European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 12:19 pm on 5th September 2019.

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Photo of Lord Howard of Lympne Lord Howard of Lympne Conservative 12:19 pm, 5th September 2019

Parliament passes laws initiated by government, and when Parliament passes, and indeed amends, those laws, it does not enter into the detailed prescription of government contained in this Bill. That is why this Bill and its predecessor, introduced earlier this year, represent so fundamental a breach of precedent. They were facilitated only by the fact that the Speaker in the other place decided to dispense with precedent and, as far as we are aware, to dispense with the advice he was given and to allow the Opposition to take charge of the business of the House.

I want to take the House back to the Second Reading of the referendum Bill in the other place—the Bill that provided for the referendum. That debate was introduced by the then Foreign Secretary, one Philip Hammond. He said that,

“whether we favour Britain being in or out, we surely should all be able to agree on the simple principle that the decision about our membership should be taken by the British people, not by Whitehall bureaucrats, certainly not by Brussels Eurocrats; not even by Government Ministers or parliamentarians in this Chamber”.

I repeat,

“or parliamentarians in this Chamber”.

He said that the decision should be,

“for the common sense of the British people”,

and that this Bill,

“delivers the simple in/out referendum that we promised”.—[Official Report, Commons, 9/6/15; col. 1056.]

The Bill which provided for that referendum was of course passed by a very large majority, but the difficulty that we have faced ever since is that the British people delivered a result that Parliament neither expected nor wanted. I am happy to give way to the noble Lord.