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Brexit: People’s Vote - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:06 pm on 25th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 1:06 pm, 25th October 2018

My Lords, there have already been many important speeches in this debate. I found particularly significant the opening speech from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and the powerful way in which he portrayed the whole political initiative and purpose behind the work of the founders of the European Coal and Steel Community. Not for the first time, I regretted that the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, came to the past decision in his political life that he did, because he is right. If we are to have any future in Britain, we must start talking about hope, vision, a sense of dynamics, purpose, social commitment and international commitment: the recognition that we belong inescapably to the world and that history will judge us by how we get to grips with playing a constructive part in shaping, developing and strengthening that world community.

I am very unhappy about the concept of another referendum. I find it very difficult to reconcile the concept of referendums with that of representative parliamentary democracy. What the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, said is perfectly true: we have been told over and again that the people have decided—I find that difficult because it seems to me that it was a small majority of those who voted who decided, not the British people—and that our job is therefore to get on with doing what they require. That is not representative parliamentary democracy. Our job in a representative parliamentary democracy is to deliberate on the great, challenging issues and come to conclusions within the parliamentary system on what needs to be done. It is crucial as this goes forward that there is a decision in Parliament. That should be immediately followed by a general election in which, because we want the widest possible support from the public as a whole, they are given the opportunity to vote for political parties, which will have to make plain their position on the outcome of the vote in Parliament. That is trying to make the best of a bad job, but it is the right way and the rational way to do it.

I just make one other point. It is naive to suppose that the issues that face us are just about membership or non-membership of the European Union. They are indeed, as we have been reminded already, about all the issues of security, economics, social policy, education, family law and the whole range of life. Therefore, the British people need to be in a position to make a decision. In the context of that wider debate, is this going to be enabling and helpful for what we want to achieve or not? We were very foolish—and I count myself as guilty—to go down the road of referenda. They have no place within a representative democracy.