POLITICS

George Osborne Says Lords 'Unwise To Kill Off' EU Referendum Bill

04/02/2014 17:04 GMT | Updated 04/02/2014 17:59 GMT
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LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 15: Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne speaks on EU reform in central London on January 15, 2014 in London, England. Mr Osborne delivered a warning to Britain's European partners that it should undergo reform, halting decline by backing business and curbing welfare spending if the UK is to remain a part of Europe. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

George Osborne has chided "unwise" peers for deciding to "kill off" a bill that would legislate for a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union by 2017.

The Chancellor told the House of Lords Economic Affairs committee that he thought it was 'unwise to kill off the opportunity for the British people to have their say through that piece of legislation."

Osborne's disappointment comes after Lib Dem and Labour peers banded together to cut short a debate on the bill last week, effectively killing it off, as it meant the bill did not have enough time to make it through parliament before the European elections on May 22.

Speaking before peers, Osborne said that voters could "rest assured" that they would get a vote on Britain's EU membership in 2017.

However, given that critics say it is impossible for one parliament to bind a successor, the Tories would likely try to get the bill passed into law again if they win re-election in 2015, using the Parliament Act if necessary to ram it through the House of Lords.

Osborne warned that Europe was in danger of "pricing itself out of the world economy". However, under questioning from former chancellor Lord Lawson, the chancellor refused on three occasions to say whether he would back a British exit from the European Union if attempts to claw back powers from Brussels fail.

Osborne said: "I don't want to get into the hypothetical as I think we can be successful in reform negotiations.

"We will see a lively debate about the failure of the European economy and what needs to be done to reform it. We will hear Dutch frustration with the commitment of ever closer union."

"This continent is in danger of pricing itself out of the world economy. It's within our power to make a persuasive case. I think we will have a willing audience for that message."