MPs descended into fisticuffs between each other, after an opposition leader made comments about Northern League leader Umberto Bossi’s wife on television.

Gianfranco Fini, a former ally of Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, mentioned on a talk show that Mrs Bossi had taken early retirement from a teaching job when she was 39.

The retirement age in Italy has been a key issue holding up a programme implementing emergency growth measures.

The EU had demanded action to boost growth and cut Italy’s huge public debt as part of the battle to save the euro .

It all came to a boil in the Chamber of Deputies when lawmakers came to blows.

On Wednesday, Berlusconi presented leaders with the hastily constructed package of economic reforms, including a compromise made with Mr Bossi late on Tuesday night about raising Italy’s retirement age.