UK 16 September 2015 How did the government pass cuts to tax credits by a majority of 35? Last night, the Conservatives won a vote to cut tax credits by 35 votes – but they have a majority of just 12. How did it happen? Photo: Getty Images Sign UpGet the New Statesman's Morning Call email. Sign-up Last night, the Conservatives won a vote on cuttiing tax credits by £4.4bn - which could amount to a cut of £1,000 a year for three million families, according to Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Seema Malhotra. Now, we'd expect the Tories to win, as they have a majority of 12, meaning if every other party in the Commons – Labour, the SNP, the Northern Irish parties, the Liberal Democrats, and the lone Green MP – votes against the government, and just two Tory MPs (David Davis, and Stephen McPartland) rebelled, they’d still get the vote through. (Six Conservative MPs need to rebel for the Tories to be defeated.) But instead the Tories won with a majority of 35, sparking anger and confusion on social media. What happened? First things first: although the government technically has a majority of 12, in reality, they have a majority of 16. The Speaker, John Bercow, and his deputies, don't vote, the net effect of which is to reduce the number of anti-Conservative MPs. And Sinn Féin, who have four MPs in Northern Ireland, don't take their seats in Parliament. Equally importantly, plans to cut tax credits are only at second reading - read more about how a bill becomes law here - when the numbers in defeat are less important than during amendments or at committee stage. (When laws come up before the courts, judges take into account points made in debate at this stage and the "strength of feeling" on an issue. So, if, say, the Assisted Dying Bill had become law, but large numbers had voted for stronger safeguards, judges might take a more cautious reading of the law than if it had sailed through with an overwhelming majority.) At any given time, some MPs will be absent due to illness, care duties to elderly relatives or small children, or foreign trips. Government ministers or oppostion frontbenchers may have appointments they can't miss. The pairing system means that if, say, a Conservative MP is on maternity leave, a Labour MP just won't turn up. At present, the Labour MP Rachel Reeves is on maternity leave, while Thanggam Debbonaire, another Labour MP, is undergoing chemotherapy, meaning both have been absent from key votes in recent days. A party's "whips" are meant to make sure that the numbers add up. (This, incidentally, explains what John Rentoul calls "the first rule" of political journalism: "Don't do a Top 10 Laziest MPs. You always include people dying of cancer." ) And because the Conservatives have a majority of 12, Labour whips, if they've done the numbers right, will often let Labour MPs go home early, to see their families or work in the constituencies or lie in bed with a cold. (As will the Conservatives.) It tends only to be narrow votes - or government defeats, like on the referendum and the plans to kick out John Bercow - that are fully attended. In this instance, Labour's Whips' office, like Labour's frontbench, is still under construction, perhaps accounting for the mess-up. Tory whips, fearing a bigger rebellion than arrived, ensured that their MPs voted in greater numbers, suspended pairing, and called in George Osborne to reassure uneasy backbenchers, which is why the bigger victory happened. Below is the full list of ayes, noes and absentees: Ayes Adams, Nigel Afriyie, Adam Aldous, Peter Allan, Lucy Allen, Heidi Amess, Sir David Andrew, Stuart Ansell, Caroline Argar, Edward Atkins, Victoria Bacon, Mr Richard Baker, Mr Steve Baldwin, Harriett Barclay, Stephen