Tories attempt to censure 'lying' Byers

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Stephen Byers survived an onslaught by Tory MPs yesterday but will now have to face another full-scale Commons attack as the Opposition steps up its demands for him to resign.

The troubled Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions insisted that he had not misled MPs in a Commons statement in February about the "resignation" of his communications director, Martin Sixsmith. On Tuesday, his department admitted Mr Sixsmith had not agreed to resign then.

After a furious Commons row yesterday, the Tories announced that they would table a censure motion, forcing Mr Byers to defend himself in a three-hour debate. The rarely used motion, which will demand that Mr Byers' £124,979 salary be halved – a Commons technicality – is expected to be debated on 21 May.

There was another flurry of speculation at Westminster yesterday that Mr Byers would be moved from his post in a July reshuffle of the Cabinet.

Last night there were further signs of tension inside the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions following Mr Byers' statement.

Sir Richard Mottram, the Permanent Secretary, was said to be "seething" after Mr Byers said there had been "an incorrect understanding" of discussions between Sir Richard and Mr Sixsmith. One source said the Permanent Secretary had a "slightly inconclusive" meeting with Mr Sixsmith at the height of the row but understood that the communications director had offered his resignation. "Unfortunately they were all bounced by Number 10 into announcing that Mr Sixsmith had resigned along with Jo Moore [special adviser to Mr Byers]," said the source.