25: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, at end insert—

“( ) No order shall be made under subsection (3) until the Secretary of State has reported to Parliament for its approval on recommendations made by an independent commission which

24 Jan 2014 : Column 947

shall be established for the purpose of considering and reporting on the United Kingdom’s alternatives to membership of the European Union.”

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, the two amendments in my name are supported by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, and my noble friend Lord Wigley. They are reporting amendments, and I shall give the details of them in a moment. I am aware of the time, and I am also aware that the substance of these matters comes up elsewhere, so I can be very brief.

I turn to what the amendments are about. The first of these reporting amendments says that there shall be a report for approval on recommendations made by an independent commission that shall be established for the purpose of considering and reporting on the UK’s alternatives to membership of the EU.

My broad submission is this: the real choice for our people is not in or out but in or what? They could be myriad alternatives that our people are concerned about as to what they would prefer to have in place of the EU. I will not go into detail on this because I propose to do so on Amendments 33 to 39 in my name, which would give in the referendum itself the opportunity for the electorate to say, “Well, if we wish to leave the EU, we would prefer to be like Norway; we would prefer to be like Switzerland; we would prefer to have a closer relationship with the United States, and perhaps with Canada, in a North American free trade association”. It may be that the electorate will say, “We want to develop a closer relationship with the Commonwealth”. What I am saying is this: if we are serious about ascertaining the views of the people, we should give them a series of alternatives. In so doing, we, with this independent commission, should also set out the advantages and disadvantages of each possible course. That is the reporting as it refers to Amendment 25.

Amendment 26 is again a reporting amendment, saying that no order should be made until the Secretary of State has reported to Parliament for its approval on the negotiations between the UK and other EU member states concerning our relationship with the EU. We covered this to some extent in the previous debates, and I look forward to resuming this debate on Report. However, at some stage there clearly has to be a report from the negotiators and the Prime Minister on whether the criteria that he has set have or have not been achieved.

The noble Baroness, who admitted to speaking only for the Conservative Party, set out various criteria which it would want to be achieved. I suspect she needs to go much further than that so that we have various targets against which we can measure whether the negotiators have succeeded in achieving their aims. We know the position in various international matters where you retreat and call it victory. I suspect there is a great deal of mistrust not only on the part of the electorate in politicians generally but among Conservative Party members in respect of their Prime Minister—as we know the Prime Minister travels fairly lightly on Europe, as he does on most things. It is clear that the referendum Bill would not be necessary if the Conservative

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Party had total trust in its Prime Minister. The whole point of trying to tie him down to get what the Germans call a “book with seven seals”—that is, to have a copper-bottomed guarantee—is that they do not trust the word of the Prime Minister that he wants to have a referendum and wants to have it after the next election. They are trying to tie him down. That is the essence of this.

Therefore the second amendment is a reporting amendment and states that, whatever may be the negotiating stance or the criteria, benchmarks and targets which the Prime Minister has set, he will report to Parliament for its approval of the negotiations and say where we stand.

These are two brief amendments, both on reporting. I hope that it will objectively be agreed by Members of your Lordships’ House that the alternatives to our membership of the European Union are very important, and if the public are to be seriously consulted—I shall come on to this in later amendments so shall not go on extensively now—they will need to have a very clear idea of the advantages and disadvantages of the various alternatives as well as a negotiating report, as in the second amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, I have put my name to both amendments in this group. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, for moving them briefly. I shall speak very briefly indeed, as he indicated that he will want to come back to certain aspects of these issues on Report.

It is vital that we nail the idea now that there must be clarity with regard to the alternatives to membership before the referendum takes place. The worst possible outcome of a referendum would be if it were voted on in a nihilistic atmosphere and with a nihilistic attitude and people were just saying no to something without having the faintest idea what was going to happen. If that were to be the case, and we were to pull out of the European Union on that basis, and if things then started to unravel, there would be immense bitterness, and I am not sure where that would take us politically. There needs to be a mechanism for spelling out what the alternatives are, and that mechanism has to go beyond the daily or weekly press. There needs to be some objective assessment of those alternatives, and people have to know what those assessments add up to. Therefore, in whatever way we try adding this to the Bill, I hope that that issue, that dimension, will be taken on board.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, there is another amendment on the Order Paper, Amendment 72—which we are not within miles of reaching and will obviously not reach in the next 50 minutes—which covers very much this ground. It is down in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, and would basically put a requirement on the Government to state before the referendum took place what alternative relationship Britain should seek to have with the European Union without Britain in it, if there were a no vote. I agree absolutely with what the noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Anderson, said. It is essential that before the electorate cast their vote they should be told what the consequences in terms of Britain’s relationship with

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the truncated European Union would be in the event of a no vote. It would be too late to say what the Government are going to do after the vote; they must say so up front, before the vote.

However, that will come up in the later amendment as well. At the moment, the important thing is to note that this is a serious issue which will have to be addressed on Report, or in Committee when we get to Amendment 72. I hope that by the time we get there, the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, refreshed by a certain period of repose after his exertions today, will see the sense of this as one of the amendments which basically strengthens the Bill. It does not weaken it; it does not make a referendum less likely; it does not prejudge the outcome of the referendum or anything like that. It just means that if and when the referendum comes, there will be before the British people a clear idea of what the alternative is if, in their majority, they vote no.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: There is a considerable difference between this amendment and Amendment 72, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull. His amendment relates only to the intended relationship with what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, called the truncated European Union, whereas this amendment relates to the whole panoply of possible alternatives. I gave some of those as examples: a relationship like that of Norway or Switzerland, the Commonwealth, the EEA or EFTA—one could go on. Both are important matters and should be discussed.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I do not want to disagree totally with the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, but, quite frankly, if you look at Amendment 72 of the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, it is clear that, under it, the Government of the day would have to say, “If you vote no, we will try to get an agreement to join the EEA”, for example; or, “We would like to have a series of agreements like the Swiss”—there are 30 or 50 of them; or, “We would have none of the above and would rely simply on our World Trade Organisation membership”. All the things that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, has discussed in his amendment are actually also covered in Amendment 72. I am saying merely that we will come to that later, on another day.

