Page last updated at 18:44 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 19:44 UK

David Cameron 'backs down' over backbench committee

David Cameron and Conservative MPs
The 1922 committee is a key barometer of Conservative opinion

David Cameron is to avoid a potential confrontation with his backbenchers over elections to their influential 1922 committee, the BBC understands.

The prime minister angered many Tory MPs when he called for ministers to be able to vote at 1922 meetings.

Although the move was approved by MPs, 118 voted against it amid concerns they were being "bounced" into the decision.

But it has now emerged that ministers will not get a say in Wednesday's election for a new committee chairman.

The BBC's political correspondent Ross Hawkins said two candidates for the position of chairman - MPs Graham Brady and Richard Ottaway - were told the news by the party's chief whip in Parliament on Monday evening.

'Victory'

He said the decision would be regarded as a "victory" by many backbenchers.

Membership of the 1922 Committee is usually restricted to backbench MPs when the party is in government.

It is usually separate from the party leadership and keeps it informed about the mood on the back benches.

Tory MPs voted by 168 to 118 in favour of proposals put forward by Mr Cameron which were expected to allow ministers a vote at future meetings of the 1922 Committee, including the ballot for a new chairman.

Mr Cameron said he was not "picking a fight" and felt "bringing the party together was the right thing to do".

But many MPs, some of whom were already unhappy about aspects of the coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats, were annoyed with the move, saying there was little debate and many newly elected MPs had little choice but to agree.

The Tory leadership now appears to have backed down over ministerial participation in Wednesday's election, for which nominations close on Tuesday.

But our correspondent said it was not clear what level of input Mr Cameron believed ministers should have in future meetings.

The committee, which takes its name from the year in which its founders were elected, meets each week to discuss parliamentary business and take grievances to the Conservative leadership.

At the time of last week's vote, a Conservative official insisted the move would merely mean the committee continued to operate in the same way as it had while the party was in opposition - when frontbenchers could vote and speak at meetings.

But MPs said the leadership raised no objection in March to only backbenchers voting for the election of the committee's officials.



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