Government of Wales Bill
Lord Henley (Shadow Minister for Constitutional Affairs & Legal Affairs, Constitutional Affairs; Conservative)
I shall briefly offer my support and that of the Front Bench to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell on his amendments. We are completely mystified by the policy of the Liberal Democrats. My noble friend might be correct that it would be a good thing not to press this to a Division tonight and leave it for another occasion, because by then the Liberal Democrats might have come round to a more sensible way of thinking on these matters.
For the noble Lord, Lord Livsey, to accuse my noble friend of wanting a mad rush to a referendum completely ignores the facts behind his amendments. As my noble friend said, two enormous hurdles have been erected—or, as he put it, something larger than hurdles—in the way of a referendum. One is the demand that the Assembly should vote by a two-thirds majority of all Members, and the second is that the Secretary of State must then give his approval—so he has a veto on whether it happens—before any amendment could be made.
All that my noble friend is suggesting is, first, that we remove the Secretary of State's veto, and, secondly, that it is merely a matter for the Assembly to decide by a simple majority whether there should be a referendum. The Assembly itself is best equipped to decide whether such a referendum should go ahead. We support what my noble friend is trying to do, and we will support him if he wishes to press this further at a later stage.