Lord Liddle: Briefly, the Opposition attach a lot of importance to this consideration of alternatives. We would hope that there would be some kind of agreed amendment between my noble friend Lord Anderson and the noble Lords, Lord Wigley and Lord Turnbull, which we might consider on Report.

Lord Dobbs: My Lords, I, too, will be brief. I entirely endorse the sentiment behind these amendments. Of course the alternatives must be spelled out. This historic decision which we wish to put to the people should never be taken blind. It is, however, a question of the best mechanism for those alternatives to be spelled out. We hope that they would be taken care of simply by what is called democracy: by a referendum campaign that would be long, arduous and very detailed. I think the people would demand to know from those who were suggesting that we should not stay within

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the European Union precisely what the alternative was. If that alternative were not offered, they would come to their own conclusions.

It is also, however, a matter that can be dealt with under the terms of the Bill after it has been passed. It does not need to be—

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: The noble Lord is most kind to give way but, quite honestly, what he just said does not address the problem. The leaders of the no campaign will not be the Government on the day after they win a referendum: there will still be a British Government, which will not be them. We are now talking about what the Government tell the electorate they would do if the electorate voted no, not what the no campaign would do. If the no campaign is led by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, heaven knows what he would do, but he will not be the Government. I am sorry; the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, does not address the point completely.

Lord Dobbs: As I mentioned during the last debate, this is not a black and white, a cut-off, a once-and-for-all decision. This will be a judgment made at the time, on the circumstances—and who can tell what those circumstances will be? People will inevitably have to take into account the fact that tomorrow is another day, and it might be a different day from yesterday, but nothing is going to happen overnight. These things will all have to be dealt with and talked through, both before the referendum campaign and after it. I am entirely in sympathy with the instincts behind this amendment, but it does not need to be in the Bill to get that certainty. The issue could be dealt with at a later stage—in the next Parliament, depending on the circumstances of the day. On those grounds, and for all the other grounds that I pointed out, I request that the noble Lord withdraws his amendment.

4.45 pm

Lord Anderson of Swansea: I, too, hope that we return to this matter at a later stage, but not in the next Parliament. This is an important matter, and every Member of your Lordships’ House who has spoken has agreed that it is an important matter, so in my judgment it should be addressed on Report. The noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, said that there would be alternatives pursued, but the alternatives are not within the power of the Government before the referendum, because who knows whether the European Union would be willing to enter into an agreement analogous with that reached with Switzerland, for example? There are great problems with that; it is said by those who are experts in the field that there is no way in which the European Union would replicate the agreement that has been reached with Switzerland. So it is not within the power of any Government to say that they will conclude an agreement of that particular nature.

Quite properly, the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, has said that we are not blind. I agree with him that the public, if they so decide, should not step from the European Union into a void. This is an important matter—I tabled it and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay,

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agreed that it was for debate. Until that future debate, which I hope will come at Report, I am pleased to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 25 withdrawn.

Amendment 26 not moved.

Amendment 27

Tabled by Lord Greaves

27: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, at end insert—

“(3A) The referendum shall be held on one of the following days—

(a) 7 May 2015,

(b) 5 May 2016, or

(c) 4 May 2017.

(3B) If the ordinary local elections in England are not held on the appropriate date in subsection (3A), the Secretary of State shall by order appoint the date on which the referendum is to be held as the date of those elections in that year.”

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, there has been a lot of talk this afternoon about the Tea Party, whatever that may be. I think that it is time that we all went and had our tea. In the interests of being as helpful as the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, I shall not move my amendment.

Amendment 27 not moved.

Amendment 28

Moved by Lord Armstrong of Ilminster

28: Clause 1, page 1, line 7, leave out subsection (4)

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster: This amendment is moved as a consequence of the passage of Amendment 1. If this amendment is accepted, Amendment 31 falls and I should not move it.

Amendment 28 agreed.

Amendments 29 and 30 not moved.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Viscount Simon) (Lab): My Lords, Amendments 31 to 39 are pre-empted. I now call Amendment 40 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock.

Amendments 31 to 39 not moved.

Amendment 40

Moved by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

40: Clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end insert—

“( ) If the turnout for the referendum is less than 25 per cent of those eligible to vote, the referendum shall be considered invalid.”

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords—

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Lord Wigley: My Lords, I am under the impression that, following Amendment 31, the group of amendments starting with Amendment 33 will be the next group to be dealt with, before we deal with Amendment 40. Am I mistaken in that and is it not down to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, to move Amendment 33 at this point?

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I think that is correct. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, should now move Amendment 33.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, there is a problem here. I am ready to move Amendment 40, but no explanation has been given to my noble friends Lord Anderson and Lord Wigley on why their amendments have been pre-empted. With respect, either the Chairman, the Clerk, the Government or the mover of the Motion—there is an option; all four of them—should let the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Wigley, know why their amendments have been pre-empted. If they have, I am ready to move Amendment 40. If they have not, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is ready to move Amendment 33.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, it may be helpful if I read from the brief, which suggests that, if Amendment 28 is agreed to, we cannot call Amendments 31 to 39 inclusive because of pre-emption. That is the reason why we are moving to Amendment 40.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: Confusion now has sown its masterpiece. I do not understand on what basis my amendment was pre-empted, and, on a matter of courtesy, no one has told me that this was so. We have not debated these matters which, in my judgment, are important. That is why I limited my speech on the report in relation to alternatives to a very brief statement so that I could develop my points in relation to Amendments 33 to 39.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I apologise but my understanding is that the relevant text in the Bill has been removed. Amendments 31 to 39 have fallen, as it were, because of the pre-emption. That provision has gone.

Lord Greaves: Perhaps I can help the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and the House. This is getting into such a mess that I think we should adjourn now, but that is a different issue. The amendment that has been carried removes subsection (4). All these other amendments seek to insert text on completely different issues after subsection (4). I do not think that the removal of subsection (4) pre-empts text on completely different issues that is sought to be inserted after that subsection. I hesitate to say this when the Clerk is jumping up and down, but just because the relevant measure refers to line 9, and line 9 has been removed, it clearly now refers to where line 9 would have been previously.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am afraid that I think the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is wrong. The plain fact is that these amendments are now pre-empted. That is the advice of the Clerks, and that is that.

