Report (1st Day)

Part of European Union Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 8th June 2011.

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Photo of Lord Stoddart of Swindon Lord Stoddart of Swindon Independent Labour 5:00 pm, 8th June 2011

My Lords, I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, would not describe people who oppose his points of view in such terms as "nerds". It does not enhance debate and it is quite unnecessary to lampoon one's opponents.

The amendment has a certain superficial attraction, but we need to be extremely careful what we do. If you say that a decision on an item on which a referendum is to be held can take effect only if 40 per cent of the electorate vote, you could say that about almost every election we have. People are elected to the House of Commons-certainly in by-elections-on a turnout of less than 40 per cent of those entitled to vote. Why on earth should that be legitimate and a referendum on a matter which is to be transferred to European governance not be accepted? We have to be very careful not to create a precedent here which might be used in other circumstances that may be inconvenient to Parliament and certainly to local authorities, where the turnout is very often far below the 40 per cent of those entitled to vote.

The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, talked about the various alternatives that might be put on the ballot paper. If you pass this amendment, there is another alternative which is that you can campaign for people not to vote. That is good democracy, is it not? Or is it? If you encourage people not to vote to get the decision you want, that is extremely bad democracy. I do not want to delay the House any further, but I believe that before we vote we should be very careful about what we are doing.