By Matthew Barrett
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8.30pm Update: I have been through the ayes and noes, and have found the following Tory abstainers:
- Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty)
- John Baron (Basildon and Billericay)
- Bill Cash (Stone)
- Rehman Chisti (Gillingham and Rainham)
- Christopher Chope (Christchurch)
- James Clappison (Hertsmere)
- Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) – a DfID Minister
- Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) – a deputy Speaker
- William Hague (Richmond) – Foreign Secretary
- Mark Lancaster (Milton Keynes North)
- Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke)
- Louise Mensch (Corby)
- Patrick Mercer (Newark)
- Simon Reevell (Deswbury)
- David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds)
- Henry Smith (Crawley)
- Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness)
- Ben Wallace (Wyre and Preston North)
- Sarah Wollaston (Totnes)
It's worth noting that there may have been circumstances which prevented the MPs from voting with the Government that were out of their control. In William Hague and Alan Duncan's cases, for example, they will probably be overseas on Government business. In Louise Mensch's case, the Queen was visiting her Corby constituency today as part of her Jubilee tour.
The following DUP MPs also voted with the Government:
- Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) – the DUP's Westminster leader
- Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley)
- Ian Paisley, Jr (North Antrim)
- Jim Shannon (Strangford)
Labour's Commons motion on whether Jeremy Hunt should be investigated for breaching the Ministerial Code in his handling of the BSkyB bid has been rejected – the Government won the vote of confidence in Hunt by 290 to 252.
The debate that preceded the vote was lively. Jeremy Hunt gave a good perfomance, defending his actions during the bid process. Harriet Harman, Hunt's opposite number, accused Hunt of misleading the House when he said he had not made any intervention in the bidding process. Hunt bullishly insisted he had not misled the House.
Labour's Chris Bryant then accused Hunt of lying to Parliament. To accuse a Member of lying is the most base unparliamentary behaviour possible, yet Speaker Bercow repeatedly refused to ask Bryant to withdraw his remark. Instead, Bercow simply said Bryant should have used moderate language. A to-and-fro began, with Sir George Young, the Leader of the Commons, and Hunt, both insisting Bryant withdraw the accusation, and Bryant refusing to withdraw his remark.
After the Commons had become a little more composed, Hunt countered Harriet Harman's attacks, pointing out Labour had not felt it necessary to refer Gordon Brown to any independent advisers when his special advisors – Damian McBride, Charlie Whelan et al – had been found to have carried out vicious briefings against Ministers and Shadow Ministers.
Hunt finished his defence by pointing out that the process he followed in deciding the BSkyB bid was that set out in the Enterprise Act 2002 – Labour's own legislation. Harriet Harman would be the first politician to call for someone to resign for following a law she supported herself, Hunt said.
Notably, as can be seen in the photo at the top of this post, Hunt received high-profile backing from Michael Gove and George Osborne, and during the debate, backbenchers including John Whittingdale – who chairs the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee – came out to bat for Hunt. So too did Sir George Young, the Leader of the Commons, who summed up the debate with a fierce tirade against Labour's political opportunism on the Hunt/Leveson affair.
Four notes about the debate:
- Despite the just-about-comfortable Government (or perhaps, Conservative) majority of 38 during the vote, many Tories will not let the Lib Dems forget their decision to abstain from the vote. Guido Fawkes has a round-up of Tory MPs tweeting their intense displeasure at the Lib Dems' abstention.
- There are 306 Tory MPs – but there were only 290 votes for the Government, on a three-line whip.
- Labour MP Kevin Brennan tweeted: "DUP voting with Tories on Hunt motion – how much will that cost?". That may be a right-of-centre coalition to watch out for as this Parliament wears on.
- The Bryant-calling-Hunt-a-liar affair won't be forgotten quickly, either. John Bercow seems determined to infuriate Tory backbenchers.