I am quite sure that during the campaign exaggerated claims will be made by both the proponents of staying in and the proponents of leaving. It is important that there is a datum point of accurate information and an understanding of the implications, to enable the wider public to make the decision they will have to face.

1.15 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I pose a simple question: who can be against an informed electorate in a democracy? The danger now is that people obtain their views of the European Union from elements of the press which have a clear line. It would be helpful to find, as far as is possible, objective individuals to provide an assessment that can form a basis for an informed electorate.

I can add to the list provided by my noble friend Lady Quin of those who have already expressed a view. The CBI, for example, concluded in a recent report that while the UK could certainly survive outside

24 Jan 2014 : Column 900

the European Union none of the alternatives suggested either a clear path to improvement, advantages/disadvantages or greater influence.

There is clearly a danger of both sides exaggerating the consequences of being in or out. The Rhine will not overflow. Armageddon will not come whether we are in or out. It is a question of the balance of advantages and disadvantages, and what can better inform us of that than an independent assessment with which to inform the electorate?

Apart from the CBI, a number of major firms have also expressed a view. They are concerned about the effect on them, on their employment prospects and on further investment in the UK if there were to be a period of uncertainty. These include, for example, easyJet, Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai, and even the Japanese Government. I recall how often Wales has looked to Japan for increased investment and has done fairly well out of it in the past. It is unusual for a Government to express a view on a matter affecting another Government, but the Japanese Government have said that the UK has several advantages as a gateway for the European market and considerable Japanese investment. Japan, effectively, if I may paraphrase, expects this to continue.

Obviously we need to have an informed electorate. There will be consequences whether we remain in or come out but, as a number of noble Lords have said, who knows what developments there will be within the European Union between now and the time of a referendum? Some countries—there has been speculation about Greece in the past—may no longer be members. There may well be, although I think it unlikely, an acceleration of membership and an agreement on migration, and the question of the banking system might change, as the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, has said.

We have impact assessments for a series of other matters: the effect on public expenditure and so on. Certainly in the past when constitutional changes have been made affecting local and regional government, there have been learned commissions to look at them. In my judgment these matters are vital to us—for the UK economy, for European citizens within the UK and for our own citizens outside.

The methodology is available. The Government will be well aware that the Norwegian Government commissioned Professor Fredrik Sejersted to carry out a survey in Norway on the effects, and he was called in to our Foreign Office to advise on the methodology. At the moment it may well be that Mr Murdoch will have a far greater impact on voting intentions and ordinary citizens like ourselves will at least be allowed our say, but in my judgment it is not Mr Murdoch, his press and others who should prevail. The public should be well informed on the consequences for or against before they make the great leap.

Lord Turnbull (CB): My Lords, in the event of a no vote, there will not be a clean break with the rest of the European Union because Europe will still begin 21 miles away. We will be enmeshed in it in hundreds of ways. Just as there is a relationship between Canada and the US, we will have to find a new relationship. In order

24 Jan 2014 : Column 901

for someone to carry out this impact study, people will want to know what the Government will try to retain of the existing relationship, to modify and to drop. Where a change is made, the Government will need to set out their ideas for whatever they think should be the successor regime. Without that information, an impact study cannot be made and people will not be able to assess how it will apply to them.

Amendment 72, tabled in my name, comes right at the end of the Marshalled List. It asks the Government to do what only the Government can do, and that is to set out how they think these various regimes will be modified, and from that the impact assessment can be made. The two really go together, but because of the groupings, they will be considered separately. I support this amendment and I hope that in due course noble Lords will support Amendment 72, which is a partner to it.

Lord Radice: I rise very briefly to support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Roper, and other noble friends. I think that we have moved on now. A very large majority have voted not just in favour of the question, but in favour of the principle of amendment. That is because, of course, the only argument put by the other side was not against the last amendment—or only a very weak argument was made against it—but that we must not amend the Bill. The fact is that it has been amended, so now we can look seriously at it and try to improve it. This is one area in which we can make a useful contribution, and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Roper.

I remember very well that before the 1975 referendum complaints were made by both sides, particularly by the no side, that all the information had been supplied by the Government and that that was unfair. There is a case to be made for some kind of hard-headed and objective assessment on which we can make our choice about whether to stay in or come out. I rather agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Roper, when he said that the assessment should not necessarily be done by the Government themselves because that was precisely the argument in 1975: the information was not to be trusted because the Government were pro-European and therefore it should have been provided by someone else. The suggestion that the Office for Budget Responsibility might be the body to do the work is a good one. I therefore support the noble Lord, Lord Roper, who I hope I can call my noble friend, which he certainly is because I have known him for 50 years, and I hope that in doing so I have done my duty to him and, indeed, to the argument for improving this Bill.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, I will speak briefly to support the amendment put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Roper. I believe that the provisions of this pair of amendments are absolutely fundamental to holding any meaningful referendum. Unless the implications of a change—and, indeed, the implications of staying in—are spelt out quite clearly, how are the public to be in a position to make an informed judgment? If we believe in referenda—I indicated earlier that there are circumstances in which I do—it is absolutely essential that we have this sort of provision. We have had a number of referenda in Wales; the noble Lord,

24 Jan 2014 : Column 902

Lord Anderson, referred a moment ago to the referendum on opening or closing pubs on Sundays. There was also the 1979 referendum, which the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, will remember very well as he left me with some bloody noses on that occasion. There was one in 1997 and a subsequent one in 2011. In each, it was necessary to spell out the implications of what was taking place. As far as we in Wales are concerned, there would be far-reaching effects, on two sectors in particular.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, referred to the importance of the Japanese manufacturing sector in Wales and the excellent work that was undertaken by the Welsh Development Agency in attracting more than 50 Japanese companies to Wales. Companies in Japan and Wales have indicated their concern if their strategy of locating their manufacturing capacity in the UK in order to sell to the European market was to be undermined by a change of this sort. The implications of pulling out of the European Union certainly need to be spelt out in those terms. In Wales, we have one very significant manufacturer, Toyota, on Deeside. If anything was to undermine that, it would be a body blow. We also have British Aerospace on Deeside, which works very closely with European partners. There would be immensely damaging implications for the company and the 7,000 or 8,000 jobs in north-east Wales. That needs to be spelt out so voters in the area know.

The other sector that would be affected is the agricultural sector, where up to 80% of income is now related to activity on which the European Union has a bearing. My friends in rural Wales in the farming fraternity most certainly have great fears—those, too, need to be spelt out for residents in rural Wales who may not be farmers themselves but will need to know the effect on their community if the main industry in the area is undermined. For those reasons I support the amendment.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, I will say a very few words in support of the excellent amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Roper. First, I underline what my noble friend Lady Quin said at the start and what was repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and my noble friend Lord Radice. The noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, finds himself in new territory now, which I am sure he will welcome. The fact that one amendment has been passed means that he is free, at last, to exercise the discretion that I know he has. If I may say so modestly, I think that he would increase his stature greatly if he now exercised that discretion from time to time. It will not delay the Bill any further, undermine it in any way or create problems with the House of Commons—it is not going to create any problems. Knowing him well, admiring him and respecting him, and having had a number of conversations with him, I hope that he will see himself as free to accept this amendment and, perhaps, some later amendments. That would go a long way to legitimising his position, and that of the Bill.

I was very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Roper, said that his amendment was complementary to those of mine that are now numbered as Amendments 42C, 42D and 42E, which relate to reports by the Secretary

24 Jan 2014 : Column 903

of State on the transfer of powers, the negotiations and the competencies. It is also complementary to the excellent amendment that my noble friend Lord Lipsey put forward and which I have had the pleasure of adding my name to, Amendment 69, on the public information office. That, too, would be complementary and helpful.

I have two substantial points to make. One is to compare this with the Scottish referendum. Those of us from Scotland are beginning to think that it has been going on for ever, and we still have a long way to go—but the one thing we cannot say in relation to the Scottish referendum is that we have not been provided with information. We have had assessment after assessment by each of the departments of the United Kingdom Government, and there are more to come; we have had the so-called White Paper, Scotland’s Future, from the Scottish Government; we have had the no campaign arguing its case, Better Together; we have had think-tanks galore; and there will be more over the next few months until 18 September. If and when it comes, this European Union referendum will be no less momentous than the Scottish referendum.

1.30 pm

Finally, a number of Members have made the point about the effect on industry. My noble friend Lord Wigley mentioned agriculture. I also hope that the impact assessment will look at the environment and environmental legislation. So many environmental matters deal with Europe and, as we have heard so many times, there are no boundaries to pollution. There are problems in relation to the environment that the EU deals with that we should have a report on. There is also the social chapter: so much in terms of health and safety, workers’ rights and everything else that concerns me and my party so greatly has been a matter of discussion, debate and improvement within and by the European Union. I hope that the report will cover that as well.

For all those reasons, I strongly support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Roper, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, will give very serious consideration to accepting it.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I, too, support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Roper. The analogy with 1975 is interesting. As the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, has reminded us again and again, the House of Lords passed without difficulty the Bill for the referendum. Of course, the difference was that the governing party had had in its election manifesto a commitment to having a referendum, and the renegotiation was taking place; it had taken place by the end. It was not a future renegotiation and a referendum in another Parliament; it was a referendum in the here and now. It was completely uncontroversial as a Bill, the question was in no way slanted and it went through like a dose of salts.

That was a totally different situation from the one we face with the Bill in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs. In 1975 there was a public information campaign in a very narrow sense. There was in Whitehall a referendum information unit, staffed partly from public service, partly from outside, which provided—

24 Jan 2014 : Column 904

genuinely impartially—information to the two campaigns, and the campaigns made what use they wished of it. There was very little direct communication by the Government with the elector.

The requirement then was not nearly as great. It was not long that we had been in the European Union. People could remember what it was like to be outside the European Union. There had been huge debate about Mr Heath’s application. There had then been an election, which was fought on a number of issues but that was one of them. The public were pretty familiar with the issues. People who have for a generation and a half assumed that the rights they acquire by being members of the European Union are permanent rights, people who live in Spain or Italy or Ireland, and enterprises that have made their decisions about investment on the assumption that our membership of the European Union single market is permanent are going to have to think about how these things would change.

The noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, got it exactly right and I agree with everything he said. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was correct to say that the four assessments called for in this amendment would have to be genuinely factual, impartial and independently produced. It is a serious requirement which should be in the Bill. I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, when he said at Second Reading that it was a principal defect of the Bill that there was nothing in it about facilitating unbiased debate before the referendum was held. This amendment would correct that defect, and I support it.

Lord Kinnock: I support the amendment. If I can be biblical for a moment, I shall take as my text what no less a person than the Prime Minister said in his Bloomberg speech. He said:

“If we left the European Union, it would be a one-way ticket, not a return”.

There can be few bigger questions ever to present themselves to the British people in this or any other age, certainly in peacetime—questions about war, of course, are characteristically not put to the British people. If that is the dimension of the decision, it is very clear that it must be subject to a full assessment, not as an addendum or an afterthought but as a basic prerequisite of conducting a referendum and a meaningful vote in it.

The reason for that is very straightforward: there is no commercial organisation of any dimension, even quite small concerns, which would begin to undertake any significant shift in its product range, in its marketing, in its location and in a proportionately big investment decision without undertaking a full evidence-based assessment of the impact of taking that decision. It would be an assessment of the impact not just on the firm and its labour force but perhaps on the locality, the environment and on transport needs. Anyone who has been part of such decision-making, as many people in this House, including me, have been, is familiar with the very refined techniques that now exist for undertaking comprehensive and thorough impact assessments. That is what the whole of commerce does. Indeed, it is what the whole of local government does. There can be no significant decision facing any council in this whole country that has any kind of recognisable implication

24 Jan 2014 : Column 905

for the community, the budget of the council or the well-being of the citizens that is not subject to rigorous impact assessment, particularly risk assessment. Useful techniques exist for undertaking those exercises in ways that are comprehensible to the citizens of the locality as well as to the decision-makers, executive and elected, in the council.

If we are faced as a country before 2017, or maybe after it under the terms of European Union Act 2011, with this monumental choice whether to book a one-way ticket, not a return—in the words of the Prime Minister—an assessment of impact that is comprehensive, thorough and communicated in understandable language would be a basic, vital requirement.

To the list that exists in the proposed “Referendum condition” clause, which is commendable and touches on most of the issues that would be of significance to people, we could add some more words from the Prime Minister. He said that we would have to think about,

“the impact on our influence at the top table of international affairs … That matters for British jobs and British security”.

It is not a detached, academic consideration of whether we have lost an empire and still seek a role, or anything esoteric at all. He said, rightly, that it matters for British jobs and British security.

We could add that question to the list: can we realise the Prime Minister’s and the Chancellor’s ambition of remaining in the single market, whatever happens to our membership of the European Union? The Prime Minister said that that is the most important single reason for us belonging to the European Union. If that is the case, surely the issue must be examined with great rigour. What would be the impact, that we could assess, on our participation in the single market? The results of that assessment should of course be available to the British people for prolonged discussion and comprehension before they come to casting the fateful vote.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, I suspect that there is one other potential impact of deep concern to my noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and myself: the danger that there will be differential social, economic and environmental effects within different parts of the United Kingdom, irrespective of the Scottish dimension. I hope he would agree that that matter should also be canvassed so that those who live on the periphery of the UK can also be aware of what their vote would mean.

