Labour admits it: EU referendum bill ‘will get through Commons’

Labour is conceding the Conservative-backed bill which seeks to guarantee an in-or-out referendum in the next parliament will pass its Commons stages.

Opposition sources in parliament told Politics.co.uk backbencher James Wharton's private member's bill was unlikely to be filibustered by the Labour party.

After receiving detailed scrutiny in committee the European Union (referendum) bill returns to the floor of the Commons this Friday for its report stage debate.

The Labour party has not changed its position on the legislation, which is to dismiss it as a parliamentary gimmick and ignore it by abstaining.

But backbenchers are free to table numerous amendments in an attempt to prevent it ever heading to the Lords, as there is no time-limit on debate on the bill.

"This bill is more about internal Tory party internal management than about Britain's national interest," a Labour source said.

"It's unprecedented for a governing party to use backdoor parliamentary procedure to propose major constitutional change, and it's unclear if the Liberal Democrats will support this step."

It is thought that the bill is unlikely to complete its Commons stages in one day, meaning it will have to rely on the limited number of days remaining for private member's bills in the current session.

MPs expect the delay will not prevent it receiving its third reading in the Commons before Christmas, however.

Wharton told Politics.co.uk he was confident Conservative and DUP MPs would unite to get the bill into the Lords.

"Before this started people said they didn't believe it would get this far," he said.

"We've proved commentators wrong before and we're going to do it again."

Once it is passed in the Commons it will face an even tougher battle in the Lords, but eurosceptic backbenchers are hoping to continue the struggle into 2014 by threatening to use the Parliament Act.