Outcome of the European Union Referendum - Motion to Take Note (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:02 pm on 6th July 2016.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 8:02 pm, 6th July 2016

I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, although I disagree with almost—no, with every—word he said. He has the unique distinction of having been a Lord even before he came into this House.

As I sat through speech after speech, I was beginning to think that, when I got up, I would be swimming against the tide—not that that is unusual for me, by the way—but once I heard my noble friend Lady Andrews and the noble Lords, Lord Lisvane and Lord Low of Dalston, I knew there were some sensible people whose band I would be joining.

On referenda, I think that David Cameron can be described as the Stan Laurel of British politics. Oliver Hardy would have said, “That’s another fine mess you’ve got us into”. On the Scottish referendum, he conceded to Alex Salmond the date of the referendum. Alex Salmond decided the date, the wording of the question and the franchise. It was a miracle that he did not win that referendum and that he lost it.

David Cameron nearly broke up the United Kingdom with that referendum, and now he is doing worse: he is breaking up the European Union with this referendum, because of his mistakes and because of his complacency. We saw that complacency when he thought it would be an easy win. When we suggested, on the franchise, that 16 and 17 year-olds should have the vote, as they did in the Scottish referendum—in that referendum, they showed that they were sensible, and they were probably more informed than any other voters in that referendum—he rejected it. These are the people who will be most affected by the decision that has been made, yet they were not part of that decision. There would have been nearly 1.5 million extra votes, of whom 82% would have voted remain, according to a poll. That alone would have changed the result of this flawed referendum.

We suggested that European Union citizens living in this United Kingdom should have the vote as well, because they are affected by it. So many people have said that, some expressing real concerns and others, I am afraid, crying crocodile tears for them because they realise the effect of what they have done. European Union citizens should have been given the vote, as we argued, because they are affected by the decision.

We also suggested a threshold. I think someone suggested a super-majority, but I prefer using the word “threshold”. Remember that we had one in the first Scottish referendum in 1979. In that referendum, there was actually a majority in favour of a Scottish Assembly, but because of the George Cunningham amendment—the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, will remember it very well—the majority needed to be 40% of the electorate, and we did not get it. What about this referendum? Do we know how high the figure was? Does anyone know? It was 37.4% of the electorate, so the majority would not have got over the 40% threshold. We took away people’s right to vote in that we did not give it to 16 and 17 year-olds or European Union citizens, and we did not get to the threshold, so there are real question marks over the referendum.

When I tried to intervene—I apologise for trying to interrupt the Leader’s speech yesterday—all I wanted to say was, as has been said by so many people, that this is not an instruction from the British people. It is an advisory referendum, and if people say it is an instruction, they are misleading the public and Parliament. It is not an instruction: we have to take note of it; we are not instructed by it.