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Referendums - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:59 pm on 13th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Labour 2:59 pm, 13th June 2019

I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Soley for introducing this debate. It is a great pity we have so little time. One of the reasons for that is that we do not organise business democratically in this House. Maybe others will have the guts to try to turn it over, and maybe we will use a form of referendum to determine what we should be talking about, our priorities, on which days we should speak on them and for how long. If we can do that for ourselves, we should then be prepared to trust the people out there and do it for them. Much wisdom was spoken by my noble friend Lord Parekh about what we need to do.

The first big change we should make for any future referendum comes back to the accountability of individuals; they should be required to show publicly how they voted, as we do here. That would be a major move towards getting people to start acting responsibly and playing a part. We have to move on this because, make no mistake, this was not the last referendum. There will be many more demands for other ways to be involved in parliamentary activities, and we should not be afraid of this.

Representative democracy itself is at risk, because so many MPs now act like delegates rather than the representatives they used to be. If they are doing that, they are not playing their former roles. Instead, we should be looking for a participative democracy, because we now have the technology, which is being used in many different ways and will develop even further. The public out there will use it. Millions vote every Saturday evening in entertainment programmes. We may not be involved, but they are doing it; they want their say.

Some 6 million people signed a petition to revoke Article 50 and we have totally ignored it, yet they were moved to do it. A host of changes are being made to how people participate in society and through social media. Parliamentarians and the parties are way behind. People should look at what Tony Blair said on this recently, as he is on the cusp of the coming change. If we do not move with it, we will be swept away by it. The people will take it and then we will have real trouble.