§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 1.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 1, line 7, at end insert ("in accordance with proposals set out in a White Paper to be laid before Parliament before this Act is brought into force").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 5 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 15, which involves Wales, and Amendments Nos. 37 to 39, which insert certain words into both the Welsh and Scottish question.
§ With these amendments we return to the question of the White Paper and a pre-legislative referendum and to exactly what the relationship will be between the White Paper and the subsequent Bill: in other words, will people get what they vote for? If I decide to vote against, or, unlikely as it may be, for, the proposition in the ballot paper on 11th September, I shall do so on the basis of the White Paper. To what extent will changes be allowed? Will there be changes that take us beyond the boundary of the approval given to the White Paper so that the Government feel obliged to have a second referendum after the Bill has passed through both Houses of Parliament? The converse may also be true. Will the Government simply ignore any changes made to the Bill and say, "You have signed up to the broad detail and that is it. We are not going to ask you again"?1241
§ Amendments Nos. 5 and 15 were originally tabled by me last week in order to make sure that the White Paper was laid before Parliament before next Tuesday, when we have the Third Reading of the Bill. Those amendments are no longer needed. I understand that the White Paper is to be produced tomorrow for Wales and on Thursday for Scotland.
§ Having said that, and at the risk of being reprimanded by the Liberal Democrats (or even in the hope of being reprimanded by them), perhaps I may introduce today's news item. The Scotsman newspaper seems to be intent on publishing the White Paper on Wednesday. If the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is to respond, perhaps he will tell me if there is any truth in that remark. If there is, I presume that the Government will try to bring forward the publication of the White Paper to tomorrow. I would understand if they did that.
§ I suffered a little over 18 years, as a Minister for part of that time, from leaks. I know how difficult leaks can be for governments. I hope that the party opposite does not complain too much about leaks because it was pretty good at cultivating them and scouring the wastepaper baskets before it came to office. Perhaps it will take a little time before I overcome my reservations about using leaks and fall to the same temptations as did noble Lords opposite and their right honourable friends.
§ Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether the story is true and if the White Paper is indeed going to be leaked. If it is to be leaked by the Scotsman newspaper, who leaked it may be an interesting question. Is it a deliberate attempt by the Government to do a little bit of softening up? Is it like last week's little diversion in relation to where the assembly or parliament should sit? Rather than concentrating on the issues in the White Paper, we end up concentrating on the peripherals; for example, who leaked it? Is it a true leak? Find the mole, or something like that. I have little doubt that that could be quite good sport, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, may well be able to help the Government in their mole hunting. However, if it is true, have the Government done it deliberately? Perhaps I can have some advice in that regard.
§ I had hoped to say very little about Amendments Nos. 5 and 15. The object of including them on the Marshalled List has been achieved. But the other amendment, with its four different appearances, is a serious one. It pins the Government down, as did my last amendment, to what they are committing themselves to and what the Scottish and Welsh public are committing themselves to in the vote. Are the Government committing themselves to the detail that will be contained in the White Paper? We have been told that the White Paper will be detailed. Is that what we are committing ourselves to?
§ If there is variation in that detail, either because this place or another place makes amendments, or because the Government, when they study the matter in greater detail, discover that some things are not possible and will have to be changed, what will the position be at the end of the Bill's passage through both Houses? Will the 1242 approval—I presume it will be approval, otherwise the Bills will not move ahead—be taken as approval in such a general way that, even if the White Paper is amended, the Government will still pray in aid the two votes—one in Scotland and one in Wales—as giving them justification to carry on?
§ I hope that the noble Lord can address the issue of the detail in the White Paper and how firmly committed the Government are to sticking to it. If they or Parliament, or a combination of the two, decide to make major changes, or even minor but significant changes, how will the Government see the situation? Will they decide, as they ought to have done all along, to hold a post-legislative referendum; or will they continue, regardless of the changes and regardless of the breaches that have occurred, with the proposition? I beg to move.
