European Union (Referendum) Bill — Clause 1 — Wording of Referendum Question — 29 Nov 2013 at 09:30

Oliver Letwin MP, West Dorset voted for a referendum question asking if the UK should "be" (rather than "remain") in the EU.

The majority of MPs voted in favour of a referendum question asking if the UK should "be" a member of the EU rather than "remain" a member, and starting the question with "Should..." rather than "Do you think...".

MP Mike Gapes proposed changing the referendum question to:

"Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?"[1]

rather than that included in the bill[2 which was]:

“Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?”

Gareth Thomas MP explained the rationale behind Mr Gapes' rejected amendment, dealing first with the wording at the start of the question[3]:

  • "Amendment 35, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford South, responds to the concerns of the Electoral Commission about the Bill’s question:
  • “Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?”
  • It suggests removing the opening phrase “Do you think”. That would result in the question beginning with “Should”, and the remainder of the words being reordered appropriately.
  • The Electoral Commission’s research found that some people felt the phrase, “Do you think” was too informal for a referendum question. Others felt that the phrase sounded less concrete, and suggested, without prompting from the interviewers or being given the alternative option, that the question should be changed to begin with the word “Should” , as my hon. Friend has proposed. Some of the interviewees felt that a change to the wording would make the question on the referendum ballot paper shorter, more direct and, importantly, to the point.

In relation to the use of the word "remain" rather than "be" Mr Thomas added[4]:

  • Importantly, the issue about which we should be concerned is the fact that many participants in the Electoral Commission’s research felt that the question
  • “was misleading because it does not make clear that the United Kingdom is currently a member of the European Union.”

Mike Gapes MP confirmed his agreement with what Gareth Thomas MP had said about his proposal: "My hon. Friend Mr Thomas eloquently explained why amendments 35 and 36 have been tabled."[5]

Debate in Parliament | Source |

Party Summary

Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.

What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.

What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.

What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.

PartyMajority (No)Minority (Aye)BothTurnout
Con242 (+2 tell) 0080.0%
Lab2 2 (+2 tell)02.3%
LDem0 101.8%
Total:244 3040.5%

Rebel Voters - sorted by party

MPs for which their vote in this division differed from the majority vote of their party. You can see all votes in this division, or every eligible MP who could have voted in this division

Sort by: Name | Constituency | Party | Vote

NameConstituencyPartyVote
Jim FitzpatrickPoplar and LimehouseLab (minister)no
Chris WilliamsonDerby NorthLab (minister)no

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