Referendums in the United Kingdom - Constitution Committee Contents

Memorandum by Mrs Anne Palmer

1.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of the referendum as a democratic and constitutional tool?

  Its strengths are in giving the people a say. Inclusion. Allowing the people a voice in their future and future generations. Listening to different points of views. Its weaknesses. Fraud. I witnessed on T.V. one man collecting counted votes from the tables, he then removed some votes from the piles in his hand and put them in his pocket. I have no idea if this was "permitted", or if he put them back. Fraud in Postal votes. I propose that in future referendums and general elections, all Ballot Boxes delivered should be transparent enough to ensure that the box can be seen to be empty before people come to place their votes inside when the "polling station" is opened. Voting completed, top opening sealed securely as well as the lid.

2.  What assessment would you make of the UK's experience of referendums?

  UK Governments seem to fear referendums. What positive or negative features of this experience would you highlight? Some people no longer believe the reason given for not allowing a referendum on "Lisbon". It is doubtful many people trust politicians anymore.

3.  How does, and how should, the referendum relate to the UK's system of parliamentary democracy?

  Do we still have a "Parliamentary democracy"? Had the EU brought in legislation instructing all 27 Countries to hold a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, our Government would have had to hold a referendum. How could that be Parliamentary Democracy? In a General Election, the people can "choose" between three Political Parties that all want the same thing, "To remain in the European Union". That is not true "Parliamentary democracy" either. There should, without doubt, have been a referendum before the ratification on every European Union Treaty and particularly before the Treaty of Lisbon

4.  Is it possible or desirable to define which issues should be subject to a referendum?

  See responses to question three. Plus, as regards the division of the once United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland into twelve EU Regions, I do not see how the people can possibly vote on any matter unless they are told all the true facts. The permanent effects it would have on the United Kingdom, the true costs of building the Scottish Parliament, the running of it, and how much for the cost re MSPs and their staff, heating costs etc and if the people are prepared to pay for all those costs? I quote from the meeting that took place in the Scottish Parliament on 22 May 2001, when Mr Dammeyer had been speaking to the Scottish Parliament about devolution, that as far as the Scottish people are concerned, Scotland is a "Country", the Scottish people are "nation", but Mr Dammeyer explained that from the European point of view Scotland is like a Region of the European Union. Ditto the Welsh Assembly. Likewise the Northern Ireland Parliament, London and the eight other EU Regional Assemblies.

5.  Should "constitutional issues" be subject to a referendum? If so, how should "Constitutional issues" be defined?

  All constitutional issues should be put before the people. However, all those that did not allow a referendum on the very constitutional Treaty of Lisbon unless they decide to live far from these shores, will also come under the same regime as the people they once represented.

6.  Going to question 8) The strengths and weaknesses of in-person, postal or electronic forms of voting?

  I believe the "in-person" is the only "safe" way of holding a referendum. The person can verify that they are the person on the Election/Referendum form. They may even have ID with them. I no longer trust Postal Votes except for the "few" genuine ones from people that are sick or will be away on holiday. Acceptable of course, postal voting arrangements for our forces. I would not trust electronic voting at all, because anyone could be using another person's Computer. Electronic voting is wide open to abuse.

7.  (9) How does the referendum relate to other tools such as citizens' initiatives? Should citizens be able to trigger retrospective referendums?

  There has always been great "play" on "No Parliament may bind another", anything that one Parliament or Government may have done, can be altered or undone by the next. However, does that also apply to International law? Treaties? According to the Ruling of Lord Denning MR in Macarthys Ltd v Smith, Yes, even a Treaty can be deliberately repudiated, for he said:

    If the time should come when Parliament deliberately passes an Act with the intention of repudiating the Treaty or any provisions in it or intentionally of acting inconsistently with it and says so in express terms then I should have thought that it would be the duty of our courts to follow the statute of Parliament. I do not however envisage any such situation…Unless there is such an intention and express repudiation of the Treaty, it is our duty to give priority to the Treaty.

  Have Governments of this Country gone too far into the EU though since that ruling? We read only this week that our Financial Services—known as the best in the World—is now under threat from a "take-over" by the EU. Lord Denning understood fully the meaning of the Treaty of Rome, his ruling therefore stands. Our solemn Oath of Allegiance is to this Country, if Governments have gone so far that Lord Denning's ruling could not take effect, has there been a violation of that solemn Oath and have Government, in accepting that EU Law has "competence" over our Constitution and laws, destroyed our own Constitution? That may be a question for the future? Our Constitution cannot be changed like other countries' constitutions, it is however, being ignored. I should imagine the people could and perhaps should trigger a retrospective Referendum. Government and all that read this, know that the people should have been told Lisbon's awful contents before they had a referendum, instead, the people were told that there was no need of a referendum.

8.  (10) How would you assess the experience of other countries in relation to the use of the referendum? What positive or negative aspects of international experience would you highlight?

  I will look firstly at the referendums that took place on the failed "Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe", in which two large and important countries voted "NO". The EU noted the people's views for a little while and then brought fourth eventually the Treaty of Lisbon, which held most of the same contents of the failed Treaty plus a few more far reaching Articles. I name but one, new article 188R, The Solidarity Clause. A new article which introduces a new and wide-ranging "solidarity clause" which compels the Member States to act together in the event of a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, which we have always done-though by asking any sovereign state first. Outside the Treaty, yet little mentioned, although signed and accepted by a UK Representative is "the SOFA Directive" in the Official Journal of the EU, C 321/6 dated 31.12.2003 . An "AGREEMENT" which also re-inforces Article 17 (2) of the Treaty on European Union. Government was failing the people in a) not explaining this fully to the people, and b) by not allowing a referendum on it.

  The Constitution of Ireland allows for the people to have a referendum on any major Treaty. Some countries are able to alter their Constitutions to accommodate EU Treaties that might be contrary to it. However, how that will "sit" when the EU ratifies Treaties for all 27 countries through Art 47 remains to be seen, especially if it is with a country one of the 27 would never have agreed to under other circumstances. The UK, with its unique long standing Common Law Constitution of which the Treaty between the Crown and the people are not so easily altered without the consent of either party. This consent has not been sought. It would appear that UK governments have chosen to ignore them, but the people, as we know now, may not. New Treaties may not encroach upon the solemn Oaths of our beloved Queen made at Her Coronation, and we are mindful that "No foreign Prince, person prelate, state, or potentate hath, or ought to have any jurisdiction, power superiority, pre-eminence, or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm". I have always believed that Magna Carta is best left "sleeping", that sadly is no longer the case.

14 December 2009

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010