Francis Maude: Follow the progress of Bill on website

Horsham MP Francis Maude
Horsham MP Francis Maude

Last month, 29-year-old Stockton South MP, James Wharton, was drawn top of the Private Member’s Bill ballot - not something that would ordinarily lend itself to being mentioned in my column.

However, James chose to take forward the Conservative Party’s draft Bill which would secure a simple in/out referendum on our membership of the European Union following a renegotiation of the terms of that membership.

Officially entitled the ‘European Union (Referendum) Bill’ it would legislate for a referendum to be held before 31 December 2017, with a date having to be decided by 31 December 2016. The question on the ballot paper would be, quite simply: ‘Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?’

The Bill has its second reading in the chamber of the House of Commons on Friday, July 5 but despite warm support from communities around the UK the Bill is by no means guaranteed to succeed. We don’t have a majority of MPs and the Bill is opposed by the Lib Dems and Labour.

It’s not all doom and gloom – success is a possibility as some non-Conservative MPs are listening to their constituents, are acknowledging the passionate support for the Bill from local people of all party political persuasions and none and are thinking of supporting it next week.

The case for a referendum is simple – the last time the British people had their say on Europe was 1975! Since then many powers have been transferred to the EU and many more counties have become members. Many people feel that it’s about time that our membership is renegotiated – that we make it better for Britain - and that the new deal is put to the British people so we can decide – directly – if it’s what we want.

So, we’ve launched a website – to allow everyone to find out more about the Bill and its progress, to get involved by downloading pledge cards and signing petitions and even by publically co-sponsoring the Bill on facebook.

It’s a website for all – you don’t have to be a Conservative, just passionate about securing a referendum. In fact, readers who are supportive might want to pass details of the site to friends who live in areas with non-Conservative MPs – there are resources on the site that can be used to explain to non-supportive MPs that this is a hugely important issue that should be above party politics, they should listen to their constituents and vote for the Bill on July 5 – it’s the only chance we have of securing a referendum.