§ Lord Crickhowell
My Lords, I listened carefully to what my noble friend said. It is important that we have further definition of the phrase that appears in the schedule,to consult people in Wales on the Government's proposals for a Welsh Assembly".We need to know exactly to what proposals they are referring.
I thought that my noble friend was rather generous in his remarks about the publication, and the timing of the publication, of the White Papers. It seems to me that if it was possible for the Government to publish the White Papers for Wales and Scotland this week, it might have been courteous to Parliament to have ensured that they were published today so that they were available for the whole of the Report stage of the Bill. I understand that the Welsh White Paper is to be published tomorrow—at least the press in Wales seems to be under that impression. I hope that it will not be produced outside this House and kept from those of us who are here to debate the Report stage this afternoon. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to assure us that when we come here tomorrow copies will be available in the Printed Paper Office so that we can be as well informed about what is in the White Paper as the Scotsman appears to be already as the result of leaks. That seems to be the very least we can ask for.
I shall return to the question of what is in the White Paper on later amendments. However, two comments appearing in the South Wales press prompt me to add something to what has already been said. We are told in the press that the White Paper is to be made widely available in Wales. We are told that a cheap copy, or a cheaper than normal copy—at £3—will be available at distribution points so that it can be easily bought by the people of Wales. We are also told that there will be a telephone hotline so that people can obtain information about what is in the White Paper. With all this information being provided, I think that the Welsh people should know whether what they are voting for is only what is in the White Paper and not something that might be significantly different.
I am also prompted to carry the argument a little further by a report that appeared extensively in the Welsh press over the weekend that, when the 1243 Prime Minister visited South Wales last week, he proceeded to inform the people of Caerphilly on two separate occasions that one of the advantages of voting for the assembly in Wales would be that decisions,about schools, hospitals and law and order in Wales can he taken here by the people of Wales".On another occasion he referred to control of the police. That simply may have been ignorance by the Prime Minister about what is going to appear in the White Paper which is being published this week. It is extraordinary that the Prime Minister should go to answer public questioning in Wales and not know what is in his Government's White Paper, but I suppose it may mean that there will be a sudden change in what the Government intend to do and that they will suddenly transfer responsibility for the police and law and order.
The very fact that the Prime Minister can go to Wales and make such a substantial announcement of the intent of government, even if it was incorrect on this occasion, suggests that there may be fairly good reasons for us confining the freedom of government to act in the future by a specific reference to the White Paper; so that the people of Wales when they vote will broadly know what they are voting about and that we shall not suddenly be told when we come back with the Scotland and Wales Bill, or the Wales Bill if there are to be separate Bills, that we have to vote for anything they like to put into the Bill because the people of Wales have voted for an assembly and we are not allowed to argue about the detail. We must have some definition and, at the very least, some clear statement from the noble Lord about what the Government's intentions are.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, further to everything that has already been said from these Benches, which I shall not repeat—I agree with every word of it—I would ask the noble Lord whether he would consider that in one sense—because we do not have the information—the debate is premature and we may have to come back to this matter at Third Reading. I say that because a principle of the utmost importance is involved. By no stretch of the imagination could this group of amendments be considered wrecking amendments. They are amendments which are, and are intended to be, in implementation of the principle of the Bill. It is our right—furthermore to our right, it is our duty—if insufficient time has been provided to anyone inside or outside Parliament to consider measures of great importance, even if they are briefly referred to in an election manifesto, to delay by amending as is proposed in this group of amendments.
If the noble Lord would care to look at Hansard of 19th May 1993 (cols. 1787–8 of Volume 545) he might appreciate the force of what I am seeking to ask him respectfully to consider.
§ 6.15 p.m.
