New Clause 2 — referendum not to be held more than ten years after passing of act
Orders of the Day — Government of Wales Bill — [2nd Allotted Day]
David Mundell (Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Scotland; Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, Conservative)
As we anticipated, the Minister's response contained no surprises. I hope that he is correct about the issues raised by new clause 13, and that fiscal prudence, if nothing else, will prevent the repeated use of referendums. However, given that referendums have been called repeatedly in other jurisdictions when the political climate has been ripe for them, I do not believe that the possibility can be ruled out. I would have preferred to see the new clause being accepted.
I am not in the least satisfied by the Minister's response to my arguments on new clause 2. I do not believe that 10 years is an arbitrary period. I had understood that the Government were now going to promote the concept of sunset clauses in legislation. A period must necessarily be determined in which to hold the referendum, and 10 years is a fair period to choose. Circumstances could change significantly in that time, and if the Government and the Welsh Assembly were not confident that they could secure a majority in a referendum 10 years after the passage of the Bill, it would be appropriate to revisit the legislation and examine the issues relating to the powers involved. One reason for a lack of confidence in the result of a referendum might be to do with the nature and structure of the proposed legislation. On that basis, I intend to press new clause 2 to a vote.