Lord Kinnock: I am grateful to my noble friend. We could add a number of matters that absolutely, legitimately and centrally would determine attitudes in any referendum—as I said, whether it is held under the terms of this Bill, the one that succeeds it because this Parliament cannot dictate to the succeeding Parliament, or the terms of the 2011 Act. Of course, as my noble friend said, that is absolutely central.

As the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, and my noble friend Lord Anderson will know, I am not in any sense or form a secessionist or nationalist—quite the contrary, I am a unionist in more senses than one. But the fact is that if we were to have a referendum it would be entirely sensible for us to make an arrangement that

24 Jan 2014 : Column 906

ensured that its results were acknowledged according to England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland—if it is still part of the United Kingdom, which I dearly hope it will be. That is not in order to create trouble within this United Kingdom but, quite the contrary, so that people could signify their comprehension of the detail of the impact assessment and their calculation of what the real effects of departure could be for the part of the country in which they live and work and which they hold most dear.

I do not want to tire the House with a list of the various concerns that would have to be subject to impact assessment. I simply use what I have said and the illustration provided by my noble friend to further illuminate the argument supporting this amendment. I appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, to give full recognition to the force of this argument because I know, whatever his enthusiasms about a referendum or our participation in the European Union in future, he would not want Britain to go gentle into what could be a very dark night. He will want to ensure that the British people are in possession of dispassionate analysis and very thorough assessment of what the effect would be of departure from the European Union in order that their vote in a referendum was one of maximum information and, one hopes, wisdom.

That being the case, and respecting the noble Lord, as I do, I hope that he will accept the intellectual, constitutional and political rationale put to him by me and my noble friends in the course of this fairly short debate and be willing to embrace the amendment.

1.45 pm

Lord Liddle (Lab): My Lords, on this side of the House, we regard this as a significant amendment. Given that the House has decided by an overwhelming majority that the Bill is amendable, we very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, will consider it favourably. It is a serious attempt on our side to improve the referendum proposal and make an independent impact assessment a vital condition before a referendum can properly proceed. We want rational, independent consideration of the costs and benefits of our EU membership and of the alternatives to it. The amendment is, we hope, a way to facilitate that rational consideration of the issues at stake.

Why is it important to look at alternatives? Those of us who have spent a lot of our lives in politics know that opinion polls do not always give a very accurate reading of what is likely to happen at a general election. You can often be miles ahead, but the result at a general election can be very different. Why is that? It is a point of key relevance to the Europe debate. It is because, in the mid-term of any Government, people are simply thinking about what they think of the Government. It is only when they get to the election that they start thinking about it as a choice between the Government of the day and the Opposition. If we are to have a sensible debate about the European Union, it is vital that people do not just see it as expressing an opinion in a poll in a TV reality show about what they think of Brussels, the Commission, the European Parliament and all the rest, where we know what the result would be, but that they think

24 Jan 2014 : Column 907

about what are the alternatives to our present EU membership. They need to be explored independently and objectively.

A recent attempt to do this was in the CBI’s report, Our Global Future. That is on the economics. The CBI came to the conclusion that no alternative option to full EU membership can combine all the benefits of EU membership with none of the costs. I shall not risk being accused of wasting the House’s time by reading out the report, but it went through in meticulous detail all the different options, such as the so-called WTO option, becoming a member of the EEA, the Swiss option, or having some kind of free trade agreement with the European Union. It went through all the options. Those options need to be explored properly. That was the point that the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, was driving at. We cannot have a sensible discussion in a referendum on our EU membership without the Government saying what they would do if the people voted to come out, because it is only in those circumstances that people can make a proper choice. That is one of the reasons why we support this.

It is important to emphasise that this is not only a matter of economic and social costs and benefits. It is also about the rights of citizens, particularly our citizens living presently in other member states of the European Union, and how a withdrawal would affect their position. It is also about our security. The present Government have just been through a huge exercise on the JHA opt-out and have decided that it is essential to Britain’s security that we opt in to certain of these measures. They know that if we were not part of those measures, senior figures in the police force and in the intelligence services would have very serious doubts about government policy. We need to look at the whole range of issues to do with our EU membership.

This has to be done objectively and properly. If we are to have a fair debate, that is absolutely essential. We all know that large sections of the press are going to argue for Britain to withdraw. There is no fairness in the British press on this issue, where you have the Mail, the Express and the Sun, and to a lesser extent the Telegraph and the Times, united in their view against membership of the European Union. However, we also have a lot of misinformation now in social media. If we believe in democracy, it is the proper duty of the Government to ensure that the public are properly informed of all the options through a proper, independent analysis.

As my noble friends Lord Kinnock and Lord Giddens said in the earlier discussion, whether we are in the European Union or not is a fundamental choice for the future of this country. The debate about it must not be treated as some way of papering over the cracks in one of our political parties. It has to be treated as one of the most fundamental decisions that, in our lifetimes, we will ever take.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, perhaps I may briefly refer back to what I said at Second Reading. I said that the Bill was not about being pro-European or anti-European but about being pro-democracy. The noble Lord raised a number of issues about the people being informed and I agree with him. One of the

24 Jan 2014 : Column 908

positions that the Government have taken in relation to the balance of competences review has been on having an independent review of each individual area, where organisations and individuals are given the opportunity to give evidence, and for those reports to be presented in an independent way so that people can see where the European Union helps and where it hinders.

Such a referendum will generate a huge amount of interest and a great deal of campaigning. I think of my own experience of campaigning during the AV referendum. It becomes apparent as the referendum date comes nearer that the campaign steps up and a huge amount of discussion takes place. Members of this House and of the other House will have the opportunity to have their say. Business will have its say, NGOs will have their say and both sides of the case will be put. I am convinced that when this referendum is eventually held, the yes campaign and the no campaign will have long and detailed campaigns which will allow the British public to hear both the case for and the case against. This is an opportunity to allow that debate and those campaigns to start, and to allow the British people to have their say. There is overwhelming evidence that a referendum is what the people of this country—

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I thought that with the Minister’s reference to the balance of competences in her opening remarks, she was about to turn and recommend to her noble friend that they should accept the amendment. Is that the case? If not, why not? She is in government; if there were a referendum tomorrow, would the Government ensure that the sort of information called for in the amendment was provided? I hope that the answer is yes, and if it is then I hope that she will recommend this amendment to her noble friend.

Baroness Warsi: As the noble Lord is aware, the balance of competences review is to be done over four terms. The first set of papers has already been published and the second is being published as we speak. It is important that there is a timeframe within which this proper process is allowed to take place, and that is why the date as set in this Bill is not before the end of 2017. In those circumstances, I would say that the overwhelming feeling of the British people is to allow the referendum to happen.

Lord Dobbs: My Lords, someone has just passed me a note to remind me that today is the anniversary of when the Emperor Caligula was deserted by his noble friends in 41 AD and came to a sticky end. I am not quite sure what they meant by that.

Another amendment, another hour, so I will be brief. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Roper, for the dignified way in which he has introduced the amendment. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes; I hope that it will not embarrass him if I confirm that we have extremely cordial personal relations outside this Chamber, but I assure noble Lords that that has never done anything to undermine the asperity of our politics.

Once again, this is a specific matter that was debated in the other place at some length and was turned down by a resounding margin. I understand why. The

24 Jan 2014 : Column 909

amendment could be taken as implying a lack of belief in our democratic process and the ability and capacity of people to come to a sensible conclusion. Of course they should be fully informed. That is the basis of our democracy; it is what election and referendum campaigns are all about. We have the most mature democracy in the world. The people are more than capable of understanding that the press often talks complete nonsense, as do the political parties and even perhaps the CBI. We have heard a lot about the CBI on this particular amendment; I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and others would like the CBI to have a role in this independent, objective and dispassionate—to use the word of the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock—assessment. Is that the same CBI that a few years ago was chiding the then Labour Government to get off the fence and join the euro? You see, it is not quite as simple as—

Baroness Quin: I take the point that the noble Lord is making, but actually the CBI had conducted a survey and what it was doing was reflecting the views of its companies up and down the country and the people who worked for them.

Lord Dobbs: Many of those companies have changed their mind. The noble Baroness is simply confirming the point that I want to make: these objective assessments are terribly difficult, and not simply obtained by the movement of a pen.

Lord Radice: A number of us have argued for using the Office for Budget Responsibility. Is the noble Lord seriously saying that that is not a reputable and objective body? If so, he is of course undermining the whole basis of his Government’s economic policy.

Lord Dobbs: The noble Lord fully understands that that is not at all what I am saying. I am simply suggesting that this is not only a difficult issue but an important one. Of course we want people to make up their minds, and in order for them to do that they need information. Above all, though, what they need first and foremost is a vote—the first vote that they will have had in 40 years.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords—

Lord Dobbs: I am coming almost to the end. If the noble Lord insists, then of course I will give way.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: Why should the vote be first and foremost? Should not an evidence-based assessment be first and foremost?

Lord Dobbs: My Lords, nothing in the Bill prevents a future Parliament, before a referendum, from asking for just such an independent assessment in the circumstances of the time. Nothing in this Bill says that that is not going to happen. It is simply that this Bill is not required to do that in order for that to be achieved. The people will get their information—they

24 Jan 2014 : Column 910

will probably start complaining that they have had too much information—but they do not need this amendment in order to get it.

Having listened to the noble Lord’s argument and not disagreeing with his fundamental approach that the people of course need the right information to make up their minds, given that it is not necessary for this amendment to be passed in order for them to get that information, I respectfully ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Roper: My Lords, I am extraordinarily grateful for the support from all parts of the House for this cross-party Back-Bench amendment asking for the Bill to include an obligation to provide objective information on these critical matters. Given the time, I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I do not go into detail on all the points raised, although I think that the agenda which the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, proposed is probably rather more than the one which I was thinking of, but there are obviously other ways in which these other matters can be dealt with.

I also felt that the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, on environmental matters and the social chapter spelled out some of the things which were already included. I hope that the House understands very clearly the distinction between the objective analysis which we are putting forward in this set of amendments and the other matters which are put forward in other amendments to which we will be returning later.

In view of the support from all parts of the House, I was very disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, the promoter of this Bill, having said that he agrees with it, feels that it is not necessary to have it in the Bill. That is an argument one often gets as far as amendments are concerned. It is, of course, no longer possible to say that we must not have any amendments because we already have one, and having got one, the arguments against this one seem much reduced. On that basis, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

2.02 pm

Division on Amendment 9

Contents 183; Not-Contents 157.

Amendment 9 agreed.

Division No.  2


Adams of Craigielea, B.

Addington, L.

Adonis, L.

Alli, L.

Anderson of Swansea, L.

Andrews, B.

Armstrong of Ilminster, L.

Bach, L.

Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, B.

Bakewell, B.

Bassam of Brighton, L.

Benjamin, B.

Blackstone, B.

Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.

Boothroyd, B.

Bowness, L.

Brennan, L.

Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.

Brookman, L.

Browne of Ladyton, L.

Campbell-Savours, L.

Carter of Coles, L.

Chandos, V.

Chidgey, L.

Christopher, L.

Clarke of Hampstead, L.

Clement-Jones, L.

Clinton-Davis, L.

Collins of Highbury, L.

Craig of Radley, L.

Crawley, B.

Davies of Coity, L.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 911

Davies of Oldham, L.

Davies of Stamford, L.

Desai, L.

Donaghy, B.

Donoughue, L.

Doocey, B.

Drake, B.

Drayson, L.

Dubs, L.

Elder, L.

Erroll, E.

Evans of Temple Guiting, L.

Falkner of Margravine, B.

Farrington of Ribbleton, B.

Faulkner of Worcester, L.

Foulkes of Cumnock, L.

Gale, B.

Garden of Frognal, B.

German, L.

Gibson of Market Rasen, B.

Giddens, L.

Golding, B.

Goudie, B.

Gould of Potternewton, B.

Greaves, L.

Grender, B.

Grenfell, L.

Hamwee, B.

Hannay of Chiswick, L.

Hanworth, V.

Harries of Pentregarth, L.

Harris of Haringey, L.

Hart of Chilton, L.

Hattersley, L.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Hilton of Eggardon, B.

Howells of St Davids, B.

Howie of Troon, L.

Hoyle, L.

Hughes of Woodside, L.

Hunt of Kings Heath, L.

Hussain, L.

Hussein-Ece, B.

Inglewood, L.

Irvine of Lairg, L.

Jolly, B.

Jones of Cheltenham, L.

Jones of Whitchurch, B.

Jones, L.

Kennedy of Southwark, L.

Kerr of Kinlochard, L.

King of Bow, B.

Kinnock of Holyhead, B.

Kinnock, L.

Kirkhill, L.

Knight of Weymouth, L.

Kramer, B.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Leitch, L.

Lester of Herne Hill, L.

Liddle, L.

Lipsey, L.

Low of Dalston, L.

McAvoy, L.

McIntosh of Hudnall, B.

MacKenzie of Culkein, L.

McKenzie of Luton, L.

Maclennan of Rogart, L.

McNally, L.

Manzoor, B.

Massey of Darwen, B.

Maxton, L.

Mendelsohn, L.

Mitchell, L.

Monks, L.

Morgan of Drefelin, B.