My Lords, perhaps I may raise one brief question. I am disturbed to hear the news of the possible leak in the Scotsman on Wednesday of the Scottish White Paper. The Government had, to my mind very wisely, organised that the Welsh White Paper would come out two days early and that we would, as we urged 1244 in Committee, have a space in which the Welsh matters could be considered before the tumult of the Scottish debate began. If the Scotsman is to print this matter on Wednesday it will extinguish the very brief period in which the spotlight can be on Wales. If there is truth in this rumour, is there anything the Government can do to restore some primacy to Wales? If they have leaked the Scottish White Paper, perhaps they can leak the Welsh one tonight.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn)
My Lords, when I was a small child I was always taught never to believe what I read in the newspapers. Therefore, I am not inclined to believe something that I have not read in the newspapers. I do not know what will be in the Scotsman. I have had much more amusing and interesting things to do this afternoon and this evening; namely, sitting in your Lordships' House. I do not know what is in the Welsh newspapers. I have no particular interest in what may or may not be rumours. I do know, on the steadfast authority of my noble friend Lord Parry, that in one newspaper in Wales over the weekend there was a careful and considered article about me, describing me as Lord Williams of Elvel, with a photograph of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel. So they seem to have got it comprehensively wrong.
This Government do not believe in leaks. We do not act on the basis of leaks. As is well known, we propose to publish the White Paper on Wales on 22nd July and that on Scotland on 24th July. That is entirely consistent—indeed, rather more generously consistent—with the undertakings which my noble friend Lord Sewel and I have given to your Lordships on a number of occasions. We promised to deliver and we have.
The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, observed that the Welsh people and the Scottish people are entitled broadly to know what they are voting about. I respectfully agree. That is the purpose of the White Papers. There is nothing between us on that. He specifically asked about copies of the Welsh White Paper. I can assure the House that copies of the White Paper will be available to Members of both Houses in the usual way. I hope that is helpful.
I think I have been the object of an attempted seduction—although I was asleep at the time and missed it—in wanting me to say that there would be a second referendum. My Lords, no. The first referendum, as has been said ad nauseam, is intended to be advisory and for guidance. The proposals to which the question on the referendum ballot refers are quite plainly the Government's proposals. Those proposals will be set out in the White Papers. There is no benefit in inserting a specific reference to the White Papers.
In respect of Amendments Nos. 5 and 15, they are technically incompetent because they imply that part of the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Act would have to come into effect and have effect before the Act itself came into force.
Obviously these are going to be important matters. The White Papers will be available. The electorate in both Wales and Scotland will come to their own 1245 conclusion, not entirely on the White Papers; but those are the broad thrust of the Government's proposals. I imagine that the electorate will listen to contributions from your Lordships' House, from the "Yes" and the "No" campaigns or sub-variants of each campaign. We want the public to come to their own conclusion. This is a device which is not common in our country's constitutional regime, but we believe it to be an important one. On that basis I believe that we are going the right way about it.
Answering hypothetical questions is arid enough at the best of times. We are putting forward our proposals for the judgment of the people of Wales and Scotland respectively. Their judgment will be advisory and is intended to guide the Government. Having listened to the voice of the people in both Scotland and Wales we shall bring forward our proposals for full scrutiny in both Houses of Parliament. On that basis I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who took part in this short debate. I am not in the least surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said that the Government do not operate on leaks. No government does that, but his party was pretty good at operating on leaks when it was in opposition. So when the position in your Lordships' House and down the corridor changes, one's view on leaks changes. I fully accept that the Government will not be very happy if there is a leak in the Scotsman, unless it is deliberate. Those are not unknown. I can see the merit in one such deliberate leak on Wednesday, but we shall wait to see. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will either be able to tell me that I should not believe what I read in the newspapers next week—I was going to say that I should not believe what I read in the Scotsman, but I might never appear in it again if I said that—or alternatively I may be able to say to the noble Lord, "Occasionally, you should believe what you read in the newspapers".
However, the point really is whether or not somehow we should tie the Government down as to how the legislation will relate to the White Paper and how closely they must follow it. I said that they should follow it, but I have no doubt that the Government will attempt to do so as best they can. But I do not believe that with a subject as complex as this issues will not arise which will mean that the Government will change their view. They will find that there are different ways to do what they want and perhaps sometimes that there are even better ways. They will want to take these matters on board, and that is the whole purpose of legislation. I am simply putting the question as to what extent the Government are going to be tied by the White Paper or to what extent they will be able to move from that. If that move is significant, however one defines "significant", should we then have a second referendum, or what?