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Lord Roper: My Lords, perhaps I can help the House. This morning, when we carried Amendment 1, Amendments 2 to 7 were pre-empted on the same basis, because they would have been introduced into the Bill at the place where subsection (1) was previously. The same thing has now occurred because of the success that the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, has had with his second amendment today. By removing subsection (4), the place where the amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, would like to move would have been inserted has disappeared. In so far as Amendments 2 to 7 were pre-empted, and the House accepted that earlier today, it seems to me that the same logic applies with these further amendments.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: That sounds fairly plausible, but it is the time of day when even plausibility might not be such. We are probably at the point, dare I say, when one might consider drawing stumps. After all, it has been a fairly long day in the field.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I rather think that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, was already wanting to speak on the group beginning Amendment 40 and that your Lordships would rather like to hear from the noble Lord.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, in what he was saying. When he spoke to the earlier bank of amendments, Amendment 28 had not been passed. He therefore had every expectation to be coming to the bank of amendments standing in his name and mine. He said specifically that he would be speaking to them in more detail. It is totally unreasonable that they should be taken out. Can we have an assurance that we can return to all these matters on Report?

Lord Higgins: My Lords, the point, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, is this: he is seeking to amend a part of the Bill which no longer exists. With great respect, I do not think he can do that.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: All I said earlier, with respect, was that I was ready to move Amendment 40, but if the Whip wants to move the adjournment, I shall give way to him. I see that he is indicating dissent, so we have 35 minutes left.

Amendments 40, 41 and 47, and Amendment 49, which is in the name of my noble friend Lady Quin, are all grouped. Again to be as helpful as possible to the House, I shall deal with all of them together. Amendment 40 states:

“If the turnout for the referendum is less than 25 per cent”—

all these amendments deal with the legitimacy of the referendum—

“the referendum shall be considered invalid”.

Where one sets the percentage is open for discussion, but I should have thought that there is no doubt whatever that if the turnout is less than 25% the referendum should be invalid.

Amendment 41 is somewhat different, in that it sets a higher threshold in two ways. It states that the Secretary of State shall,

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“lay before Parliament the draft of an order for the repeal of this Act”,

if two conditions are not met—if less than half the votes have been yes, or if the turnout is less than 40% of those registered to vote. A similar provision was included in the first Scottish referendum through an amendment proposed by the then Member of Parliament, George Cunningham, known as the Cunningham amendment. So there are two thresholds in order for the referendum to be successful. First, it has to get half plus one of those who vote—that is obvious—and the other is that 40% of those eligible to vote, those people on the register, would have to have voted. If the referendum does not pass both thresholds, it should not pass.

The third amendment in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Wigley, deals with each part of the United Kingdom, and states:

“The referendum may not result”—

in other words, it will not be legitimate or take effect—

“unless there is … a simple majority and”,

again,

“40 per cent of those registered to vote in every component part of the United Kingdom in which the count is taken separately”.

I have a later amendment that states that the count should be held separately in each of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Let me put the reasoning behind those requirements in turn. The result of any referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU must, in order to maintain legitimacy, have the backing of all four nations of the United Kingdom, not just the United Kingdom as a whole. Given the momentous nature of such a referendum, I fear that national discrepancies in outlook may cast doubt on the final outcome. I therefore believe that an issue of such importance deserves the legitimacy bestowed upon it by the requirement of national electoral consensus.

5 pm

Without this, what is to stop, for the sake of argument, the First Minister of Scotland calling for another independence referendum—assuming that the initial referendum results in a victory for the no campaign and the following one on Europe results in Britain, but not Scotland, voting to leave the European Union? That gives him an immediate peg on which to hang a call for a new Scottish referendum—heaven forbid. Such a split decision, as it were, may threaten the very integrity of our own United Kingdom. I think on all sides of the House we would be worried about this because we all here—maybe with the exception of my noble friend Lord Wigley—are fighting to uphold it on 18 September. The question of Britain’s relationship with the EU cannot be allowed to lead to the break-up of Britain and I am sure that all the Conservative colleagues opposite would agree with that.

The second requirement outlined in this amendment concerns turnout—requiring at least 40% in all of the component nations. The move would again help to ensure the absolute validity of any referendum, leaving its outcome beyond any doubt. As I said, a similar yardstick was used in the 1979 Scottish devolution referendum. Both the measures in this amendment would function as an effective double lock ensuring,

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I hope, a definitive answer on the topic of Europe for a generation at least. I hope Members on all sides of the House will support these amendments. I therefore move Amendment 40.

Baroness Quin: My Lords, I shall speak to the amendments standing in my name and the names of the noble Lords, Lord Roper, Lord Bowness and Lord Kerr of Kinlochard. We have tabled an amendment that says that the referendum may not result in the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union unless at least half of those eligible to vote have voted. This is very much a probing amendment at this stage, given that there are various ideas around this Chamber about thresholds or indeed whether any threshold should exist at all. Certainly, looking at the history of debates on referendums in both Houses over many years, I do not think that there has ever been a proposal for a referendum without someone putting forward the notion of some kind of threshold.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I am really sorry to interrupt, having just spoken. I should have said— and I forgot because of all the other things going on with the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson —that my amendments are probing amendments as well.

Baroness Quin: I am grateful to my noble friend for clarifying that. It would be good to look before Report at the different views expressed on thresholds to see how the matter might be taken forward at a later stage, if indeed there is a feeling that it ought to be pursued.

Quite understandably in all the various debates about thresholds the concern has been that on issues of major importance people feel uncomfortable if the vote is decided by a very tiny margin on a very low turnout. That, of course, explains why there have been so many initiatives in the past about having thresholds in such legislation. Looking through the history of this I cannot discern any particular party affiliation to any one notion about any particular threshold. Looking at the amendments tabled in the past on referendums legislation, some have been tabled by Conservative Members in the other place, some by Labour Members and some by Liberal Democrat Members and, as I say, these issues have come up on practically all issues where a referendum has been proposed. In a way, we need to bear all this in mind when deciding how to move forward.

