UK Politics

Time allotted to EU debate is disgrace, says Tory MP

EU flag
Image caption The coalition government has promised no further transfer of sovereignty to the EU in this parliament

A Tory MP has urged the government to give Parliament more time to consider plans to hold referendums whenever the UK hands powers to the EU.

The Commons has been granted an extra day of discussions but Peter Bone called it a "disgrace" that more scrutiny was not being allowed.

He and other Eurosceptics argue that the referendum plan in the EU Bill is not rigorous enough.

But the government says it will help safeguard UK sovereignty.

During debate on the committee stage of the bill, a Labour amendment which would have set up a committee to determine whether any future transfer of powers should trigger a referendum, was defeated by 109 votes.

MPs also rejected an amendment by backbench Tory James Clappison which would have seen Parliament being given the power to decide on any provision deemed by ministers not to be sufficiently important to trigger a referendum. The government won this vote by a majority of 71.

The plan for a "referendum lock", contained in the EU Bill currently being considered by Parliament, would ensure "significant" EU treaties must be approved by a referendum of UK voters, with the same rule in place for major changes to existing treaties.


But some Tories argue the government will get the ultimate say on which issues go to a referendum, making it less democratic.

During debate on the bill's timing, Mr Bone who represents Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, said the government could have allowed MPs to continue debating beyond the usual 2200GMT cut-off time.

That would have meant "there would have been no point in filibustering because everybody would have known the debate could continue until any hour", he said.

Referring to the marathon sessions in the House of Lords on electoral change plans last week, he said: "It must be, to the people outside, extraordinary that the members of the House of Lords, who on the whole are much, much older than this House, can speak and debate through the night but this House has effectively a guillotine on it.

"This is exactly what the other government did when they were in power. It's exactly what we said we wouldn't do when we were in power and it is an utter disgrace."

'No constraint'

Fellow Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin said: "This is not what was envisaged when we discussed the strengthening of Parliament in the previous parliament."

The extra day for debate on the bill at the in-depth committee stage, offered by the government, would not guarantee time to consider contentious amendments due to be discussed, he added.

But Europe minister David Lidington said neither he nor the government has "any intention, of trying to constrain debate artificially".

The coalition saw off a rebellion over the bill last week by Conservative MPs.

MP Bill Cash urged colleagues to call for the sovereignty of Parliament to be "reaffirmed in relation to EU law" amid concerns about more transfer of powers.

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