European Union (Referendum) Bill – Lord Owen’s Speech

Second Reading, Friday 10 January 2014

Lord Owen (CB)
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, must be correct that the procedure that should be followed in a perfect world would be the one that he outlined. The trouble is that we do not live in a perfect world, and we never have done. Europe splits parties and families, and has been doing so for 40 years. That is what we have to grapple with on this issue.As my noble friend Lord Roper knows, I supported a referendum in 1972, and was defeated in the argument in our group. I resigned over the issue, but it was not really the central core of that question. It is right that there was a vote—but in those days it was a vote on whether there should be referendum then, in that Parliament of 1972 to 1973. I think that this is a gimmick, in many respects. However, why are we here? We are here because successive Prime Ministers have given commitments to hold referendums and then have not done so. The country does not trust us. On this issue of Europe, they have seen party after party manoeuvre and manipulate, and they do not believe it—and they do not actually believe it, even if they say at a general election that there will be a referendum. I was told by the parties opposite at the last election that there would be no top-down changes in the National Health Service. And what have they done? We used to believe that the mandate meant something, but now we are told that the mandate cannot be trusted…

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