Baron, Mr John Barwell, Gavin Bebb, Guto Bellingham, Mr Henry Benyon, Richard Beresford, Sir Paul Berry, Jake Berry, James Bingham, Andrew Blackman, Bob Blackwood, Nicola Blunt, Crispin Boles, Nick Bone, Mr Peter Borwick, Victoria Bottomley, Sir Peter Bradley, Karen Brady, Mr Graham Brazier, Mr Julian Bridgen, Andrew Brine, Steve Brokenshire, rh James Bruce, Fiona Buckland, Robert Burns, Conor Burns, rh Sir Simon Burrowes, Mr David Burt, rh Alistair Cairns, Alun Cameron, rh Mr David Carmichael, Neil Carswell, Mr Douglas Cartlidge, James Cash, Sir William Caulfield, Maria Chalk, Alex Chishti, Rehman Chope, Mr Christopher Churchill, Jo Clark, rh Greg Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth Cleverly, James Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Coffey, Dr Thérèse Collins, Damian Colvile, Oliver Costa, Alberto Cox, Mr Geoffrey Crabb, rh Stephen Crouch, Tracey Davies, Byron Davies, Chris Davies, David T. C. Davies, Glyn Davies, Dr James Davies, Mims Davies, Philip Dinenage, Caroline Djanogly, Mr Jonathan Donelan, Michelle Dorries, Nadine Double, Steve Dowden, Oliver Doyle-Price, Jackie Drax, Richard Drummond, Mrs Flick Duddridge, James Duncan, rh Sir Alan Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain Dunne, Mr Philip Ellis, Michael Ellison, Jane Ellwood, Mr Tobias Elphicke, Charlie Eustice, George Evans, Graham Evans, Mr Nigel Evennett, rh Mr David Fabricant, Michael Fallon, rh Michael Fernandes, Suella Field, rh Mark Foster, Kevin Fox, rh Dr Liam Francois, rh Mr Mark Frazer, Lucy Freeman, George Freer, Mike Fuller, Richard Fysh, Marcus Gale, Sir Roger Garnier, rh Sir Edward Garnier, Mark Gauke, Mr David Ghani, Nusrat Gibb, Mr Nick Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl Glen, John Goldsmith, Zac Goodwill, Mr Robert Gove, rh Michael Graham, Richard Grant, Mrs Helen Gray, Mr James Grayling, rh Chris Green, Chris Green, rh Damian Greening, rh Justine Grieve, rh Mr Dominic Griffiths, Andrew Gummer, Ben Gyimah, Mr Sam Halfon, rh Robert Hall, Luke Hammond, rh Mr Philip Hammond, Stephen Hancock, rh Matthew Hands, rh Greg Harper, rh Mr Mark Harrington, Richard Harris, Rebecca Hart, Simon Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan Hayes, rh Mr John Heald, Sir Oliver Heappey, James Heaton-Harris, Chris Heaton-Jones, Peter Henderson, Gordon Herbert, rh Nick Hermon, Lady Hinds, Damian Hoare, Simon Hollingbery, George Hollinrake, Kevin Hollobone, Mr Philip Holloway, Mr Adam Hopkins, Kris Howarth, Sir Gerald Howell, John Howlett, Ben Huddleston, Nigel Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy Hurd, Mr Nick Jackson, Mr Stewart James, Margot Javid, rh Sajid Jayawardena, Mr Ranil Jenkin, Mr Bernard Jenkyns, Andrea Jenrick, Robert Johnson, Boris Johnson, Gareth Johnson, Joseph Jones, Andrew Jones, rh Mr David Jones, Mr Marcus Kawczynski, Daniel Kennedy, Seema Knight, rh Sir Greg Knight, Julian Kwarteng, Kwasi Lancaster, Mark Latham, Pauline Leadsom, Andrea Lee, Dr Phillip Lefroy, Jeremy Leigh, Sir Edward Leslie, Charlotte Letwin, rh Mr Oliver Lewis, Brandon Lewis, rh Dr Julian Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian Lidington, rh Mr David Lilley, rh Mr Peter Lopresti, Jack Lord, Jonathan Loughton, Tim Lumley, Karen Mackinlay, Craig Mackintosh, David Main, Mrs Anne Mak, Mr Alan Malthouse, Kit Mann, Scott Mathias, Dr Tania May, rh Mrs Theresa Maynard, Paul McCartney, Jason McCartney, Karl McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick Menzies, Mark Mercer, Johnny Merriman, Huw Metcalfe, Stephen Miller, rh Mrs Maria Milling, Amanda Mills, Nigel Milton, rh Anne Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew Mordaunt, Penny Morgan, rh Nicky Morris, Anne Marie Morris, David Morris, James Morton, Wendy