Blow for Cameron as 128 Tory MPs vote against gay marriage

Tory opponents of the bill outnumber supporters as just 117 Conservative MPs vote in favour.

Update: The final figures showed that 128 Tory MPs voted against the bill (six fewer than at its second reading), with 117 voting in favour, six fewer than last time round. I've posted a full list of those MPs who opposed the bill below.

MPs have just voted in favour of the third reading of the equal marriage bill by 366 to 161, but in a significant blow to David Cameron, 136 Conservative MPs are thought to have voted against it, including Environment Secretary Owen Paterson and Welsh Secretary David Jones, with just 123 voting in favour. If confirmed, those figures would mean that more Tories opposed the bill this time round than at its second reading, when 134 voted against it (excluding tellers), and that fewer supported it (127 did so last time).

That so many Conservative MPs voted against the bill makes it easier for Labour to claim credit for its passage. In an email to Labour activists earlier tonight, Yvette Cooper urged them to tweet "I'm proud to be part of @uklabour today and proud that we're one step closer to #equalmarriage in Britain."

The Lib Dems have similarly declared that they are "proud to be delivering" equal marriage, but the Conservatives, perhaps fearful of provoking further grassroots anger, are silent.

Conservatives: 128 voted against

Nigel Adams (Selby & Ainsty), Adam Afriyie (Windsor), Peter Aldous (Waveney), David Amess (Southend West), Richard Bacon (Norfolk South), Guto Bebb (Aberconwy), Henry Bellingham (Norfolk North West), Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley), Andrew Bingham (High Peak), Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West & Abingdon), Peter Bone (Wellingborough), Graham Brady (Altrincham & Sale West), Julian Brazier (Canterbury), Andrew Bridgen (Leicestershire North West), Steve Brine (Winchester), Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Robert Buckland (Swindon South), Simon Burns (Chelmsford), David Burrowes (Enfield Southgate), Douglas Carswell (Clacton), Bill Cash (Stone), Rehman Chishti (Gillingham & Rainham), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal), Geoffrey Cox (Devon West & Torridge), Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire), David Davies (Monmouth), Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire), Philip Davies (Shipley), David Davis (Haltemprice & Howden), Nick de Bois (Enfield North), Nadine Dorries (Bedfordshire Mid), Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock), Richard Drax (Dorset South), Philip Dunne (Ludlow), Charlie Elphicke (Dover), Graham Evans (Weaver Vale), Jonathan Evans (Cardiff North), David Evennett (Bexleyheath & Crayford), Dr Liam Fox (Somerset North), Mark Francois (Rayleigh & Wickford), George Freeman (Norfolk Mid), Roger Gale (Thanet North), Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough), Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest), Cheryl Gillan (Chesham & Amersham), John Glen (Salisbury), Robert Goodwill (Scarborough & Whitby), James Gray (Wiltshire North), Andrew Griffiths (Burton), Robert Halfon (Harlow), Simon Hart (Carmarthen West & Pembrokeshire South), Sir Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden), John Hayes (South Holland & The Deepings), Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire North East), Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne & Sheppey), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), Adam Holloway (Gravesham), Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot), Stewart Jackson (Peterborough), Gareth Johnson (Dartford), David Jones (Clwyd West), Marcus Jones (Nuneaton), Chris Kelly (Dudley South), Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne), Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford), Edward Leigh (Gainsborough), Julian Lewis (New Forest East), Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater & Somerset West), David Lidington (Aylesbury), Peter Lilley (Hitchin & Harpenden), Jonathan Lord (Woking), Tim Loughton (Worthing East & Shoreham), Karen Lumley (Redditch), Karl McCartney (Lincoln), Anne McIntosh (Thursk and Malton), Stephen McPartland (Stevenage), Esther McVey (Wirral West), Anne Main (St Albans), Paul Maynard (Blackpool North & Cleveleys), Stephen Metcalfe (Basildon South & Thurrock East), Anne Milton (Guildford), Nicky Morgan (Loughborough), Anne-Marie Morris (Newton Abbot), David Morris (Morecambe & Lunesdale), James Morris (Halesowen & Rowley Regis), Bob Neill (Bromley & Chislehurst), David Nuttall (Bury North), Stephen O’Brien (Eddisbury), Matthew Offord (Hendon), Jim Paice (Cambridgeshire South East), Neil Parish (Tiverton & Honiton), Priti Patel (Witham), Owen Paterson (Shropshire North), Mark Pawsey (Rugby), Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead), Mark Pritchard (Wrekin, The), John Redwood (Wokingham), Jacob Rees-Mogg (Somerset North East), Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington), Andrew Robathan (Leicestershire South), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Andrew Rosindell (Romford), David Rutley (Macclesfield), Lee Scott (Ilford North), Andrew Selous (Bedfordshire South West), Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet & Rothwell), Sir Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills), Henry Smith (Crawley), Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge & Malling), John Stevenson (Carlisle), Bob Stewart (Beckenham), Mel Stride (Devon Central), Julian Sturdy (York Outer), Robert Syms (Poole), David Tredinnick (Bosworth), Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight), Shailesh Vara (Cambridgeshire North West), Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes), Ben Wallace (Wyre & Preston North), Robert Walter (Dorset North), James Wharton (Stockton South), Heather Wheeler (Derbyshire South), Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley), John Whittingdale (Maldon), Bill Wiggin (Herefordshire North), Gavin Williamson (Staffordshire South), Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth & Southam)

