Brexit: Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:51 pm on 9th January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Liberal Democrat 6:51 pm, 9th January 2019

That is not my intention, of course, but I shall mention something in a moment that might go in that direction. As I said, we are denying young people their voice in this issue. People change their minds. Even Prime Ministers can change their minds. The Commons were to have a vote in December; now they will have a vote in January. If the people are not allowed to change their minds but the Prime Minister and parliamentarians are, we are denying a democratic right to the people.

We know all about referenda in Wales. In 1979 we voted against having a Parliament for Wales—900,000 people voted no and about 200,000 people voted yes—yet we now have a Parliament. Why is that when the people voted against it? It is because in 1987 we had another vote and the people changed their minds. People are allowed to change their minds. The same thing happened in Scotland. People reflect the era and the thinking that they are part of. To deny them the right to change their minds is to make them fossils. Therefore, we really have to think about whether we are reflecting the views of the people today or those of the people of yesterday.

Noble Lords will be glad to hear that I will not keep them for long. We have had other votes in Wales. We voted against opening pubs on Sundays. In, I think, 1891 we had a licensing Act that closed the pubs on Sundays and it was another 70 years before, in 1961, we had the Licensing Act that gave local authorities the right to open the pubs in their area on a Sunday. I remember it well. I was in the Llŷn Peninsula, and being a Methodist minister I knew which side I was going to battle for. Most local authorities in Wales said, “Yes, let’s keep Wales dry”, yet between 1961 or 1962 and 1990 all the pubs in Wales opened on a Sunday, although the people had voted for that not to happen. During that time, we had six ballots. Here, we are asking for two but in those six ballots the Sunday opening campaign was squeezed forward. I was in the studio when the count came in from Carmarthen. We thought, “Oh gosh”, but these things happen—people change their minds. Only one local authority claimed to keep Sunday dry and that was Dwyfor on the Llŷn Peninsula. The only reason that pubs there started to open on Sundays was that the local government boundaries changed.

Therefore, people change their minds. Are noble Lords going to say that people are not allowed to do that? Are they going to say, “No, we’re going to be as we were. We’ll go ahead with slavery and women won’t have the vote”? People change their minds and we as a Parliament should be ready to reflect that change. That is why we need another opportunity, following which we will be able to say, “Yes, the people of 2019 have decided”. I hope very much that when the vote takes place in this House on Monday, we will be able to reflect the need for an opportunity for the young people who were disfranchised last time to cast their votes.