Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Draft Referendum Bill to be published

In order to avoid a possible small rebellion in the Conservative ranks, we are told, David Cameron, acting as Leader of the Conservative Party is to publish a draft In/Out Referendum Bill. As before, the plan is to have a referendum in 2017, assuming the Conservatives are back in government by then. If they are not, there is not a great deal they can do.

It seems that "around 100" Tory MPs are so unhappy about the fact that the referendum was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech that
they will propose an amendment, expressing "regret" at the decision not to include an EU referendum bill in the government's plans for the next year.

There is little chance of this succeeding, as the Liberal Democrats, Labour and pro-European Tories oppose it, but a significant vote in favour would be an embarrassment for the prime minister.

Around 100 Conservative backbenchers and ministerial aides are expected to back the amendment or abstain, but the party leadership are hoping to reduce this number by publishing its own draft bill on Tuesday.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that publishing the draft bill was a "demonstration of our commitment to a referendum".

The draft legislation is being published by the Conservatives with the idea that it could be brought to the Commons for debate by one of the party's backbench MPs in the form of a private member's bill, rather than one sponsored by the government.

The ballot to choose who can bring forward private members' bills will be held on Thursday and, although they have little chance of becoming law, there is non-government parliamentary time available for them to be debated.
Presumably, whoever wins the ballot (unless it is fixed) will be pressured into putting forward the Referendum Bill and government time will be found for it some time in the coming session.

As readers of this blog know, I am not in favour of a referendum and especially not in favour of an early referendum, partly because plebiscites are not political weapons I particularly support but, more importantly, because we are likely to lose one and the earlier it is held, the more likely we are to lose it.

ADDENDUM: Curiously enough I have received an e-mail from one David Cameron with his picture on the side, which tells me the following:
In January, I set out our party’s position on Europe. I made clear that the EU needed fundamental, far reaching change - and that Britain would lead the way in negotiating that reform.

I also promised an In-Out referendum once those negotiations were complete, and at any event by the end of 2017. That's the right time to have a vote - it is wrong to ask people whether to stay or go before we have had a chance to put the relationship right.

But make no mistake - my commitment to a referendum is absolute. If I am Prime Minister after the next election, there will be an In-Out referendum. No ifs, no buts. And before the 2015 election, we will do everything we can to make it the law.

That’s why today the Conservative Party is publishing a draft bill that would legislate for a referendum by the end of 2017. We understand that we are in a Coalition government - but we are going to examine every opportunity to bring it before Parliament and try to get it on the statute book.

For too long the British people have had no say about their future in Europe. I am absolutely determined to put that right. Our action today is further proof we’re serious.
It then asks me to pledge my support for the Bill. I cannot quitte see what difference that would make to anything.

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