Morgan of Ely, B.

Morgan of Huyton, B.

Morgan, L.

Morris of Handsworth, L.

Newby, L.

Northover, B.

Nye, B.

Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.

O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.

Ouseley, L.

Paddick, L.

Palmer of Childs Hill, L.

Pannick, L.

Parekh, L.

Pendry, L.

Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.

Prosser, B.

Quin, B. [Teller]

Quirk, L.

Radice, L.

Randerson, B.

Rea, L.

Redesdale, L.

Reid of Cardowan, L.

Rendell of Babergh, B.

Richard, L.

Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.

Roper, L. [Teller]

Rosser, L.

Royall of Blaisdon, B.

Sawyer, L.

Scotland of Asthal, B.

Sherlock, B.

Shipley, L.

Simon, V.

Smith of Basildon, B.

Smith of Finsbury, L.

Snape, L.

Soley, L.

Stephen, L.

Stern, B.

Stevenson of Balmacara, L.

Stone of Blackheath, L.

Stoneham of Droxford, L.

Suttie, B.

Symons of Vernham Dean, B.

Taverne, L.

Taylor of Blackburn, L.

Thomas of Gresford, L.

Thornton, B.

Tomlinson, L.

Triesman, L.

Truscott, L.

Tunnicliffe, L.

Turnberg, L.

Turnbull, L.

Turner of Camden, B.

Uddin, B.

Wall of New Barnet, B.

Wallace of Saltaire, L.

Walmsley, B.

Watson of Invergowrie, L.

Wheeler, B.

Whitaker, B.

Whitty, L.

Wigley, L.

Wilkins, B.

Williams of Crosby, B.

Williams of Elvel, L.

Willis of Knaresborough, L.

Wills, L.

Winston, L.

Wood of Anfield, L.

Woolmer of Leeds, L.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 912


Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

Anelay of St Johns, B.

Arran, E.

Ashton of Hyde, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Astor, V.

Attlee, E.

Baker of Dorking, L.

Balfe, L.

Bamford, L.

Bates, L.

Berridge, B.

Black of Brentwood, L.

Blencathra, L.

Borwick, L.

Bottomley of Nettlestone, B.

Brabazon of Tara, L.

Bridgeman, V.

Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L.

Browning, B.

Buscombe, B.

Caithness, E.

Carrington of Fulham, L.

Cathcart, E.

Cavendish of Furness, L.

Chadlington, L.

Coe, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Cormack, L.

Courtown, E. [Teller]

Crickhowell, L.

De Mauley, L.

Deighton, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Dobbs, L.

Dykes, L.

Eaton, B.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Eccles, V.

Eden of Winton, L.

Edmiston, L.

Elton, L.

Empey, L.

Faulks, L.

Feldman of Elstree, L.

Fink, L.

Finkelstein, L.

Flight, L.

Fookes, B.

Forsyth of Drumlean, L.

Fowler, L.

Framlingham, L.

Freeman, L.

Freud, L.

Gardiner of Kimble, L.

Gardner of Parkes, B.

Geddes, L.

Gold, L.

Goodlad, L.

Goschen, V.

Hamilton of Epsom, L.

Hanham, B.

Henley, L.

Heyhoe Flint, B.

Higgins, L.

Hill of Oareford, L.

Hodgson of Abinger, B.

Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.

Hooper, B.

Horam, L.

Howard of Rising, L.

Howe, E.

Howell of Guildford, L.

Hunt of Wirral, L.

James of Blackheath, L.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

Jenkin of Roding, L.

Jopling, L.

Kalms, L.

Kilclooney, L.

King of Bridgwater, L.

Kirkham, L.

Kirkwood of Kirkhope, L.

Lamont of Lerwick, L.

Lang of Monkton, L.

Leigh of Hurley, L.

Lexden, L.

Lingfield, L.

Liverpool, E.

Livingston of Parkhead, L.

Lucas, L.

Lyell, L.

McColl of Dulwich, L.

MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.

Mackay of Clashfern, L.

Mancroft, L.

Marlesford, L.

Mawhinney, L.

Mayhew of Twysden, L.

Miller of Hendon, B.

Montrose, D.

Morris of Bolton, B.

Moynihan, L.

Nash, L.

Neville-Jones, B.

Neville-Rolfe, B.

Noakes, B.

Norton of Louth, L.

O'Cathain, B.

Oppenheim-Barnes, B.

Pearson of Rannoch, L.

Perry of Southwark, B. [Teller]

Popat, L.

Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.

Renton of Mount Harry, L.

Ridley, V.

Risby, L.

Sassoon, L.

Seccombe, B.

Selborne, E.

Selkirk of Douglas, L.

Selsdon, L.

Shackleton of Belgravia, B.

Sharples, B.

Shaw of Northstead, L.

Sheikh, L.

Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.

Shrewsbury, E.

Skelmersdale, L.

Spicer, L.

Stedman-Scott, B.

Sterling of Plaistow, L.

Stevens of Ludgate, L.

Stirrup, L.

Stoddart of Swindon, L.

Stowell of Beeston, B.

Swinfen, L.

Taylor of Holbeach, L.

Trefgarne, L.

Trenchard, V.

Trimble, L.

Trumpington, B.

Verma, B.

Waddington, L.

Wakeham, L.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 913

Warsi, B.

Wasserman, L.

Wei, L.

Wheatcroft, B.

Whitby, L.

Wilcox, B.

Williams of Trafford, B.

Willoughby de Broke, L.

Wolfson of Aspley Guise, L.

Younger of Leckie, V.

2.14 pm

Amendment 10

Moved by Lord Kerr of Kinlochard

10: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out subsection (2)

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: My Lords, the amendment would remove the specific 2017 date from the Bill; it would not, of course, remove the insistence in Clause 1(1) that there should be a referendum but would merely leave open the date.

At Second Reading, in my usual low-key, modest, respectable, Cross-Bencher way, I touched on the reasons why I, as a negotiator, thought it unwise to put our negotiators in the forthcoming renegotiation under time pressure by locking them into a 2017 requirement for the successful completion of a renegotiation, which it seems that we will not start until 2015. Reading Hansard and seeing what I said at Second Reading, I am reminded of Warren Hastings in Westminster Hall at his impeachment, standing amazed at his own moderation.

I am struck by the fact that we do not know what it is that we will be renegotiating. We do not know what we want. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, had a point at Second Reading when he suggested that we should start now trying to win friends and influence people on whatever it is we want to achieve. I rather agree, but we do not know what we want to achieve. We have seen three or four hints in recent weeks. We have been told that we may want to scrap free movement of persons, in Article 3 of the treaty, or to have the EU drop its Charter of Fundamental Rights, in Article 6 of the treaty, and resile from the European Convention on Human Rights.

We may want to roll back EU competence in labour and social law and change the single market rules to give Whitehall a veto on EU laws on financial services. Indeed, on that, we have been told that the message for the foreigners is, “Reform or we leave”. All that sounds quite big stuff, involving fairly fundamental issues. Putting it as mildly as I can, I warn the House that all that would take time. Perhaps I should touch very briefly on the timetable for treaty revision.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, will the noble Lord please explain to me—if he is able to—when he uses the term “we may”, which “we” is he talking about? Is he talking about “we” meaning the country, “we” meaning the Government or “we” meaning part of the Government?

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I am sorry; I spoke loosely. I was talking about the Government of the day in the United Kingdom seeking treaty renegotiation.

There are four stages to treaty amendment, and the Conservative Party has argued that renegotiation will end in treaty amendment. It has defined success as

24 Jan 2014 : Column 914

treaty amendment. Stage one is that one has to find 14 other member state Governments who agree that one’s proposals for change make sense, or at least that they are worth considering in a convention. You have to have a simple majority.

The second stage would be a convention in which the national Parliaments, the European Parliament, the Commission—

Lord Cormack: I just want to say that many of us cannot hear the noble Lord. There must be something wrong with the loudspeakers.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I hate to deprive the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, of my wisdom, and he has been far too polite in the past.

The second stage of the process of amending the treaty is the calling of a convention. The last and only convention so far lasted for just over 18 months. The convention has to end up with consensus. The next stage is an intergovernmental conference in which one needs the unanimous agreement of every other member state to one’s propositions. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. The final stage would be ratification of the outcome. If it involved treaty amendment, the changed treaties would require new national ratification in every member state’s capital. I assume that before we have the referendum, we would want to know, and be able to tell the country, whether the renegotiation deal had stuck and had been accepted in other member states. A very awkward and complex situation would arise if you had a referendum on the assumption that the renegotiation deal would be ratified everywhere, and that turned out not to be the case.

We do not begin those four stages until after an election in 2015. It does not add up. The first stage, the bilateral diplomacy, we do not appear to be doing. We do not appear to be collecting the 14 friends to get past the first hurdle. As to the second stage, the convention, I do not know how long it would take. It might take much less than the 18 months taken last time, but it is a finite hurdle to get over and it will take time. As to the third stage, the intergovernmental conference, Maastricht took a year. This one might take less but, on the other hand, it sounds as if the propositions that the Conservative Party envisages bringing forward are rather fundamental. Finally, as to ratification in 2017, one would be asking the French and the Germans in their election years to agree with the British on, say, restraining free movement of persons, taking human rights out of the treaty, exempting the British from social law or giving them a veto on financial law. You would be seeking agreement on that in the year in which a French Socialist President was seeking re-election, and a German Government who strongly believe in human rights would be facing the polls.

Lord Deben (Con): The noble Lord has not mentioned the danger that ratification would not have taken place. If the British had a referendum and wished to remain in the EU, but ratification did not take place after that decision was made, that would put us in a constitutional position of great severity.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 915

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I entirely agree with the noble Lord. The point that I am trying to make is: because the renegotiation is envisaged to take place before the referendum, the date set for the referendum in 2017 cannot be right. It does not work.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am struggling with this argument because we are going to have a referendum in September on whether Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom. The proposition then is that the referendum should be held before the negotiation. I did not think that the noble Lord had any difficulty with the idea of that referendum.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: It depends on where you are starting from. It is not an easy position, but if the position of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, is that he wants to get us out anyway and we should not bother with renegotiation, that is fine. Why not? However, the Conservative Party’s position, as clearly explained in the Prime Minister’s Bloomberg speech—in which, by the way, he was speaking explicitly as leader of the Conservative Party, not as Prime Minister—was that he hoped to renegotiate a different relationship with Europe, put it to a referendum and recommend that we stay in the European Union. I am just saying that that timetable does not work. It does not add up.

At Second Reading, a lot of noble Lords commented on the date. A lot of noble Lords made the point—better than I am making it—of the unwisdom of locking the negotiators’ feet in concrete and putting them under time pressure. That is not a wise idea. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, said the date was arbitrarily picked out of the air. We have not been told in this debate why it has to be 2017, other than that was the date in the Bloomberg speech.

Lord Spicer (Con): The noble Lord makes some very interesting points but are they not rather academic in view of the votes that have now taken place and that the House to some extent has already passed wrecking amendments?

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Spicer: That is the likelihood. This House has been so careful of the interests of the British public against the shenanigans of the other place that it is going to deny them any voice at all.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: Nothing in this amendment in any way affects the first line of this Bill that says that there shall be a referendum. This amendment concerns only whether it is wise to set in the Bill the end date by which time the referendum must have been held. That is my sole point. I have heard no rationale for the 2017 date. I look forward to the explanation of his rationale from the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs. It will not be sufficient for me to hear that the Prime Minister said in the Bloomberg speech that it would be by the end of 2017. He said the first half of the Parliament. That would not be a sufficient rationale for me because it was not put in advance through the political process and raised in Parliament and is not, as I understand it, government policy. It is the policy of the Conservative

24 Jan 2014 : Column 916

Party, just as the Bloomberg speech was the policy of the Conservative Party. If we have to have a date in the Bill and it has to be the end of 2017, please tell us why. I can think of only one reason and I am not of a suspicious mind. If you wanted a referendum to produce the result that the UK leaves the European Union, you could not pick a better time. You are saying that the Government must bring their renegotiation to a head in what must be, because of the French and German elections, absolutely the worst year to do it. You are saying that they have to try to cut corners and accelerate the timetable, which the European Union will want to follow. You are maximising the chances that they lose friends, fail to influence people and do not get the renegotiation objectives they have in mind—

Lord Anderson of Swansea: Clearly the date chosen—before 2017—appears to be the worst possible time, as the noble Lord properly points out. It is also during the UK presidency and it will prove extraordinarily difficult for the UK objectively to be chairing the European Union as president and at the same time be pursuing objectives the purpose of which we do not yet know.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I agree. Again it is the cui bono question. Why would you want to set this timing unless your aim is to get us out? I look forward to hearing an alternative, more encouraging explanation of the rationale from the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, and until I do, I think that we should take this date out of the Bill.

I am very uneasy about the whole renegotiation process. I am very uneasy that we are raising public expectations in this country by saying week after week, issue after issue, “Yes, we will sort that out in the renegotiation”. Everybody agrees that the EU needs reform but reform is an amorphous, amoeba-like creature, and it seems to go off in different directions depending on whatever the Daily Mail says this week. We are always told, “Don’t worry, it’ll be dealt with in the renegotiation”.

