House of Cards writer to present EU referendum bill into the House of Lords
Lord Dobbs will attempt to win support for the Conservative bill in the upper chamber.
Lord Dobbs of Wylye, the man who wrote the political thriller House of Cards, is to introduce the Conservative bill pledging an EU referendum into the House of Lords.
The peer and novelist, who boasts on his website that he has “never had a proper job”, will attempt to win support for the bill in the upper chamber, where it may run into trouble as it is opposed by both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
The EU referendum bill, promising a poll before 2018, is a Tory-backed bill rather than a government one, as Nick Clegg does not support it. This means it has to be sponsored by backbenchers rather than ministers, with 29-year-old James Wharton, MP for Stockton South, taking it through the Commons over the last few Fridays.
The legislation is heading to the Lords after it cleared its third Commons reading unopposed. Many opposition MPs, such as Labour’s Mike Gapes, a former chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, tried to “talk it out” by giving long and irrelevant speeches in a bid to make it run out of parliamentary time, but it eventually passed without a vote.
Wharton feared that if his bill had not cleared the Commons on this occasion, it would have failed as there are only three sitting Fridays in the Commons next year when the legislation could be heard again should peers in the House of Lords successfully pass amendments.
It is highly unusual for peers to try to change unopposed private members’ bills tabled by MPs, but if they table amendments that delay its progress beyond 28 February – the last scheduled Commons sitting Friday – then it will run out of Parliamentary time and will fail.
Wharton accused Labour and the Liberal Democrats of having done “absolutely everything in their power” to frustrate the bill in the Commons, and warned peers not to try similar tactics.
“The House of Lords is going to be difficult. There are a number of challenges, but I think there is a very clear message that needs to be sent to them as well, which is that the democratically elected House of Commons has voted for this,” he told BBC News.
Dobbs said: “I am delighted to be introducing this bill into the House of Lords to give the people of this country a say on Britain’s future in a reformed Europe through an in-out referendum. This is a historic choice, as it is the first time for a generation that the public will be given the opportunity to have their say on membership of the EU.
“The Conservative party is committed to giving the British people the right to decide. Having passed all its stages in the elected house, I hope the House of Lords will recognise the public demand for a referendum and give it their support.”
Labour sources said the party remains opposed to the bill and expects it to face “a lot of scrutiny” in the Lords.