Mowat, David Mundell, rh David Murray, Mrs Sheryll Murrison, Dr Andrew Neill, Robert Nokes, Caroline Norman, Jesse Nuttall, Mr David Offord, Dr Matthew Opperman, Guy Osborne, rh Mr George Parish, Neil Patel, rh Priti Paterson, rh Mr Owen Pawsey, Mark Penning, rh Mike Penrose, John Perry, Claire Phillips, Stephen Philp, Chris Pincher, Christopher Poulter, Dr Daniel Pow, Rebecca Prentis, Victoria Prisk, Mr Mark Pritchard, Mark Pursglove, Tom Quin, Jeremy Quince, Will Raab, Mr Dominic Redwood, rh John Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob Robertson, Mr Laurence Robinson, Mary Rosindell, Andrew Rudd, rh Amber Rutley, David Sandbach, Antoinette Scully, Paul Selous, Andrew Shapps, rh Grant Sharma, Alok Shelbrooke, Alec Simpson, rh Mr Keith Skidmore, Chris Smith, Chloe Smith, Henry Smith, Julian Smith, Royston Soames, rh Sir Nicholas Solloway, Amanda Soubry, rh Anna Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline Spencer, Mark Stephenson, Andrew Stevenson, John Stewart, Bob Stewart, Iain Stewart, Rory Streeter, Mr Gary Stride, Mel Stuart, Graham Sturdy, Julian Sunak, Rishi Swayne, rh Mr Desmond Swire, rh Mr Hugo Syms, Mr Robert Thomas, Derek Throup, Maggie Timpson, Edward Tolhurst, Kelly Tomlinson, Justin Tomlinson, Michael Tracey, Craig Tredinnick, David Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie Truss, rh Elizabeth Tugendhat, Tom Turner, Mr Andrew Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew Vaizey, Mr Edward Vara, Mr Shailesh Vickers, Martin Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa Walker, Mr Charles Walker, Mr Robin Wallace, Mr Ben Warburton, David Warman, Matt Watkinson, Dame Angela Wharton, James Whately, Helen Wheeler, Heather White, Chris Whittaker, Craig Whittingdale, rh Mr John Wiggin, Bill Williams, Craig Williamson, rh Gavin Wilson, Mr Rob Wollaston, Dr Sarah Wood, Mike Wragg, William Wright, rh Jeremy Zahawi, Nadhim Tellers for the Ayes: Simon Kirby Sarah Newton Noes Abrahams, Debbie Ahmed-Sheikh, Ms Tasmina Alexander, Heidi Ali, Rushanara Allen, Mr Graham Anderson, Mr David Arkless, Richard Ashworth, Jonathan Austin, Ian Bailey, Mr Adrian Bardell, Hannah Barron, rh Kevin Beckett, rh Margaret Benn, rh Hilary Betts, Mr Clive Black, Mhairi Blackford, Ian Blackman, Kirsty Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta Blenkinsop, Tom Blomfield, Paul Boswell, Philip Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben Brennan, Kevin Brock, Deidre Brown, Alan Brown, Lyn Brown, rh Mr Nicholas Bryant, Chris Buck, Ms Karen Burden, Richard Burgon, Richard Burnham, rh Andy Butler, Dawn Byrne, rh Liam Cadbury, Ruth Cameron, Dr Lisa Campbell, rh Mr Alan Campbell, Mr Gregory Campbell, Mr Ronnie Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair Champion, Sarah Chapman, Douglas Chapman, Jenny Cherry, Joanna Clegg, rh Mr Nick Clwyd, rh Ann Coaker, Vernon Coffey, Ann Cooper, Julie Cooper, Rosie Cooper, rh Yvette Corbyn, rh Jeremy Cowan, Ronnie Cox, Jo Coyle, Neil Crausby, Mr David Crawley, Angela Creagh, Mary Creasy, Stella Cruddas, Jon Cryer, John Cummins, Judith Cunningham, Alex Cunningham, Mr Jim David, Wayne Davies, Geraint Davis, rh Mr David De Piero, Gloria Docherty, Martin John Dodds, rh Mr Nigel Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson, Stuart Doughty, Stephen Dowd, Jim Dowd, Peter Dromey, Jack Dugher, Michael Durkan, Mark Eagle, Ms Angela Eagle, Maria Edwards, Jonathan Efford, Clive Elliott, Julie Elliott, Tom Esterson, Bill Evans, Chris Farrelly, Paul Farron, Tim Fellows, Marion Ferrier, Margaret Field, rh Frank Fitzpatrick, Jim Flello, Robert Fletcher, Colleen Flint, rh Caroline Flynn, Paul Fovargue, Yvonne Foxcroft, Vicky Gapes, Mike Gardiner, Barry Gethins, Stephen Gibson, Patricia