I was helped in my own thoughts about it by an excellent research note prepared by the House of Commons on thresholds in referendums, which gives a lot of food for thought. It could be food for thought that we ourselves could have before Report. I should say too that how we are looking at this issue is also very much part and parcel of political debate about referendums in other countries. The very good research note from the House of Commons looks at countries around the world—not only in the European Union but in Australia, for example, and in non-EU member states such as Switzerland—and it looks at the various requirements in those countries for thresholds in referendums.

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At this stage, this is very much an opinion-gathering exercise in order that I and my fellow signatories may decide how we might pursue this issue later in our proceedings.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, my name is added to some, but not all, of these amendments. It appears that two important aspects are covered in different ways. The first is whether a threshold should be required for the outcome to have credibility. There are arguments both ways on that, and there are dangers. I do not need to remind my noble friend Lord Foulkes that in 1979 Scotland voted by a majority in favour of having a Scottish Parliament—or Assembly, as it was then called—with 33% voting yes and 31% voting no. However, because of the 40% threshold rule, it did not happen. My noble friend will be very aware of the consternation that that caused, with the feeling that a majority had been in favour.

It is very important to set a threshold at a level that is acceptable and which does not appear to be loaded one way or another. I suppose that a 25% threshold is an absolute minimum, but I should be very interested in hearing the response of the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, on this. Depending on what is said between now and Report, we will no doubt need to come back to refine these thoughts further.

The other element built into these amendments—which, grouped together, bring in different aspects—is the question of the results from the four nations of the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, touched on this in an earlier debate. I put it to the Committee that there is a strong argument for each of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom to know how they have voted. If they do not, assumptions will be made, and those assumptions may be the cause of much more political rancour than dealing with the reality of the situation. If Scotland votes yes and England votes no and the English vote dominates the rest of the United Kingdom, there will undoubtedly be pressures in Scotland, as my noble friend Lord Foulkes rightly said, to reopen the whole question of the independence referendum, assuming that it is not carried the first time round. We know what happened in Quebec when there was a rerun of a referendum: it came very much closer than had been the case on the first occasion. Therefore, these issues need to be thought about very carefully.

I come from a different viewpoint from virtually everybody else in the House with regard to the Scottish referendum but I recognise that, whichever point of view you come from, the outcome needs to be logical, transparent and acceptable, and I hope that we will work towards that in the context of these amendments.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: I want to make a few points. First, I think that my noble friend Lord Foulkes is following a pipe dream if he thinks that there will be a definitive decision. I concede that if there were a substantial majority one way or the other, that would be a definitive decision, but we should remember not just the precedent of the Cunningham amendment but the precedent of 1975, when there was a very clear decision by the electorate to remain within the EEC.

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However, people such as Tony Benn and others were very quick not to accept the result and they lobbied against it.

In US politics there is a story—probably apocryphal —of a decision which was made by a drunken member of the public who, a minute or so before the polls closed, staggered into a polling station and fell on to a voting machine. His vote was the decisive one on that occasion. That sounds rather absurd but there was a film on that same theme in a key state in a presidential election.

Given the importance of the decision that the electorate will be making in the referendum, if it goes ahead, it is important that we seriously consider a threshold, not at this stage but on Report.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am not seeking to interrupt for bad reasons the progress of the Bill or to prevent the next Peer speaking on the amendment. For the last hour or so, Members of the House have been asking what happens next. When my noble friend Lord Popat was challenged about rising times, he was unaware that amicable discussions were going ahead between myself and the Opposition Chief Whip with regard to today’s business.

The expectation of the Opposition Chief Whip and myself is that the House will rise after the conclusion of Amendment 48, which is shortly ahead of us now. I am saying this now so that those who wish to speak to the amendment after Amendment 48 but may not be involved in the rest of today’s business will have a better certainty about the planes and trains they need to catch.

There is an agreement that we should conclude today’s business at the end of Amendment 48 and I shall not seek to prolong the Committee stage beyond that. At that stage I shall seek to resume the House and shortly after that I shall adjourn the House. I will, in the normal way, as a courtesy to the House indicate formally—I am doing it informally now—that we will continue the Committee stage of this Bill next Friday, 31 January at 10 o’clock. My expectation is that the Committee stage will conclude on that day and, given the progress today, I believe that is a reasonable assumption.

I hope that that is helpful to all concerned who, in different ways, have been working hard on this Bill and for different reasons. I now invite those noble Lords who are taking part in the debate on Amendment 40 to continue to do so. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for the helpful discussions we have had today.

Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: I have added my name to probing Amendment 49, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, has just spoken.

The credibility and authority of the result of a referendum is very important. I do not buy the argument that a referendum will lance the boil. The 1975 referendum singularly failed to lance the boil given the positions adopted by the Labour Party within a few years afterwards. Lancing the boil is not a good argument.

However, if you are seriously contemplating leaving the European Union, you should not do that unless you have a clear majority in favour of doing so. This is

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a very conservative argument which I put forward for the delectation of the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, and his colleagues. The status quo should be changed only if a majority of the country want the change. That is why I support the threshold amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Quin.

However, I, too, do not wish to press the amendment now. I hope, following the suggestions of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, today, that when we come back on Report, when we will be in Act 3 of the play, there will be a different spirit about, the question of thresholds will be approached in an apolitical way and people will be presenting constitutional arguments rather than party politics. On that basis, like the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, I shall be happy not to press Amendment 49 at the moment.

5.15 pm

Lord Triesman: My Lords, when we debated earlier the level of confidence that people would have in the outcome of any referendum, I took the liberty of reminding the Committee of the kind of terminology that was used during the original Scottish referendum and, indeed, the whole process that led up to it. The idea of the settled will of any people must depend on it being a will that is expressed by an appreciable proportion of those people. There must be any number of us who have been involved in decisions where a very small number of people have taken them, often in gatherings called at inconvenient times and in inconvenient places, and have not felt even at that micro level that it was a reasonable way of proceeding. For those reasons, a threshold amendment has a great deal of merit. The biggest advantage is that in the following years people will draw the conclusion that it was an expression of views which commanded a significant number of people to take part and a significant proportion to vote in favour. It is a matter of confidence.

