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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Lacking confidence in the House
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown
Gordon Brown faced a vote of no confidence in the Commons
On Tuesday 17 April, the Conservatives threatened Chancellor Gordon Brown with a vote of no confidence over his handling of occupational pensions.

The Government won through with a majority of 65 but this highlights the potential danger of confidence motions.

Motions of confidence or votes of censure have great power as the power of the Government rests upon the support of a majority of MPs.

Despite their importance, the votes are governed by convention rather than being placed on statutory basis within the House.


The first casualty of a vote of no confidence was Lord North who resigned as Prime Minister in 1782

The vote followed the defeat of the British army at Yorktown in 1781 during the American revolutionary war.

Another use was recorded 1895 when the House of Commons voted to reduce the salary of the secretary of war, Henry Campbell Bannerman (who later became prime minister).

Following the vote, Earl Rosebery's Liberal government resigned.

A busy year

The first to fall in 1924 was Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government following his call for an early general election in December 1923.

That election on the issue of tariffs left Mr Baldwin with only 258 MPs against a combined opposition total of 350 and lost a motion of confidence in January 1924

Ramsay MacDonald's following administration was brought down in October that year after the Commons supported a liberal amendment to a Conservative censure motion over the "Campbell case".

The government had forced charges of sedition against John Ross Campbell ,the editor of the leftwing newspaper "Workers Weekly", to be withdrawn.

James Callaghan in 1978
James Callaghan's government was voted out in 1979
Most recent

The most recent example of a successful no confidence motion stems comes from the defeat of the Labour government in the late 1970s.

A combination of a minority government and a fractious party left the Labour administration weak in the Commons.

The Government faced a vote of no confidence on 28 March 1979 following a defeat over a referendum for devolution to Scotland and lost by just one vote.

After the vote, the Prime Minister was forced to advise the Queen to call a general election.

BBC Parliament broadcasts the House of Commons LIVE every sitting day on the channel and on the BBC Parliament iPlayer..

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