I think that there are issues that can be renegotiated, and I am absolutely not, in principle, against renegotiation. However, one has to be clear with the country, preferably before the election, about precisely what kind of European Union one is trying to create and whether it is going to work—how many friends you have and how negotiable are your aims—and one needs to be honest about it.

If your Lordships want a renegotiation and they want it to succeed, Amendment 10 deserves their support, because a successful renegotiation is incompatible with a 2017 deadline.

2.30 pm

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall) (Lab): I should advise the Committee that if Amendment 10 is agreed, I cannot call Amendments 12 to 15 by reason of pre-emption.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, I want to say a few words on the amendments in my name and those of my noble friends Lord Anderson and Lord Davies

24 Jan 2014 : Column 917

of Stamford. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, can hear me, although whether he wants to or not is another matter.

I, along with my colleagues, have tabled about 10 amendments in this group. Some commentators outside this House have said that this is a disgrace and really dreadful. I see some nodding across the House—I presume in agreement with those commentators. It is our right and privilege to put down amendments and we should consider them carefully. I tabled a large number on this issue so as to give various options for the date—that is all. Some other commentators outside have said that the amendments are completely contradictory because they give different dates, but that misunderstands the purpose of Committee stage. As I understand it, the Committee stage of a Bill is for examining various options, and I have put down options for before the general election, after the general election and, as it happens, at the general election.

Some people argue—I know that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, might do it from his own perspective—that there should be an “in or out” referendum as soon as possible. Some pro-Europeans also argue that—in other words, in order to clear up the matter for another generation, just as we supposedly did in 1975, let us have an “in or out” referendum. If we are going to do that—forget about the renegotiation; this is just about whether we think that the principle of the European Union is right—then the early dates we have suggested in Amendments 13 and 14 of 22 May 2014 and 15 May 2015 would be ideal. One is the date of the European election and the other is the date of the general election. If you wanted to carry out a referendum, you could do it on the same day as either the European election or the general election. That would be quite possible, and those dates are just put forward as options for consideration.

The other option is 2020. Again, if you want to have a proper, thorough and widespread renegotiation, then the more time you have to do it, the better. As others said earlier, we still do not know exactly what the Prime Minister wants to renegotiate. When he was interviewed on the Andrew Marr programme, he did not seem to know which areas he wanted to renegotiate. We do not have the details of all the areas, so perhaps more time is necessary.

Amendments 16 to 20 would provide the opportunity for Ministers to decide the date depending on the outcome of the renegotiation. They would provide sensible flexibility in relation to the decision on the date and that might be better. Amendment 21 would insert,

“after consultation with the First Ministers of the devolved administrations”.

A journalist writing for the Daily Telegraph said that that would give Alex Salmond a veto.

As the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, knows, I am the last person—perhaps the second last person; he is the last person—who would want to give Alex Salmond a veto on anything at all. It does not provide a veto: it is just a consultation with the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about the date.

The noble Baroness opposite agreed with my critics but I hope she will agree with me now that these amendments provide the options for consideration

24 Jan 2014 : Column 918

by this Committee, which is its purpose. No doubt when we get to Report we will have firmed up the dates and will be clearer of what the desirable date should be.

Lord Wigley: On the point of consultation with the First Minister of Wales, for example, will he bear it in mind that in the period 2014-20 we are in receipt of structural funds? If we pull out half way through that period there will be considerable uncertainty and therefore his input would be significant.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, because that is exactly the kind of thing that the First Ministers of the devolved Administrations could put into the debate. It is not a veto. It simply provides an opportunity for them to say, “Look, if you do it on this particular date it is going to be unhelpful and difficult because of certain circumstances”. For example, we are having the Commonwealth Games in Scotland and there may be other events in the future during which it would be undesirable to have a referendum, or before or after. The amendment will give the devolved Administrations the opportunity to consult.

This group of amendments provides the opportunity for Euroenthusiasts to have an early date if they want to settle matters once and for all; equally Eurosceptics or Europhobes will have the same opportunity—and here is a Europhobe just to prove it.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, from listening to the noble Lord it is obvious that the purpose of his amendments is to give him an opportunity to make a long speech. For example, Amendment 13 suggests that we should have the referendum on 22 May of this year. The Bill will have hardly received Royal Assent. How can that possibly be a realistic expectation? This is a good old-fashioned filibuster for which he is famous.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: That is an absolute calumny. [Interruption.] The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, is known for his acerbity on these matters. I have been going for six minutes; when did we last take six minutes on a filibuster? In my main speech earlier in the day I was less than 10 minutes whereas the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, rambled on for nearly 30 minutes. He was the one doing the filibustering, not me.

Lord Dobbs: At the risk of wasting any more time, dare I suggest that it is not a filibuster but a “Milibuster”, something designed by the Labour Party to cause so much delay and confusion that we will all have forgotten where we started from?

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: The noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, has read the people’s tweets. They coined the word “Milibuster" and he is using it. The interesting, remarkable and ironic thing is that if the noble Lords, Lord Forsyth and Lord Dobbs, had not intervened, I would have sat down two minutes ago.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 919

Lord Bowness (Con): My Lords, I have put my name to Amendments 10, 23 and 24 in this group. Sitting on the Conservative Benches in your Lordships’ House, I should perhaps explain why I have done so. I did so because I believe that it is in the interests of not only the United Kingdom and the European Union but also of the Conservative Party to ensure that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, if he is the Prime Minister after the next election—on these Benches we hope that he is—is not placed in a straitjacket into which we are in danger of tying him if the provision in this Bill is not amended as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard.

Can I just take a moment to remind the House of the history of this matter? We as a party have moved from a position of total rejection of a referendum to the promise of one in the next Parliament to the acceptance of a Bill in this Parliament and, sadly, to the inadequate Bill that now is before us.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, has gone through in considerable detail the necessary steps which have to be taken to achieve an amendment of the treaties. I will not weary your Lordships by reading out or referring to Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union. Suffice it to say that it encapsulates all those steps. Suffice it to say also that this is not the first time that I have asked in your Lordships’ House this question of my noble friends on the Front Bench: how is it envisaged that you can negotiate meaningful, serious and significant changes within the period 2015 to 2017, given the provisions of the treaty by which we are bound? The answer cannot be that there is a fast-track procedure, because that is for small matters. If we are talking about only small matters, why are we going through this agony here today?

I suggest that the date is not practical. It is possible to envisage a situation where negotiations are not completed before the deadline is reached. What happens then? Do we have a referendum on incomplete negotiation? What will be the position of the hoped-for Conservative Government and the hoped-for Conservative Prime Minister then? What recommendation will he or she make to the country? The Prime Minister has said that he wants to campaign enthusiastically, post negotiations, for the United Kingdom’s continued membership of the European Union. I therefore address my remarks particularly to my noble friends on this side of the Committee. If we support him in that statement of policy, let us ensure that he has the space to do the job he has told us he wants to do, and if we do, that we will support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, has made a brave speech and, dare I say, a consistent speech because the position he has outlined is that which was taken by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in 2011. He is therefore being consistent, and one could well ask why there has been a change to what he referred to as the downward slope. Historically I could make the same point over a rather longer period.

When as a young man I joined the Foreign Office in 1960 and was doing some work for Mr Edward Heath, at that time the Conservative Party was enthusiastically

24 Jan 2014 : Column 920

in favour of Europe. I concede that in 1983 there was an appalling manifesto from my party—the death warrant. Then there was a reversal of the parties. Mr Major had a torrid time with people whose paternity he doubted, but the problem is that the people whose paternity he doubted are now in the driving seat of the Conservative Party. Mr Major has made very clear his own position: he does not support Mr Wharton’s Bill, which is masquerading as a Private Member’s Bill.

It is clear that the date is crucial, so why was it chosen? I picture a little conference in the darkness of the night in Downing Street, with a large bran tub with a series of dates in it. Someone pulls a date out of the tub and says, “Why not 2017?”. It appears to be as arbitrary as that. We have been given no serious explanation of why it should be the date, but we have been given a very good explanation by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, as to why it should not be used. We have the good fortune to have in this House the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who has immense experience of negotiating with our European partners. We also have the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. Having been our ambassador in UKRep in Brussels, he knows where the bodies are buried, how negotiations are carried out, and about the need to build up a team in support of the position one wishes to favour. That is the real battle.

2.45 pm

I will not repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said, based on his own experience, about the unreality of the date. For referenda, the key determinants are who asks the question and, if it is the Government, in part, on their popularity at the time. In Wales in 1979, the devolution package was voted down massively by the people, four to one, because it was put forward by a highly unpopular Labour Government at the fag-end of their period. By contrast, the devolution referendum in 1997 was passed, just, after being put forward by a very popular Labour Government which had a substantial mandate. It depends who puts forward the question and when. The people of Sweden, for example, were consistently against joining the European Union, but a very small window of opportunity opened, which happened to coincide with when the referendum took place, and the people of Sweden chose, then, to enter the European Union. It is very much a hit-or-miss matter.

My starting proposition is that this is an arbitrary date. In fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said, there could probably not have been a worse date in terms of the concerns of the chief negotiating partners—the French and, at that stage, the Germans—along with the added complexity of the British six-month presidency in the latter half of that year. There can be no serious rationale for that particular date. It is most unlikely that any time before that date will be suitable, for the reasons which the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has set out: the complexity of the negotiations and the crabbed way in which the European Union sets about negotiations. If it is unlikely that one will reach a determination by 2017, why the hurry? One is bound to ask what their motive is.

I recall that, at Second Reading, I probably made a mistake historically when I attributed a particular good story, which I have lived on for 10 years, to

24 Jan 2014 : Column 921

Metternich—the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, very properly, corrected me and said it was Talleyrand who made that particular point. I defer to his historical knowledge on that, but will pose another historical analogy. Just prior to the French Revolution, a very acute observer, looking at the French liberal aristocrats who were flirting with revolution just before 1789, said, “Those who are blowing upon the flames will one day be consumed by them”. My noble friend Lord Pearson is no longer in his place, but it is he and his party who may well be benefiting from what the Prime Minister is doing.

I commend to the House an interesting article in the Financial Times of 14 January by Mr Janan Ganesh, who is normally a Conservative supporter. He said that there were three motives behind the timing in the current referendum Bill: first, that it would placate Tory Members of Parliament; secondly, that it would help with UKIP; and thirdly, that it would put the European question “to sleep” until after the general election. He went on to argue that they had massively failed in every one of these objectives and that there was no way in which the Tory right—the Tea Party tendency—had been placated.

Indeed, 100 Conservative Members of Parliament signed that letter to the Prime Minister, saying, “More, more”, as if he were a penguin-house keeper, throwing fish to the penguins in the hope that they would say, “That’s enough”; but no, they swallow them down and ask for more. They have exposed their real motives. He has not put off UKIP, which seems to be doing pretty well in the polls. He has not put the European question to sleep until the general election—far from it. Through this debate and what will follow, we are continuing to keep the European Union very much on the agenda.

I feel rather like Mr McEnroe: are they serious? What is the reason for choosing that arbitrary date? We do not even know what the objectives of the Conservative part of the Government are in pursuing those negotiations. We know that they have made the position more difficult for themselves by alienating some of their best potential friends: the Romanians and the Bulgarians; the Czechs, who have now changed their position; and the Germans, who do not have any treaty change within the coalition agreement that was recently hammered out. Far from building a consensus with like-minded countries, they have put them off. We know that, but what is their motive? Certainly the Back-Benchers are incensed and I will not go over what the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has said from his own experience about the length of their position.

What will happen if we set into the terms of the Bill this date of 2017? If it is the case, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, that there is no way in which negotiations can be concluded by that arbitrary date, what then happens? Because we will be bound to have a referendum, will the question be perhaps not the one we have just agreed but something along these lines: “You will be aware that”—if the Conservative Party is then in power—“the Prime Minister has pursued negotiations with our European partners. There has been no finality. Do you wish him to continue—yes or no?”. Perhaps that is the only question that can plausibly be put forward at that arbitrary date of 2017.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 922

The negotiations are highly unlikely to be completed by that time. We do not know the objectives. We do not know the timetable. Therefore, we do not know whether or not the Government will succeed. Will they just make up the objectives after they have reached a certain determination? Either way, this date is wholly unrealistic and it should be rejected.

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, I promise I will be brief and I will try not to repeat what others have said. If I made the speech that I really wanted to make, when noble Lords read it in Hansard tomorrow they would probably all accuse me of plagiarising the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, because I agree with every word that he said—it could not be said better.

I would just like to make two points. Of course, I am concentrating strictly on the question of the date. We do not hear so much nowadays about repatriation of powers. The game has changed. It is now all about reform of the European Union. I give credit to the Prime Minister for having picked up on that. He now speaks about us being part of the reform of the European Union. The problem that arises, as far as renegotiation is concerned—to repatriate powers or whatever else the Conservatives would like to see happen—is that our European partners do not see that as a priority. They are interested in the reform of the European Union.

There will be a new Parliament shortly; there will be, I hope, a refreshed Commission and a reinvigorated Council. As we get closer to 2017, there will be new political leaders in Europe. They are looking at European reform and what they want—and they really do want it—is for Britain to be part of the process of reforming the European Union. If the aim of the Conservative part of the Government is to clog up the works, which is what the effect will be, with a long string of requests for repatriation of powers, we will have a very poor reception and they will not be so interested in us taking part in the reform of the European Union. It is extremely important that we focus on reform of the European Union and a little bit less on what might please the Back-Benchers at the other end of the Palace.

