Treaty 'timebomb' pressure grows: Tory loyalists put on war footing as whips prepare for tight vote on Maastricht after Easter recess
However, after their order that everybody would have to be at Westminster that day, it was learned last night that one of the 26 regular Conservative rebels was already being offered a dispensation to 'pair' off with a Labour MP in an attempt to dilute the anticipated Tory revolt.
The critical importance of the vote was emphasised by a Labour frontbencher, who said: 'This is going to require strong nerves. But if John Major is defeated on New Clause 75, and the subsequent motion on the Social Chapter, he will either have to sign up to the Social Chapter, walk away from the treaty, hold a referendum - or resign.'
Few MPs believe it would be possible for him to survive defeat. But another senior Opposition source said a new leader could stage a referendum: 'A referendum would be the new leader's equivalent of Mr Major's repudiation of poll tax.'
Meanwhile, recriminations over Labour tactics spread across the parties - uniting Tory opponents of Maastricht, the Liberal Democrats, Labour's ardent pro-Maastricht contingent, and diehard Labour opponents of the treaty such as Dennis Skinner, against the disappearance of Amendment 27, which would have deleted the Social Chapter opt-out from the Bill.
That had the guaranteed support of a majority of the House, but the Attorney General had advised that it would not block ratification. Labour therefore sought a more effective weapon to force the Government to face the straight choice of ratifying, or not ratifying, the treaty with the Social Chapter - which is where New Clause 75 came in.
But Michael Morris, the chairman of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill's Committee Stage, ruled on Tuesday that he was dropping Amendment 27 in favour of New Clause 75.
One strongly pro-EC Labour MP said yesterday that he might find it difficult to vote for the New Clause 75 follow-up motion if it meant killing the treaty. He also criticised George Robertson, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, for calling it the 'killer amendment', asking: 'Who's it killing?'
Mr Roberston said: 'Labour wants to have a specific vote to include the Social Chapter in the treaty. That's what our whole intention has been right from the beginning. What we have done is part of a careful strategy to put pressure on the Government to sign up to what everbody else has signed up to.'
That enhanced clarity of New Clause 75 will undoubtedly make it more difficult for Tory rebels to vote for it. But it might only require 11 to defeat the Government, if all Opposition MPs turn out to vote. Paddy Ashdown said yesterday: 'We're committed to vote for the Social Chapter in whatever guise it comes before us.'
- 2 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 3 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
Nepal earthquake: More than 1,100 killed across four countries and in Mount Everest avalanche
Nepal earthquake: The race is on to help thousands trapped under rubble around Kathmandu, while remote villages face a long wait for help
Royal baby: Live updates as superbug closes ward at St Mary's Hospital where Duchess of Cambridge is due to give birth
Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...