Suffolk MP calls for haste in making Europe referendum law

new picture of David Ruffley, Bury St Edmunds MPEADT 9.7.11ES 15.3.12EADT 24.5.12

new picture of David Ruffley, Bury St Edmunds MPEADT 9.7.11ES 15.3.12EADT 24.5.12 - Credit: Archant

Suffolk MP David Ruffley called for haste in enshrining a European referendum in law after the prime minister opened the door for a bill this parliament.

The Bury St Edmunds Conservative, who has been leading calls to bind parliament to a referendum after the next election, said David Cameron was listening to pressure from his eurosceptic back benches.

Mr Cameron announced in January that he would seek to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership and then put them to a public vote in an in/out referendum. And this week he said for the first time that he was prepared to consider any measure to strengthen his commitment to stage an in/out referendum on the EU after the next general election.

The Conservative leader's comments came just hours before his party was expected to suffer heavy defeats in the local elections, with the anti-Europe UK Independence Party tipped to make gains.

Mr Ruffley denied the timing of Mr Cameron's comments were a cynical ploy as people went to the polls, saying Mr Cameron was listening to a Conservative backbench pressure group he was proud to be part of.

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He said: 'I do not think we should hang around. We need to vote very soon on a named day. The reason I say that is that the British public deserve the right and they demand the right to have their say on Britain's relationship with Europe whether that is on a reformed basis or whether it is pulling out of Europe.'

Mr Ruffley said that the public did not trust what politicians said on Europe.

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He said: 'That is why we need to give this over to the people to make this decision,' 'At the moment we have a situation where the Labour leader and the Liberal Democrat leader have been rubbishing Mr Cameron's whole idea of a referendum on Britain's future in Europe. I would relish an early vote in the next few weeks. They would then, if they were true to their word, vote against the referendum bill. Every Conservative would vote for it. Those members who voted against it would have to explain to their constituents why they opposed a referendum. That I would like to see. Mr Cameron told the BBC this week: 'I think we need to demonstrate absolutely that we are serious about this referendum.

'Anything we can to do to strengthen that offer I am prepared to consider.'

Labour MEP Richard Howitt said: 'David Cameron's statement shows his speech on an EU referendum has resolutely failed to heal the deep splits in his own party on Europe.

'The latest comment that he could legislate on an EU referendum is simply throwing more red meat to his Eurosceptics and will fail again.

'Labour believes his call for a referendum on Europe is asking the wrong question and at the wrong time.'

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