The noble Lords, Lord Kerr and Lord Bowness, and others have made the point that we do not know the purpose behind choosing 2017, although we have our suspicions, which have been mentioned. We just do not know. The Conservative Party owes us an explanation as to why it chose 2017. Surely it must have known about the elections in Europe; surely it must be aware of our presidency; surely it must be aware of how long it takes to negotiate. Why then did the Prime Minister decide to pin himself down to 2017?

The Prime Minister seems to have assumed a new role: that of Harry Houdini, binding himself in chains. Because Harry Houdini was a very clever man, he managed to get himself out and then hand the hat around to collect some dosh. Well, David Cameron is no Harry Houdini. He will not be able to get out of that bind if he binds himself to 2017. All the problems that have been adumbrated by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and others, he will have to face if he is still Prime Minister.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 923

We need a clear answer from the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs: why 2017? If the date is to be 2017, how does he see that it could possibly be of assistance to a Conservative Government and, more importantly, to the nation as a whole?

Baroness Boothroyd: My Lords, I share the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who spoke with authority and considerable experience in moving this amendment. I believe that the statutory imposition of a 2017 deadline threatens our entire strategy for securing Britain’s future in a reformed European Union. Moreover, this part of the Bill as it now stands undermines and contradicts some of the assurances given by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in previous statements. Not long ago, both those Ministers argued the case for realism, but, regrettably to me, they have played politics with it ever since. Yet theirs was the correct strategy before they wilted under fire. This amendment restores their original logic. More importantly for me, it restores Britain’s chances of winning the long struggle that lies ahead of us.

Clause 1(2) of the Bill propagates the facile belief that this country’s 27 partners in the European Union will allow us to reshape Britain’s role in it according to our own arbitrary deadline. I support the amendment because it removes that barrier, allows for proper negotiation and provides us with a good chance of success. Do the Bill’s supporters really believe that a binding commitment to hold a referendum before the end of 2017 will persuade others in Europe to comply with our proposals and at the speed we dictate? The Germans have a term for what is needed now: Realpolitik—let’s get real.

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary profess to be reformers and not quitters. That stance I admire. Answering a question during this Bill’s Second Reading in the Commons on 5 July last year, Mr Hague made his position clear. He said:

“The Prime Minister and I are in exactly the same position. Of course we will vote to stay in a successfully reformed European Union”.—[Official Report, Commons, 5/7/13; col. 1190.]

Clearly, he did not envisage the referendum taking place in a diplomatic void or during negotiations. Neither, although we can only assume it, did Mr Cameron. The Prime Minister in that major speech on 23 January last year said:

“And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether”.

In other words, a new deal for Britain was the priority, followed by a referendum. He said:

“It is wrong to ask people whether to stay or go before we have had a chance to put the relationship right”.

He was correct. Alas, I am afraid that the Prime Minister has boxed himself into a corner from which he must be extricated—I was going to say “extradited”, but “extricated” is a better word. His original judgment is still valid, but a rigid deadline would impede a satisfactory renegotiation.

3 pm

Whitehall must know that the Government’s consultations with industry, commerce and other vital interests are pivotal to a robust negotiating position

24 Jan 2014 : Column 924

for us. We need the support of all those interests, but consultations have not yet even begun. This amendment gives the next Government, whatever its colour, room for manoeuvre and a chance of success. That is why it should be supported by the House today.

Earlier in this debate, our critics said that we would cause problems for the Commons if we amended the Bill and would face the wrath of the people if it was amended and not accepted by this House as it stands. That assertion has been made bunkum of. We may have many blemishes on our society, but one thing that we have is a very full-blooded and strong parliamentary democracy. Part of that parliamentary system is our job, which is to scrutinise, ask awkward questions, speak out about double-talk and double standards, and amend legislation where we feel it necessary. Private Member’s Bill or not, too much is at stake now to take this Bill at face value. If we fail because of our own obduracy, Britain will be humiliated and our chances of ever reforming the EU will be severely damaged. This amendment is in the interest of our country. That is why it has my support. I hope that it has the support of many Members on all sides of this House this afternoon.

Lord Tugendhat (Con): My Lords, I agree with every word that the noble Baroness, Lady Boothroyd, said and therefore will not waste the time of the House by going over the points in detail. That was admirably done by my noble friend Lord Bowness and the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, in their speeches. I just want to make one particular point: both at Second Reading and in our debates today, I have heard it alleged that those of us wishing to amend the Bill are trying to sabotage the principle of a referendum and that there is some deep-laid plot to deny the British people the right to a referendum. The reverse is true.

As I said at Second Reading, I support the position set out by the Prime Minister in his Bloomberg speech. I shall campaign for a Conservative Government and when one is elected I shall campaign for a yes vote in the referendum when it occurs. But because I take that referendum very seriously, I am anxious that it should be held on the best possible basis: the details should have been fully thought through; it should be designed to provide the British people with the most objective possible choice and all the information that they require; and, before the referendum takes place, the British Government should have the best possible chance of achieving their objectives. I supported an earlier amendment and shall support this one, not because I wish to cut across the House of Commons or deny the British people the vote but because I wish to see the referendum carried out on the best possible basis and designed to achieve the result that the Prime Minister said that he wants to see.

Lord Kinnock: My Lords, the only reason we have the Bill, and certainly the only reason that we have a Bill with a deadline, is the repeated failed attempts by the Prime Minister to mollify and pacify the euro-secessionists within the Conservative Party. Because of the risks, speculation and difficulty to which it subjects our country unnecessarily, I think that it is the most fruitless and most dangerous appeasement since Danegeld.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 925

What is the Prime Minister seeking to negotiate? That is central to the Bill. He was good enough to tell us in his Bloomberg speech that he wanted to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament,

“a new settlement in which Britain shapes and respects the rules of the single market but is protected by fair safeguards, and free of the spurious regulation which damages Europe’s competitiveness”.

He does not go into more detail about that; I suppose that we will have to wait for it. He calls for a proper and reasoned debate and then says:

“I say to our European partners, frustrated as some of them no doubt are by Britain’s attitude: work with us on this”.

I use those quotations to illustrate the complexity and the need for co-operation with European partners to make any significant progress on the kind of negotiation that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer envisage: to negotiate a new settlement, which has at its centre powerful and influential participation in the single market but with our obligation shorn of any of the duties and contributions to which we object.

I think that that summarises fairly the approach to be taken in the event of the Prime Minister being engaged in that new settlement. That would make the whole process very fragile. The date, which is the subject of our debate now, makes it even more fragile. Why is that? Because the specification of the date of December 2017 means that the furthest possible realistic date to honour the undertakings of the Bill, by which negotiations would have to be concluded, would be, let us say, October 2017, 17 months after a general election in which the Conservative Party hopes to be victorious. It gets even more complex because, just underneath the provision relating to 31 December 2017 is the date of 31 December 2016 as the date by which the date for the referendum must be appointed by the Government.

Do people really believe that after the date of the referendum has been specified in December 2016, we can expect our partners in Europe—despite their distractions, which the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has properly pointed out, with their acute domestic questions relating to their general elections—to whom the Prime Minister has appealed for patience, to stick with us when they know very well that we are facing a deadline of a maximum of 12 months, during which time the referendum must be held after the date has been appointed?

That brings me to my final point. I think that noble Lords will recognise it to be a practical point because, with the galaxy and diversity of talents and experience in this place, there is any amount of acquaintance with negotiation. Probably everyone in this House has done it, in one way or another, whether as a trade unionist, an employer, a politician, a civil servant, a manager or a parent. We have all engaged in negotiations and I suppose that there are a couple of basic golden rules about them.

The first rule is that you signify a deadline for the conclusion of negotiations only if that deadline can be one of your weapons—for example, “If we do not finish this deal by next Tuesday night, the deal’s off the table”, or, “If you don’t make the deal by next Tuesday night, we’re having a ballot and going out on

24 Jan 2014 : Column 926

strike”. So you use a deadline to influence the negotiations themselves, but only when you are a participant in negotiations and have sanctions. You can negotiate with your children, if you have a more democratic parental relationship than my children tell me I had in their upbringing, because there can be a withdrawal of privileges and a denial of this, that and the other, simply because they have not kept to their side of the bargain. That is part of growing up and of being a parent. You can do the same thing as an employer or a trade unionist, or any form of negotiator using sanctions to try to uphold the deadline and secure your objective.

What sanctions are in the hand or pocket, or the red box, of any member or putative member of a future British Government who have set themselves a deadline to negotiate a complex and comprehensive new settlement with the rest of the European Union, a prominent feature of which is our implacable right to continue to operate with full privileges and obligations in the single market, if we expect them to be willing to endorse that and give us our way in the name of reform? The reform objective is decent and very supportable. I have been working and campaigning on reform of the European Union in a variety of ways for a very long time past, so I support the objective of reform. However, what reforms can you undertake while ensuring that they are copper-bottomed, secured in negotiation and adopted as policy, or even as treaty amendments, if you are working against a deadline? In this case, there are no realistic sanctions to be employed against those who will not bear with us, negotiate in good part and come to a conclusion according to the timetable set down in the Bill.

The reality—is it not?—is that you never set a deadline unless you can enforce it and use it as a weapon of negotiation. If you make a deadline in any other circumstances, the calendar and the clock will do your opponents’ work for them—or at least, not your opponents but your partners in negotiation. It is easy to make the error sometimes and I have been known to slip into it very occasionally myself. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, to consider whether even his objective of securing this legislation to facilitate a referendum is really served by having an explicit deadline in the Bill. It is a deadline that takes no notice of the objective realities of our politics and other peoples’ politics, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, so forcefully pointed out. That is evidenced by any knowledge at all of the conduct of political and constitutional affairs in the European Union. A deadline takes no account of the even more basic realities of the biology and psychology of negotiation.

3.15 pm

Lord Spicer: I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, but I am worried that he is getting so carried away that he might hit his neighbour in the face. I can see that from here but he probably cannot.

Lord Kinnock: That is the last thing I would do to my noble friend Lady Quin. I would never take on a Geordie lass in that or any respect. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for permitting me what I hope is a courteous way to conclude my speech.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 927

I sincerely hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, thinks in these practical terms because he is sincere in his objective, but if we in this House are not to make fools of ourselves we simply cannot allow, on a gigantic issue of this kind, a deadline to be set for the conclusion of immensely complex negotiations that will affect the destiny of our country.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart (LD): My Lords, I ask that the seriousness of the Bill be taken into consideration in determining when a referendum should be held. It is not about effecting changes or reforms only for the benefit of the United Kingdom. If that process has to be postponed until after the election, as has been said, we have a very short time in which to achieve those changes. The terminal date for the referendum seems not even to allow for that possibility to be achieved.

I think that our ambition should be greater. I served in the Convention on the Future of Europe in 2002, and it was noticeable at the time that many countries came to that operation without a clear view of how they would wish to see the EU reformed, but gradually, and very largely due to the skills of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, a consensus was reached. There were certainly some exceptions—people like David Heathcoat-Amory, who did not agree with the end results—but the reality was that substantial steps were taken to improve the operation of the EU.

In 40 years the EU has transformed the history of Europe. It has made it a place where justice, democracy and peace can reign, and that is something from which we should not back off. We should accept that we can improve the methods of enhancing those goals. I think that for Britain to stand apart and say, “We want certain changes for us alone”, is designed to create a hostile reaction, whereas we should go into this process of reform saying, “We recognise that there are other countries that wish to see change, that wish to see the institutions more democratised, that wish to see not just a single market but one that embraces services and that wish to see not just economic change but security changes to see how we can co-ordinate our defence and security policy and make it more effective—not just an alliance between France and Britain, but something involving other countries as well”.

As we witness China growing in importance and its GDP rapidly rising, and as we see India and the BRICs growing in strength, it becomes more important from a global point of view that the European Union is stronger and is recognised by all its citizens to be a vehicle for influencing the better outcomes that we all seek to achieve. That cannot be done with a deadline of December 2017. It requires us to recognise that if we are going to have 28 countries working together to improve the operation of the Union—and we have seen it improve—we require longer to bring together the consensus which we need.

Last week, I was with the Select Committee in Brussels and Paris and what probably struck me most was the disparity of views about how to achieve these goals. For example, the European Parliament needs to have some right of initiative, as do national Parliaments, in indicating the direction of policy, but that has not clearly come on to the agenda yet. Although as a

24 Jan 2014 : Column 928

result of the convention and the Lisbon treaty the European Parliament has now has a right of co-decision and much greater authority and consequently greater democracy, we need to ensure that the voice of the European Parliament has greater influence on events.

I believe that the time is ripe for another Convention on the Future of Europe to enable member countries in all their governmental forms to come together collectively and work out a consensus. We need it to enable us to have the evidence of the citizenry presented, not just matters decided by conclaves of Governments who say that they are looking after their own. We need to have a full, open, transparent discussion about the limitations of the European Union, its achievements and its possibilities.