Labour: 14

Joe Benton (Bootle), Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill), Rosie Cooper (Lancashire West), David Crausby (Bolton North East), Jim Dobbin (Heywood & Middleton), Brian Donohoe (Ayrshire Central), Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South), Mary Glindon (Tyneside North), Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green), Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe & Sale East), George Mudie (Leeds East), Paul Murphy (Torfaen), Stephen Pound (Ealing North), Stephen Timms (East Ham).

Liberal Democrats: 4

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley), John Pugh (Southport), Sarah Teather (Brent Central).

DUP: 8

Gregory Campbell (Londonderry East), Nigel Dodds (Belfast North), Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley), Rev William McCrea (Antrim South), Ian Paisley Junior (Antrim North), Jim Shannon (Strangford), David Simpson (Upper Bann), Sammy Wilson (Antrim East).

Independent

Lady Sylvia Hermon (Down North).

David Cameron leaves 10 Downing Street in London, on February 6, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

GETTY
Show Hide image

North Yorkshire has approved the UK’s first fracking tests in five years. What does this mean?

Is fracking the answer to the UK's energy future? Or a serious risk to the environment?

Shale gas operation has been approved in North Yorkshire, the first since a ban introduced after two minor earthquakes in 2011 were shown to be caused by fracking in the area. On Tuesday night, after two days of heated debate, North Yorkshire councillors finally granted an application to frack in the North York Moors National Park.

The vote by the Tory-dominated council was passed by seven votes to four, and sets an important precedent for the scores of other applications still awaiting decision across the country. It also gives a much-needed boost to David Cameron’s 2014 promise to “go all out for shale”. But with regional authorities pitted against local communities, and national government in dispute with global NGOs, what is the wider verdict on the industry?

What is fracking?

Fracking, or “hydraulic fracturing”, is the extraction of shale gas from deep underground. A mixture of water, sand and chemicals is pumped into the earth at such high pressure that it literally fractures the rocks and releases the gas trapped inside.

Opponents claim that the side effects include earthquakes, polluted ground water, and noise and traffic pollution. The image the industry would least like you to associate with the process is this clip of a man setting fire to a running tap, from the 2010 US documentary Gasland

Advocates dispute the above criticisms, and instead argue that shale gas extraction will create jobs, help the UK transition to a carbon-neutral world, reduce reliance on imports and boost tax revenues.

So do these claims stands up? Let’s take each in turn...

Will it create jobs? Yes, but mostly in the short-term.

Industry insiders imply that job creation in the UK could rival that seen in the US, while the medium-sized production company Cuadrilla claims that shale gas production would create 1,700 jobs in Lancashire alone.

