Cameron tries to dodge Commons vote on IMF subscription

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron hinted that he would try to dodge a Commons vote on increased funding for the IMF today, in a bid to escape a potential government defeat.

Asked if he was nervous about the result given that 32 Tory backbenchers had rebelled during a similar vote earlier this year, Mr Cameron replied: "There was a parliamentary vote. That vote allowed for some extra headroom and what we anticipate doing would be within that headroom."

The comment is a strong indication that Downing Street wants to avoid a vote it is unlikely to win.

With 81 Tory MPs recently defying a three-line whip to demand a referendum on the EU and feelings running high following the cancellation of yesterday's vote in Greece, many observers expected enough Conservatives to rebel to hand Labour a significant Commons victory.

Mr Cameron was keen to stress the difference between increased subscriptions to the IMF and contributing to a Greek bail-out fund in the press conference, which took place at the close of the G20 meeting in Cannes.

The IMF "puts money into economies that need it all over the world", the prime minister said.

In reality the increased funding would certainly go towards keeping the 17 European states together, even if it takes place indirectly.

"Britain is a trading nation," Mr Cameron added.

"It's in our interests to support the IMF. It's the right thing for an advanced economy like ours to do and we should continue to do so."

Elsewhere, the prime minister was keen to avoid giving any fixed details on the funding boost until the deal was finalised.

"The very worst thing would be to try and cook up a number," he told reporters.

As the summit wrapped up, Labour leader Ed Miliband hit out at the prime minister, accusing him of failing to show leadership.

“This has been a do-nothing summit which should not have been allowed to end without a clear resolution for the crisis in the eurozone,” he commented.

The comments come after George Osborne and Ed Balls fired the opening salvos in the upcoming IMF debate, in which Labour will try to highlight deep-seated Tory divisions on the subject.

Appearing on the Today programme, the chancellor said a Greek default would be "pretty traumatic" and that Britain "will face up to its responsibilities" – code for contributing towards IMF efforts to assist sinking economies.

Ahead of the interview, Labour sent out a clear message that it was likely to vote against any attempt to increase UK subscriptions to the IMF.

"The IMF's job is to support individual countries with solvency crises, not to solve a structural problem caused by eurozone countries being unable to agree the necessary steps to support and maintain their monetary union," shadow chancellor Mr Balls said.

Mr Osborne outlined the consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone during his Radio 4 interview, insisting it would "not be an easy option".

But many Tory backbenchers are convinced the best outcome for Greece would be for the country to be freed from its European straightjacket, so it could devalue its currency and encourage inward investment.

"We cannot accept the explosion of the euro, which would mean the explosion of Europe. The problem must be posed in this fashion, and not otherwise," French president Nicolas Sarkozy said yesterday.

"If the euro is the core of Europe, the explosion of the euro would blow up Europe. And Europe is the guarantee of peace on the continent where people have behaved in the most brutal and violent manner of all continents of the world – not in the 15th century, but in the 20th century."