Tory Maastricht rebels 'could muster 45 MPs'

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Indy Politics
A GOVERNMENT threat that the Commons might be forced to sit through the weekend in retaliation for Monday's defeat on the Maastricht legislation was dismissed as empty hype last night.

It was pointed out that the Whips would not be able to muster a majority, given the strength of the Tory rebel camp.

An Independent survey of the 23 Commons votes that have been held since the European Communities (Amendment) Bill began its committee stage on 1 December, shows that 22 Conservative hardliners have not voted at all for the Government. A further 16 have only voted once in accord with whips' instructions, and another seven have joined their government colleagues in fewer than half the available votes - making a grand total of 45 rebels whose support cannot be relied upon.

The Government's majority is 20, and if the Opposition musters all its votes, only 11 rebels are needed to inflict a defeat.

The hard-core 22 who have not voted once with the Government in any of the 23 votes that have taken place since December - ranked by votes against their own side - are:

Sir Trevor Skeet (Bedfordshire N) 20; William Cash (Stafford) 19; Theresa Gorman (Billericay) 18; Christopher Gill (Ludlow), Toby Jessel (Twickenham), Tony Marlow (Northampton N), Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills), and Michael Spicer (Worcestershire S) 17; Bill Walker (Tayside N) 15; John Biffen (Shropshire N), James Cran (Beverley), Michael Lord (Suffolk Central) and John Wilkinson (Ruislip- Northwood) 14; Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton SW) 13; Sir George Gardiner (Reigate), Warren Hawksley (Halesowen and Stourbridge), and Sir Peter Tapsell (Lindsey E) 11; John Butcher (Coventry SW) 10; Michael Carttiss (Great Yarmouth) 7; Rupert Allason (Torbay) 2; Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster) 1; and Vivian Bendall (Ilford N), who has not voted at all during the committee stage.

The 16 MPs who have voted only once for the Government during the committee stage - again ranked by votes against their own side - are:

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend E) 21; Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) 20, Ann Winterton (Congleton) 19; Roger Knapman (Stroud) 18; Sir Richard Body (Holland with Boston) and Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton) 14; Walter Sweeney (Vale of Glamorgan) 11; John Carlisle (Luton N), Barry Legg (Milton Keynes SW), and David Porter (Waveney) 9; Peter Fry (Wellingborough) and John Townend (Bridlington) 4; and Iain Duncan-Smith (Chingford) 3. Kenneth Baker (Mole Valley), former Home Secretary, Sir Roger Moate (Faversham), and George Walden (Buckingham), all voted for the Government once, but did not vote in any of the other 22 divisions.

The other seven rebels, who have voted with the Government in fewer than half the available votes are: Bernard Jenkin (Colchester N), who voted for the Government twice and did not vote in the other 21 divisions; John Whittingdale (Colchester S and Maldon), who voted with the Government three times and did not vote in 20 divisions; Michael Clark (Rochford), who voted with the Government on four occasions and did not vote in 19 divisions; Sir Rhodes Boyson (Brent N), who voted with the Government four times, did not vote in 10 divisions and voted against nine times; James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth), who voted with the Government four times, against 13 and did not vote in half a dozen divisions; Sir Michael Grylls (Surrey NW), who voted with the Government 11 times and did not vote in 12 divisions; and Andrew Hunter (Basingstoke), who voted with the Government 11 times, did not vote in 8 divisions, and voted against the Government 4 times.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Labour Party agreed yet again not to vote for any 'wrecking' amendments to the Bill, effectively ensuring that whenever they join forces with the Tory rebels, the Government's eventual ability to ratify the treaty is not impaired.

The Government faces further embarrassing defeats, but, for the rebels, tantalisingly short of the knock-out blow required to force a referendum.