Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt keeps government job despite voting against fracking

 
Charlotte Henry
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Munt campaigns alongside Nick Clegg in 2010 (Source: Getty)

Yesterday City A.M. revealed that a junior member of the coalition, Lib Dem Tessa Munt, was jeopardising her government role advising business secretary Vince Cable by continuing to push for a moratorium on fracking.

The Somerset MP delivered a petition of 8,688 signatures against the shale gas exploration in her area to the Number 10 Downing Street just hours before the crunch vote in the Commons, in which she voted for a moratorium, going against government policy.

A well-placed source has confirmed that voting against a moratorium was a three line whip from the government, meaning Lib Dem and Conservative MPs have to vote for it, or face serious sanction. This is even more the case with Munt, as a member of government, who normally would be expected to resign if she is unable to vote for its policy.
However, in a statement just released by Munt, she has confirmed she is staying in the role, writing:
Yesterday I joined 51 colleagues and, confirming my opposition to fracking in Somerset on principle, I rebelled against the government, voting for a moratorium - or 'freeze' - on fracking.
Unfortunately, the Labour Party sat on its hands, although it claimed to support the moratorium endorsed by the Environmental Audit Committee’s Report published yesterday morning. Interestingly, two of Britain’s biggest unions – the GMB and Unite - weighed in yesterday, begging Labour MPs not to support a ban on fracking. This may go some way to explaining the confusion over what was happening in the House of Commons and Labour’s 180˚ about-turn.
Over the last years, months, weeks and days, I have been clear that I could not support fracking. I have tried to force a rethink and as a result of various negotiations, a new clause strengthening the rules and regulations around fracking was accepted by Government Ministers and has been included in the Bill. The improvements are a significant achievement and move the Bill in the right direction. Nonetheless, I continued to push for an outright ban on fracking.
My petition was launched last Friday. This kept the pressure up over the weekend as it attracted almost 2,000 signatures in just over 48 hours, demonstrating the enormous opposition to fracking in Somerset. I presented this, together with another petition, to Number 10 Downing Street yesterday, with a total of 8,688 Somerset signatures calling for a fracking freeze altogether.
When it became clear that the government would not move any further, I voted for the moratorium along with 51 other members of the ‘awkward squad’. As a result, the Conservatives won by 308 to 52 votes.
Disappointingly, Labour called for two other votes during the short debate on the ‘fracking’ part of the Bill, the effect of which was not to allow time for any votes on the proposed changes to the trespass laws.
At the end of the evening, Labour again sat on its hands and didn't call a vote on Third Reading, so the Bill finished its course through the House of Commons.
Today, I have continued to pursue my duties as Vince Cable’s PPS, despite voting against the government and calling for a fracking freeze. I have attended two meetings this morning, and assisted three MPs (one government, two opposition) with matters concerning businesses in their constituencies.
I remain firmly opposed to fracking and will continue to campaign against it in Somerset and elsewhere.

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