Labour MPs told to abstain from voting for in-out referendum

Labour MPs will not be taking part in a vote next month for an in-out referendum in the EU in 2017. Documents leaked to the Guido Fawkes website claiming to be Labour whipping orders call Conservative backbencher James Wharton’s private member’s bill a “gimmick” and a “political stunt”, and said he expects “few labour MPs to be there. Ed [Miliband] will be doing other things”.

The bill, which will be published next week, is therefore likely to pass the first stage of voting, but Labour is expected to oppose it at later stages when it becomes more vulnerable to delay.

On the news, Douglas Carswell MP tweeted:

Although it’s a private member’s bill, it has the full backing of Downing Street, with Tory MPs under a three-line whip to support it. Lack of support from the Liberal Democrats prevented a government bill on the issue.

Here are the notes, taken from the Guido Fawkes blog:

1. OUR APPROACH

We are not asking colleagues to be in Westminster on Friday 5 July, as if there was a vote Labour will abstain on the Bill at Second Reading. A suggested response will be circulated by the PLP via email shortly.

This is a Tory gimmick, a political stunt and therefore we are suggesting colleagues do not need to be here, unless they are prepared to make a supportive speech on Labour’s position (see below).

The PM has been forced into supporting this Private Members’ Bill because he’s a weak leader and in hoc to his eurosceptic backbenchers. He’s conned his backbenchers into believing that this will become law and we will dismiss this as a political stunt that it is, saying it is quite wrong to use the mechanism of the Private Members’ Bill to bring in a major constitutional measure.

It is quite wrong to commit and legislate now for an in/out referendum which would create four years of uncertainty, putting at risk the national interest by damaging both jobs and the economy.

For these reasons we will not be voting on the Bill at Second Reading.

2. SPEAKING AT SECOND READING

NOTE FOR WHIPS: We will be looking for suitable speakers so that the chamber is not completely empty and if there are those in your group who would be happy to speak and make the points above, then please make a judgement and ask them whether they would be prepared to make a speech on Friday 5 July.