Page last updated at 20:14 GMT, Monday, 13 June 2011 21:14 UK

European Union Bill part one

The government has suffered another narrow defeat on the European Union Bill as peers voted, by 214 to 209, to restrict the issues on which referendums should be held.

As peers continued their scrutiny of the bill on 13 June 2011, day two of the legislation's report stage, peers agreed that there should be referendums on whether to join the euro, create a "single, integrated military force", or remove any of the UK's control over its borders.

But they rejected a large number of other policy areas that the government believes would merit a referendum, such as the UK's participation in a future European Public Prosecutor's Office and removing the UK's veto on EU decisions on foreign affairs.

The defeat, which ministers have pledged to overturn when the bill returns to the Commons, means that Parliament would decide whether to make such changes if they were proposed.

The legislation aims to enable voters to deliver a verdict on any transfers of UK powers to EU institutions deemed by ministers to be "significant".

But Former UK ambassador to the EU Lord Hannay of Chiswick, opening debate on his amendments, said the government's "long, long list of potential referendums is excessive and disproportionate".

He warned: "It does real damage to the structure of representative parliamentary democracy and it really needs to be shortened."

The amendments would strengthen the power of the UK Parliament, he argued.

Lord Hannay's amendments were co-sponsored by Liberal Democrat QC Lord Goodhart, Tory former European commissioner Lord Tugendhat, and the Labour front bench.

Foreign Office minister Lord Howell of Guildford dismissed the amendments as "a thoroughly retrograde step, that would serve to undermine the direct and frank and honest commitment that we wish to make to the British people".

In another government defeat on this bill, peers voted last week by 221 to 216, a majority of five, to support an amendment requiring the turnout to be higher than 40% before the government would be bound by the result.

Watch part two of the debate.


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