The Conservatives could publish a draft bill before the next General Election paving the way for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU in the next Parliament, the Defence Secretary suggested today.
Philip Hammond ruled out introducing a bill for an in/out referendum in the current parliament, saying it would not get through the Commons.
But following the sweeping gains made by UKIP in last week's local elections, Mr Hammond said they had to do every thing they could to reassure voters that they would honour their commitment to give them a say in the next Parliament.
"We are looking at doing that and I think that would be a very good idea. I would strongly support the idea of publishing a draft bill ahead of the election", he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr show.
"We should do everything we can to reassure people about our commitment. We should make it in very clear and unambiguous terms, including publishing a bill so that people can see exactly what will be in it", he added.
Foreign Secretary William Hague has responded to the Conservative party's poor local election results, claiming the Tories do not need a "drastic change of course" to win the next election.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Hague said that instead, a "threefold response" was required:
- To assure voters the party understands their concerns "on immigration, on welfare, on bringing down the cost of living".
- To "relay much more forcefully how we're acting in all these areas" including a cut in the deficit, 1.25 million new private sector jobs, a cap on benefits and a proposed referendum on Europe.
- To "resolve not to fall into the trap of lowest common denominator politics" by offering shortcuts that would not work.
His response came after the UK Independence Party made huge electoral gains at the expense of the Conservatives.
Twenty Conservative MPs are cranking up the pressure on the Prime Minister to hold an EU referendum before the next general election, according to newspaper reports.
Some of the party’s most senior figures and backbenchers, believe the Prime Minister’s plan not to hold a public vote until 2017 is failing to halt the march of the UK Independence Party, according to The Sunday Telegraph.
The MPs want a “mandate referendum” by next May to ask whether the Government should negotiate a “new relationship with the EU based on trade and political co-operation”.
John Redwood, Bernard Jenkin and David Davis are leading the campaign.
The Sunday Telegraph said MPs who back the plan include:
- John Whittingdale, the chairman of the Commons Culture Select Committee
- Dr Julian Lewis, a former senior Central Office official
- Dominic Raab
- Henry Smith
- Richard Drax
- Priti Patel
Conservative MP John Redwood said the Tories should have "an immediate referendum" on Britain's position in the European Union:
The Home Secretary has said the Tories need to give voters "greater certainty" that they will be offered a referendum on EU membership.
But Theresa May also insisted that the party will not be deflected from its main economic priorities, despite suffering heavy losses to UKIP in the recent local elections.
Former Tory leadership contender David Davis said the party needs to go further and hold the referendum before next year's elections to the European Parliament, which are widely expected to give UKIP a platform to make further gains.
The Home Secretary also said the party would honour its promise to hold an in/out referendum on EU membership after the next general election.
After the Tories suffered heavy losses to the UK Independence Party in the council elections, Mrs May said it was essential voters believed the party would honour its promise to hold an in/out referendum on EU membership after the next general election.
However she rejected calls from some senior Conservatives to bring forward the date of the referendum and stage it in this parliament in order to finally kill off the appeal of Ukip to Tory voters.
She said that it was important that they stood by David Cameron's plan to re-negotiate the terms of Britain's membership and then put the new settlement to the country.
"If you want to take a re-negotiated settlement to the British people, you have got to re-negotiate it," she told the BBC Radio 4 Today.
The Conservative Party needs to break the impression it is "privileged and out of touch" if it wants to have any chance of winning the next general election, a former leadership contender has warned.
– Former Conservative leadership contender David Davis
The fact is that if we want to win the next election, we have to break this impression of being privileged and out of touch.
The British public are neither snobs nor inverted snobs, but they do expect the Government to understand their problems and do something about it.
That means more straight talking and fewer focus groups; more conventional Tory policies, not because they are Tory, but because they work; less pandering to metropolitan interest groups; and please, please, no more Old Etonian advisers.
David Davis said the Prime Minister should stop surrounding himself with fellow Old Etonians and show he understood the concerns of ordinary people.
His comments in an article for The Daily Telegraph, came after the party suffered heavy losses to the UK Independence Party in the council elections in England and Wales.