Referendum Bill a fresh challenge by Euro-rebels

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Indy Politics
Anti-European Tory MPs from whom the whip has been withdrawn threw down a fresh gauntlet to the Government yesterday as they rallied behind a private member's Bill for a referendum on whether Britain should back a full-blown federal Europe, suppor t a scaled-down free trade area or leave the union altogether.

Another clash, meanwhile, loomed between ministers and campaigners for disabled people as a Labour backbencher presented the third attempt to get the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill on to the statute book.

Launching a first draft of her Referendum Bill, Teresa Gorman, the Conservative MP for Billericay, said the measure would open the way for a "gigantic Mori poll" of the British people before the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference on the EU's future.

She has the backing of seven other backbenchers who had the party whip withdrawn for rebelling over the Euro-budget Bill.

Mrs Gorman accepted that a three-way referendum risked producing an inconclusive result, but said: "If you talk to ordinary English people in Essex, they say they do not want to be bossed about by foreigners."

Mrs Gorman came sixth in the private members' ballot, guaranteeing a Friday Second Reading debate on 24 February, while Harry Barnes, Labour MP for Derbyshire North East is fourth in the pecking order with the Bill for disabled people on 10 February.

But there was acrimony within the disabled people's lobby after Sir John Hannam, the Conservative MP for Exeter, refused to co-operate with a strategy to push Mr Barnes's Bill into second place, with a Second Reading on 27 January.

Sir John is a joint chairman of the All-Party Disablement Group which backed earlier attempts by two Labour MPs, Alf Morris and Roger Berry, to get the wide-ranging measure through the House - only to be thwarted last session by blocking tactics employedby the Government.

In behind-the-scenes negotiations before yesterday's official presentations of private members' Bills to the Commons, David Jamieson, Labour MP for Plymouth Devonport, offered to relinquish the 27 January date for his Activity Centres (Young Persons' Safety) Bill in favour of Mr Barnes.

But Sir John insisted that if the number two slot was being vacated he would claim it for himself.

He is to exploit his private member opportunity to sponsor the Proceeds of Crime Bill, the sole "crime and punishment" measure announced by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, at this year's Conservative Party conference.

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