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Lord Campbell of Alloway: I believe that many noble Lords who are making a lot of unusual noise would not have been aware that for a very long time similar amendments in my name have been in the "no date named" and before this House on the reasoned amendment. What I may have said in the past was when I was probably less foolish than I am today. But we certainly can change our minds and there is no doubt that on this issue, for a long period of time, I have not changed it. My point that it is not a meretricious job to suit this debate; it is a good fun arguing point and I give it to the noble Baroness--as such.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: I would never accuse the noble Lord of being meretricious and I acknowledge, as I did before he rose, that people do change their minds. I simply sought to illustrate the point that issues of constitutional importance arise. I am sure that those noble Lords who in 1993 took part in the extensive debate on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, otherwise known as the Maastricht Bill, would have been extremely pleased to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, in not wishing to promote any amendment to establish a referendum on that Bill.
That brings me to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, about whether the Government were cherry picking on introducing referendums. I draw his attention once again to that well known document, the manifesto. The Government believe that the manifesto should herald where the people should be consulted on a specific point. That is precisely what we did. The noble Lord drew attention, for example, to devolution for Scotland and Wales and to an elected mayor and an assembly for London. The position on introducing referendums before those Bills became law was explicit in the manifesto, and that is the position which the Labour Party has always taken.
Let us take the example of Scottish devolution. The policy of the Labour Party has always been that it should be dependent on the agreement of the population and that was clearly set out in the manifesto. It was on points of such detail that the White Paper and the subsequent Bill were introduced.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. She said that the position of the Labour Party was always that Scotland was to have a referendum. Would she care to remind the Committee exactly on which date the Prime Minister decided to
Baroness Jay of Paddington: I should be only too happy to have the noble Lord give us the calendar date, but I suspect that it will not help the discussion on whether it is right to preview issues on which one wants to hold a referendum in the manifesto. That is precisely what we did in relation to Bills on Scotland, Wales and the London government. They were raised as arguments against the position of not always having a referendum on constitutional matters.
I turn to an issue which, interestingly, has not been raised today. The incorporation of the EC treaty on human rights into our law was very thoroughly debated. It was discussed in great detail in your Lordships' House last year because it was of enormous constitutional importance. As my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn said in his winding-up speech on Second Reading of this Bill, it was of the greatest possible significance to the constitution of this country. I have checked and can say that at no stage during the passage of that Bill was there a request for a referendum. That was taken as an issue which could legitimately be decided on the basis of the debates in this House and another place and on the basis of the manifesto commitment.
Why was that done? It was done because the Government did not believe that anybody who had voted for them and had understood their wish to fulfil our treaty obligations, which at that stage were many years old in relation to the human rights convention in Europe, could possibly challenge them in a referendum. It is exactly the same argument that convinces us that a referendum on the Bill, which is the first stage of the reform of the House of Lords, is unnecessary.
Perhaps I can point out that the relevant passage in the manifesto, which has been quoted twice this afternoon and on several earlier occasions, is longer than the main clause of this Bill. It is hard to imagine how a referendum question could possibly be more simple than that.
That brings me to some practical questions raised by noble Lords on what would happen if the amendment were accepted and the practicalities of the referendum that may then be forthcoming. Questions arise as to how such a referendum can be conducted and what sort of questions would be put. The noble Lord, Lord Waddington, slightly tendentiously, said that the electorate would be asked, "Would you put up with a nominated chamber for ever?" That would not be the relevant question, nor would it be the relevant question in the context of the Bill.
Several noble Lords raised the question of whether the referendum would act as the guarantee of the second stage. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, suggested that that was one way of establishing that the second stage would occur. As I said earlier, I do not want to be drawn into discussions on later amendments. From the Government's perspective, Amendment No. 31, as it
I understand entirely the bona fides and integrity of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, in not seeking to delay the passage of the Bill, but I must repeat to him what was said by my noble friend Lord Richard and my noble friend Lady Gould: that if Amendment No. 1 were to be carried, the effect would be to delay the implementation of the Bill, on which we have a clear, unequivocal manifesto commitment. The manifesto commitment did not have in brackets "to be delayed until after the Royal Commission has reported", nor did it say that it should depend on the outcome of a referendum. It was to be carried out in view of the overwhelming support shown through the popular election of this Government for their manifesto which, I repeat, includes this commitment.
For all those reasons I ask the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, not to press the amendment but to take a rain check, as the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, rather sensibly suggested. If the noble Lord does press it, I hope that your Lordships will not support it.
Lord Coleraine: I challenge what the Leader of the House has said about the manifesto and the mandate. I believe that the Committee will be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Gould of Potternewton, for introducing this matter into our debate.
We are a representative democracy, notwithstanding the intentions of some members of the Labour Party to change that. We have a representative House in the other place. It is for the representative House to decide whether something in the manifesto is given legal effect. It is for this House, as the advisory House, to recommend that the other House reconsiders. This has nothing to do with any form of mandate. The mandate arises in connection with the Salisbury convention and the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, asked why we need the Salisbury convention. The answer is simple. It was the quid pro quo by the hereditary peerage for the continuation of, theoretically, a completely unjustifiable arrangement. Once that arrangement is taken away, and legislation is introduced to take it away, the Salisbury convention becomes like the Cheshire cat with perhaps just the grin remaining. The convention has no fundamental validity now.
Earl Ferrers: Perhaps I may be permitted to make one observation. I see the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor shaking his head. Perhaps he just has St. Vitus's dance. I have found this debate fascinating. Rather like the conviction of a metronome, I have gone backwards and forwards according to the views of the last person who has spoken, even though I have attached my name to Amendment No. 98, a referendum amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Lamont of Lerwick.
I hate referenda and I always have done. Incidentally, I believe that the word is "referenda" and not "referendums" as it is Latin. I hate them because they divide Parliament and divide the loyalty of the people.
The Labour Party let this particular rabbit out of the hutch way back in 1975. Now we are lumbered with the prospect of referenda. There is a perfectly sound argument on this occasion for having one. My noble friend Lord Crickhowell said that the constitution depends upon having stable parliamentary institutions. This Bill removes those safeguards on which people rely. It is a pretty fundamental removal. I believe that is a perfectly sound case for having a referendum.
The noble Lord, Lord Marsh, said that to hold a referendum would be an abomination. That is a pretty strong word. We have had lots of abominations. We have had the abomination over the European Community, over Maastricht, over Wales, over Scotland and possibly over the European currency. However, the noble Lord asked, "How on earth can we explain the problem to the people of the country?" If it is so complicated, that is a very good reason for having a referendum. One could put a simple question, "Do you approve of screwing up the second Chamber, yes or no?" Maybe the answer would be clear.
The wording of a referendum is always difficult. I have the greatest respect for my noble friend Lord Cranborne, whose advice I always value and admire. I am not sure whether this goes against the Salisbury convention. The Salisbury convention allows the Bill, for which the Government have a mandate, to go through. We would simply be adding an amendment for the other place to consider. That is not delaying the Bill at all. The Bill may be delayed if another place were to say no, and it came back to us and we said, yes, and it went backwards and forwards. We would be giving the other place an option to consider. I do not believe that that contravenes the Salisbury convention.
There are sound arguments on both sides. I hope that my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway will consider it prudent not to press this amendment today but to think about it. Perhaps I may suggest that the Government should think about it too. It is not all that easy. Now the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, shakes his head in disagreement. Perhaps he has St. Vitus's dance too. I hope it does not mean that he has a closed mind. He always says he has an open mind and I hope he has an open mind on this occasion too.
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