To set a date like this is to threaten the other member countries of the European Union with the possibility that Britain, one of the most influential countries, one of the most respected democracies in western Europe and, indeed, in Europe, might back out. That would be, frankly, a historical disaster, not just for this country, but for the European Union and for global governance, so let us not decide to set a limit to the decision-making of a referendum in this country. Let us amend this proposal. That does not mean that we need to be against referendums entirely, but let us be realistic about the time it takes to change the ways we do things. Let us endeavour to do it properly, systematically and thoroughly. Therefore, I support the amendment.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I ask my noble friend a point of clarification. I am not clear about the relationship between the negotiations and the date of any referendum in December 2017. Earlier in the debate, my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern said that there was every likelihood that, if something became problematic it was always open to a successor Parliament to amend the legislation. In the case of the negotiations not being concluded in time for a referendum at the end of 2017, would it be the policy of the Prime Minister to follow the line of action advocated by my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern, or would it be his policy to proceed with the referendum regardless?

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord replies to that because the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has given the game away. As the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, said earlier, there is no point to having this date if noble Lords want to have this flexibility. I therefore add a question to the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs. In one minute it is seen as a bilateral negotiation by Britain and in the next minute it is clear, as has been said by many speakers, that it is a multilateral negotiation. It cannot be both at the same time. The first would be narrow, and I do not think it would get very far. If it is the latter, a multilateral poker game, it certainly cannot be time constrained in advance. When he replies, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs: which is it?

Lord Higgins (Con): My Lords, I make a rather simple point. When we began our proceedings today, there was a widespread view that if any amendment

24 Jan 2014 : Column 929

were carried, it might endanger the future of the Bill. There was therefore a great inhibition against voting for any amendment. I do not believe that was wholly true because, as was pointed out in earlier debates, it would be possible for the other place to allow enough time for the Bill to proceed and for the amendments to be considered.

At all events, we are now in a situation where an amendment has been carried; it makes little difference whether one amendment has been carried or a number. It is therefore extremely important, if the Bill is to have a future, as I believe it should, that we make it as good as we can by carrying out our duty of amending it in a sensible way. I find it quite difficult to think of any amendment which has been proposed more sensibly that that of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, this afternoon.

It seems to me that if we are really in favour of a genuine referendum on the substance of the issue, following a serious negotiation—which I believe is what the Prime Minister intends—then there really is a very strong case for the amendment. Therefore, whatever my noble friend on the Front Bench’s brief may originally have said, I hope that she will consider the point which I have just made and, more particularly, that my noble friend Lord Dobbs would also consider it. It seems quite clear that the Bill would be better it we accepted the amendment.

3.30 pm

Lord Davies of Stamford: My Lords, each of the last three speakers has put very significant questions to the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, and we all look forward to his response. The House will have listened with particular attention to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, as he has long experience of public life and the logic of his intervention seems to me very compelling.

I very much enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan. I agreed with every word of it. He and I have had pretty much the same views on this subject during the 25 years we have known each other. I am as confident as I ever was that the judgment that we have taken on these matters over the years will be vindicated by history.

The noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, said some very wise things that I hope have been taken good note of. It will have struck the House—and I trust that it will strike the public—that we have heard in the course of the past two or three hours from the four Members of the House who have the greatest experience of dealing with the European Union and European Union affairs— that is, the noble Lords, Lord Kinnock, Lord Tugendhat, Lord Hannay and Lord Kerr, coming from the two major parties and from no party. All that they said and the advice they gave to the Government, which I think was very sound, was strikingly in harmony. That is probably a very significant point.

I put my name to several amendments in this group, a number of which—Amendments 13, 14 and 15—I saw, and continue to see, essentially as probing amendments designed to illuminate the issue and clarify the options. In that respect, as I shall explain in a moment, my expectations have been more than fulfilled. However, if we want to make the Bill a little more viable and a little less absurd, the right agenda for the

24 Jan 2014 : Column 930

House now is to agree Amendment 10 of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and Amendment 16 of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, to which I put my name. That would produce a coherent solution to the problem the House now faces.

There has been a lot of comment in the course of these debates to the effect that what we are faced with in the Bill is a series of absurdities. It is absurd to have a referendum that is supposed to take place up to four years after the decision to hold it is taken. I do not think that in the whole history of referenda, which as far as I can recall started with Napoleon I’s plebiscites, anybody has ever had such a ridiculous notion before. How could the Government possibly have come up with such an extraordinary notion? The whole thing looks suspect from the start.

What also looks very suspect from the start is the fact that the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Foreign Secretary and the other Conservative members of the Government have all apparently had this damascene conversion over the past year and a half in favour of having a referendum Bill when a short time ago they opposed it, using very much the arguments that we continue to use quite genuinely against the whole idea.

It is also very suspect that intelligent men—they are intelligent men; they are not fools—cannot have worked out for themselves the compelling logic set out by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, which makes this date an absurdity if there is to be a renegotiation or some sort of change in our relationship with the European Union as a result of the initiatives launched by this Government. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, has persuaded everybody, including—this is the point that I am coming to—those who have brought forward the Bill, have pushed for it and have forced the Prime Minister to go along with this initiative: that is, the people who have been described in this House several times already today as the Tea Party.

The most eloquent spokesman I know of the so-called Tea Party—the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth—appears to have accepted the logic of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. I noted that in his intervention, which was a dramatically important one, he said that the referendum might take place before the renegotiation. He had obviously abandoned the idea of making anybody believe that there was a reasonable chance of concluding the negotiation before the referendum, so he decided to switch it round and say that the referendum might take place first. I think what has happened this afternoon is that one more cat has been let out of the Tea Party’s bag, because a referendum which took place before the negotiation would make our leaving the European Union almost inevitable. Why? Because, in having a referendum, the Government would have to get a mandate for a particular negotiating agenda. They would have to say, “We are going to change this, change that, demand this and demand that”, and that would be the agenda that the public would then endorse.

Unless the Tea Party believes, rather like Napoleon I, that we could proceed in our European policy on the basis of diktat and simply lay down to 27 other nations exactly, in the finest detail, what they will and will not do, and what they will and will not subscribe to, there is no way in hell, if I may say so, that we

24 Jan 2014 : Column 931

would ever end up with a final agreement that corresponded exactly with the negotiating mandate that the Government had obtained the consent of the British people to pursue. In other words, such a referendum would be doomed to certain disaster. It could not possibly lead to a successful conclusion or any position other than there being a gap between what had been promised at the time of the referendum—and the deal that the British people had presumably endorsed if they had accepted the referendum and supported the Government’s negotiating agenda—and what emerged from that negotiation.

This is another example of the cat being let out of the bag. These are people who are devising methods, fair or foul, to ensure that, whatever happens, we come out of the European Union. Another cat was let out of the bag last week. A letter from 95 or, as some people said, 100 members of the Tory Party told the Prime Minister that the Government should introduce a Bill that would give the British Parliament the right, whenever it wished, not to fulfil but to derogate from any rule, directive or resolution of the European Union.

Again, these are not stupid people. They knew what they were doing. What would happen if we were to pass such a Bill in this Parliament? De facto, we would have left the European Union, because immediately we would be in breach of the treaty of accession. De facto, we would be out, but without a referendum. We would be out without the British people having realised what the process was that was leading to our inevitably having to get out. Unfortunately, they still have not woken up to that.

So much for democracy and for the idea that you cannot make such a move without the consent of the British people. We must be quite clear what the agenda of members of the Tea Party is in taking over the Conservative Party in this way, which they have done so successfully—to get us out of the European Union by hook or by crook. It is therefore important that in our debates we throw light on that and open up the truth, because it is a terrible truth, about which the British public should be in no doubt.

Lord Cormack: My Lords, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, could accuse me of being a member of any Tea Party. I well remember when he was a Conservative and enthusiastically cheered on the party, sitting by my side in another place. He has had a dramatic conversion, but I do not want to talk about that.

Lord Davies of Stamford: I have to ask the noble Lord to let me intervene because he said something about me that I cannot accept. Of course I have never suggested that the noble Lord is a member of the Tea Party, and I do not know why he supposed that I was saying that or could draw any such imputation. He has indeed known me for a long time in two parties; he reminds me of an embarrassing part of my past. However, I hope he will acknowledge that I have never changed my views on this subject, and I am glad to say that many other Members of this House here, including on this side of the House, will vouch for that. I have not moved on that question, and any imputation to

24 Jan 2014 : Column 932

the contrary—the idea that I was cheering a contrary view at some point—is utterly wrong, and I hope that he withdraws it.

Lord Cormack: I did not suggest any such thing. The noble Lord should keep his cool. He may always have supported Britain’s membership of the European Union, and so have I. I made it plain at Second Reading that I had advocated an “in or out” referendum since the Maastricht negotiations. I felt that the boil needed lancing. I also made it plain that in any such referendum I would campaign enthusiastically for our continued membership. If I had to give a single reason for that, it is that I was in the House of Commons long before he was. I remember when Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and all those Eastern bloc countries were in the Soviet bloc and under the grip of the Soviet Union. I rejoice that they are members of the European Union today. That alone is a reason for keeping the European Union in being.

I have been somewhat chided today by the noble Lords, Lord Grenfell and Lord Richard, for what I said at Second Reading. I take it in good part, as they meant it in good part. However, in my speech I sought to put a case for giving the Bill a fair wind. I think it was a reasonable case and anyone reading the whole of the speech, and not merely quoting selectively from it, could come to only that conclusion.

I wanted to intervene at this point today because we are now in a rather different place. The advice that I gave was certainly not heeded. It was comprehensively unheeded in the first vote. I say to my noble friend Lord Dobbs—whom I have been very glad to support and will continue to support and who has been doing a valiant and very difficult job—that the Bill has not been ruined by the two amendments that have been passed, and it is now up to the House of Commons to grasp that fact. When the Bill goes before another place on 28 February, all it has to do is to accept our amendments and the Bill will pass into law. I hope that that counsel of pragmatism will prevail and that is what will happen.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords—

Lord Cormack: Perhaps I may just finish and then I will give way. I hope that we will complete Committee stage here today. I hope that we will not have a contentious Report stage. I hope the Bill will go to another place on 28 February, suitably amended and improved, and then it will indeed pass into law.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am most grateful to my noble friend, who was a Member of the House of Commons for rather longer than I was—I was a Member for only 14 years. As he said, the Bill has been amended, and my noble friend Lord Higgins argued that we can just add more amendments, but that will require time. I do not understand his point when he says that this can be dealt with by the House of Commons. The reason that we are dealing with a Private Member’s Bill and not a government Bill is because the other half of the coalition—the Liberals—refused to give the Bill time. In the absence of a commitment from the Liberals to do so, and indeed

24 Jan 2014 : Column 933

from the Front Bench of the Labour Party, how is it conceivable that this Bill can get through? Is my noble friend not kidding himself?

Lord Cormack: No, I do not think so, and I will point out that today I have voted, with a certain lack of enthusiasm I have to admit, in the government Lobby and will continue to do so.

Noble Lords: Conservative Lobby.

Lord Cormack: I would say to my noble friend, in answer to his perfectly reasonable question, that just as we are sitting beyond our normal hours today, it is entirely up to the House of Commons to sit beyond its normal hours on 28 February—and if there is a strong and passionate feeling that the Bill should become an Act and go on to the statute book, then it can have a very long Friday and do that. Of course, constraints are called for, and the more amendments that are passed, the more difficult it will become. I absolutely accept that. My reference was in particular to the amendments that have already been passed, which could be incorporated without any great difficulty.

Lord Deben: I hope my noble friend will agree that those who say that the House of Lords should not have debated this Bill and tried to improve it because somehow or other it was trying to destroy it, have got entirely the wrong end of the stick. We are trying to make this Bill passable: therefore, it is up to the House of Commons to accept a better Bill from us, which is what our job is, and then pass it. To say that we cannot deal with it because somehow or other we are being disloyal seems to me to be entirely wrong, and a media invention.

Lord Cormack: We are not going to redebate the Second Reading. I agree with much of what my noble friend Lord Deben has just said. At Second Reading I believed there was a case for giving this Bill, imperfect as it—I made it plain that I would not have started from here and that I did not like the Bill very much—a fair wind. I tried to make that case as effectively as I could but it was not accepted. I was merely pointing out that we are now in a different position. Amendments have been passed. It is indeed, as he and I have just said, up to the other place. The principle of the referendum remains. In spite of what my noble friend Lord Spicer said, these are not wrecking amendments. If the other place will give itself sufficient time on the last day of February, it will be perfectly possible for this Bill to become an Act of Parliament, suitably improved.

Lord Giddens: My Lords, I have the aim of supporting the amendment with the briefest speech ever given in the House of Lords. There has to be flexibility in the date because, for the Prime Minister’s position to be feasible, there almost certainly has to be treaty change. Treaty change cannot be achieved within two years, and therefore there must be flexibility.

3.45 pm

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, my noble friend Lord Grenfell, and the noble Lords, Lord Roper and Lord Bowness,

24 Jan 2014 : Column 934

for tabling this amendment. As things stand today, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and others know that I believe the amendment is absolutely right.

During the earlier debate, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, made what I thought to be a very significant speech. He said that, in determining the date, the reality of politics was that it ought to be shaped by the circumstances that obtain at the time. I did not agree with his conclusion, as he will be aware, but the case that he put was very strong and I suspect that it will be understood much more widely than perhaps some in the House have suggested.

