European Union Referendum Bill — Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:43 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Conservative 1:43 pm, 13th October 2015

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord. I noticed that in her opening remarks on behalf of the Liberal party, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, said that we could be Norway or Switzerland. I say to the noble Lord, let us just be Britain and make a success of Britain in a global marketplace.

I congratulate my noble friend the Minister on bringing forward the Bill, which gives the British people the opportunity to decide this question, which has been denied them by the parties opposite for far too long. Her timing is particularly brilliant, for, had she lived, this would have been Baroness Thatcher’s 90th birthday. I have to say to my noble friend Lord Hunt, whom I served as a Minister of State—he was one of the best Secretaries of State I worked for, if not the best; I learned a great deal from him—that I do not think that had Lady Thatcher been here today he would have gone in for the selective quotation that he did in his speech. I am not quite sure how she would have reacted to being described by—what are they called? The BSE campaign, an odd choice of name—Britain Stronger in Europe as a quitter. I am not sure that Margaret Thatcher ever was a quitter.

On the subject of quitters, when the campaign was launched yesterday a number of Members of this House were present—my noble friends Lord Rose and Lady Brady, and the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson—decrying the quitters. Well, they seem to have quit the field today because they are not here to make their case, which is absolutely extraordinary. The noble Lord, Lord Rose, talked about leaving the community being,

“a leap in the dark”.

He certainly knows about big leaps because he has leapt from being involved in Business for Britain to being involved in business for Brussels. A rose by any other name does not smell as sweet in this case.