I suspect that noble Lords would not want to come back to the issue of the European Union again and again were it to be the case that the people of the United Kingdom decided that they wished to continue membership. Nothing is for ever, but we would want to feel that the matter had been settled for at least the period that it had been settled for in the past. No one could involve themselves in serious business plans or make plans about where they were going to live and draw their pensions in the character of the broader community in which they were going to do so. I therefore ask the House in a spirit that I hope will not be regarded as wrecking anything, but which is about securing the future in a more stable and happy frame of mind, to try to ensure that everyone who looks at the results says that a significant proportion of the population took part and a significant proportion of those who took part made the decision. That is where our confidence lies.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, I speak as a government Minister and, as always, as a member of the Conservative Party. Perhaps I may express the Government’s view in relation to referendums. Their view is that referendum results should be determined by a simple majority, and we do not believe that thresholds apply. This is the approach taken in the Parliamentary Voting System

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and Constituencies Act 2011 and follows the recommendation of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution in its 2010 report,

Referendums in the United

Kingdom

.

Lord Dobbs: My Lords, you wait for one amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, to come along and then three or four arrive at the same time. I am grateful to him. This is clearly a serious issue and the points that have been made are well taken. Personally, I cannot conceive of circumstances in which, for instance, Amendment 40, which requires a 25% turnout, would ever arise. This is far too important a decision, which I am sure the British people would acknowledge and do justice to. The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, correctly pointed out the difficulties around setting a threshold. We would all like a very clear decision in a referendum, and there are dangers in being too prescriptive about the form that that decision should take: turnouts, majorities and so forth.

There is what I think is an important safety valve in the Bill. We are not talking about a binding referendum. It is not like, for instance, the AV referendum we had recently; it is a consultative referendum. Parliament would have to deal with the consequences of an out vote. How they would deal with the difficulties and uncertainties that might then arise would depend entirely upon the circumstances of the time.

Lord Higgins: I am very heartened by what my noble friend has just said about this being a consultative referendum, but I am having difficulty in finding where it states that in the Bill.

Lord Dobbs: My Lords, I believe that the convention is that if it is not a consultative referendum, it is an obligatory referendum, as was the AV referendum. It is not necessary to put in the fact that it is consultative because it is consultative unless we say otherwise. That, I believe, is the convention.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: Following up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, I am sure that the noble Lord has taken advice and that what he said is correct. But how many of his fellow citizens are going to understand that? If you read the daily press, you would believe that they think that the Bill is going to provide for a mandatory referendum. They think that the outcome of the Bill will be binding on the Government and on Parliament. If that is not the case, the noble Lord should consider very carefully—in the interests, quite rightly, of this being clear and transparent, and so that people know what they are letting themselves in for beforehand and what they are getting afterwards—whether that needs to be made clear in the Bill in some way or another, whether it is by the tense of the verbs used or something like that. Frankly, I do not believe that we can just sail through this process on the advice that he has been given and that the rest of our countrymen will understand that.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, with respect, the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Dobbs, seem to have overlooked the fact that we are about to move on to Amendment 42A, which deals with precisely this point.

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Lord Dobbs: My Lords, I believe that the Bill is phrased in the traditional and correct way. Of course, there may be other views and I will listen to those very carefully. It is certainly my understanding that, if the Bill goes through, Parliament will have the final say. That is a very important safety valve and deals with many of the issues and thresholds which we have, quite rightly and sensibly, discussed. I believe these amendments to be unnecessary for that reason. Although the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, has sent along many of these buses, I do not think it is necessary to climb on any of them and hope he would be so kind as to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, I did say that they were probing amendments and, in the light of what the noble Lord has said, I unhesitatingly agree to withdraw this one.

Amendment 40 withdrawn.

Amendments 41 and 42 not moved.

Amendment 42A

Moved by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

42A: Clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end insert—

“( ) Any referendum held under subsection (1) shall be consultative.”

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: Amendment 42A puts in the word “consultative”. This is the point I made earlier. The noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, said that it is implicit in the Bill; this would make it explicit. Why do I want to do that? All referenda that we have had in Britain have been, by nature, consultative, and Parliament has chosen to comply with the will of the people as expressed through referenda. In other countries, such as Italy, France and Turkey, legislative assemblies have no choice but to accept them as binding referenda. Because it happens in other countries, some people have come round to the view that referenda can be binding. There is a fairly widespread—although incorrect—feeling that they are binding. If referenda are consultative by constitutional design, Parliament will surely, as always, go along with the choice of the majority in any future referendum. However, I want to guard against the possibility of a disputed result, numerous varieties of which may call for a second referendum.

For example, there might be a low turnout or perhaps, as with the AV referendum, there might some allegations of dirty tactics. Equally there might be an incredibly close result. As my noble friend Lord Anderson said, it was not close in 1975, it was a very clear result, but a referendum might be incredibly close, by one or two percentage points. In all those scenarios, a rerun may be the only way to definitely resolve the question. However, a rerun may also frustrate and alienate many voters who have assumed that referenda are binding. In order to avoid any feelings of betrayal or anger, we must make clear that it is a consultative referendum and that Parliament is sovereign at the end of the day and could, if it wished, ignore or repeal a referendum, should circumstances demand it.

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The 1979 referendum was mentioned earlier. It would have been open to the Government, if they had been a Labour Government after 1979, to accept the result of the referendum, notwithstanding the 40% rule. However, because they were a Conservative Government, they decided to abandon devolution.

Lord Cormack: My Lords, the noble Lord will acknowledge that it was an amendment tabled by a Labour Member of Parliament, George Cunningham, that led to the threshold.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: Indeed. Perhaps the noble Lord was out having his tea earlier when I said precisely that in a previous speech.

The noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, has said that trust in politics and politicians is very low. Therefore, we must not allow the fact that it is a consultative referendum to remain unclear; otherwise, what he said earlier will apply a fortiori—we will be deceiving the people. The people deserve not only a say, which is their democratic right—I hope that the people’s choice organisation is listening to me—but full disclosure. I hope that we will therefore clarify the situation and put in the word “consultative”.

