X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Coffee House

Ministerial aide could defy whip on gay marriage vote

4 February 2013

3:38 PM

4 February 2013

3:38 PM

Downing Street is very keen to emphasise that Tory MPs who vote against the second reading of the gay marriage bill tomorrow are not ‘rebels’. This is a free vote, and MPs can vote with their conscience. But this ignores the fact that there will be a rebellion tomorrow: not on the second reading, but on the programme motion.

I understand that at least one ministerial aide is likely to rebel against the three-line whip on this motion, which sets out how the Bill will proceed through the Commons. Other MPs who oppose the bill are also expected to defy the whip, although not in the same numbers as will vote against second reading, and without any greater effect as Labour is also whipping its MPs to support the motion. I’ve spoken to David Burrowes, PPS to Owen Paterson, who says he is unlikely to support it:

‘The precedent for this is the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which was split between committee and committee of the whole house. Even Gordon Brown recognised that a free vote on conscience issues should be examined by the whole house.

‘But we are where we are. There will be a number who will not be supporting the government’s programme motion. But I do not think we will have the same numbers as on the second reading. I am not likely to be supporting the programme motion.’

[Alt-Text]


As PPS, Burrowes cannot vote against the government without consequences, although he seems happy to wait and see what happens, rather than resigning in advance of his rebellion. He also hopes to sit on the Bill committee scrutinising the legislation line-by-line.

The make-up of that committee will be a test for the whips in both Conservative and Labour parties. It would clearly be expedient to staff the committee entirely with pro-equal marriage MPs, but this would be extremely difficult on a conscience issue.

Last week when the whips announced that the programme motion would have a three-line whip on it, there was some confusion in the party, with MPs initially fearing the whole bill would be whipped. I understand that within 45 minutes, another clarification appeared in MPs’ inboxes from the whip’s office to emphasise that second reading would remain a free vote.

P.S. If Burrowes does indeed rebel and face the usual consequences for doing so – whether by abstaining or actively voting against – he will be the third PPS to Owen Paterson to leave the government as a result of a rebellion: Stewart Jackson and Conor Burns being his predecessors.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close