MPs reject Tory MP's call for 'in-out' EU referendum
MPs have overwhelmingly rejected a Tory MP's bid to pave the way for a referendum on the UK's EU membership.
Peter Bone urged an amendment to the European Union Bill, which currently promises a UK referendum whenever there is a big change to EU treaties.
He proposed that if any such referendum resulted in a "no" vote, it would trigger a second vote on whether the UK should remain in the EU at all.
But the amendment was rejected by 295 votes to 26.
MPs were debating the European Union Bill's committee stage for a fifth day - the government says the bill will stop more UK powers being handed to Brussels without a public vote but Labour argues it is a political gesture aimed at appeasing Eurosceptic Tories.
The Eurosceptic Conservative MP Peter Bone put forward an amendment to the bill, which would have require a second referendum to be held, in the event the UK public voted "no" on a treaty change.
The second referendum would allow them to have a say on the UK's continued membership of the EU - Mr Bone described it as a "binding in-out referendum".
He was backed by the Labour former minister Kate Hoey, who said the main parties did not want to give people a say on whether to remain in the EU.
Another former Labour minister, Keith Vaz, also backed the amendment, but for different reasons.
He told MPs people should have a say, adding: "I am very confident that, given the opportunity, they will vote overwhelmingly to support remaining in the European Union."
Tory backbencher Philip Hollobone said he believed there would be a majority of voters who favoured leaving the EU "so that Britain can be a proud self-confident nation once again without having to pay a massive annual membership fee, soon rising to £10bn a year, and effectively with our borders open to all and sundry from across the European Union".
But the amendment was lost by 295 votes to 26, a majority of 269.
End Quote Wayne David Shadow foreign minister
This legislation which we have before us could lead us to having a multiplicity of referendums on very, very small technical issues”
During Tuesday's debate, Labour MPs raised concerns about the cost of referendums proposed by the government, on major EU treaty changes.
Foreign Office minister David Lidington admitted that such referendums would cost between £80m and £100m every time they are held.
Labour MP Chris Bryant, a former Europe minister, said: "I would have thought that a government that wants to make best value of money, especially in a time of austerity, would want to have a public interest question, or a value for money question, as part of the consideration as to whether or not there should be a referendum.
"My big anxiety is that there will be referendums on piddling matters because lawyers will force them to happen and there will be significant cost to the government and no actual benefit to voters who will effectively vote by not voting."
His colleague Wayne David, the shadow foreign office minister, agreed: "At a time of austerity as the government says, it is of great concern that there is such a lax approach to quite considerable sums of money."
He said the bill could lead to a "multiplicity of referendums on very, very small technical issues and a lot of public money could be spent on this basis".
For the government, Mr Lidington said people should have a say on which powers got passed to the EU and said costs could be cut if referendums were held on the same day as local elections or other polls.
Giving people a say on "the transfer of significant powers to act and make policy from this Parliament and this country to Brussels is something that ought to be a high priority for government expenditure", he said.