Osborne calls for an EU Referendum Bill in the Queen’s [DOGE’s] Speech
Coalition row as George Osborne calls for EU referendum bill in Queen’s Speech
George Osborne, the Chancellor, said that a bill to enshrine an EU referendum in law should be included in the Queen’s Speech but was immediately shot down by senior Liberal Democrats
By Peter Dominiczak, Assistant Political Editor1:17PM GMT 04 Mar 2014CommentsComments
George Osborne has clashed with his Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Cabinet after he called for an EU referendum bill to be included in the Queen’s Speech.
The Chancellor used the weekly Cabinet meeting to call for the bill to be included in the speech, which is set to take place shortly after May’s European elections.
However, his plans were immediately rejected by senior Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, and David Laws, the education minister.
Lib Dem sources accused the Conservatives of “changing their tune again” and bringing up the possibility of including the bill in the Queen’s Speech because they are “running scared of Ukip”.
David Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU then put the new deal to the people in a referendum after the next election. The Conservatives will make that promise a central part of their campaigning until the next general election.
To answer public doubts about whether that vote will ever be held, the Conservatives are attempting to pass a new law that would commit whoever is in power in the next Parliament to hold a referendum by the end of 2017.
Mr Osborne is understood to have expressed regret that the Lib Dems are withholding support for any attempt to enshrine the bill in law.
Sources said that he told the Cabinet meeting that it should be left for the public to decide on the issue.
His calls were backed by Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary.
His intervention will be seen as an attempt to bolster support ahead of May’s European elections, in which Ukip is expected to perform better than the Conservatives.
In January Labour and Lib Dem peers defeated a private members’ bill on the EU referendum Conservative backbencher.
The Conservatives will now attempt to bring back the legislation later this year as another private member’s Bill.
If the wording is unchanged and it passes the Commons without amendments, it will become law without having to go back to the Lords.
A Lib Dem source said: “The Tories were pushing for their hobby-horse bill to be included in the Queen’s Speech. We made clear that that wasn’t what was originally agreed. This is the Conservatives changing their tune again.
“We are not going to change our tune just because they are running scared of Ukip or because of their backbenchers.
“They are all over the place on this. They have changed their tune on this every week. Their management of their backbenchers is their problem. I’d advise them to stop banging on about Europe, to coin a phrase.”