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European Union (Referendum) Bill 2013-14



  • Type of Bill:

    Ballot Bill


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A Bill presented by James Wharton MP to make provision for the holding of a referendum in the United Kingdom on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union.

The referendum would be based upon the question, "Do you think that the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union?" This Bill would consolidate into law the PM's commitment to hold a referendum before December 2017. The In-Out referendum, would give people the choice of whether the UK should maintain its membership in the EU.

Despite it being a Private Member's Bill, it has full support from the Conservative Party. Foreign Secretary William Hague and Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps have both publicly expressed their support for the Bill.

However, the Bill has not received cross party support as Labour have stated the referendum will create uncertainty within the economy and will put jobs at risk, subsequently, abstaining from the Bill's Second Reading on 17 July 2013. However, despite abstention by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats, the Bill still progressed to committee stage where the Bill will be scrutinised line by line.

The committee stage for the Bill took place on 17 July 2013 and had a further four sittings on 3, 4, 10 and 11 September 2013. The Bill was reported without amendment.

On 8 November 2013, the first day of report stage was held in the House of Commons. MPs considered adding New Clause 1 to the Bill. The New Clause was agreed to on division and added to the Bill.

The EU referendum Bill passed its final stage of the House of Commons on 29 November and will now move to the House of Lords for scrutiny next year. This was despite attempts to delay the progress of the Bill by Labour and Lib Dem MPs in the hope time would run out on the Bill.

Labour MPs warned of the uncertain impacts on business that a referendum would cause with some speaking for over half an hour. Labour MP Mike Gapes (Ilford South) said the referendum was based on a commitment to renegotiate the UK's membership of the European Union, something he argued may never actually happen.

The House of Lords first reading took place on 2 December 2013. The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed. The second reading was held on 10 January 2014. After a short debate, the Bill was passed to a Committee of the Whole House.

The first day of committee took place on 24 January 2014. At the stage, peers voted by a majority of 87 to amend the wording of the referendum question in the Bill.

After two defeats on amendments inflicted by Labour, Liberal Democrat and crossbench peers in the Lords, peers voted by 180 to 130, a majority of 50, to end the debate of the EU (Referendum) Bill at committee stage in the Lords on 31 January 2014.

Peers voted down an amendment that would have created a government duty to inform voters about information on the consequences of an exit from the Union. The House also considered provisions for separate voting in the devolved administrations, but the relevant amendments were withdrawn after discussion.

After a division, the House agreed an amendment which would ensure as much information as possible about the possible impact of leaving the UK would be compiled before the referendum.