The noble Lord said that he did not like answering hypothetical questions. If he is to be a government Minister he will have to learn that he will have to answer such questions. I shall send him some summer reading 1246 on some of the Bills of the past few Sessions where hypothetical questions from some of his noble friends formed a fair portion of the questioning of government Ministers both at Committee and Report stages. One of the problems of legislation is that one has to try to work out how it will affect people in different circumstances, and that is what we are attempting to do here.
I am grateful for at least one point of clarification. The noble Lord has not made any attempt to say otherwise, but it is interesting to have it on record that the Government's proposals, as spelt out in the preamble, are the ones in the White Paper, so that everything else that we read that comes from the Government, even their manifesto, will be subsumed by the proposals in the White Paper. As I have been invited continually to wait for the White Paper before I make up my mind one way or the other, I must now start the wait. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 6:
Page I, line 13, after ("government") insert ("or parliamentary").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is something more than a probing amendment. Your Lordships will recall that we had a long debate at Committee stage about who votes in the referendum. Put simply, we can read the electoral register in the post office, the library or at our party offices. It contains two main divisions. One relates to those who are entitled to vote at parliamentary elections and the other relates to those who are entitled to vote at local government elections. The parliamentary election list, like the local government list, includes the vast majority of people who reside in Scotland and Wales. But in the parliamentary list there is added to the end of each register a number of people who are overseas and who, before they went overseas, were electors in that ward. They have applied to be considered as overseas electors. They are allowed to vote in parliamentary elections but not in local government elections. I believe I am right in saying that they are not entitled to vote in elections to the European Parliament because it is assumed that if they live in Europe they will have a vote in the country in which they reside.
§ The local government register has two other groups added to it. Your Lordships will be particularly interested in one group. It consists of those of your Lordships who are resident in Scotland and Wales. Therefore, I am allowed, as are a number of your Lordships, to vote in local government elections in Scotland, but I am not allowed to vote in parliamentary elections. The other group, which is allowed to vote in local government elections but not parliamentary elections, comprises citizens of the European Union—other than those of the Republic of Ireland whose citizens are allowed to vote in all our elections—who have been resident in our country for six months and who have decided that they wish to apply to vote.
§ The Government's proposals, as they appear in the Bill, state that we should pick the local government list. I put forward an amendment at Committee stage that we 1247 should pick the parliamentary list. My argument was a simple one. I thought that those of us, including the overseas electors, who were trusted enough to vote on 1st May ought to be the ones trusted to vote in the referendum. I also suggested that perhaps that might be a reflection of people who have a deep and long-abiding interest in Scotland.
§ However, a robust defence was made of the right to vote, not so much of your Lordships, but of European citizens. There seemed to be a pretty single-minded determination on the part of the Government that the 12,000 EU nationals in Scotland—I do not know how many in Wales because the Government do not seem to have told us that—ought to be allowed to vote along with everyone else in Scotland and Wales and with the resident Peers. In a spirit of consensus, and approaching these matters in the spirit of wishing to find an agreed position, I accept that if the 12,000 EU nationals and the 123 resident Peers in Scotland are allowed to vote in local government elections it is perfectly right and proper that they should vote at this referendum.
§ I hope that in the same spirit the Government will tonight accept my amendment, which proposes that overseas voters should also be allowed to vote. There are not many of them. I doubt whether the result of the referendum will be so close in Scotland (it may be in Wales) that it will make much difference to the eventual result. I am told that in Scotland there are 1,500 overseas electors. Some of them will not vote, but I suggest that if they have gone to the trouble of putting their names on the overseas register, which is not, an easy task, they are probably interested enough in the affairs of their homeland to vote in this important referendum.
