THREE Hampshire Conservative MPs voted to stop foreign criminals using human rights law to avoid deportation – defying No. 10 advice that the move is illegal.
Julian Lewis (New Forest East), Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North) and Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) all backed a rebel amendment.
But the proposal failed when Labour joined forces with the Liberal Democrats – amid the extraordinary sight of David Cameron ordering his ministers to abstain on his own Bill.
The vote was immediately seen as triggering another bout of damaging ‘Tory wars’ over the toxic issues of immigration and European human rights laws.
But a defiant Dr Lewis hit back last night, accusing Mr Cameron of becoming “semi-detached from views of Conservative voters”.
He said: “Why are backbenchers pushing the prime minister? Because we are the ones who are in tune with the wishes of the people who send us to Westminster.
“We have ended up in the situation where the human rights charter is extended to people who are beyond the pale, because they have violated the rights of others.”
Downing Street gave in during debate on the flagship Immigration Bill, when it was faced with the biggest revolt of the Coalition’s four years in power.
Mr Cameron said he shared the rebels’ aim – deporting more foreign criminals – but feared the amendment would breach European human rights legislation.
Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow Home Secretary, accused the Tories of being “scared of their own backbenchers” – attacking a “car crash” for the Government.
But MPs did vote in favour of Home Secretary Theresa May’s equally controversial plan to strip foreign-born terror suspects of UK citizenship.