Cameron revives MP removal plans
David Cameron has revived plans to give voters the power to remove MPs who are guilty of serious wrongdoing, just weeks after the measure appeared to have been killed off amid bitter recriminations within the coalition.
The Prime Minister had declared his intention to introduce a recall bill "when parliamentary time allows" at the weekly meeting of the Cabinet, his official spokesman said.
The move was reported to have taken Liberal Democrat ministers by surprise after they last month accused the Conservatives of scuppering the measure, which formed part of the coalition agreement.
In a further move clearly designed to antagonise the Lib Dems, Tory ministers used a discussion on the forthcoming Queen's Speech setting out the Government's legislative programme, to raise the prospect of including a bill for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.
According to The Spectator magazine's Coffee House blog, it was Chancellor George Osborne who took up the issue with support from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
The latest move will be seen as a further indication that the two coalition parties are seeking to carve out increasingly distinctive positions as they gear up for next year's general election.
Mr Cameron's official spokesman made no attempt to disguise the differences between the parties.
"I don't think it is any secret that Conservative members of the Cabinet would want to see an EU referendum bill," the spokesman said.
On the recall bill, the spokesman said that Mr Cameron had always been committed to the measure which would enable voters to get rid of MPs between general elections.
"We don't try to pre-brief the Queens' Speech, but certainly the Prime Minister made very clear his commitment to introducing that power," the spokesman said.
"It is part of the coalition agreement. There was a draft bill that was published. That has long reflected the Prime Minister's view.
"The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee published a report on that draft bill. Last year the Government accepted the majority of those recommendations.
"It will be on that basis that the legislation will be introduced when parliamentary time allows."
A senior Lib Dem source welcomed what they described as "a surprising change of tune" from Conservatives on the recall bill.
"The Liberal Democrats in Government have consistently been arguing for a recall bill in the fourth term of this parliament and the Tories have consistently opposed that, so we welcome their conversion to our position," the source said.
"We hope they are being genuine about it this time, because some of their previous commitments to political reform have been skin-deep at best," said the Lib Dem source.
However the source was dismissive of the Tory attempts to raise the prospect of a referendum bill, making clear that it stood no chance of inclusion in the Queen's Speech.
"This is both surprising and spectacularly inconsistent from the Conservatives, as they have never raised it with Liberal Democrats in months of meetings on the Queen's Speech," the source said.
"This is the Conservatives changing their tune yet again on Europe. The Liberal Democrats are not going to change in response.
"We have a Government position and we are going to stick to that Government position and we are not going to move just because the Conservatives have got some problems managing their backbenches and trying to counter Ukip."
A Labour spokesman said: "It tells you all you need to know about David Cameron that his idea of big news is that he's finally thinking of keeping a promise.
"He promised a recall bill years ago but, as with so many of his promises, he's failed to deliver. What we need from the Queen's Speech is action to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. What we've got is an out-of-touch PM who never stands up for hard-working people."