael Carttiss, Great Yarmouth; Iain Duncan-Smith, Chingford; Peter Fry, Wellingborough; Warren Hawksley, Halesowen and Stourbridge; Bernard Jenkin, Colchester N; Sir Roger Moate, Faversham; James Pawsey, Rugby and Kenilworth; David Porter, Waveney; and John Townend, Bridlington.