I spent two hours this morning telling my 'A' Level politics students about the theoretical powers of backbench MPs. We spoke about the role of the MP as a legislator and then moved onto the wonderful world of the Private Members Bills. I waxed lyrical about how although MPs look as if they can create their own Bills, the fact of the matter is that the government, the whips and the parliamentary business managers have a variety of plots and tricks to ensure nothing ever reaches the statute book without their say-so.
Then, bang on queue, this little gem appears here, in which Tory MP Michael Fallon's Planning Bill goes through the first stage because of a massive government cock up. The government whips planned to force the Bill to fall through an inquorate vote (any vote much engage at least 40 MPs or it fails automatically); that is, by not turning up they could ensure that 40 MPs would be be present and thus Fallon is defeated. However the idiotic government whips badly miscalculated and a hotch-potch of Tories, LibDems and Labour rebels mustered the 45 votes in favour they needed. And as the government MPs were boycotting it ... you guessed it, it went through by 45 votes to 0 (yes, zero). Interesting that the Tories who voted for the bill included Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove and Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers and the LibDem frontbencher Susan Kramer did likewise. A tactical poke in the eye for the government and a victory for House of Commons.
Here is the roll of honour, those who voted for this Bill:
Ainsworth, Baldry, Barker, Boswell, Bottomley, Brake, TomBrazier, Mr. JulianCarmichael, Caton, Cohen, Cormack, Phillip Davies, Dai Davies, Dorries, Dowd, Evans, Fabricant, Fallon, Francois, Gale, Gerrard, Gove, Greenway, Grieve, Hammond, Harper, Herbert, Hollobone, Howarth, Hurd, Key, Kramer, Leigh, McLoughlin, Neill, Price, Randall, Stanley, Steen, Turner, Villiers, Watkinson, Whitehead, Wiggin, Willetts, Heald (teller), Battle (teller)