European Union (Amendment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 19th May 2008.

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Photo of Lord Tugendhat Lord Tugendhat Conservative 9:15 pm, 19th May 2008

My Lords, my understanding was that the previous Prime Minister, Tony Blair, volunteered a commitment to a referendum. Therefore, he was bound by what he said and put it in his election manifesto. That is not the same as a Minister having been bound by a vote of the two Houses of Parliament. My clear recollection of Council meetings—the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, has attended many more than I—is that if a Minister can say that he is under strict instructions from his Parliament, or in the case of the Danes from the Folketing, or in the case of some other countries from a coalition agreement, then the whole business of the confessionals simply does not arise.

The point of the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, that we are talking about one brake among several, is also relevant. However, I wanted to take up the battle-hardened memoirs of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, because my battle-hardened memoirs lead me to a slightly different conclusion.