CHAPTER 6: Conclusion|
204. Referendums are not a panacea. We note the
arguments for their use as a way of strengthening the democratic
process. The drawbacks and difficulties of their use are serious.
205. Referendums may become a part of the UK's
democratic and constitutional framework. There has been little
consistency in their use. They have taken place on an ad hoc
basis, frequently as a tactical device rather than on the basis
of constitutional principle.
206. Notwithstanding this, we acknowledge arguments
that, if referendums are to be used, they are most appropriately
used in relation to fundamental constitutional issues. There are
difficulties in defining what constitutes a "fundamental
constitutional issue". Although some constitutional issues
clearly are of fundamental importance,
and others not, there is a grey area where the importance of issues
is a matter of political judgment.
207. To leave such judgments entirely in the
hands of the government of the day is in our view inappropriate.
Parliament should decide whether or not a referendum is appropriate
in a given circumstance.
208. We note the recent commitments by the main
parties to use referendums in specific circumstances and the proposals
for further referendums in Scotland and Wales in the near future.
The question of referendums will arise in the forthcoming General
Election campaign. We have set out in this report some considerations
which we hope will inform future debate.
27 See para 94. Back