Report (1st Day)

Part of European Union Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 8th June 2011.

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Photo of Lord Richard Lord Richard Labour 4:45 pm, 8th June 2011

My Lords, I speak in partial support of this amendment. I cannot say I am very enthusiastic about part of it, but nevertheless I agree with the general thrust. Before I turn to the amendment, I would like to say how much I admire the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, particularly his actions in the 1950s in persuading the Conservative party in Wales to agree to a set of referendums on whether pubs should be open on Sundays. I say that because in the valley where I was brought up there was a Labour majority of 35,000, but the club with the biggest membership of all was the local Conservative club. Why? Because it was open on Sundays. He deserves to be commended for his altruism, which deprived the Amman Valley's Conservative party of a considerable amount of beer money.

My Lords, I am not too keen on this amendment for one reason. We have a figure which, if it is not reached, then prima facie at any rate the referendum should not be valid. However, in those circumstances where the turnout does not reach 40 per cent, the result is deemed to be valid because the matter will come back to Parliament and, if each House passes a resolution saying that, despite the turnout being under 40 per cent, the measure should go through, then it will go through. I question the value of that. If you have that in the Bill, it seems to me it is slightly pointless having a 40 per cent plateau. If one is going to have a figure that the turnout must reach for the referendum to be effective, why should Parliament give the Government a second chance of getting their policy through? If there is a condition that you must have 40 per cent, surely if you get that 40 per cent the referendum is valid; if you do not, the logical conclusion is that the referendum is not valid. If it were as simple as that, I would support the amendment entirely. On the other hand, I must say that if the amendment is one the House is prepared to accept, I would certainly go along with it rather than not have anything like it.