Your Lordships’ House has said that the general public will not understand it if we do not move with electrifying speed to a conclusion. I think that people understand that there is a significant job to be done, that it has to be done, that corners will not be cut—they will not thank us for cutting corners—and that it will not happen overnight. If we are really serious about the relationships that we have in Europe in relation to our economy and so on, there will be serious work to be done. That can be said very reasonably to people. My experience is that, although some people will feel that it is irritating to have to wait, broadly speaking the people of the United Kingdom understand the seriousness of the issue and will provide the time for proper work to be done. I think that we should start from that point.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, said that this issue will be shaped by real circumstances. We know some of the circumstances quite well but we know almost nothing of others. I should like to set out the balance of the two, but because a number of other noble Lords have done so and it does not need a lot of repetition, I shall do so quickly. These two sets of circumstances need some analysis. Over time, and perhaps at subsequent stages of the Bill, working out what those balances are may very well lead us to further conclusions about the timing, but I started by saying that this is a good and sensible resolution and I repeat that.

What do we know? First, as a number of noble Lords have said, we will hold the presidency in 2017. That is precisely when we would want the United Kingdom to lead European Union debates, and I think that we will be in a very difficult position in trying to do that. There will be any number of significant debates at that time: debates about the completion of the market provisions in services; debates about the EU budget; and debates about what I hope will emerge as the agreements on trade with North America and with the MINT countries—Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. All those will be in play.

There will be a significant series of debates. Anybody who has been a Minister and has had to handle the relationship with Europe during a presidency will know that those are occasions when you want the deepest and most genuine support from your colleagues in carrying things forward. I do not want to plead any special link because there are many around this Chamber with much more experience but they will also know that you have not only to talk to others but to talk for others, and they must trust you. That was the case in the discussions that Europe had on some of the worst internal wars in Africa, on the aid programme, on the

24 Jan 2014 : Column 935

difficulties with Iran and on the stimulus to new trade agreements with South America, which ended up with President Lula’s state visit and a significant change in the trading relationships with a number of South American countries. In all those areas, the European nations need to feel that the nation holding the presidency is with them, not conflicted with them, and that it is eager to deliver some of the fundamental outcomes.

Secondly—I shall not repeat this point at any length—there will be major elections in the core European nations of Germany and France. There are probably elections in other countries as well but those in Germany and France will be very significant. It is unlikely that either will focus on the issues that we are raising with the attention that we would want—the French most certainly will not. The objective circumstances in France and the character of the French economy at this time will tell you what that election is going to be about and how it is going to be fought. I am not saying anything that reveals an unusual political point: we know what the French election will be fought over and what it will be like, and it will not be about its negotiations with us.

We are about half way through the process of reforming the Central Bank: gathering core sums to sustain it and making arrangements on sovereign debt, which still remains a significant problem. These are monumental tasks and their outcomes may well provide circumstances in which our own Referendum Act 2011 will require us to take decisions about those outcomes. That possibility may not be avoided. We cannot run all these processes at the same time.

We are not in the euro and have no wish to join it, but the Chancellor has been right to say that we do not and should not take a split second of comfort from any continuing fragility in the currency used by many of our major trading partners—and, indeed, on the island of Ireland, by one which has a common land border with us and with which we have significant trade.

There is no way around the known fact that more and more businesses thinking of investing in the United Kingdom are asking due diligence questions about it. That pressure is building up in business. People have told me about the inward flows of capital denying it, but I am not talking about capital inflows to take over large volumes of super prime property in the centre of London or some of its trophy assets—that is not the point. There is of course a big inflow because London is so attractive for those reasons, but we are talking about people who are investing in or starting up operational businesses, which is what we will need if we are to sustain the economy, see it grow and see more people in employment, and that looks like it has been moving in a helpful direction.

Those are the things we know but there are a number of things we cannot and do not know. We do not know at what stage the repair of the United Kingdom economy and its banks and their balance sheets will be in 2017 and it will alarm people with a wide variety of political perspectives to understand where we will be at that point. Many people will feel that it is a lottery, and they are probably right objectively.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 936

We will not know at that stage how negotiations have gone. As noble Lords have said, the process started late and there is no clarity at the moment on our objectives. Of course, the objectives could be listed: I tried to list some of them at Second Reading because they include a number of serious matters, and many people, including my noble friend Lord Kinnock, have made that point. It has been said in the debate, and it is true, that the four-part process towards a treaty means that everyone must agree, and everyone else must agree everything. We do not know how the process will play out on these significant matters.

Any agreements are unlikely to have been ratified elsewhere, another point that has been made. A promise of change is not the same as having made a change, and if there is a treaty—and it is almost inevitable that the negotiations, if they are successful, will end up in a treaty—it will provide for referenda in a number of other countries such as France, Ireland and elsewhere. A multilateral outcome with 27 starting positions will have to be brought to one on all substantive questions, and that proposition cannot be entertained on the timescale suggested.

We will not know the outcome of the election in France; Germany has a coalition Government and there may or may not be a continuing coalition or a different coalition. We will be asked, therefore, before we know the outcomes—as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, hinted—what we should do. I do not think that the people of the United Kingdom will readily consent to being asked for a conditional decision which, if everything goes pear-shaped, they will be asked to reverse.

Even if a treaty is negotiated in time, it is not clear that there will be no movement forwards and backwards on competences because, after all, it is a negotiation. People will be asking us for things in the same way that we will be asking them for things. In those circumstances, we come back to the fundamental point about the 2011 Act. The Labour Party supported that Act. On a point of clarity for the House: we supported it, we continue to support it and, should those provisions be needed, which I think is very likely, we would continue to do so.

On balance, if you had to pick the optimal bad date, you would pick 2017. If you looked at two decades and tried really hard, you would pick 2017. It is not a date that commends itself on any grounds. For a negotiator for the United Kingdom, it is the equivalent of what is known in football, where I have spent a little of my life, as a hospital pass. Everyone knows you are not going to get the ball, you have lost the initiative, and you will probably get your leg broken. It really is not in any circumstances an approach that makes sense. As my noble friend Lord Kinnock said, it is a weapon in the negotiation, but we have to ask this: who is the weapon pointed at and where will the munitions strike? The answer is: probably us.

At Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, asked, “If not now, when?” It is a fair question, as I thought on the day. But in the interests of the United Kingdom, whatever the outcome—in or out of the European Union—one answer is clear. Whatever the date is, it really ought not to be 2017. It is a “leave the EU” date. That, I am afraid, is all it is.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 937

I want to tidy up very briefly on one or two amendments in the group. I do not think that Amendments 13 and 14 are possible because they are simply testing provisions, but I want to comment on Amendment 17. I do not think that it can be a Secretary of State. If this is a decision that has to be taken for the whole of the United Kingdom, it must be taken by the Prime Minister as the Minister with supreme authority for the whole country. But what if there is another coalition? By 31 December 2016—it is important to reflect on that date—it may be that the Prime Minister is the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons, but is not the leader of a Government that altogether are prepared to consent to the date. That is another really large unknown which cannot be resolved in this House today. I do not know who will win that election. Of course it has to be possible that we will not, but I do not concede that point today. It may well be that no one wins it outright and that there is another coalition. I could then assume—I am sure I am quite wrong in doing so—that a Conservative Government would find themselves saying the same things that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has been saying today: that they cannot get their way because the party with which they are in coalition, for some reason or other although it seems perfectly intelligible to me, will not co-operate.

In all of this, the reality is that the wrong date has been picked. I do not play the lottery, but when I watch people playing it they look in despair at the numbers they chose which do not turn out to be the winning numbers. That is how we will look at 2017.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, before the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, gets up to speak, perhaps I may say one thing. I will be brief. The noble Baroness knows that I have the highest possible regard for her, but she is playing a very sticky wicket today. I do not want to make her life more difficult, but I say for future amendments that it is extremely difficult for there to be a Government position on this Bill. If there is a Conservative position, the Conservative Benches are behind the government Front Bench—unless, as in the Leveson debate, we might have two views on every group of amendments. That is what coalition is all about. If there are not two views, I think it is more appropriate for the views of the Conservatives to be given from the Conservative Back Benches. However, that has nothing to do with the noble Baroness.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, perhaps I should just repeat what I said in the debate on Second Reading, which is that of course I speak only for the Conservative part of the Government. I have absolutely no objection to, and in fact would be delighted to hear from, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, if he were to give a Front Bench view of what the Liberal Democrats think.

I want to raise one issue in relation to reform. A number of noble Lords asked how much reform could be achieved or what the Prime Minister saw as constituting reform of the EU. On a number of occasions at the Dispatch Box, I have said what the Prime Minister’s vision is, and he referred to it in his Bloomberg speech. He has talked about a Europe which is more competitive, more flexible and more democratically

24 Jan 2014 : Column 938

accountable. I have spoken at the Dispatch Box as to what I mean by that. The Prime Minister laid it out in his Bloomberg speech: a more competitive Europe, with further completion of the single market in, for example, services, energy and digital; a more flexible Europe, where powers actually flow both ways; and a more democratically accountable Europe to deal with the worrying disconnect between the EU and its people. Another element of that is, for example, more parliamentary scrutiny, which we are already looking at.

We are making progress. A number of noble Lords asked what can be achieved. Of course reform can be achieved. We delivered the first ever cut in the EU budget—something we were told could not be achieved and, indeed, was not achieved by those on the Benches opposite when they were in government—working with Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. Many lamented that fish discards could not be dealt with, but we worked with other states in dealing with that.

4 pm

Lord Davies of Stamford: Why is the noble Baroness continuing to use “we”, referring to the Government, when she says that she speaks merely on behalf of the Conservative Party? The list of so-called achievements she has just reeled off are—if they are achievements—achievements of the Government as a whole.

Baroness Warsi: They are—and that Government are headed by a Conservative Prime Minister and a Conservative Foreign Secretary, who have led on these matters in the negotiations.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: The noble Baroness suggested that, if the Liberal Democrats had a different position, perhaps my noble friend Lord Wallace would be welcome to come and speak from the Dispatch Box. I remind her, and clarify for the House, that my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire is a government Whip. If there is anything analogous to a Liberal Democrat Front Bench, I believe it is represented by me, who am chairman of the House of Lords parliamentary policy committee on foreign affairs.

Baroness Warsi: It is good to hear that we have consistently heard from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench. There should therefore be no concerns in your Lordships’ House.

I will just end by making the point that, for some, there will never be the right time for a referendum; others, I know, hold sincere views as to why a certain time is not the right one. However, the British people are deeply sceptical about the status quo—they want to know that they will have a say and when.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I really would ask the Minister to perhaps have a word with her noble friend Lord Trefgarne, who is sitting there with a copy of the Companion on his lap. It would be really useful if he gave the noble Baroness the advice he gave another noble Lord earlier about speaking to the amendments.

24 Jan 2014 : Column 939

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, a number of noble Lords have raised the issue. The amendment is specifically about the date and that is what I am referring to. It is important that we let the British people have their say by allowing the Bill to proceed as it stands. The noble Lord, Lord Triesman, called 2017 the “leave the EU date”. We must not let today become the “never give the people a choice date”.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords—

Noble Lords: Dobbs.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I agree that we need to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs. I understand what the noble Baroness is saying but I would ask for an undertaking that, in future, the speeches will be made from the Back Bench.

Baroness Boothroyd: I have been a Member of Parliament for more than 40 years. In my experience, I have never yet seen either the Opposition or the Government speak from the Dispatch Box and have two views, one from the Dispatch Box and one from the Back Benches. I have never known this situation before—it ought to have been sorted out right at the very beginning. The noble Baroness speaks for the Conservative Party and the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, speaks for the Conservative Party. We are having two wind-ups from the Conservative Party.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, I have huge regard for the noble Baroness. There are clearly strongly held views on this matter so I will take advice and ensure that matters are clarified.

Lord Dobbs: My Lords, this has been a very serious and significant debate. It is the sort of debate that we should have had on this Bill. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, for the dignified and detailed way in which he introduced his amendment. If I may be forgiven, because it is a very significant amendment, I will take a little time in dealing with it.

I see the logic of so much of what the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, and others have said. I take a different logic, and I need to explain that. This amendment goes right to the heart of why I got involved with this Bill in the first place. I do not want to destroy—far from it, I want to build, and I want to build trust. I do not want to fan any flames; I want to put them out once and for all. I have heard a lot during this debate about our relationship with our European partners, but I think that we should show at least as much if not more concern for the feelings of our own people.

Why do we need a date, or at least a timeframe, because that is what it is? The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, explained with great eloquence and experience how complicated these things are, and he is right. That is why, despite all the promises that have been made, all the forests that have been felled in order to print political manifestos, nothing has been done. That is the cause of the distrust. People have been promised a referendum and have been denied it, time and again. Those are the flames of discontent that I wish to put

24 Jan 2014 : Column 940

out. We need a timeframe in order to stop that further decay of trust. Less than 10% of this House would have been too young to vote in the referendum in 1975, but more than 70% of the population of our country fall into that category. We are not representative of the country, least of all in its desire for a referendum.

Let us suppose that the referendum is held in October 2017. Of course, there will be shopping lists of what we have got right, what we have got wrong, where we have failed, where we will gain and where we will lose. But the job will not be finished then. These relationships are never once-and-for-all matters, whether we are in or out of the EU. We will have to deal with it and our relationship will carry on developing. Of course, there will be more to be done. It will not all be finished by October 2017. There is always more to be done. We will not be saying that the job is over once and for all but we will be asking the people if they are willing to support a future in the European Union or outside it.

