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The Government have said that the referendum is to be modelled on the first one in this country in 1975 and also will follow the 1979 referendum in Scotland. On both those occasions a Labour government were in office.
Let me return to the 1979 referendum because I can compare it also with the 1975 referendum. In 1978, the Government said that they were modelling the referendum on the referendum on Europe. In 1979 the Government were officially supporting one side in
In 1975--the year of the referendum on Europe--the Government gave a grant of £125,000 to each side. Both sides were required to account for all contributions and to state from where they had come. In 1975 the Government published free for both sides the equivalent of a manifesto prepared by each side. That is similar to the suggestion put forward by my noble friend. That was not done in 1979 although the 1975 procedure was supposed to be followed.
The first report to which I referred seems to suggest that propaganda for one side only is to be put out. I hope that the Minister can say whether or not there is substance in that report in the Sunday Telegraph. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, speaking on the last amendment, said that the Government would want to learn from previous referendums. I initiated a debate in this House on 12th March 1979, nine days after the last referendum. It was quite a long debate--not the kind of short one which has to take place in the dinner break nowadays--and a number of points were made.
I agree entirely that, even though there is no time to set up the kind of commission proposed in the last amendment, lessons should be learnt from what is going to happen this time as well as taking into account what was done in the past. Certainly in the past two referendums, in 1975 and 1979, much trouble was taken to try to make sure that both sides received fair treatment. I am not at all happy that that is what is happening now.
Viscount St. Davids: My Lords, the "Yes for Wales" campaign is being funded by individuals and organisations who are accountable to the Inland Revenue in the United Kingdom. I understand that the "No for Wales" campaign is being funded by a tax exile--Sir Julian Hodge--who reputedly lives in Jersey. He may see it as a way of redressing the balance and giving some money to the UK taxpayer. If so, does not he meet some of the requirements of my noble friend?
Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I support the amendment because I raised the issue at Second Reading. Can the Minister say whether, if the Government as opposed to individuals--I have no objection whatever to individuals giving whatever they
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, points to the difficulties which showed themselves when I began to investigate. On the last occasion I did not say that I would give consideration to public funding. That was a slip of the tongue. If the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, looks at the citation which he read, he will see that I did not say that I would give consideration to public funding. I said that there should be as wide dissemination of information to the public as possible.
We have no intention of providing public funds to support any campaign organisation. As the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, pointed out, the "Yes" campaign will raise donations from those who wish to subscribe. The "No" campaign, similarly, has the right in a free society to raise funds from wherever, whether on or off shore.
We do not intend to provide public money to allow campaigning organisations to send statements of their case at public expense to every household. To revert again to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, there are so many permutations--I am not teasing the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, but I can now recite the mantra; "Yes, No", "No, No", "No, Yes", "Yes, Yes"--that it simply is not practicable to give public funding to everyone who may have a view and regard themselves as a campaign organisation.
That indicates, if one looks at it, that there is an obligation on campaigning organisations to prepare leaflets. That is not a burden that can be put on a campaign organisation, which may want to have no public dissemination at public expense. It is simply not workable. Someone would have to identify the campaigning organisations. They may be quite different.
We have heard a variety of views in Scotland. For instance, would a campaigning organisation urging people not to vote at all be eligible for public funding? There should be a good public debate. Debates in both Houses of Parliament contribute to that. It is difficult to sit on this Bench at the moment without having quotations from the Western Mail or the Sunday Telegraph put under one's nose with the question--perhaps rather more politely put--"What do you say about that?" I read the Western Mail; I do not always read the Sunday Telegraph. I am ashamed to confess that I did not see the specific reference. Sometimes the Western Mail is accurate; sometimes it is not.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, is quite right. It is a bargain White Paper. It costs only £3. That is the conclusion to which we have come. There should be a good public debate. I believe that there will be a good public debate in both Scotland and Wales. Each campaign organisation must fund itself as it thinks appropriate. Campaign organisations will not all have the same song to sing.
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, he said that he read the Western Mail on this occasion. Is it or is it not true that the Government are spending £700,000 on giving answers and disseminating information? I thought the noble Lord said that it was up to the campaigning bodies to raise their own money. The statement in the Western Mail is that the Government are spending the money. Can the Minister clarify what is the Government's role and expenditure?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, the Government will have a proper role. For instance, they will provide a "Reminder to vote" campaign. That is not a reminder to vote either yes or no. That sort of government expenditure will take place and I regard that as proper public expenditure in a matter of this importance. What will not be available are public funds for campaigning organisations as such. I read the Western Mail. I cannot say that I retain every syllable because I have to read other newspapers as well, with greater or lesser degrees of interest.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am not sure whether I am grateful to the Minister or not. I take from his response that it is difficult for the Government to deal with the "Yes" and "No" campaigns. They are worried about who they are and how they will define their literature. At the risk of harking back to the last debate, if there were a generic referendums Act and referendums commission, that would be one of the tasks of the commission and the Government would not have to do it. That is another good reason for dealing with this issue before we hold any more referendums.
What worries me is that the precis White Paper will actually have in it the preface by the Prime Minister. I shall not bore your Lordships by reading out all the purple prose on the page. The last paragraph is sufficient.
Apart from the fact that the legislation now says that the Welsh referendum will be on the same day as the Scottish one, which is 11th September--I shall not go into that again--it seems to me that the precis White Paper will be campaigning vigorously for a yes vote. Therefore a document will be popping through all our letter boxes in Scotland and Wales urging us to join the Prime Minister in vigorously giving a strong yes vote on 11th September. That appears to me to be public funds being used to campaign on one side of the issue.