§ So I have brought forward here an amendment which adds to "local government" the words "or parliamentary" so that all people who are currently on the electoral register, both parliamentary and local government, will be allowed to vote. That will allow those of your Lordships who live in Wales and Scotland to take part in this momentous decision. It will allow 12,000 EU nationals in Scotland and perhaps 7,000 or so in Wales—perhaps the noble Lord can tell us the figure—to vote on the future of Scotland and Wales. It will also allow to vote that much smaller number of overseas voters who left Scotland and Wales within the past 20 years, but who have retained an interest and ensured that their names remain on the electoral register.
§ Perhaps my amendment is in some way defective in its drafting. I would always defer to the parliamentary draftsmen in these matters and if the amendment is defective, I should be happy for the Government to introduce an amendment which encapsulates the point that I am making. However, the Government should take on board the simple proposition that the people who are entitled to vote in parliamentary elections ought also to be entitled to vote in this referendum, just as I am taking on board the Government's point that people who are allowed to vote in local government elections, including EU nationals, should be allowed to vote in the referendum. In that spirit of consensus and so on, I very much hope to hear the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, use the immortal words, "I think I can accept the noble Lord's amendment". I beg to move.1248
§ 6.30 p.m.
My Lords, I support the amendment and I hope that we shall not be told that there will be any kind of administrative problem or delay. Not all noble Lords would remember it, but in 1945 there was an interval of three weeks between polling day and the declaration of the poll in each constituency so that service votes could be brought in from all over the world. It worked perfectly smoothly. This is a minute administrative effort compared with that. Indeed, the procedure happens anyway in parliamentary elections. I hope that the Government will realise that we owe it to those men who are serving perhaps overseas or, indeed, in this country in our Armed Forces. They should have the right to determine what is to happen.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, with all respect to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, I believe that the final thrust of his remarks relates to subsequent amendments, not the present one. The noble Lord has been dealing with the armed services, but that is not the purpose of our present amendment. The noble Lord will therefore acquit me of discourtesy if I do not deal with that particular aspect—
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, not at all; there are so many amendments that it is often difficult to distinguish one from the other.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, that I think that I can accept the noble Lord's assurance of "consensus and all that", which was the phrase that he used. Even the noble Lord could not continue beyond "consensus and all that".
The difference here is one of approach in principle. We believe—we have made this clear beyond doubt—that the clear criterion for deciding who should vote on the proposals should be residency in the country concerned. It is right in principle; it is workable in practice; and we have chosen the local government franchise because it most closely accords with the residency test. We do not believe that it is appropriate for an overseas elector—that is, someone who is not resident in the United Kingdom—to be entitled to a vote on a referendum concerning the arrangements for devolution to Wales and to Scotland. If overseas electors were to be included, it would mean, as my noble friend Lord Sewel pointed out on an earlier occasion, that if a Scotsman lived in Benidorm and a Scotswoman lived in Blackpool, the Scotsman living in Benidorm would be able to vote on devolution whereas the Scotswoman living in Blackpool would not. I suggest that that is not entirely intellectually consistent or coherent.
suppose that this difference of approach is not capable of being reconciled. We do not believe that overseas electors ought to be able to vote in a referendum on the constitutional arrangements for Welsh or Scottish devolution. I know that the noble 1249 Lord will not think that I am being discourteous, but I believe that the difference between us is as simple and as short as that.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He is making his position clear. May I ask him whether he envisages that overseas voters would be allowed to vote in the elections for the Scottish assembly, if it comes about?
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, that is not the point that we are dealing with at the moment. The noble Lord has great experience of being able to answer hypothetical questions, but I am much too young to have fallen into his bad ways.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I am sure that some of your Lordships will realise the truth of what I am about to say because if I had tried to give such an answer during our long hours on many social security Bills, "uproar" might have been a mild description of what would have happened in your Lordships' House. Indeed, "histrionics" might have been nearer the mark for the Opposition spokesperson if I had failed to answer the kind of question that I have just posed to the noble Lord.
