Night of relief and disappointment

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Indy Politics
THE REBELLION in the Commons was small, but ministers breathed a sigh of relief and were given a warning that they may face a closer vote in the new year, if the pit closures go ahead.

After the vote, the Prime Minister was congratulated by Marcus Fox, the chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory MPs, who led the successful calls for a climb- down which bought off many of the rebels and saved the Government from certain defeat.

Nicholas Winterton, one of the rebels who refused to back down, said he had 'no regrets' about voting against the Government over the pit closures, but he was disappointed that other Tory rebels had caved in.

Mr Winterton, the Tory MP for Macclesfield, was one of the six Tory MPs who voted against the Government. About five more Tory MPs did not vote with the Government and were thought to have abstained.

After the vote, the Prime Minister thanked Richard Ryder, the Chief Whip in the whips' office, with Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, for avoiding what promised to be a humiliating defeat.

Mr Winterton, who is regarded by the whips as member of the 'awkward squad' and a maverick, described the concessions offered by Mr Heseltine as a 'gigantic fraud'.

He has rebelled against the Government on a number of issues, including the Maastricht treaty, and was removed from the chairmanship of the Commons Select Committee on Health.

His wife, Ann, who also rebelled on the Maastricht Bill, joined him in voting against the Government last night. But Mr Winterton said: 'I am disappointed that more of my colleagues did not vote against the Government because I think this is a single issue of great importance. The least the Government could have done would have been to offer an independent in-depth inquiry on the need for a long- term energy strategy. I wanted all the pits to be included in the moratorium. I wanted an independent inquiry.'

Another anti-Maastricht rebel, Richard Shepherd, the Tory MP for Aldridge Brownhills, also voted against the Government.

But the rebellion included normally loyal supporters of the Government, in spite of the concessions offered by Mr Heseltine. Elizabeth Peacock, the Tory MP for Batley and Spen, was sacked from her appointment as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Nick Scott, the Minister of State for Social Security, for voting against the Government. Mr Scott stood by his PPS, but she knew she would be sacked and got the news before the night was out.

Richard Alexander, the Tory MP for Newark, chairman of the East Midlands group of Conservative MPs, and Michael Clark, Tory chairman of the former Commons select committee on energy, joined the rebels to vote against the Government.

Roll-call of the Tory rebels

THE six Conservative MPs who voted against the Government on the Labour motion were:

Richard Alexander (Newark); Dr Michael Clark (Rochford); Elizabeth Peacock (Batley and Spen); Richard Shepherd (Aldridge Brownhills); Ann Winterton (Congleton); Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield).