List of Government defeats in the House of Commons (1945–present)

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To date, Prime Minister David Cameron has suffered six defeats in the House of Commons.

The following article is a list of government defeats in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom on whipped votes since 1945. (Votes on private member's bills, private bills and internal matters of the House of Commons are not whipped votes and so are not listed below).

Most government defeats since World War II have occurred in periods of minority government or where the government has a small majority. Government defeats have been caused by backbench rebellions and by opposition parties voting against a government when they had more MPs present in the House of Commons.

Attlee[edit]

  • 29 March 1950 - A motion to adjourn a debate on fuel was won by the Opposition 283-257.[1]
  • 9 April 1951 - An order to reduce cheese rations was defeated
  • 5 July 1951 - Motion for a Prayer to annul the Plasterboard (Prices) (No. 1) Order
  • 16 July 1951 - Defeat on compulsory purchases of forestry.

Churchill (2nd term)[edit]

Eden[edit]

Anthony Eden's Government suffered no defeats in the House of Commons.[1]

Macmillan[edit]

Harold Macmillan's Government suffered no defeats in the House of Commons.[1]

Douglas-Home[edit]

Alec Douglas-Home's Government suffered no defeats in the House of Commons.[1]

Wilson[edit]

Heath[edit]

Edward Heath's government suffered six defeats in the House of Commons during its four years in office.

  • 24 April 1972 - A new clause, tabled by the Conservative backbencher Geoffrey Finsberg, to the Housing Finance Bill, which related to service charges for unfurnished lettings, was passed with support of opposition parties by 251-247. However, the motion to add the new clause to the bill was later voted down by 245-242.[5]
  • 19 July 1972 - An amendment, moved by Conservative backbencher Arthur Jones, to the Local Government Bill, which sought to give new district councils the power to control refuse disposal, was passed with the support of opposition parties by 190-186.[6]
  • 20 October 1972 - A Labour amendment to a Lords Amendment on the Criminal Justice Bill which sought to reduce the minimum age for jury service from 21 to 18 was passed by 53-47.[7]
  • 22 November 1972 - A Labour motion to disapprove of the government's Statement of Immigration Rules for Control on Entry was passed by 275-240.[8]
  • 13 June 1973 - The second reading of a new clause to the Maplin Development Bill, which orders the Civil Aviation Authority to consult on aerospace development, was approved, despite opposition from the government, by 267-250.[9]
  • 12 July 1973 - A government amendment to an opposition motion regarding export licences for sheep was rejected by 285-264.[10]

Wilson (2nd term)[edit]

Harold Wilson's second government suffered 25 defeats in the House of Commons between 1974 and 1976. The majority of these defeats, 18 in total, occurred in June and July 1974, when Wilson did not have a majority in the House of Commons after the February 1974 general election produced a hung parliament. Wilson called a further general election in October 1974 in an attempt to gain a majority. He did, however this majority was just three seats.

  • 19 June 1974 - The second reading of a government new clause to the Finance Bill, which sought to continue to exempt trade unions from certain taxes under section 338 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1970, was defeated by 308-299.[11]
  • 20 June 1974 - A government amendment to an opposition motion that regretted "the government's damaging industrial policy" was defeated by 311-290.[12]
  • 20 June 1974 - The aforementioned opposition motion that regretted "the government's damaging industrial policy" was passed, again by 311-290.[12]
  • 27 June 1974 - A government amendment to an opposition motion, endorsing the government's policy on local government finance, was rejected by 298-289.[13]
  • 27 June 1974 - An opposition motion, calling for a fundamental reform to the government's local government rates system, was passed by 298-289.[13]
  • 11 July 1974 - A Conservative amendment to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, which proposed to make the dismissal of an employee for not being a member of a trade union unfair, was passed by 291-290. The defeat was only realised the following day after the original division resulted in a tied vote of 290-290, however it then emerged that one too many 'no' votes had been counted.[1][14]
  • 11 July 1974 - A further amendment to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, which attempted to make the dismissal of an employee on the grounds on refusal to join a trade union unfair was passed by 283-282. Again, the government's defeat was only realised the following day when it became clear that a tied vote had been caused by the overcounting of the 'no' votes.[1][15]
  • 16 July 1974 - The second reading of a Conservative new clause to the Finance Bill, which proposed raising the two limits of Corporation Tax liability, was passed by 292-267.[16]
  • 16 July 1974 - An amendment to the Finance Bill to restrict the rate of pool betting duty was passed by 291-274.[17]
  • 16 July 1974 - A government amendment to the Finance Bill, designed to make VAT charges on the hiring of goods retrospective to April 1973, was defeated by 298-280.[18]
  • 16 July 1974 - A Liberal amendment to the Finance Bill, proposing to set the additional rate of income tax on investment incomes at 15% on incomes over £2,000, was passed by 296-280.[19]
  • 18 July 1974 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords Amendment to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Bill, which proposed to keep responsibility for health and safety in Agriculture with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, was defeated by 159-153.[20]
  • 18 July 1974 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords Amendment to the Health and Safety at Work etc. Bill, which proposed to give power to non-unionised employees to appoint health and safety representatives, was defeated by 147-143.[21]
  • 30 July 1974 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords new clause to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, which proposed to outlaw arbitrary exclusion of a person from a trade union, was defeated by 276-270.[22]
  • 30 July 1974 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords new clause to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, which required trade unions to have specified rules for conducting ballots for their governing bodies, was defeated by 280-269.[23]
  • 30 July 1974 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords amendment to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, which would allow trade unions who failed to follow the bill's rules to be deregistered, was defeated by 281-271.[24]
  • 30 July 1974 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords amendment to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, which would give protection to civil employees taking part in trade disputes, was defeated by 282-272.[25]
  • 30 July 1974 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords amendment to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill, which would restrict immunities to disputes in Britain and change the rules regarding strikes in Britain in support of foreign workers from the same multi-national company, was defeated by 280-272.[26]
  • 29 January 1975 - A government amendment to the Social Security Benefits Bill, which sought to the restore the earnings rule limit for retired people at £13, was defeated by 280-265.[27]
  • 2 July 1975 - A government amendment to the Industry Bill, which proposed to remove obligations on government to disclose forecasts of economic parameters to certain companies, was defeated by 220-149.[28]
  • 2 July 1975 - A government amendment to the Industry Act, which sought to remove Schedule 3 from the bill which would made all planning agreements conditional on the government disclosing economic forecasts, was rejected by 230-147.[29]
  • 17 July 1975 - A Conservative amendment to the Finance Bill, which proposed to exclude certain television sets from the higher 25% level of VAT, was passed by 108-106.[30]
  • 4 August 1975 - A government amendment to disagree with a Lords amendment to the Housing Finance (Special Provisions) Bill, which sought to delete a clause that would disqualify any councillors who failed to implement the Housing Finance Act 1972, was defeated by 268-261.[31]
  • 11 February 1976 - An opposition motion to reduce the salary of the Secretary of State for Industry by £1,000, in essence a motion of no confidence, was passed by 214-209.[32] However, the government Chief Whip, Robert Mellish, immediately raised questions as to the outcome of the vote in regards of alleged miscoutings, which in turn led to the government tabling a motion to counter the no confidence motion, which it won by 296-280.[33]
  • 10 March 1976 - A motion to approve the government's public expenditure policy was defeated by 284-256.[34] It is unclear as to whether this motion had any impact on Harold Wilson's resignation, which followed 6 days later.

Callaghan[edit]

Jim Callaghan’s government suffered 34 defeats in the House of Commons during its three years in office. Callaghan’s government was a minority one for virtually all of its existence, after the former cabinet minister John Stonehouse resigned from the Labour party just two days after Callaghan became Prime Minister, leaving Labour one seat short of an overall majority in the House of Commons.

  • 28 June 1976 - A motion for the House to adjourn following an opposition debate regarding the Child Benefit Scheme was passed by 259-0. The government abstained from the vote after it became clear that many Labour MPs were willing to break the whip to vote for the adjournment.[35]
  • 10 November 1978 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords amendment to the Dock Work Regulation Bill, which required the whole area designated a dock labour scheme to be inside a definable dock area, was defeated by 310-308.[36]
  • 10 November 1978 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords amendment to the Dock Work Regulation Bill, which sought to limit a definable dock area to within half a mile of a harbour, was defeated by 311-308.[36]
  • 7 February 1977 - The second reading of the Reducation of Redundancy Rebates Bill was rejected by 130-129.[37]
  • 22 February 1977 - A government motion to allocate time for the debating of the Scotland and Wales Bill is rejected by 312-283.[38]
  • 5 April 1977 - A motion for the House to adjourn following a debate on teacher training colleges in Scotland was passed by 203-185.[39]
  • 12 July 1977 - The third reading of the Local Authority Works (Scotland) Bill was rejected by 105-99.[40]
  • 13 July 1977 - A new clause to the Criminal Law Bill tabled by a Labour backbencher, which proposed to give people arrested the right to have a person informed of their imprisonment, was passed by 89-86.[41]
  • 22 November 1977 - A motion that Clause 1 of the Scotland Bill, which would have declared that the bill had no effect on the unity of the United Kingdom, should stand part of the bill was defeated by 199-184.[42]
  • 5 December 1977 - A motion for the House to adjourn following a debate on the Crown Agents Scandal was passed by 158-126.[43]
  • 7 December 1977 - A motion that Clause 40 of the Scotland Bill, which required the Secretary of State to have regard for national pay policy, should stand part of the bill was defeated by 161-160.[44]
  • 23 January 1978 - A Conservative amendment to set the rate of devalutation of the green pound at 7.5% rather than the proposed 5% was passed by 291-280.[45]
  • 23 January 1978 - A motion devalue the green pound by 7.5% following the previous Conservative amendment was passed by 291-281.[45]
  • 25 January 1978 - A backbench Labour amendment to an amendment to the Scotland Bill, which would change the threshold for accepting a 'yes' vote from 33% to 40%, was passed by 166-151.[46]
  • 25 January 1978 - A motion to accept the previous amendment, and to require the Secretary of State to repeal the Act if fewer than 40% of the Scottish electorate voted 'yes', was passed by 168-142.[46]
  • 25 January 1978 - An amendment to the Scotland Bill, which sought to exclude Orkney and/or Shetland from the provisions of the bill if they were to vote 'no' in a referendum, was passed by 204-118.[46]
  • 14 February 1978 - The second reading of a new clause to the Scotland Bill, which stated that no referendum could be held until three months after a general elections, was passed by 242-223.[47]
  • 15 February 1978 - A government amendment to the Scotland Bill, which would remove the requirement that the Secretary of State repeal the Act if fewer than 40% of the electorate voted in favour in a referendum, was rejected by 298-243.[48]
  • 15 February 1978 - A government amendment to the Scotland Bill, which would reduce the threshold for accepting a 'yes' vote back to 33%, was rejected by 285-240.[48]
  • 19 April 1978 - A motion for Clause 82 of the Wales Bill, which set down the conditions surroundings the commencement of the Act, to stand part of the bill was defeated by 259-232.[49]
  • 19 April 1978 - An amendment to the Wales Bill, which would require the Secretary of State to lay orders for the repeal of the Act should less than 40% of the electorate vote 'yes' in a referendum, was passed by 280-208.[50]
  • 8 May 1978 - A Conservative amendment to the Finance Bill, which would reduce the basic rate on income tax from 34% to 33%, was passed by 312-204.[51]
  • 10 May 1978 - A Conservative amendment to the Finance Bill, which raised the level at which the higher rate of income tax became payable from £7,000 to £8,000, was passed by 288-286.[52]
  • 10 May 1978 - A motion to bring consideration of the Finance Bill in Committee was rejected by 280-273.[52]
  • 19 July 1978 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords amendment, which would disqualify Westminster MPs from being members of the Welsh Assembly, was rejected by 293-260.[53]
  • 20 July 1978 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords amendment, which would remove forestry from the competence of the Welsh assembly, was defeated by 280-247.[54]
  • 24 July 1978 - A motion to approve the draft Dock Labour Scheme 1978 was defeated by 301-291.[55]
  • 26 July 1978 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords amendment, which required Scottish MPs to approve the second reading of any Scottish Assembly bill, was rejected by 276-275.[56]
  • 26 July 1978 - A government motion to disagree with a Lords amendment, which sought to remove forestry from the transfer of property to the Scottish Assembly, was rejected by 286-266.[57]
  • 13 December 1978 - A Conservative amendment, declining to support the government's use of economic sanctions against firms and workers who had negotiated wage increases beyond a Parliamentary-approved limit, was passed by 285–279.[58]
  • 13 December 1978 – A motion, as amended by the previous Conservative amendment, opposing the government's use of sanctions on companies awarding pay rises in excess of 5%, was agreed to by 285–283.[58]
  • 7 February 1979 – A Conservative amendment to the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Bill, which required at least two members of the general public to serve on the Central Midwifery Committee, was passed by 149–121.[59]
  • 22 March 1979 - A Conservative motion to annul the Firearms (Variation of Fees) Order 1979 was passed by 115-26.[60]
  • 28 March 1979 - The government lost a motion of no confidence by 311-310, prompting a general election in which Callaghan's Labour party was defeated by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative party.[61]

Thatcher[edit]

During its 11 years in office, Margaret Thatcher's government suffered four House of Commons defeats.

  • 15 December 1982 - Defeat on changes to immigration rules
  • 19 July 1983 - Defeat on amendment motion on setting MPs' salaries.
  • 14 April 1986 - The second reading of the Shops Bills.
  • 13 March 1990 - Defeat on a clause of the National Health Service and Community Care Bill.

Major[edit]

John Major's government suffered six defeats in the House of Commons during its seven year tenure.

  • 8 March 1993 - A vote on an Amendment the European (Amendment) Bill to require all members of the European Union Committee of the Regions to be elected local government representatives was defeated.[62]
  • 22 July 1993 - A motion on the adoption of Protocol on the Social Policy to comply with the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993.[63]
  • 6 December 1994 - A defeat on a plan to increase Value Added Tax on domestic fuel.[64]
  • 19 December 1995 - A vote on fishery quotas[65]
  • 10 July 1996 - The Government were defeated on a Bill to limit Members pay increases.[1]
  • 27 January 1997 - A vote to allow Grant Maintained Schools to enlarge their pupil capacity was defeated by one vote 272-273[66]

Blair[edit]

Tony Blair's government suffered four House of Commons defeats during its 10 years in office, all within a period of one year.

  • 9 November 2005 - An amendment to the Terrorism Bill to allow terrorist suspects to held without charge for 90 days was defeated 291-322.[67]
  • 31 January 2006 - A motion to disagree with a Lords amendment to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill was lost 288-278[68]
  • 31 January 2006 - Another motion on a Lord amendment to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill was lost by one vote.[69]
  • 12 July 2006 - a vote to adjourn the Commons early in protest at a UK-US extradition treaty was lost 246-4.[70] However the Government whipped its supporters not to vote when it became apparent that many Government MPs were likely to break the whip.[1]

Brown[edit]

Gordon Brown's government suffered three defeats in the House of Commons during its three years in office.

Cameron[edit]

To date, David Cameron's government has been defeated six times in the House of Commons.

  • 6 December 2011 - A motion 'That this House has considered the matter of the economy' was defeated by 79–213. Such a motion is normally agreed without a division but the Opposition forced a vote for which the Government whips were unprepared.[74]
  • 31 October 2012 - A rebel amendment calling for a real terms cut in the European Union budget was passed by 307-294.[75]
  • 29 August 2013 - A motion provisionally authorising military intervention in the Syrian civil war was defeated 285-272.[76]
  • 16 July 2014 - A Ten Minute Rule motion on a bill authorising the Office for Budget Responsibility to scrutinise Opposition manifestos was passed 203–16, after the Opposition forced a division aimed to catch the new Chief Whip, Michael Gove, off-guard in his first full day in office.[77]
  • 5 September 2014 - A private member's bill by Lib Dem MP Andrew George to restrict the cases in which the under-occupancy penalty could be levied was passed 306–231, with the coalition partners imposing three-line whips on opposite sides of the debate.[78]
  • 18 November 2014 - A Lib Dem rebel amendment giving more freedom to pub landlords to negotiate rents and beer prices with their parent pub chain was passed 284–269.[79]

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  75. ^ "EU budget vote: Rebel MPs defeat government over spending cut call", BBC News, (31 October 2012)
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External links[edit]