I am disappointed because I had thought that I had found a way to accommodate the desires of the party of government to allow EU citizens (and some of your Lordships) to vote, while accepting that people appear on the parliamentary register for the perfectly good reason that they may be working overseas for our country. Of course, some of those people on the register will have retired abroad and others will be working in other operations. It seems to me that if we have allowed those people to appear on our parliamentary register, it is illogical not to allow them a vote in the referendum.
As I pointed out at Second Reading and in Committee, I have a particular interest in this because my daughter is an overseas elector in Northern Italy. She will not be able to vote in a referendum affecting the future of her country and yet an Italian waiter working in the famous icecream parlour, Nardini's in Largs, who has been resident in this country for a little while will be able to have a vote. Interestingly enough, there is such a person, although not from Bosisio Perini, where my daughter lives.
I find that arrangement fundamentally unfair, and despite, as always, the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, I do not think that he has come any way towards meeting me, although I have come quite a long way to meet him by tabling this amendment which I believed would bridge the gap. I am sorry that the gap cannot be bridged, but I feel so strongly about this that I shall seek your Lordships' opinion.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No.6) shall be agreed to?
§ their Lordships divided: Contends, 66; Not-Contents, 119.1251
§ 6.45 p.m.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 7:
Page I. line 13, at end insert ("and members of the United Kingdom armed forces born in Scotland and their spouses who would he entitled to vote in a general election in any electoral area of the United Kingdom").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps I might invite the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, to submit an opinion—I believe that that is what it is called in legal terms—that I can show to my daughter as a result of the latest vote.
§ I shall speak also to Amendment No. 18. The amendment is one that we proposed in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, expressed some sympathy with the arguments being put forward. He said that the best that he could do was to give careful consideration with his colleagues to everything that had been said. I have put down the amendment to allow him to tell us what conclusion he has come to, and, if that conclusion is unfavourable, to try to persuade us why we should accept the situation.
§ If we have servicemen who are Scots or Welsh who are currently based in England, they may or may not have a vote in Scotland or Wales. It all depends upon whether they made a declaration on or about 10th October last as to whether they wanted to vote where they were based—somewhere in England—or in Scotland or Wales where they had last voted or last had a residence, or at their parents' house or whatever. I gather that the position is reasonably generous so far as allowing servicemen or servicewomen to decide to vote in Scotland and Wales when they live in England.1252
§ That is fine as far as it goes. However last October none of those servicemen in England realised the consequences of their election. Many of them probably have their wives and children with them at the base from which they operate in England. For example, the Royal Scots are based at Colchester. That I understand is their home base, and so I suspect that a fair number of them have decided, over the past two or three years, to register their vote and that of their families in Colchester where they stay for the moment as they are attached to the Royal Scots and have been sent there. If the Royal Scots were in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fort George, or wherever, they would be registered there. They would be sent there. The same is true for the Navy and Air Force. Those people do not have much say over where they are sent. They can end up in England or Scotland. If they end up in Scotland, they will not have a problem. If they end up in England, they do have a problem.
§ The position of the Welsh regiments is more difficult because, as I have no doubt my noble friend Lord Crickhowell will explain in greater detail and with greater knowledge, two of the Welsh regiments are based permanently on the wrong side of the border, if I may call it that. The same problem has occurred with them for many years. Many of them probably decided to register their vote where they were based. That does not make them any less Welsh and does not take away from the fact that if they had joined the other Welsh regiment which is based in Wales they would have no problem. They would probably have registered in Wales or at their previous home, their parents' home, or wherever. A problem exists for the servicemen and servicewomen who are currently resident in England because they are acting under the instructions of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy or the Army.
§ Lord Ewing of Kirkford
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Will he give an example of any serviceman, Army, Navy or Air Force, who on 10th October 1996 knew where he would be based on 11th or 18th September 1997? That is a simple question.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, servicemen do not know where they will be based in a year's time, but if they are with the Royal Scots, for example, the chances are that they will still be based at Colchester because that is their home base. If they are sent abroad there is a method by which they can vote back at home. I do not believe that the noble Lord's intervention has answered my point. I doubt whether last October any of them were aware of the consequence of where they registered their vote. They would not realise that if they did not elect to register at home in Scotland or Wales they would lose out on the vote in the referendum.
