My Lords, I start by saying that when an agreement is reached by the usual channels, in my view that is an agreement which must hold. Not only was an agreement made in the usual channels but, in the course of that, I gave personal assurances that no effort would be made to delay the progress of this Bill. I stand by that assurance. I did not take any part yesterday. I hope this will not be made an occasion for prolonged debate; the debate we just had took no more than three-quarters of an hour. It is up to Members of the House whether they are interested in the remarks I am about to make, but I hope that this will not be the occasion of a very prolonged debate. Without being discourteous to any Member of your Lordships’ House, if it appears that it is tending in that direction, I will rise—or support the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, if he rises—to attempt to bring the debate to a close without any need for the repugnant nonsense of the closure Motions used on Wednesday.
I wish to bring one point of principle to this House and ask the House to determine the matter publicly. I shall be pressing this amendment to a Division in which each and every Member of this House will have to declare publicly their position on the simple proposition that I put before them, which is that the Bill, which will be an Act when it passes from this House and goes to the other place, should not come into force until the British people have had a chance to decide the matter in a general election.
Yesterday there was talk that the Labour Party might accept a general election and now there is not. I am not particularly concerned about who said what when. I agree with all those who say that somehow we need to bring a conclusion to this matter. In the history of our great democracy, in the times of greatest crisis and doubt, that has been done, is done and—please God—always will be done by recourse to the people of this country to ask them to decide the matter in a general election—yes, in a general election, not in some second referendum, a first referendum or a third or a fourth cooked up by a majority of the time with the power to decide the question.
Let the people decide who governs. There is plenty of time if the parties stick to the opinions we heard and as the leader of the Opposition has been saying all around the country, and as the leader of the Scottish nationalists and the leader of my party have been saying: we want an election. As we all know, there is plenty of time to have an election in October to allow the British people to choose parties that will either pursue the course set out in this Act—which would lie on the statute book and could be implemented by a new Secretary of State one minute after the formation of a Government—or a Government who wish to take this country out of the European Union, as the public have been promised, on