POLITICS

Eurosceptic MP James Wharton Wins Chance To Introduce EU Referendum Bill

16/05/2013 09:39 BST | Updated 16/05/2013 10:26 BST
AP

Eurosceptic hopes of an EU referendum bill in this parliament were boosted today after MP James Wharton, who rebelled last night, came top of the ballot for private members bills.

On Wednesday evening 114 Tory MPs, almost half the parliamentary party, voted to condemn the Queen's Speech for failing to include legislation that would commit the next government to holding a referendum.

Wharton, the 29-year-old Stockton South MP, has said he will adopt David Cameron's draft EU referendum bill. "Like many people I am not old enough to have had a say when the original 1975 referendum took place," he said.

He told ITV: "I think it is time for people to have their say again and I am delighted to get the opportunity to bring forward this important bill."

Asked by the BBC if he had been leant on by Conservative Party whips to introduce the bill he said he had been "encouraged" to do so.

The prime minister published a bill earlier this week in an, ultimately futile, attempt to quell the expected rebellion over the Queen's Speech.

The bill, if passed, would require an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 on the question "Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union?"

Downing Street has insisted government legislation would have been introduced were there a Conservative majority government and that it is the Lib Dems who are blocking it from happening at this time.

Wharton told the Northern Echo last night that with the EU as it is now he would "vote to leave" but acknowledged there would not be an immediate referendum.

Eurosceptic Tory MP Douglas Carswell celebrated the news that Wharton had been chosen: "Look who topped the Private Members Ballot! Commons vote on EU Referendum will now happen. God must be a Eurosceptic!" he said.

Other supporters of last night's amendment to claim high places in the ballot included Tories Jonathan Lord (Woking) in third place and Dan Byles (Warwickshire North) in fifth.

However not all eurosceptic Tory MPs have supported the bill. John Baron, the MP behind last night's rebellion dismissed Cameron's bill as the "second best option" as it would inevitably be defeated "on a soggy Friday afternoon when nobody even notices".