You may have heard in the news over the last couple of days that my EU (Referendum) Bill has, regretfully but not entirely surprisingly, been killed by the Liberal Democrats.
As you know, the Prime Minister is committed to negotiate a fresh and better deal for Britain in our relations with the EU, and then to put that new deal to the British people in an in-out referendum before the end of 2017. That’s because, as a Party, we believe the British people should decide our future in Europe. My Private Member’s Bill would have put the obligation to hold this referendum onto the statute book, but, through procedural games and political chicanery, the Lib Dems have killed the Bill – as they did James Wharton’s last year – effectively denying the British people a say.
Having come third in the Private Members’ Bill ballot, it was always going to be a tough struggle to get the Bill through in time before the dissolution of Parliament early next year. I had, nonetheless, remained hopeful that all sides of the House, whether they supported it or not, would have done the honourable thing and played fair by granting my Bill the critical money resolution it needs to proceed to Committee stage. Incidentally, the Lib Dems allowed the Bill to pass this stage when it was introduced by James last year, but, because they are scared of proper debate with the British people, they have refused this time round.
Negotiations with the Lib Dems regarding the procedural particulars of the Bill had been ongoing for some time, and in exchange for not blocking my Bill, they wanted us to sign a money resolution for Andrew George’s Affordable Homes Bill, a piece of legislation that would cost the British taxpayer £1 billion and would unravel our welfare reform programme. There was absolutely no way we could have supported this. It would have meant more borrowing, more debt, and more people on benefits than in work. So, because we insisted the Lib Dems stuck to their previous promises on reforming welfare, and continued to support the removal of the spare room subsidy – a policy they jointly introduced with us in Coalition – they have sabotaged my Bill.
Neither Labour nor the Lib Dems showed up to debate my Bill on the 17th, and they have now killed it off through backdoor devices. The message to take from this is clear. Neither of them trust the British people to decide our country’s future in Europe, and neither of them had the guts to vote against it. They have proven, more than ever before, that if you want a long overdue in/out say on the EU, a Conservative majority in 2015 is the only way forward.
As always, do get in touch if I can be of any assistance.
With best wishes,