We have already had two amendments agreed. This would clarify things. It is a very simple thing, putting in just one word. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, that he should not feel inhibited by the procession of Tory Whips I have seen whispering in his ear. He should have the courage to say, for once, “That is a good amendment even though it is proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, so I will accept it”. I hope he will.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I am rather heartened by the exchanges we have had in the past few minutes. I sat through the whole of the Second Reading debate. I did not take part because it seemed that everyone would say everything that needed to be said—a great many times over. Strangely enough, as far as I can recall, and I was here for almost the entire proceedings, no one raised this issue, which is the most important amendment on the Marshalled List.

Throughout my 33 years in the other place, I always told my constituents very strongly that I supported the view of Edmund Burke that Members of Parliament were representatives not delegates. I explained that, often at great length. Whether this explains why my majority over the period fell from 32,500 to less than 18,000, I am not sure. But I believe they accepted that even if I had had a machine that would tell me exactly the opinion in my constituency, I would not feel it right or necessary to take that as decisive. I strongly believed that one would take the views of one’s constituents into account every Friday evening and by correspondence and so on, but at the end of the day a Member of Parliament has to take into account all the other representations he has received, all the research he has done and so on, and make up his mind on the basis of that.

I have always been totally opposed to the idea of a referendum that was mandatory. I used to be totally opposed to referendums in all shapes or forms. I have come round slightly from that view, but I certainly

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maintain the view that I have just expressed. It would be appalling for us to agree with a referendum which would then impose on the House of Commons a particular decision where it had not been able to take the action that I believe is a fundamental feature of our democratic system in this country.

I very much welcome the noble Lord’s amendment. It is important that it is made clear. I equally welcome my noble friend the proposer of the Bill’s view that it is anyway covered by convention. But I entirely agree with those who have said that it needs to be in the Bill. Therefore, I hope very much that my noble friend whose Bill it is, in responding to this debate, will make it absolutely clear that he accepts this amendment, and then we will know where we stand; otherwise, there is a grave danger that there will be uncertainty about this, which will cause great confusion in the future.

5.30 pm

Lord Cormack: My Lords, briefly, I support what my noble friend said. I very much adhere to the Burkean view that the Member of Parliament owes his constituents his initiative, industry and judgment. However, there is something that we need to take very carefully into account. My noble friend Lord Dobbs has several times in speaking on this Bill referred to the sense of disappointment people felt when successive Governments appeared to promise a referendum and then did not deliver on that promise. That disappointment would pale into insignificance by comparison with the ignoring of the verdict on a national referendum. That is why we will have to look very carefully at the threshold problem, because this addresses that in an indirect way. I was one of those who supported George Cunningham and Tam Dalyell when they campaigned in 1978 as that Bill went through another place. We will have to come back to this at some stage. The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, has done the House a service in moving this amendment. Surely it can be accepted. If my noble friend Lord Dobbs says that it is implicit anyhow, let us put it beyond any shadow of doubt and make it explicit.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, I do not want to introduce a slightly discordant note on this but we must be very careful if we go down the road of saying that the vote of the people might be overturned. Considerable cynicism could arise from that. I accept entirely that if it is a consultative referendum that should be in the Bill and beyond any misunderstanding. I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, on the fact that we have a representative democracy and do not send every issue back for a referendum or plebiscite, or weigh how many letters we have had in or all the rest. We must make a judgment on things. In the House of Commons they make a judgment and here in this House we must, too. If we say that the matter is one that we, as representatives of Parliament, cannot come to a conclusion on and give it back to the people, we would seem to cause enormous potential for discord if we then said, once the people had taken that decision, “We don’t like it and will ignore it altogether”.

In the context of Scotland, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, referred to what might have happened had there been a Labour Government in 1979. In 1997 in

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Wales, there was a very tight result but there was no question of the incoming new Labour Government not accepting it. It had been on a relatively small turnout of about half the people and there was about a 1% majority within that, but accepting that result defused the issue and when the subsequent referendum came on having greater powers there was a 2:1 majority. Even if people did not accept the principle of devolution in the first place they came to accept it because that was the will of the people. All I counsel is that we should be very careful indeed if we set up a mechanism that ignores the will of the people, whatever that will is.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, would it not be extraordinary if we had a referendum on whether we should break up the United Kingdom—which is, as I understand it, a binding referendum, not a consultative one—but did something completely different in respect of our membership of the European Union? Why would there be one rule for deciding the composition of the United Kingdom—

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: On what basis does the noble Lord say that the Scottish referendum is binding? My own understanding is that because the Prime Minister has signed the Edinburgh agreement, he has said that he will implement it. However, that does not mean that it is necessarily binding on Parliament. It is still technically a consultative referendum. If there were a yes vote, before it could be implemented there would have to be legislation through this Parliament to do so.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Of course there would have to be legislation through Parliament. The noble Lord is normally very careful in his words but I suggest that he should be careful about what he says here. If he gave the impression in Scotland that the results of the referendum would not be absolutely binding when the Prime Minister has called for a clear question and decision which would be a one-off, he would get into difficulty. This would not be the first time I had rescued him.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I am grateful; it is a technicality, but because the Government have said that they will accept the result of the referendum, it is de facto binding, if not de jure.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I do not want to detain the House, but the position is quite clear in Scotland. If the Scots vote to leave the United Kingdom, that is that and the Government will get on with it, whoever the Government are, because that has been the clear understanding. We very much hope that that will not happen. It would be extraordinary to amend my noble friend’s Bill to say that it is only consultative, because those people who want to have their say will say, “Why is it one rule for the Scots and another for the rest of the United Kingdom?”. The noble Lord is on very dangerous ground.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has got the balance a little wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, said that this is a consultative

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referendum. The question is whether the Bill should say that, to avoid any misunderstanding. If the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, wishes to make it mandatory, my understanding, from what the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, said, is that he must move an amendment. There is no amendment on the amendment paper to say that it is mandatory.

