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 Waddington Lord Waddington Conservative 4:45 pm, 8th June 2011

My Lords, I find the amendment rather strange. I certainly agree that a poor turnout may be taken as complete lack of interest in having a referendum on the issue, but a poor turnout certainly could not be taken as support for the measure in question. One must remember what sort of measures we are talking about: these are measures that cede more power to the European Union. So if there is a low turnout, the one thing that is absolutely certain-along with the fact that there may be lack of enthusiasm in voting at all-is that there is minimum support for ceding more power to the EU. That seems to me to be an absolutely rotten reason for handing the whole matter back to Parliament. Half the trouble at present, and the reason there is so much distrust over this whole area, is that people feel that, over the years, Parliament has been far too fast to cede more powers to the EU.

As I have said before, it seems extraordinary that when the people give to our parliamentarians the opportunity to use certain specific powers they then spend the whole of a Parliament handing over those powers to other people. No wonder there is a lack of understanding of what is being done in the people's name. It is pretty nonsensical to say that if there is a low turnout in the referendum, we should hand the whole matter to Parliament, which is half the cause of the trouble in the first place. After all, it is Parliament which the public feel, with fairly good evidence, cheated them of the opportunity of a referendum when Lisbon turned up as a rehash of the European constitution. That is one of the causes for the Bill. We are having a Bill now to try to rebuild some of the lost confidence in the EU, and we should judge the amendment by that problem. As far as I can see, the amendment would add to the problem rather than reduce it.