European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 11:30 am on 7th March 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Morgan Lord Morgan Labour 11:30 am, 7th March 2017

My Lords, there was a previous referendum on Europe in 1975. On that occasion, it was not taken as holy writ and as something that it was almost obscene to vote against. On the contrary, in 1979 the Labour Party said that it would ignore and vote against the referendum result—there were no difficulties there—and so did a very large number of Conservatives, headed by Mr Enoch Powell. Therefore, I cannot see why the advisory referendum of 1975, where the majority was 33%, should somehow be treated so casually, whereas this referendum, with a majority of, I think, 3.8%, is somehow treated reverentially, with the view that we should all genuflect before the will of the people.

I link this amendment with Amendment 3, which I shall also support. Amendment 3 confirms the view so wisely put by the Supreme Court that sovereignty in this country resides in the two Houses of Parliament. That was the view taken and it is the view that will be proclaimed in Amendment 3. Referendums are always advisory—they are to help Parliament in reaching a view. It is best to have an informed referendum. The last one was not in the least informed; it was a process of serial lying and deception, which added nothing to public understanding. As the facts emerge, I think that public understanding will change substantially.

We need to ask the view of the people again to assist Parliament when the facts are known—when the car workers at Vauxhall, the steel workers at Port Talbot and the car workers at Sunderland will be forming a view on employment, trade and Britain’s economic relationships with a wider world. It would also be when we have had an opportunity to have the views of young people, deprived of voting this time and whose futures are imperilled by this ill-informed, almost non-informed, decision.

Another referendum will not be taken in a one-world universe; it will be taken when the views on Brexit of those other 27 countries, views which are quite important, are also known. As I believe was the Labour Party in 1979 and 1983 in respect of the previous referendum, as well as a growing number of Conservatives, I am in favour of regarding the referendum that we had in June last year as ill-informed, or almost uninformed, guidance. I would prefer informed guidance and that is why I shall vote for this amendment.