We should stick to where we are, which is the debate about whether the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, should be made to the Bill to remove beyond peradventure any misunderstanding.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am most grateful to the noble Lord, but I am sure that what my noble friend meant when he said that it was consultative was that we were consulting the people to get their opinion. When I read the Bill, it seemed quite clear to me that if there was a referendum and people decided to leave or to remain in the European Union, that would be that. If the Bill is amended to say that the referendum is consultative, that is another matter. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Dobbs would also point to the fact that at the end of the day, this will require legislation in Parliament and Parliament will have the last say—of course it will—but I find it difficult to imagine that any Parliament faced with a referendum—

Lord Higgins: Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: In a second, although actually, the noble Lord did not give way to me. I find it difficult to imagine that any Parliament faced with a referendum made on the basis that it was not consultative would not respect the will of the people. I give way to my noble friend.

Lord Higgins: I will give way to my noble friend at Question Time next time.

The fact is that we cannot have the matter left in the dark. My noble friend the proposer of the Bill is clear that it is intended to be a consultative referendum. That being so, I think it is right that we should state that in the Bill. It is not a good idea to leave anyone in any doubt of that. As for subsequent legislation, of course, whichever way the referendum goes, it is likely that the House of Commons and this House will have to legislate, but it is important that they do not find themselves in a position where they have no option but to go along with the decision of the referendum.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I hesitate to disagree with my noble friend; I will sit down having done so. If I may say so, his position is ridiculous. We have spent the whole day arguing that it is necessary to have the Bill so that the people have the assurance that the promise will be carried forward. If you amend the Bill to say that it is consultative, and we will decide what to do then, you have blown up the whole thing—which may be my noble friend’s intention, I do not know. I certainly think that the Bill ought to be, as it states, an opportunity before 2017 for the British people to have a say, for their say to be implemented and for us to be freed of this wretched debate.

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Lord Kerr of Kinlochard: This debate is in danger of being hijacked by a filibustering gang of Montagnards opposite—the Robespierre and the Danton, the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Higgins. They are behaving disgracefully, leading us away down these alleyways. We are talking about how many angels dance on the head of a pin. Whatever the referendum is called, consultative or mandatory, it will be decisive. There is no doubt that if the country voted to leave the European Union, the Government of the day would have to start the Article 50 procedures laid down in the treaty for secession. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

The question is simply, as the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, says, should the Bill be honest and say that the people are being consulted? The noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, says that there is no need to do so because that is all it is: a consultative referendum. I have no idea who is right but if the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, is correct that it is a consultative referendum, then I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Foulkes, that it should say so. But it should also be clear—and we should be in no doubt—that once the people have been consulted and have spoken, that is it.

Lord Dobbs: My Lords, would it help us if I made this suggestion? I agree with the passion that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, puts forward on this and with so many comments that have been made by my noble friends. If it is consultative, it is perhaps up to me to find a way to make sure that it is unambiguously consultative. If the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, will allow me to engage in some conversation with him at a little later date, I will see what I can do. Certainly, my heart is entirely in line with his on this issue and on that basis, I beg him to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: On that very helpful basis—this deadline is working well, as my noble friend Lord Kinnock said earlier on—I very much agree to withdraw it.

Amendment 42A withdrawn.

Amendment 42B

Tabled by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

42B: Clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end insert—

“( ) A referendum under subsection (1) shall only be held if 1 million members of the electorate submit a petition to Parliament to that effect.”

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I—

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Andrews) (Lab): My Lords, I should point out that this amendment was in a previous group. Amendments 42B and 42C to 42E have been grouped previously and should have been debated.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I do not think that they were.

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The Deputy Chairman of Committees: Yes, Amendment 42B was grouped with the fourth group, with Amendment 4, and Amendments 42C to 42E were grouped in the fifth group.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: Then that is absolutely right.

Amendment 42B not moved.

Amendments 42C to 42E not moved.

Amendment 43

Moved by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

43: Clause 1, page 1, line 10, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

“( ) In Wales, a Welsh version of the question is also to appear on the ballot papers; in Northern Ireland, an Irish and an Ulster Scots version of the question is also to appear on the ballot papers; and in Scotland, a Scots Gaelic version of the question is also to appear on the ballot papers.”

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: We are getting near the end; this is wonderful. This amendment relates to language. In areas of the United Kingdom where other languages are spoken, surely it is right that the question should be in that language as well. It is incontrovertible that in Wales the question should be in Welsh. I also absolutely agree, and I am sure that my noble friends from north of the border would agree, that in the parts of Scotland where Gaelic is spoken it should also be in Gaelic. That means that there would be no doubt for those who are Welsh speakers or native Gaelic speakers, and they would know exactly what the question was. I do not think that there is any difficulty and I hope that some agreement could be reached on that.

I had tabled some amendments in relation to Cornish and Doric, which got some commentators a wee bit annoyed. If I can be permitted to speak a wee bit in Doric, and say what my granny would have said to them: “Dinna fash yersel’, ye daft wee loonies and quinies”. Not many people will understand that but one or two Scots do. In other words, “Don’t get bothered, young men and women”. It was just to enable discussion to take place but I withdrew those amendments just to keep those daft wee loonies and quinies happy. However, as far as Gaelic and Welsh are concerned the arguments are incontrovertible.

Lord Wigley: My Lords, my name is appended to this amendment and Amendment 45, which is grouped with it, stands in my name and makes express provision for the wording that would be put to the people of Wales in the Welsh language to be in the Bill. I do not need to tell noble Lords that the Welsh language has had official status in Wales for two or three years now and that it would therefore be expected that any such provisions would be in both languages. However, as the legislation enacting this comes from Westminster, we feel that if the English version is on the face of the Bill, the Welsh version should be as well. The translation I have of it here is one that I checked out with a person who had been translating for the National Assembly. It is in order as far as that is concerned, but it may need to be checked.

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5.45 pm

Lord Davies of Stamford: Since it is not easy to know what the pronunciation is of Welsh, it would be an awful pity not to have this passage in Hansard. Would the noble Lord like to read out in the Welsh language the text of the question that he has drafted?

Lord Wigley: I am more than delighted to do so. I think that it will be in Hansard anyway as it is an amendment, but it says:

“A ddylai’r Deyrnas Unedig barhau yn aelod o’r Undeb Ewropeaidd neu adael yr Undeb Ewropeaidd?”,

which says exactly the same as the English version.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am ashamed to say that although I have Welsh parents and was born in the Principality, I do not speak Welsh. Can the noble Lord confirm that the words in Welsh on the Marshalled List are the same as the words in English elsewhere in the Bill?

