Report (5th Day)

Part of Localism Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 10th October 2011.

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Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat 7:15 pm, 10th October 2011

My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Greaves in all that he has said. He has made a very persuasive case, and I would summarise it in words that we hear so often from the Dispatch Box: "My Lords, these provisions are not necessary". As my noble friend has said, local authorities are already able to hold referendums if they so choose. The provisions elsewhere in this Bill will widen that possibility-that scope-in a number of ways.

I believe that there are better ways of testing public opinion fairly than using the very suspect means of a referendum. Perhaps in the current financial climate, even more persuasive is the fact that they are very expensive to hold. They are misleading to members of the public, who will not unnaturally think that if the local authority has gone to all the trouble of establishing a referendum using the full electoral process, then they will actually implement whatever the result is. Yet the provisions here are not binding; a local authority, if it is so minded-and brave enough-may well then decide not to abide by the outcome of the result of the referendum.

I will end where I began, in the words that I know the Minister believes to be most persuasive, because they are the words that she and her colleagues use so often to the rest of us when we are moving amendments: "My Lords, these provisions are simply not necessary".