Why 2017? It is because we as politicians have consistently failed. We have talked the talk but never walked the walk. We have never provided the referendum that we all have talked about at various times. The people want something more solid than yet more broken promises. The question I asked at Second Reading, which the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, was kind enough to acknowledge, was: if not 2017, when? Answer comes there none.

Let us go back eight years. During the past eight years, when would we have said that it was a good time for a referendum? I cannot think of one. There are always reasons not to do something.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: The noble Lord will surely recall that in 2008, on the Lisbon treaty, the Liberal Democrats proposed a referendum on this very question of “in or out”.

Lord Dobbs: The noble Baroness will understand that I could spend a great deal of time with a great deal of joy talking about the Liberal Democrat position on referendums and I would happily do that in public, but, if I may, I will pass over that and get on with the points that I want to make. There is always a reason for not doing something. We must be wary in this House of falling into the trap of implying, as several noble Lords have done, that there will never be a good time for such a vote. That is how many people will interpret much of what has been said here today: that too many people feel that there is a never a time to trust them.

This process of negotiation has effectively already begun, with changes to the budget, the common fisheries policy and other things, but I shall not go into the detail of that—now is not the time. Those negotiations will make more progress between now and the referendum, and I believe that we will make more progress after a referendum—that is what a relationship is all about. That brings me to the one hugely significant point that has been mentioned here time and again: that we are binding a future Parliament.

We are no more binding a future Parliament than we did when we passed the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which said that the election of the next Parliament

24 Jan 2014 : Column 941

but one will be held in May 2020. Exactly the same point applies for the date that is in this Bill. Let me pursue that analogy a little further.

If the next Parliament were to decide that the circumstances of the date of that election, in May 2020, were unacceptable for whatever reason, it would change it. If that next Parliament were to decide that the circumstances of the date of this referendum were not acceptable—that it had become fatally flawed perhaps by change in circumstance—it would change that, too. It would need a darned good reason to change it, one that people would find acceptable—not another game that we politicians keep playing with them over this. The people would have to be taken into their confidence, persuaded of any need for a change. However, if we keep putting off the date of this referendum, we will find that that distrust, the poison that Sir John Major said had entered the system—

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Does the noble Lord realise that the analogy that he draws with fixed-term Parliaments is not very apt? This Parliament has changed the periodicity of general elections quite often in the past. The party to which he belongs used to be in favour of annual Parliaments in the early 1700s, which I do not imagine it would come back to now. That has been done, and it has nothing whatever to do with what is being proposed here. What is being proposed here is a Bill whose sole purpose is to bind the hands of a future Parliament; it has no other purpose whatever. That is surely a germane point.

The other point to which the noble Lord could perhaps reply is his suggestion that the amendment would somehow mean endless prevarication. A party which has in its manifesto at the 2015 election the holding of a referendum will have the Salisbury convention on its side to pass legislation necessary to hold the referendum when it decides to do so. If it has any sense, it will not this time put the cart before the horse and decide the date of the referendum before it has had the negotiation.

Lord Dobbs: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a good point: if it had any sense. I must remind the noble Lord that the Liberal Democrats had in their previous election manifesto a commitment to an “in or out” referendum, and where are they today? I mentioned at Second Reading that I do not want to make a party-political—

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords—

Noble Lords: Order!

Lord Dobbs: May I just finish the point? I do not particularly want to make a party-political point of this, because, as I said at Second Reading, all parties are guilty of having changed their stance on this. That is why the people no longer trust us.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, would the noble Lord like to tell me on which page of our 2010 manifesto he believes it states we do not have a commitment to a referendum should there be any treaty change or transfer of competencies? Let me

24 Jan 2014 : Column 942

update him on Liberal Democrat policy if he wants further assurance—he clearly does. Our commitment is, as passed in September at the Liberal Democrats’ party conference, to have an “in or out” referendum, not just on the basis of treaty change but should there be any transfer or powers or further treaty in future. That is slightly further than the noble Lord’s own party has gone in terms of its last conference.

4.15 pm

Lord Dobbs: I will happily debate this with my noble friend at another time, but remind her of the situation in 2008 in another place where the Liberal Democrats fell apart on precisely this point about an “in or out” referendum. Please, if I may, I will make progress. I still hear no alternative date being offered. If we keep putting off the date of this referendum, we will find more of the distrust and poison that Sir John Major mentioned—

Noble Lords: My Lords—

Lord Dobbs: May I please just finish this point? The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, mentioned Sir John Major. Sir John is entirely in support of this referendum. He says it is the only way that we can rid the poison of the European issue from the distrust of the people.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: We may have to disagree about Sir John Major. I have a quotation from him here saying that he would not support the Wharton Bill. Give me 10 minutes and I will find it but I am afraid I do not have it to hand.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord has twice made the point with a great rhetorical flourish that he hears no other date being mentioned. However, he is the sponsor of the Bill that specifies the date and so far I have not heard a single reason why 2017 is the right one. I heard the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, give a series of reasons why it is the wrong one. My noble friend Lord Triesman told the House that the noble Lord, Lords Dobbs, could not have chosen a worse date but so far the noble Lord has simply relied on saying, “Well, you find another date”. No: it is the noble Lord’s responsibility to defend his Bill and his date. I look forward to him doing so specifically.

Lord Grenfell: I add one point to that. It would be wholly inconsistent for us on these Benches to propose another date when the whole point of what we are trying to get across is that we want to give a future Government flexibility.

Lord Dobbs: If I can lean on the noble Baroness’s patience, I suggested at the start that I needed a little time to cover these issues and I will—precisely, right now—get to the very point that she raised. We need a date. Why do we need one? For the people. We do not need more empty promises. We need a date not as a straitjacket but as a sensible commitment to the people, one they will trust and that will rebind us in their trust

24 Jan 2014 : Column 943

because we have failed them. We need a mechanism for this country to be able to move forward. Simply saying that we will have a referendum at some point is not good enough. Why 2017? It is a specific date. Without a specific date, the mistrust that has built up will never be swept away. I already explained that it is not a straitjacket. It has all sorts of flexibility to it but it is an ambition, target and objective that we can all work towards.

Lord Kinnock: Can the noble Lord enlighten us? The undertaking to have a referendum by 31 December 2017 arises precisely out of that given by the Prime Minister in his speech from January last year in saying that it had to be in the first half of the next Parliament. Does the noble Lord realise that he is now trying to argue that we must still have the referendum before 31 December, regardless of whether the absolutely vital negotiations have been completed, the achievements —let us call them that—have been agreed to and all the other processes in the European Union have reached conclusion? We have heard about the implausibility of that kind of time schedule. In other words, he would rather stick to the date than employ any common sense whatever.

Lord Dobbs: I beg the noble Lord’s pardon, but I do not think that he heard what I said. I said that the date could be changed, but it would have to be for a darned good reason, a reason that the people would accept.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords—

Lord Dobbs: We have made a great deal of progress today in this House, and perhaps I could express the serious wish that we should set the objective of getting through Committee today, which would be hugely helpful. That means that I am reluctant to take any more interventions because I am so very close to concluding my remarks on this point. If the noble Baroness insists, of course I will give way.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the noble Lord said that in order to vary the date from before the end of 2017, there would have to be a good reason. I have listened very carefully and have not heard from the noble Lord one very good reason why that particular date has been chosen. While I am on my feet, I ask the noble Lord not to misrepresent those of us who are committed pro-European Union Members who believe that people should, at the appropriate time, be given a chance to express their point of view in a referendum, by sweeping us all aside as people who do not want to listen to the public.

Lord Dobbs: Again, if I have given that impression to the noble Baroness, I apologise, but that has never been my intent in this. We know that some in this House have been playing games about this Bill, and I have gone a long way in accepting that the debate we have just had has been serious, sensible and one that I welcome.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords—

24 Jan 2014 : Column 944

Lord Dobbs: No, my Lords, I really wish to stand my ground.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, we had a certain difference about what Sir John Major had said. I now have the quotation. John Major was quoted as saying that the Bill was not worthy of his support and that leaving the European Union would be “folly beyond belief”.

Lord Dobbs: I could dig out another quote, but that would take another five minutes, and I think that this debate has gone on long enough and I wish to conclude.

In conclusion, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, for the positive engagement that he has encouraged between us outside the Chamber on the issues; it has been very helpful to me. Of course, we disagree about this matter across the Floor of the House, and I think that it is now time for us to decide. With great respect, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: My Lords,

“Half a league, half a league,

Half a league onward,All in the valley of DeathRode the six hundred”.

—or 158, I think.

I have great respect for the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, and the Earl of Cardigan was not responsible for the loss of the Light Brigade, although he was the commander. Missing was the Earl of Lucan—he is in Davos, I think—and the Earl of Raglan, the commanders of the Army. It has been a very gallant charge and it was probably the case that halfway down the valley of death, the Earl of Cardigan turned to the chap on his left and said, “We have made a lot of very good progress today”.

It is very difficult to answer this debate, because I am supposed to deal with the objections to my amendment; I am still waiting. The most interesting suggestion, which I am rather inclined to follow, was in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins. Act I of the play was quite nasty, with a lot of talk about people misbehaving—hijacking was a word used from the Front Bench—and plotting. In my view, that was not worthy of the House. Act I is over. As the noble Lords, Lord Higgins, Lord Cormack and Lord Deben pointed out, we are now in Act II and our job is to try to turn the Bill, which a lot of us think is a rather bad Bill, into a good Bill. We need to amend and improve it.

I do not know why the date is here. I thought that I had argued, with a degree of support from around the House, that it does not make sense, because the renegotiation cannot be completed. The noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, says that we could change the date, but we would need a darn good reason. I thought that we had given two hours and 10 minutes of darn good reasons. However, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, is right: in Act II one ought to try to be a bit co-operative. There is a point knocking around here which I have not quite grasped. It is not the point of the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, about distrust, but the

24 Jan 2014 : Column 945

point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, about an enforceable undertaking. Although I do not agree with that point, one needs to think about it because it seems a solid point.

The provision does not need the date of 2017; I am not even sure that it needs a date. Perhaps it should be something about “the term of the next Parliament”, and it may be that an amendment could emerge from the Earl of Raglan and be voiced by the Earl of Cardigan. The question that the noble Lord keeps asking us—if not then, when?—is a question that we are entitled to ask him.

Lord Spicer: The noble Lord talks about Act II. How long is he going to go on with these acts—until Act X? Will he give a date for that, and will that be somewhere in the middle of summer?

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: My amendment would remove any date. That seems clean and surgical and would leave the options open to the Government of the day. However, I accept that it does not meet the point of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. It would still be a Bill to have a referendum, and Clause 1(1) would still say, “There shall be a referendum”. The noble and learned Lord believes that there ought to be some time factor in there and he may be right. I do not know, but I am inclined to act now, on the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, and withdraw my amendment at this stage, while asking the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, to consult with his friends and the commanding officers when they come back. If there is no satisfactory amendment proposed by the proposers of the Bill, I will revert to Amendment 10 on Report.

Amendment 10 withdrawn.

Amendment 11

Tabled by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

11: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out subsections (2) to (4) and insert—

“(2) The Electoral Commission shall publish a report setting out its recommendations for the terms of the referendum, including proposing a suitable question and date.

(3) Before the referendum can take place, the Electoral Commission’s recommendations shall be subject to a vote in both Houses of Parliament.”

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I was expecting to be called for Amendment 12. However, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has a book on his knee, and if the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, and the noble Countess, Lady Mar, were here they would also refer to the Companion, which says that on a Friday this House normally rises at 3 pm. Since we are constantly asked by those on the other side—the noble Lords, Lord Trefgarne and Lord Geddes, and others, and by the Government—to abide by the Companion and not to walk in front of certain parts of the House or get up and about when a Motion is being called, surely we should abide by this part of the Companion as well. I wonder what is going to happen. Are we not going to pay any attention to the Companion whatever?

24 Jan 2014 : Column 946

4.30 pm

Lord Popat (Con): My Lords, the Chief Whip explained this last Friday. Although the Companion says that the House should rise at 3 pm, precedent has been set in the past that on a Private Member’s Bill the House has continued until 5 pm to 5.30 pm, so we propose that the House will continue till about 5.30 pm.

Lord Richard: My Lords, I am sorry to pursue this point but I was slightly involved in it last week. May I take it that the view now from the business managers on the other side of the House is that proceedings on this Bill will be adjourned in about an hour? Is that right?

A noble Lord: Yes, that is what he said.

Lord Richard: That is what he said?

Lord Popat: Yes, my Lords.

Lord Richard: Thank you.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I think that the Lord Speaker asked about Amendment 11. That was taken along with Amendment 1 and we have already debated it.

Amendment 11 not moved.

Amendment 12

Tabled by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

12: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out “must” and insert “may”

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I am really being very co-operative today. Amendment 12 is not moved either.

Amendment 12 not moved.

Amendment 13

Tabled by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

13: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, leave out “31 December 2017” and insert “22 May 2014”

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, People’s Pledge and all the other critics are keeping a note of this: I shall not be moving this or the following amendments.

Amendment 13 not moved.

Amendments 14 to 24 not moved.

Amendment 25

Moved by Lord Anderson of Swansea