European Union Referendum Bill passes first hurdle in the Commons

The bill will be scrutinised next week

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Legislation that will pave the way for the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU has passed its first hurdle in the House of Commons.

Backing from members of the Labour Party saw the European Union Referendum Bill pass through the house with ease, winning by 544 to 53 – amounting to a majority 491.

Earlier, MPs rejected an SNP amendment calling for 16 and 17-year-olds to be allowed to take part, and demanding a “double majority” which would involve each of the four UK nations voting to leave the bloc before a Brexit occurs.

However, it was seen off by a majority of 279, with MPs voting 338 to 59.

The bill will now undergo a second reading, which will involve a detailed committee stage scrutiny on the floor of the House, starting next week.

The legislation comes after Prime Minister David Cameron denied he had suggested that ministers who wish to campaign to leave the EU must first resign.

Mr Cameron blamed journalists attending the G7 summit where he made the comments for "misinterpreting" his position. He instead insisted that he will announce nearer the time of the public vote whether senior colleagues must adhere to collective ministerial responsibility.

Additional reporting by PA