We need to unite to give voters a fair election on Europe

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Over the last two weeks, MPs have been debating the EU referendum bill, beginning the process that will give the British people a vote on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

In the past, Labour had its reservations about a referendum, but one thing that last month’s election result made very clear was that the British public want to have a vote on our country’s EU membership.

Labour has listened to that demand, and we will be working in Parliament to make sure that the public get that opportunity.

I still believe that staying in the EU is the right decision for people in Shields.

Being in the EU gives us huge advantages when it comes to trade and investment, and that means more jobs and better pay for people here.

But it is important that voters get the chance to decide, and I look forward to the debate that will take place between now and the referendum.

One thing that is important is that the vote is a fair contest. That’s why Labour is concerned about the Government’s decision to suspend purdah rules.

This means government ministers will not be prevented from using public resources to campaign during the election period.

People will not accept public money being used to back one of the campaigns, and this risks undermining confidence in the fairness of the referendum.

Where there is even more uncertainty is in the Tory Party itself.

Tory MPs were outraged this week by claims that anti-EU ministers would not be allowed to campaign for an out vote in the referendum, and David Cameron appeared not to be able to make up his mind about whether or not they would be allowed to do so.

It’s typical of the Tories – tearing themselves apart over Europe and creating a massive distraction from the hard work of making the country better off.

The Tories need to stop the infighting and join Labour in giving the country what it wants – a fair election which provides a decisive answer to the question of Europe.