Embattled Liz Truss pulls out of factory visit ahead of showdown with Tory rebels over fracking

19 October 2022, 14:23 | Updated: 19 October 2022, 14:51

Liz Truss's whips have described the fracking vote as a motion of confidence in her Govt
Liz Truss's whips have described the fracking vote as a motion of confidence in her Govt. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Liz Truss has turned a vote on fracking into a vote of confidence in her Government after ordering MPs to back her, as she pulled out of a factory visit without giving a reason.

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The Commons will vote on a Labour motion on Wednesday night which Sir Keir Starmer's party hopes will allow for time to debate on the controversial method of gas extraction.

Its MPs hope that could lead to a vote on whether to ban fracking, just weeks after Ms Truss said she was ending the moratorium on it.

But Conservative whips have told the party's MPs: "This is not a motion on fracking. This is a confidence motion in the government.

"We cannot, under any circumstances, let the Labour Party take control of the order paper.

"We are voting NO and I reiterate, this is a hard three line whip with all slips withdrawn."

Liz Truss wants to turn a fracking motion into a confidence vote
Liz Truss wants to turn a fracking motion into a confidence vote. Picture: Alamy

It means any Tories who defy the vote face being thrown out of the party.

While several Conservatives support fracking, some have concerns about its environmental effects and local opposition in their constituencies.

Ms Truss will hope the strict party line will see off a rebellion at a time when her grip on the the keys to No10 has never been weaker, after a disastrous short tenure in the top job.

She pulled out of a factory visit she was due to embark on after Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) along with the media without giving a reason.

Read more: 'Gone, gone, gone, when are you going?': Tetchy Truss insists she is a 'fighter not a quitter' in make-or-break PMQs

But reports suggest some Tories had been speaking to Labour over their worries about fracking.

Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband MP said: "Labour will stand with communities in opposing the Conservatives' dodgy plans to impose expensive, dirty, and dangerous fracking on the British people.

"Fracking would make no difference to energy prices, and could risk the health of local communities, nature, and water supplies."

Fracking is a contentious issue in some communities
Fracking is a contentious issue in some communities. Picture: Alamy

Labour's shadow leader of the House of Commons Thangam Debbonaire said: "The consequence of making this a confidence vote is that if the government loses the motion on fracking, the Prime Minister will resign and the government will fall.

"The Tories must urgently confirm this is the case."

Conservative William Wragg has said he had "lodged" a letter of no confidence in Ms Truss with Sir Graham Brady, the head of the backbench 1922 Committee.

He said he would have to vote with the Government to avoid losing the party whip, which would stop him being vice-chairman of the 1922 Committee.

"I would no longer maintain a position as a chair of one of the select committees of the House. And indeed, because of that, my letter lodged with my honourable friend, the member for Altrincham and Sale West, would fall, and I wish to maintain that letter with my honourable friend," he said.

Read more: Truss insists she's 'completely committed' to triple lock pension pledge as inflation pushed back up to double figures

The Prime Minister had to dismiss Sir Keir Starmer's question in PMQs over why she had not resigned despite her U-turns on almost all her economic policies – which sent the markets and the pound tumbling – and booted out ex-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rishi Sunak-supporter Jeremy Hunt was then parachuted in with a mandate to stabilise the Government and its economic credibility.

Sir Keir said: "45p tax cut, gone. Corporation tax cut, gone. 20p tax cut, gone. Two year energy freeze, gone. Tax free shopping, gone. Economic credibility, gone.

"And her supposed best friend the former Chancellor, he's gone as well. They're all gone, so why is she still here?"

Ms Truss slammed her notes on the dispatch box and said she is a "fighter and not a quitter" to Tory cheers and bemused opposition MPs' jeering.

She said she would work in the national interest and had "delivered" on energy bills, the reversal of the National Insurance hike and on tackling trade unions.