Lord Wigley: Yes, the words are the same as the amendment that is linked with this so that the two versions would be the same. I realise that at this stage of the Bill this is no doubt seen as a probing amendment, and it is a matter of how it should be taken on board. I do not think that this is a controversial issue—it certainly would not be in Wales—and I support the initiative with regard to the Gaelic language in Scotland.

Lord Crickhowell (Con): My Lords, I have not spoken at all today. Having played a considerable part in strengthening and supporting the position of the Welsh language in Wales, of course I agree that both the English and Welsh versions should have an equal place on the referendum papers. However, that seems to be perfectly adequately covered in the Bill as it stands because the order has to come before both Houses of Parliament for approval, covering this very point. Although I share the view of what the endgame has to be, that seems to be adequately provided for in the Bill.

Lord Wigley: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for his comments. I acknowledge immediately that during his time in office progress was made with regard to the Welsh language, and incidentally the late Wyn Roberts also played a significant part in that. However, the point is that in most legislation of this sort these words would be in a schedule, but there is no schedule here. We have the English version in the Bill, which is why there is an amendment to have a Welsh version as well. That would at least get the balance right. It may well be that between now and Report an amendment needs to be drafted saying that both should be treated with equality in this Chamber as they would be in Wales.

Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, my name also appears on the amendments. I have one little concern regarding my noble friend Lord Foulkes’s comments: he said that the Gaelic version should appear only in the parts of Scotland that speak Gaelic.

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If one were to transpose that to Wales, some might argue that in Monmouthshire, for example, where very little Welsh is spoken, at least on the eastern side in the border area, there should be a different ballot paper. In my judgment, if there is to be a Gaelic version it should be throughout Scotland, otherwise there will be enormous problems regarding where to draw the line. To follow up what the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said, there is, happily, a consensus in Wales in respect of the language. We have managed to avoid the language divisions that have rent Belgium over the years, and that in large part is because of the work by the noble Lord but particularly of Lord Roberts of Conwy. The Welsh Language Act and the equal validity principle are a memoriam to the work that he did.

Lord Armstrong of Ilminster: My Lords, my knowledge of the Welsh language is even more spectacularly uncertain than that of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. Is the language in Amendment 45 a precise translation of the amended version of the question?

Lord Wigley: Yes.

Lord Richard: My Lords, my name appears on the amendments. Obviously, I very much support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Wigley. This is an important issue in Wales. The language is a strong issue. It could be a divisive one but it is not at the moment, or not greatly so, because by and large English and Welsh are treated increasingly on a basis of equality. If we have the English version in the Bill, it seems only right that we should have the Welsh version too. I say to my noble friend that as a south Waleian, I did not entirely understand his pure accent as he comes from north Wales. Doing the best that I can with the Welsh language, which is not a great deal but is something, it seems to me to be a totally accurate translation.

Lord Skelmersdale (Con): My Lords, it occurs to me that the words “a Welsh version” have been used many times, and Clause 1(5) states:

“In Wales, a Welsh version of the question is also to appear on the ballot papers, as provided by order”.

The other point that I will make briefly is that I wonder what noble Lords think the language generally spoken in Northern Ireland is because that is referred to in the amendment we are discussing.

Lord Kilclooney (CB): My Lords, I can certainly answer that. I have been listening with interest, and Northern Ireland had not been mentioned until just now. I was wondering why our Scottish and Welsh colleagues were ignoring Northern Ireland in this context. However, I can confirm that the foreign language most spoken on a daily basis in Northern Ireland is Mandarin.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, my grasp of Mandarin is as extensive as my grasp of Welsh—I am very sorry to have to admit it. There are some languages I can do, but neither of those. The parity of value expressed by doing it in different languages seems an unanswerable objective. I suggest that the translations, which most

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of us can only accept on the face of it because we do not speak the languages, are provided by an authorised body, such as the Electoral Commission. In that way, the exactness of what is said is as reliable as it can be for everybody who does not speak the language because it has the assent of a completely outside body rather than one of us trying to translate. I could probably have a go at one or two translations—not of these languages—only to give rise to considerable confusion about my conjugation of German or French.

Lord Dobbs: My Lords, I thank noble Lords for that brief but culturally colourful debate. I wonder what my Welsh great-great-great-grandfather, who was a coal higgler, would have felt about what we are saying here today. Actually, he would have been astonished, because in those days his language would not have been given any consideration. I wish to confirm that it is absolutely not the intention in this Bill to treat Wales in anything like an inferior or secondary fashion. As my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale pointed out, Clause 1(5) makes provisions for a question in Welsh, and other provisions very clearly state that the job of making sure that the ballot paper is fair and valid is down to the Electoral Commission.

On that basis, and given the time that we are here, I entirely endorse the spirit of this amendment, but I do not think that it is necessary. I really think that the Bill already has enough provision to satisfy the main requirements, which are, of course, about Welsh, rather than Doric or the other languages that the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, has been talking about recently. As it relates to Wales, the Bill has enough in it to satisfy all those legitimate demands. On that basis, I ask him, particularly because of the late hour, to accept my apologies for a short summation and to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: I am not sure that the Bill does actually do what the noble Lord says. It is a very skeletal Bill, as I said at the beginning of the debate this morning. It is a Bill done for a purpose. However, we have time between now and Report to

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have a look at the questions in relation to Gaelic and Welsh. I hope that that will be done. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 43 withdrawn.

Amendments 44 to 47 not moved.

Amendment 48

Tabled by Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

48: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert—

“( ) The referendum shall also be held in Gibraltar.”

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My noble friend Lady Quin has asked me not to move the amendment and to wish all noble Lords, on her behalf, a very good weekend—something with which I completely concur.

Amendment 48 not moved.

House resumed.

Leasehold Reform (Amendment) Bill

First Reading

5.55 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Deep Sea Mining Bill

First Reading

5.55 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

House adjourned at 5.56 pm.