Comments to the House of Lords on the European Union Referendum Bill.
“To delay the referendum is not acceptable. To do anything in this House, either through ping-pong or otherwise, that would delay the undoubted constitutional right of the Prime Minister to choose the timing of his announcement – and therefore, following his announcement, the timing of the referendum – would be absurd.
“…. the giving of a referendum is a right for Members of Parliament and nobody else, because it curtails their democratic rights. It is a very serious curtailment of their rights, so much so that, although we call it an advisory referendum, we all know that they accept an obligation to take into law decisions which, as citizens, they may personally have voted against.
“That is why, in my view, referendums are to be used rather more sparingly than seems to be developing. It is a very considerable infringement on the rights of a representative, elected, democratic Member of Parliament – and, frankly, those rights do not retain in this House.”
Lord Owen’s full speech, delivered 23 November 2015, is available here: EuropeanUnionReferendumBill