Yesterday, Bob Neill’s European Union Referendum Bill has passed its first test in the House of Commons.
Finally, we are one step closer to a guaranteed EU referendum in 2017, being enshrined in law. The Bill passed its first vote in the Commons today, with 283 MPs voting in favour. Whilst none of its opponents dared to risk their constituents’ wrath by voting against it, we have named and shamed the Labour MPs who voted against its predecessor, James Wharton’s EU Referendum Bill last July.
Neill’s Bill will now be subject to the Committee stage, where MPs suggest and vote on amendments. After this, MPs will vote on whether the amended legislation should go on to the House of Lords. Here the process begins again, only receiving Royal Assent by the Queen, after it has passed through the same stages in the Lords.
As we have seen today, the main issues won’t be during the voting stages but the Committee stage. Europhile MPs and undemocratic Lords will table as many amendments as possible in order to waste as much of the precious time allocated as they can. The Bill will be allocated a limited number of Fridays for debate, and if time runs out at the end of this, it will not be able to become law.
The odds are heavily stacked against Neill’s Bill becoming law. Between the 1999-2000 and 2009-2010 sessions of Parliament a mere 53 of the 1038 Private Member Bills introduced have become law. This is only a success rate of 5 percent.
Fortunately, some of the legal experts on the Conservative benches are finding ways to side-step these tactics – which Neill has described as the “Westminster village procedural games and devices to frustrate giving the British public a say”. Sir Roger Gale pointed out a second Standing committee for the referendum Bill could be established, allowing more time in the Committee stage.
Moreover, if the legislation successfully passes through the Commons, the Prime Minister – if he so chooses – can use the Parliament Act to enshrine it in law without seeking the approval of the Lords. The use of this Act, used only 7 times since it became law in 1911, would be a drastic measure which would delay the Bill’s coming into force by a year.
Wharton’s EU Referendum Bill failed in the Lords, following collusion by three Labour peers – Lords Lipsey, Foulkes and Anderson – together with Welsh Nationalist Lord Wigley and two former civil servants Lords Kerr and Hannay. Were the Prime Minister to use the Parliament Act and avoid the Bill going to the Lords, a referendum would be substantially more likely.
Even if the Bill goes through however, if Labour get a majority at the next election they could attempt to repeal the legislation, denying the British people their vote on Britain’s membership of the EU. However, it is unlikely Miliband would dare overturn legislation which is so widely supported by the British public – especially if he is elected on only a slim majority. We will see!
It is heartening to know that not all Labour MPs are in favour of continued political integration in Europe however. Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins today denounced the EU as a “political construct imposed upon” the “fabulous subcontinent” of Europe. Labour’s Kate Hoey also argued the “fundamental principle” behind the need for a referendum is that “we are losing control of our own country”.
Other Labour MPs were quick to denounce the idea of a referendum, claiming businesses were against the “uncertainty” it would lead to. We must remember though, when Labour talk about “business” they mean the CBI, which has been on the wrong side of the EU debate for decades, telling us we had to join the euro and before that its predecessor the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Business for Britain meanwhile – which represents the interests of hundreds of businesses – welcomes a referendum, stating the EU must change or Britain must go.
As David Nuttall, Chair of the Better Off Out group of MPs said yesterday, Westminster “should not simply be the lapdog of Brussels”. Therefore, the Europhiles on the Labour benches and their unelected peers must not be allowed to deny the public their say over the EU.
It was pointed out two informal In/Out referendums are currently being held – one in Northamptonshire and one in Cleethorpes. So far they have found 85 and 89 percent of these voter are favouring an exit from the EU. So the Great British Public are clearly behind this campaign.
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond drew parallels with the referendum on Scottish independence held last month, saying it was right to give British people a say. The European Union had “morphed from a common market into a putative superstate”, he said. “Ever closer union has led to ever greater disillusion,” he even added that the issue needed to be settled “once and for all for the sake of Britain”.
Until we know the composition of the next government in 2015, Bob Neill’s EU Referendum Bill will remain the best way to Get Britain Out of the EU. Freed from the shackles of Brussels we can embrace trade with the rest of the world, boosting our economy, jobs and prestige
The Labour MPs who voted against Wharton’s Bill last year:
- Diane Abbott MP
- Douglas Alexander MP
- Jonathan Ashworth MP
- William Bain MP
- Luciana Berger MP
- Lyn Brown MP
- Alan Campbell MP
- Wayne David MP
- Thomas Docherty MP
- Jim Dowd MP
- Michael Dugher MP
- Jim Fitzpatrick MP
- Michael Gapes MP
- Meg Hillier MP
- Julie Hilling MP
- Huw Irranca-Davies MP
- Graham Jones MP
- Susan Elan Jones MP
- David Lammy MP
- Ian Lucas MP
- Kerry McCarthy MP
- Andrew Miller MP
- Stephen Pound MP
- Emma Reynolds MP
- Nick Smith MP
- Mark Tami MP
- Stephen Timms MP
- Karl Turner MP
- Chris Williamson MP
- Rosie Winterton MP