Glass, Pat Glindon, Mary Godsiff, Mr Roger Goodman, Helen Grady, Patrick Grant, Peter Gray, Neil Green, Kate Greenwood, Lilian Greenwood, Margaret Gwynne, Andrew Haigh, Louise Hanson, rh Mr David Harman, rh Ms Harriet Harpham, Harry Harris, Carolyn Hayes, Helen Hayman, Sue Healey, rh John Hendrick, Mr Mark Hendry, Drew Hepburn, Mr Stephen Hillier, Meg Hodge, rh Dame Margaret Hodgson, Mrs Sharon Hoey, Kate Hollern, Kate Hopkins, Kelvin Hosie, Stewart Howarth, rh Mr George Hunt, Tristram Huq, Dr Rupa Hussain, Imran Irranca-Davies, Huw Jarvis, Dan Johnson, rh Alan Johnson, Diana Jones, Gerald Jones, Graham Jones, Helen Jones, Mr Kevan Jones, Susan Elan Kane, Mike Keeley, Barbara Kendall, Liz Kerevan, George Kerr, Calum Kinnock, Stephen Kyle, Peter Lamb, rh Norman Lammy, rh Mr David Lavery, Ian Law, Chris Leslie, Chris Lewis, Clive Long Bailey, Rebecca Lucas, Caroline Lucas, Ian C. Lynch, Holly MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan Mactaggart, rh Fiona Madders, Justin Mahmood, Mr Khalid Mahmood, Shabana Malhotra, Seema Mann, John Marris, Rob Marsden, Mr Gordon Maskell, Rachael Matheson, Christian McCabe, Steve McCaig, Callum McCarthy, Kerry McDonagh, Siobhain McDonald, Andy McDonald, Stewart Malcolm McDonald, Stuart C. McDonnell, John McFadden, rh Mr Pat McGarry, Natalie McGinn, Conor McGovern, Alison McInnes, Liz McKinnell, Catherine McLaughlin, Anne McPartland, Stephen Meacher, rh Mr Michael Meale, Sir Alan Mearns, Ian Miliband, rh Edward Monaghan, Carol Monaghan, Dr Paul Moon, Mrs Madeleine Morden, Jessica Morris, Grahame M. Mulholland, Greg Mullin, Roger Murray, Ian Newlands, Gavin Nicolson, John Onn, Melanie Onwurah, Chi Osamor, Kate Oswald, Kirsten Owen, Albert Paisley, Ian Paterson, Steven Pearce, Teresa Pennycook, Matthew Perkins, Toby Phillips, Jess Phillipson, Bridget Pound, Stephen Powell, Lucy Pugh, John Qureshi, Yasmin Rayner, Angela Reed, Mr Jamie Reed, Mr Steve Rees, Christina Reynolds, Emma Reynolds, Jonathan Rimmer, Marie Ritchie, Ms Margaret Robertson, rh Angus Robinson, Gavin Robinson, Mr Geoffrey Rotheram, Steve Ryan, rh Joan Salmond, rh Alex Saville Roberts, Liz Shannon, Jim Sharma, Mr Virendra Sheerman, Mr Barry Sheppard, Tommy Sherriff, Paula Shuker, Mr Gavin Siddiq, Tulip Simpson, David Skinner, Mr Dennis Slaughter, Andy Smeeth, Ruth Smith, rh Mr Andrew Smith, Angela Smith, Cat Smith, Jeff Smith, Nick Smith, Owen Smyth, Karin Spellar, rh Mr John Starmer, Keir Stephens, Chris Stevens, Jo Streeting, Wes Stringer, Graham Stuart, rh Ms Gisela Tami, Mark Thewliss, Alison Thomas, Mr Gareth Thomas-Symonds, Nick Thompson, Owen Thomson, Michelle Thornberry, Emily Timms, rh Stephen Trickett, Jon Turley, Anna Turner, Karl Twigg, Derek Twigg, Stephen Umunna, Mr Chuka Vaz, rh Keith Vaz, Valerie Watson, Mr Tom Weir, Mike West, Catherine Whiteford, Dr Eilidh Whitehead, Dr Alan Whitford, Dr Philippa Williams, Hywel Williams, Mr Mark Wilson, Corri Winnick, Mr David Winterton, rh Ms Rosie Wishart, Pete Woodcock, John Wright, Mr Iain Zeichner, Daniel Absentees Laing, Eleanor Percy, Andrew Pickles, Eric Wilson, Sammy Abbott, Diane Danczuk, Simon Debbonaire, Thangam Engel, Natascha Griffith, Nia Hamilton, Fabian Hoyle, Lindsay Kaufman, Gerald Khan, Sadiq Lewell-Buck, Emma Lewis, Ivan Nandy, Lisa Reeves, Rachel Shah, Naz Berger, Luciana Ellman, Louise Brake, Tom McDonnell, Alasdair Brady, Mickey Doherty, Pat Maskey, Paul Molloy, Francie Day, Martyn McNally, John O’Hara, Brendan Bercow, John Kinahan, Danny › Space salad and twin studies: what did astronauts learn on their latest space station mission? Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics. Subscribe For daily analysis & more political coverage from Westminster and beyond subscribe for just £1 per month!