David Cameron on Wednesday abandoned plans to make Parliament supreme over European courts as ministers admitted the proposals were “unworkable” with Britain in the EU.
In a row that overshadowed the Queen’s Speech, the Prime Minister was accused by Iain Duncan Smith, a former Cabinet minister, of “jettisoning” domestic priorities because of his “helter skelter” attempt to win the upcoming EU referendum.
However, Eurosceptics said the pledge was derisory and said that the only way Britain can ever ensure its sovereignty is by leaving the EU.
The failure to include a Sovereignty Bill came in a Queen’s Speech that Mr Cameron used to reach out to ordinary voters with announcements to build one million homes and ensure people are compensated for poor broadband.
The Prime Minister also said that as a “One Nation Conservative” he wanted to “extend life chances for all” by speeding up adoption, reforming the prison system and encouraging more children from poorer backgrounds to go to university.
In a bid to garner support from Eurosceptic backbenchers, Mr Cameron did announce plans to ensure that fewer EU migrants and visitors are able to use the British NHS free of charge.
Ministers will in the coming weeks announce “tighter residency rules” to ensure that it is harder for migrants to use EU rules to get free healthcare in the UK.
Mr Cameron used the Queen’s Speech to announce plans for a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act.
However, Eurosceptics were left furious by the absence of a Sovereignty Bill, which Mr Cameron had promised following the completion of his renegotiation with Brussels in February.
Mr Duncan Smith said: “Many Conservatives have become increasingly concerned that in the Governments helter skelter pursuit of the Referendum, they have been jettisoning or watering down key elements of their legislative programme.”
“After all if the EU Court of justice is supreme and can strike down our laws, the British people would have just laughed at the idea Britain can be sovereign unless we leave the EU.”
Stephen Crabb, the pro-EU Work and Pensions Secretary who succeeded Mr Duncan Smith, on Wednesday denied that the bill had been “tossed aside” but appeared to concede that it is “unworkable” as long as Britain remains tied to Brussels.
He said: “I don’t believe it has been tossed aside. We continue to debate that.
“What we don’t want to be doing is rushing forward and bringing forward proposals that are unworkable.
“We have had our fingers burnt before when we have done that.”
There were also fears that Number 10 has also shelved plans to reform the House of Lords after the plans were not included in the Queen’s Speech.
The Government said it had not yet decided whether to use legislation to curb the powers of the House of Lords, where the Tories are outnumbered.