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Tories fight on against Treaty.

Byline: By EXAMINER News Correspondent

THE Tories have vowed to fight on in their battle to force a referendum on the European Union's controversial Lisbon Treaty after their Commons defeat.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said they would now try to reintroduce their amendment calling for a referendum when the treaty went to the House of Lords.

Campaigners believe that the parliamentary arithmetic could work in their favour in the upper chamber, where the Government has no overall majority.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg was licking his wounds after almost a quarter of his party defied a three-line whip last night to vote with the Tories in support of a referendum.

He will now be under pressure to reassert his battered authority when he delivers his first big setpiece speech as party leader at the Lib Dems' spring conference in Liverpool at the weekend.

Last night in the Commons, the Government comfortably saw off the Conservative amendment by 311 votes to 248 - a majority of 63 - as just 29 Labour rebels joined the Tories in the division lobbies.

A rebel Labour amendment was defeated by a similar margin of 311 to 247.

However 15 of the Lib Dems 63 MPs - almost a quarter of the parliamentary party - defied orders to abstain and join the vote for a referendum.

Three senior frontbenchers - justice spokesman David Heath, countryside spokesman Tim Farron, and Scotland and Northern Ireland spokesman Alistair Carmichael - quit to join the revolt.

Mr Clegg, who has been leader for less than three months, denied that he had made a massive miscalculation in imposing a three-line whip, insisting that he had the support of "overwhelming majority" of Lib Dem MPs.

He said that he would be speaking to other rebels - including eight junior frontbenchers - in the coming "hours and days" but appeared to rule out further sackings.

However the scale of the rebellion left him with little room to manoeuvre.

Lib Dem MPs were asking last night how their party - long seen as the most united on Europe - came out of the votes looking the most divided.

Mr Clegg had hoped to overcome the differences by calling for a referendumon the whole issue of Britain's continued membership of the EU, rather than on the narrower issue of the treaty.
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Mar 6, 2008
Words:379
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