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European Union Bill

Part of Safe Standing (Football Stadia) – in the House of Commons at 9:41 pm on 7th December 2010.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe 9:41 pm, 7th December 2010

He is now saying that he does not, and I am happy to hear him qualify his earlier remarks. The problem with such an argument is that it ignores two things. First, it underestimates the depth of the mistrust and disaffection that people in this country now feel towards the way in which powers have been transferred from the United Kingdom to the European Union without the people ever being asked for their agreement. It ill becomes the Labour party in particular to offer criticism on this score when the prime reason for such disaffection over the last few years has been that party's refusal, when in government and with a majority in this House, to agree to the people having a referendum, which had been promised at the general election. This was a promise on which Labour was happy to renege when it came into office.

The argument against referendums on principle ignores the fact that the practice has grown up in the last 13 years of holding referendums on major constitutional changes. We have had them in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Greater London and even in the north-east of England, and I think that people now have a reasonable expectation that they will be invited to have their say if their basic constitutional rights are being affected by legislation proposed by Ministers.