Tory MEP reopens divisions Plumb hits at Tory Euro-sceptics pe

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Indy Politics
Tory divisions over Europe will be torn open again today with a blistering attack on Tory Euro-sceptics by Lord Plumb, leader of the Tory group of members of the European Parliament. Lord Plumb will tell the central London Europe group that Bill Cash, one of the leading Euro-sceptics, should be "thoroughly ashamed" for talking about Germany and Fascism in the same breath.

He will criticise Lord Tebbit, former chairman of the Conservative Party, for warning of civil disturbance over closer European union. Lord Plumb will say people cannot be blamed for worrying about the future European policy of John Major's government. His speech will be seen as a call to Mr Major to act tougher with the Euro-sceptics.

The Government chief whip, Richard Ryder, yesterday kept in limbo Nicholas Budgen, the sole whipless Tory rebel to vote with the Government over European agriculture spending.

Mr Budgen was hoping to have the whip restored quickly, after voting with the Government on Tuesday. But Mr Ryder sought to make it clear to the eight other whipless rebels who abstained that he expects consistent loyalty before welcoming them back into the fold.

Mr Budgen, the MP for Wolverhampton South West, was disappointed at receiving no approach from the whips, although he would like all nine whipless MPs to be brought back into the fold.

"The Government appears more ready to talk to the IRA than to me," he quipped.

However, he will not be left out in the cold by his eight whipless friends, in spite of urging them in vain to make a show of unity before the local elections by supporting the Government. One rebel who abstained in the vote said: "We respect his decision. Of course he will be welcome at our weekly meetings."

Senior backbench Tories were last night pressing the Chief Whip to relent and welcome Mr Budgen back. Dame Jill Knight, a member of the executive of 1922 group of Tory MPs, said: "Nick is a great chap."

John Major is expected to bring Mr Budgen back, possibly with other rebels, in an attempt to reunite the party. But Mr Ryder insists the party whip must be earned.

Bill Cash, the leading Tory critic of the Maastricht treaty, wrote to Mr Ryder, demanding a vote on the floor of the Commons on border controls, following the failure by Labour to secure a debate on the issue at a Commons committee hearing on European legislation.

Labour may still seek to force a debate and vote in its own time, to demonstrate its support for tough border controls, and to exploit the divisions in the Tory party over Europe.

Mr Cash said he was not reassured by the commitment to the committee by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, that Britain would use the veto to preserve the border controls.

He sought assurances that the Government would vote against any proposal permitting two-thirds majority voting on immigration matters; and that the European Court of Justice would not be allowed to determine the issue.

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