British Prime Minister David Cameron has been dealt a heavy blow by Labour and Liberal Democrat peers at the House of Lords, where his attempt to make a referendum on the UK’s EU membership a law was branded a “dead parrot”.
The Conservative party’s bill, introduced by Tory backbencher James Wharton, was meant to consolidate David Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum on the EU membership by the end of 2017.
At the House of Lords, a series of peers spent more than eight hours debating a string of amendments in the hope of causing the bill to run out of parliamentary time.
Now, the private members’ bill designed to pave the way for the historic poll must return to the House of Commons to discuss two amendments including changing the question and conducting a full impact assessment of Britain leaving the EU.
“As I understand it from the House of Lords, the European Union Referendum Bill is now, in effect, a dead parrot,” said Tory MP Bill Cash, chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee.
Senior Tories expressed frustration at peers’ delaying tactics, which included a row about whether the referendum question should be written in Welsh and Gaelic.
“Labour and the Liberal Democrats have done yet another U-turn on their position on an in-out referendum on the European Union,” said Lord Hill, leader of the Tories in the Lords.
“Having accepted this Bill in the House of Commons, they are now trying to kill it in the Lords. Having stayed mum in the Commons, they are revealed in their true colours,” he added.
The bill was approved unopposed by the Commons last year after most Labour and Lib Dem MPs abstained.