|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Bowness: I thank the Minister for her reply. Perhaps I may deal with the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. Like my noble friend Lord Elton, I consider there to be a significant difference between elections and what the Liberal Democrat Front Bench has just described as "constitutional change". The desire to have constitutional change endorsed by a
Baroness Hamwee: Perhaps I may intervene, if the Minister--I mean the noble Lord. The slip was not even Freudian. If the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, has finished demolishing me, perhaps I may ask him where his proposition fits in with the Salisbury convention. I do not understand. One can have a minority of people voting for a government who have said that they will take certain constitutional changes forward, but when putting them to the vote one requires a particular threshold, whatever the vote for that government in the first place.
It is quite novel for someone from the Opposition Front Bench to be put in the position of answering questions. I am not sure that I have to answer, but I shall do so. We return again to the point that the Government have chosen to take the matter forward by way of a referendum. As has already been said this afternoon, of course there was an election; of course the Government have manifesto commitments and they could have chosen to legislate for this arrangement in London without putting it to a referendum. Having decided that it should go to a referendum, it is entirely legitimate for us to argue that we want to satisfy ourselves that a majority of people in London are in support.
My noble friend Lord Elton referred to the Minister's remarks about the referendum being advisory and the Government having to reflect on the result. There seems to me to be a difference in the views being expressed by the Minister. On the one hand she says that the Government would have to reflect on the result. On the other hand she appears to accept that a "yes" vote would give the Government all the authority they need to proceed with their proposition.
If there is to be genuine reflection, then I ask the Minister how derisory the vote has to be before the Government do not proceed with their proposals. What is the threshold that the Minister would find acceptable? Clearly, by saying that the Government would reflect upon the result, the Minister must have in her mind a result which would put into question the implementation of the proposals. It seems to me to be entirely appropriate that we should seek proper endorsement of the proposals. These amendments are in a group and the Minister did not deal with Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 and the declarations in respect of various entries. But whatever her response, if she is to make one, I shall wish to press the point made in Amendment No. 13 when it is put to the Committee.
Baroness Hayman: As regards the issue of reflection on the result, Parliament would reflect on the result of an advisory referendum. It is not possible for a referendum to bind Parliament. Parliament must scrutinise the legislation.
The Government have made their position clear. The threshold for acting is a majority of those voting being in favour of the proposition. That is the only clear way to proceed, otherwise we are making assumptions about the opinions of those who have not voted that we cannot justify. We would be in the same position as before of discussing the difficulty of interpreting motivation.
Those who have stayed at home are said to have voted against the proposition. But it could equally be said that they were in favour of the proposition, because if they were profoundly opposed they would have gone and voted accordingly. It is not in the interests of clarity or good government to have artificial thresholds. We have made our position clear. It is not possible to bind Parliament by referendum. I made the point that Parliament would reflect on both the turnout and the views expressed.
Lord Bowness: I do not wish to detain the Committee unnecessarily. The Minister has not dealt with Amendments Nos. 11 and 12, but perhaps we can come back to those at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Page 2, line 19, at end insert--
("( ) The Chief Counting Officer shall not certify the total of votes cast for each answer under subsection (4) above unless at least 50 per cent. of the persons entitled to vote in the referendum for the whole of Greater London have voted.").