Tory MP floats EU vote amendment
A Conservative insurrection over the absence of an EU referendum Bill in the forthcoming Queen's Speech could be revived, a Tory MP suggested today.
Peter Bone asked Commons leader Andrew Lansley if the Government would "welcome" a new amendment to the Queen's Speech in June if the coalition again fails to agree on the inclusion of a referendum plan.
Some 116 Tories backed a similar amendment to last year's Queen's Speech after the Prime Minister conceded a free vote on the issue in the face of widespread revolt from his MPs. Such amendments are rare, particularly from the Government's own side.
But responding at the weekly business statement, Mr Lansley insisted the Queen's Speech would include an agreed agenda for the coming session of Parliament.
Speaking in the Commons today, Wellingborough MP Mr Bone said: "The excellent policy of the Prime Minister to have an in/out referendum by 2017 cannot be introduced as Government legislation, I understand, because it is being blocked by the Liberal Democrats.
"Could I have a statement from you next week whether you would welcome a backbench amendment to the Queen's Speech asking for the EU referendum to be debated in Government time?"
Mr Lansley replied: "If I may speak frankly, from the Government's point of view our objectives are put in to the Queen's Speech. That's what we set out as a Government.
"From my point of view, on behalf of the Government, if the Government cannot agree... there should be an EU referendum Bill, then we don't agree that.
"I'm afraid it's then for the House to decide by other means."
Last year, 131 MPs voted against the Queen's Speech backing an amendment calling for a referendum, including 114 Conservative MPs. Mr Bone and another Conservative MP served as tellers on the vote, bring the number of Tory backers to 116.
The amendment was defeated by a majority of the Commons, but Tory backbencher James Wharton later brought forward a doomed Private Member's Bill in a bid to get the referendum on the statute book.
Mr Wharton's Bill failed despite the full support of the Conservative Party and rare whipped votes during Friday sittings of the Commons.