It is a difficult proposition. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, accepted that. I understand that there may be complexities about delivering a vote in the timescale envisaged; that is, beginning now and ending on 11th September. However, that is not a timescale of my making and therefore I am not impressed by the 1253 argument that there is no time to organise a vote for the service voters who are based in and have their votes in England. The Government ought to have given that matter some thought. After all, presumably they thought about it before the election. It is all very well being sympathetic, but we want that sympathy to be translated.
I hope that, unlike the previous amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, will come forward with a positive proposal. I shall leave the matter there, but I have no doubt that the Welsh point of view will be put forward. Even more Welsh servicemen will be based outside Wales than there will be Scottish servicemen based outside Scotland, and I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Crickhowell will wish to speak about the matter. I hope that during the two weeks since the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, has asked his colleagues to come forward with a solution. If it means delaying the referendum for a week or two, I would be happy to accept an amendment on Third Reading. I beg to move.
§ Lord Crickhowell
My Lords, I do not intend to add a great deal to what I said in Committee, but the situation is worse in Wales than my noble friend indicated. All three Welsh regiments, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the Royal Regiment of Wales and the Welsh Guards, are stationed permanently outside Wales. They do not have a home base in Wales.
In Committee, the issue received support from all sides of the House. My noble friend and I deliberately used that phrase, although technically it may be incorrect. My noble friend and old political opponent Lord Parry and I found ourselves in agreement on the issue. He confirmed what was the situation when he and I were doing battle politically in Pembrokeshire—that often the forces stationed there registered there rather than at their home elsewhere. It happens that last October the Royal Welch Fusiliers were in Northern Ireland, having moved there after a gallant and noteworthy tour of Bosnia. The Royal Regiment of Wales is currently carrying out public duties in London and is stationed at Hounslow.
All three Welsh regiments face the same situation. It happens that the permanent base of the Royal Welch Fusiliers is Chepstow. It is separated from Wales only by the width of the River Wye. Therefore, its members are in the extraordinary situation of having their families in accommodation on a promontory between the River Severn and the River Wye and are separated from the Principality by a few hundred yards. Therefore, they clearly make the point that we sought to make in Committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, gave a helpful and sympathetic response, but I understand from the gesticulations on the Front Bench that on this occasion he is handing over the responsibility to reply to the noble Lord, Lord Sewel. I hope that that is not an indication that the message to be conveyed is bad news 1254 but that the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, will take the credit for the helpful announcement which I am sure we are about to receive from the Government.
My Lords, I rise only to mention that the point I made prematurely in respect of the previous amendment has been strengthened by the facts given by my noble friend in respect of this amendment.
§ Baroness Carnegy of Lour
My Lords, I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively. There is a feeling among those who appreciate the situation—and many do not—that a sharp injustice is built into the Bill. That may have occurred unwittingly, but it exists. I hope that it will be possible to remedy the problem, otherwise some people will have a strong feeling of dissatisfaction.
§ Lord Forbes
My Lords, I support the amendment. I cannot see why some Scottish members of our Armed Forces who are prepared to fight for Monarch and country may be denied a vote in the referendum, when other Scots who do far less for their country will have a vote. Surely, Her Majesty's Government should hold our Armed Forces in slightly higher esteem.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, gave an unduly mild answer to the noble Lord, Lord Ewing. Perhaps that is not something of which he has often been accused. Most soldiers know where they will be based next year. Perhaps the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, was: although they may not know where they will be posted next year, although they may have been posted to Northern Ireland or Bosnia for three months, they will remain based in their headquarters in Colchester or in Chepstow (which is on my doorstep). Surely they know where they are based and surely they remain based there.
