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I intend to offer only one explanation of the reason for tabling this amendment. There are occasions in our affairs, and indeed it always used to be the case for ordinary industry and commerce, when the term "true and fair" had some significance. Unhappily, in many areas of our public life, this is no longer the case. My desire to involve the National Audit Office in taking a final look at what emerges from the inquiry is to endeavour--modestly, in view of my own profession which is that of an accountant--to re-establish that sound principle; namely, bringing forward a true and fair account of what has occurred. I beg to move.
Baroness Park of Monmouth: I should like to support this amendment on the grounds that I cannot understand why either Front Bench should have any difficulty in considering the possibility of a dispassionate examination of an important issue on which a referendum is to be held. No decision is asked for here. I cannot see why this House in particular could consider rejecting it out of hand without wishing to hear what the committee says. The committee may say exactly what my noble friend Lord Pearson does not want to hear. However, I see nothing wrong and everything right in examining the facts dispassionately and reporting those facts for consideration.
The Earl of Erroll: I, too, rise to support the amendment. I said earlier that the reason that I may not hold a strong opinion on this matter is that so far we may have spent so much money on capital up front that it may no longer be worth withdrawing. I have no idea. However, what I do not have is the right information on which to base that kind of decision.
If I were managing a company, I would not manage it on the kind of inadequate information that I am given as a parliamentarian here. Very often I cannot trust information if it has emanated from certain sources.
As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, said, I support the general thrust of this amendment because I support the principle of a "true and fair" account of the facts. One can then form an opinion. All too often, decisions are based on opinions held by both sides. Indeed, in some ways, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has introduced a preconceived notion of what the Bill will do--that is laid down in Clause 1 where it implies withdrawal. I believe that that may have clouded many people's judgment.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Before the noble Lord replies, perhaps I can put on record that neither at Second Reading nor at any time have we ever gone into any reasoned argument as to why we should stay in the European Union or why we should leave it. There has never been any cost benefit analysis in the Treasury or elsewhere in government of our membership of the European Union. In fact, I can tell the Committee that when an acquaintance of mine was a Minister in the Treasury under the last government, he managed to get a cost benefit analysis going. Unfortunately, the result which was emerging was not to the satisfaction of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, my right honourable friend Mr Kenneth Clarke, and the cost benefit analysis was squashed.
So there never has been an official cost benefit analysis of our membership of the European Union. There has certainly never been any analysis of the constitutional and defence implications of our membership in the past and of our continued membership in the future. At Second Reading on this Bill all the Government did was repeat that they believed that our membership of the European Union was in the national interest, but could give no reason why that should be so. That is what this Bill is designed to put straight and I hope that the Minister will not mind if I put those facts on the record.
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