Government whips are clamping down on the debate on plain packaging because of a split government, according to Conservative MP Nick de Bois.

He told Retail Newsagent this week that the government is using a parliamentary legal strategy to avoid a debate in the full house and possibly avoid a vote.

Mr de Bois expressed fears that rather than a full debate, the law will be pushed through by a committee of back benchers hand picked by government whips.

[pull_quote_right] If the debate is going to be confined to a committee in this delegated legislation, then many members of parliament will be denied the chance to have their say [/pull_quote_right]

“After it’s been through this committee, it then gets raised at the end of business on another day,” he said.

“If no one objects it will go through without a vote. If they do, it could then be deferred division meaning we get the right to vote but not debate.”

“If the debate is going to be confined to a committee in this delegated legislation, then many members of parliament will be denied the chance to have their say.”

This news comes as RN uncovers the government’s division on plain packs and calls into question the support of what will be the most high profile law change prior to the election.

RN approached all 15 MPs identified last week as potential plain packs rebels, none of whom gave their backing.

The office of home secretary Theresa May repeatedly avoided commenting on her support for the measure. Government whip Harriet Baldwin, meanwhile, admitted she’d yet to be convinced there was sufficient evidence for her to support plain packaging.

A government spokesman contacted RN to explain the consultation process it had been through. When asked how the impact on independent retailers had been considered, they said: “I don’t know if we’ve been asked that before.”