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
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.
MPs will today debate a private members' bill on an EU referendum brought by the Conservative MP for Stockton South, James Warton.
At 29, the former solicitor is the youngest Conservative MP. He was among the 114 Tory MPs to vote in favour of an amendment to the Queen's Speech in May.
- May 2010: Coalition formed including a large number of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs
- 3 May: Eurosceptic UKIP win more than 140 council seats at the local elections, taking many from the Conservatives.
- 8 May: There is no mention of a referendum in the Queen's Speech, angering some Conservative MPs.
- 14 May: Conservatives publish draft bill calling for a referndum to be held before the end of 2017
- 16 May: 114 Tory MPs rebel by voting in favour of an amendment to the Queen's Speech
- 5 July: Private members' bill brought by Tory MP James Wharton to get second reading in Commons
A private members' bill calling for a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU is to be debated in parliament today and is expected to expose divisions in the coalition.
James Wharton MPs introduced the bill after 114 Conservative backbenchers voted in favour of an amendment to the Queen's Speech regretting the absence of any mention of a referendum in May.
Whilst the Prime Minister has said he would like to hold a referendum on the issue, he is not able to bring this forward in the current parliament due to opposition from the Liberal Democrats.
The majority of both Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs are expected to vote against the bill today, but it will be an opportunity for a lively debate.
Conservative MPs will be under a three-line whip, the strongest order a party can give, to support the measure.
Eurosceptic ministers have been told not to vote for a rebel amendment demanding legislation to guarantee a referendum on Britain's EU membership.
Downing Street indicated that David Cameron was "relaxed" about the idea of Tory MPs attacking his Government's own Queen's Speech in the Commons lobbies.
At least 100 are tipped to back the move if the amendment is selected by Speaker John Bercow for debate on Wednesday, with cabinet ministers such as Ian Duncan Smith thought to be among them.
It is understood that free voting will be extended only to backbench MPs with ministers abstaining.
It remained unclear whether their parliamentary private secretaries - Commons aides to ministers - would be allowed to join the rebels.Conservative unrest over the European issue has been inflamed by the electoral success of the anti-EU UK Independence Party and Tory grandees advocating withdrawal.
A group of Conservative MPs will attempt to force a Commons vote over a referendum on the UK's European Union membership next week.Read the full story ›
Nadine Dorries, who has been reinstated as a Conservative MP after her suspension, has said David Cameron and George Osborne's "outlook on immigration has changed."
Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire, has in the past labelled Cameron and Osborne "arrogant" and "out of touch" and has called for a referendum on EU membership.
However, after being quizzed by ITV News Political Editor Tom Bradby on her views, she said: "I do think their outlook has changed, particularly on issues like immigration."
Read more: Nadine Dorries wants EU exit
Read more: Dorries reinstated as Tory MP
Prime Minister David Cameron has lashed out at Tory "pessimists" demanding immediate withdrawal from the European Union.
The Prime Minister said he believed it was "possible" to push through changes to the EU.
"I am faced as I do so, if you like, by two groups of pessimists," he said.
"There are some pro-European pessimists who say, 'you have to, in Europe, simply sign up to every single thing that anyone in the EU suggests.
"You sign every treaty, you sign everything - there is no alternative'.
"I think they are completely wrong.
"The second group of pessimists say there is no prospect of reforming the EU, you simply have to leave. I think they are wrong too.
"I think it is possible to change and reform this organisation and change and reform Britain's relationship with it."
Read more: Tory MPs plotting EU Commons vote
A group of Tory MPs will attempt to force a Commons vote over a referendum on the UK's European Union membership on Tuesday.
The Tory MPs backing the call for an EU referendum include:
- Hardline Eurosceptic MP Peter Bone has said he hoped to show the Tory leadership that there was "significant parliamentary demand" for the EU referendum pledge.
- Tory John Baron, who also tabled the amendment, organised a letter signed by dozens of Conservative MPs demanding referendum legislation.
Read more: Ex-chancellor calls for EU exit
- Former Cabinet minister Michael Portillo has followed ex-chancellor Lord Lawson in calling for the UK to leave the EU.
- Lord Lamont, another former Tory chancellor, joined the stampede of former Tory cabinet ministers saying it was possible for the UK to survive outside the EU.
- Nadine Dorries, the MP who was handed back the Conservative whip only on Wednesday, said she would be joining the rebellion.
Read more: Nadine Dorries wants EU exit