But claims about employment may be exaggerated. A US study overseen by Penn State University showed only one in seven of the jobs the industry forecast actually materialised. In the UK, a Friends of the Earth report contends that the majority of jobs to be created by fracking in Lancashire would only be short-term – with under 200 surviving the initial burst.

Environmentalists, in contrast, point to evidence that green energy creates more jobs than similar-sized fossil fuel investments.  And it’s not just climate campaigners who don’t buy the employment promise. Trade union members also have their doubts. Ian Gallagher, Secretary of Blackburn and District Trade Unions Council, told Friends of the Earth that: “Investment in the areas identified by the Million Climate Jobs Campaign [...] is a far more certain way of addressing both climate change and economic growth than drilling for shale gas.”

Will it deliver cleaner energy? Not as completely as renewables would.

America’s “shale revolution” has been credited with reversing the country’s reliance on dirty coal and helping them lead the world in carbon-emissions reduction. Thanks to the relatively low carbon dioxide content of natural gas (emitting half the amount of coal to generate the same amount of electricity), fracking helped the US reduce its annual emissions of carbon dioxide by 556 million metric tons between 2007 and 2014. Banning it, advocates argue, would “immediately increase the use of coal”.

Yet a new report from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (previously known for its opposition to wind farm applications), has laid out a number of ways that the UK government can meet its target of 80 per cent emissions reduction by 2050 without necessarily introducing fracking and without harming the natural world. Renewable, home-produced, energy, they argue, could in theory cover the UK’s energy needs three times over. They’ve even included some handy maps:


Map of UK land available for renewable technologies. Source: RSPB’s 2050 Energy Vision.

Will it deliver secure energy? Yes, up to a point.

For energy to be “sustainable” it also has to be secure; it has to be available on demand and not threatened by international upheaval. Gas-fired “peaking” plants can be used to even-out input into the electricity grid when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind is not so blowy. The government thus claims that fracking is an essential part of the UK’s future “energy mix”, which, if produced domestically, will also free us from reliance on imports tarnished by volatile Russian politics.

But, time is running out. Recent analysis by Carbon Brief suggests that we are only have five years left of current CO2 emission levels before we blow the carbon budget and risk breaching the climate’s crucial 1.5°C tipping point. Whichever energy choices we make now need to starting brining down the carbon over-spend immediately.

Will it help stablise the wider economy? Yes, but not forever.

With so many “Yes, buts...” in the above list, you might wonder why the government is still pressing so hard for fracking’s expansion? Part of the answer may lie in their vested interest in supporting the wider industry.

Tax revenues from UK oil and gas generate a large portion of the government’s income. In 2013-14, the revenue from license fees, petroleum revenue tax, corporation tax and the supplementary charge accounted for nearly £5bn of UK exchequer receipts. The Treasury cannot afford to lose these, as evidenced in the last budget when George Osborne further subsidied North Sea oil operations through increased tax breaks.

The more that the Conservatives support the industry, the more they can tax it. In 2012 DECC said it wanted to “guarantee... every last economic drop of oil and gas is produced for the benefit of the UK”. This sentiment was repeated yesterday by energy minister Andrea Leadsom, when she welcomed the North Yorkshire decision and described fracking as a “fantastic opportunity”.

Dependence on finite domestic fuel reserves, however, is not a long-term economic solution. Not least because they will either run out or force us to exceed international emissions treaties: “Pensions already have enough stranded assets as they are,” says Danielle Pafford from 350.org.

Is it worth it? Most European countries have decided it’s not.

There is currently no commercial shale-gas drilling in Europe. Sustained protests against the industry in Romania, combined with poor exploration results, have already caused energy giant Chevron to pull out of the country. Total has also abandonned explorations in Denmark, Poland is being referred to the European Court of Justice for failing to adequately assess fracking’s impact, and, in Germany, brewers have launched special bottle-caps with the slogan “Nein! Zu Fracking” to warn against the threat to their water supply.

Back in the UK, the government's latest survey of public attitudes to fracking found that 44 per cent neither supported nor opposed the practice, but also that opinion is gradually shifting out of favour. If the government doesn't come up with arguments that hold water soon, it seems likely that the UK's fracking future could still be blasted apart.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.