Tory rebels on Europe speak out

Two Comet country MPs who rebelled against the government in Monday night’s vote on whether to hold a referendum on Europe say constituents deserve the right to choose, while a Herts MEP says “move on”.

Conservative members for Stevenage and Mid Beds, Stephen McPartland and Nadine Dorries, defied a three-line whip from their own party to vote in favour of a motion to put Britain’s membership of the European Union to a public vote.

The motion, whether to stay in the EU, leave or renegotiate membership, was defeated by 483 votes to 111. Eighty-one Tory’s rebelled.

Mr McPartland said the main reason he voted against the government was to give a voice to those who have never had a say on the matter.

“I believe it is wrong that people under the age of 54 have never had the opportunity to vote on the issue of Europe.

“I believe in choice and people should be able to choose what relationship they would like with Europe.

While clarifying that only the Lib Dem manifesto contains a pledge on an “in or out” referendum, he added that a Labour government would take Britain into a closer relationship with Europe.

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“I am afraid from listening to the debate that the Labour Party has made it clear that if they form a government again, they will pursue greater integration with Europe, which will culminate in a United States of Europe in my view.”

Ms Dorries said she has always argued for a referendum on the issue, adding she had received almost 400 letters and emails in favour of a referendum and only one against.

She said: “We send �25 million a day to Europe. Over the next five years it will be �45 billion. Here we are losing jobs by cutting back on services, and unemployment is rising.”

“[Voting against the party line] is the hardest and most difficult thing to do. But I could not feel good about myself if I had ignored my constituents. I would have woken up this morning with a bad feeling. No-one can imagine how hard it is. It’s like betrayal, but I’ve got that responsibility to my constituents.”

Hertfordshire European minister, Labour’s Richard Howitt urged Mr McPartland to “move on” after the defeat.

“It is no good for Mr McPartland to talk about defending the sovereignty of the British Parliament and now Parliament has spoken, to refuse to accept the outcome.

“This was a choice between pandering to Eurosceptic Conservative party members or considering the interest of all of our joint Stevenage constituents whose jobs and livelihoods depend on Britain’s continued membership of the EU.”

Hitchin MP Peter Lilley, North East Herts MP Oliver Heald and East Beds MP Alistair Burt voted against a referendum.

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