‘Why I wanted a referendum’

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CALDER Valley MP Craig Whittaker was one of 81 Tory backbenchers who rebelled against their leadership on the vote for an EU referendum.

The motion calling for a ballot on Britain’s membership of the EU was defeated by 483 to 111 in the House of Commons on Monday night.

The five-hour Commons debate on the issue was prompted after a petition was signed by more than 100,000 people. Mr Whittaker was also one of the 56 MPs who signed the petition.

Mr Whittaker said he believed in being in Europe but not controlled by it. “I think it is about time we had an open and frank debate,” he said. “Since being elected as an MP in May last year I have received just under 300 letters and emails about a referendum and in the last week there have been an additional 400.

“These are usually campaign letters (the same letter signed by different people) but the ones I have been receiving about the EU have all been individual which for me shows that people have taken a general interest in it.

“I have only received one letter against me backing the motion.”

Mr Whittaker said if the vote came up at some future date he would do exactly the same. “I think the sheer size of the rebellion shows that this issue isn’t going to go away,” he said.

This is the biggest rebellion Prime Minister David Cameron has suffered since entering Downing Street. The previous largest Tory rebellion over Europe was in 1993, when 41 MPs defied John Major on the Maastricht Treaty.

Mr Whittaker said the whole aim was to start a meaningful discussion. “I think the issue needs to be put to bed once and for all. We are either in or out,” he said. “I believe the majority of people want us to be in it but not ruled by it and I think it is important that people have a say as well.”