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Conservative benches full for EU debate

Conservative MPs packed into the House of Commons to support the Private Member's Bill tabled by Tory backbencher James Wharton, which would require an in/out poll by the end of 2017.

Highly unusually for backbench legislation, the Prime Minister and other senior ministers including Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague were positioned prominently on the front bench to hear Mr Wharton introduce his Bill.

By contrast, the Labour and Liberal Democrat benches were sparsely occupied, with the bulk of the parties' MPs obeying the guidance of their leaders to stay away from a debate which they regard as a political stunt.

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MP claims 'millions want EU membership vote'

Tory MP James Wharton brings forward the European Union (Referendum) Bill.

Millions of people across the country want a vote on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union, the MP behind a bid to introduce a referendum on the issue said today.

Tory MP James Wharton said it was an honour to bring forward the European Union (Referendum) Bill at second reading in the House of Commons.

Bringing forward the Private Member's Bill, the backbench MP for Stockton South, said: "It is an honour for me to put forward a Bill that at its heart, the heart of our democracy - that powers should reside with the people."

He added: "In proposing this Bill I speak for many here, I speak for many millions outside because it was in 1975 of course that the Labour government gave the British people a say on our membership of the European community.

"How things have changed? Politics has moved on and the European Union has moved on."

PM confident EU referendum Bill can pass

If this Bill passes, and I believe it can pass, then we will have set out in law the need for a referendum on an in-out basis before the end of 2017.

That is my policy, that is what I want to see and I'll do everything I can to support this Bill and get it through the House of Commons so that we can renegotiate in Europe and then put a real choice to people before the end of 2017.

That is the clear Conservative position that I will champion and I believe we will succeed.

– Prime Minister

Does the private members' bill have a chance?

The Tory MP James Wharton has introduced a private members' bill calling for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU to be held no later than the end of 2017.

  • Private members' bill have a lower success rate than bills with government backing
  • Very little parliamentary time devoted to such bills
  • Its opponents are likely to try "talk out" the bill by using up the time devoted to it
  • Most bills that do pass have cross-party support. Most Labour and Lib Dem MPs are opposed.
  • It still has three more stages before passing the Commons and a further five in the Lords

PM: Conservatives 'united behind' EU referendum bill

The Prime Minister has sought to rally the Conservative party around a private members' bill due to be discussed in the House of Commons today.

In an email to party activists last night he wrote:

As I made clear in my speech on Europe earlier this year, we want an in-out referendum by the end of 2017. And tomorrow Conservative MP James Wharton will propose a Bill that would write this commitment into law.

The Bill has my full support - and it has support from across the Parliamentary Party: ministers and backbenchers, Conservatives of all views. We are united behind it and together we will vote for it.

For decades, politicians have denied the British people a voice on Europe. Tomorrow the Conservative Party will fight to give them one. And let us all be proud of that.

– Prime minister David Cameron
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