The Earl of Balfour
My Lords, I have some sympathy with the amendment because our Armed Forces can be sent anywhere at short notice. In that respect, I believe that they deserve to be a special case.
§ Lord Sewel
My Lords, the amendments seek to allow Scottish and Welsh-born servicemen and the spouses of servicemen to vote in referendums regardless of where they are registered to vote in the United Kingdom. As noble Lords will recollect, in Committee we undertook to give the matter thought, to reflect upon it and to consider our approach to service voters. We have done so, but we remain convinced that our original position was correct. I understand that that will come as a disappointment to some noble Lords opposite and therefore I consider it necessary to explain the reasons behind our judgment.
Our general approach to the business of voting in the referendums is that it should be based on the principle of residency in the country concerned. The amendment opens up our two old friends, residency and nationality. They reappear under a slightly different guise. In principle, members of the forces should be treated in the same way as any other potential voters. Accordingly, a 1255 member of the Armed Forces entitled to vote at a local government election in Scotland or Wales will be entitled to vote in the appropriate referendum.
The special circumstances of service personnel are reflected already in the provisions of the Representation of the People Act in relation to registration of voters who are members of the Armed Forces. They have a special place and that should be recognised. Members of the Armed Forces can retain, through a service declaration, their right to vote in Scotland or Wales even if they are on service elsewhere. It makes absolutely no difference whether a member of a Welsh regiment is serving in Cardiff, across the Severn or in Bosnia. If he has made his service declaration showing residence at a Welsh address, he will have a vote. No member of the Armed Forces will lose his right to vote simply because he is on duty elsewhere. Let us make that absolutely crystal clear.
There are some difficulties about the wording of the amendment. Let us look at that. The amendment refers to members of the Armed Forces "born" in Scotland or Wales. It is perfectly possible to have been born in Scotland or Wales, to have moved away at a very early age; to have been brought up in England and to have joined an English regiment; and to have no intention of returning to the country of birth. Yet, according to the amendment, that person would have a vote in the referendum. That is the important point because that person has no residential link with Scotland or Wales. The service declaration keeps open and is based on the concept of a residential link, albeit attenuated by the fact that the person is serving abroad. If we rely purely on birth, we are not maintaining that vital residential link.
As regards the problem of spouses, according to the amendment there could be a Scottish soldier born in Scotland who has a wife—for the sake of illustration—born in Japan. They may have met in Colchester. The wife has never lived in Scotland and perhaps has no intention of doing so. But the amendment would confer on that wife a right to vote in a referendum on the future Government of Scotland.
§ 7 p.m.
§ Lord Lester of Herne Hill
My Lords, is the Minister aware that if we were to begin to divide up the electorate for elections, leaving aside the referendum, on the basis of this kind of amendment and on the basis of the ethnicity or place of birth of one section of the electorate, that would give rise to real problems under Article 3 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights read with Article 14 of the convention? That is because it would give rise to racial discrimination or discrimination on the basis of ethnicity in the choice of legislature. Is the Minister aware that for the same reason, it may give rise to problems under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?
§ Lord Sewel
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lester, for that point. Noble Lords will be aware that throughout our discussions and debates on the Bill, 1256 I have stressed the need for residency and have rejected any claim on the basis of ethnicity or nationality. That is the sensible way forward.
It is not right to suggest that the referendum produces any new questions in relation to residence. For ordinary elections, it does matter where a person is registered. We have a constituency basis. It may be claimed that in a referendum, we move away from that. But it is my contention that if a serviceman has decided quite deliberately to register on the electoral register of the home where he is based rather than the one on which he would claim to be from, that is a deliberate act which has meaning. We are debasing that decision if somehow we say that it does not have meaning. He has decided in a very real sense that that is the place with which he identifies. It is not for us to second guess that decision.
§ Lord Crickhowell
My Lords, does the noble Lord not agree that there is a difference here? If you register for a parliamentary or local government election, that is because you believe that the result of that election may affect taxation, local and central, and many other issues where you are living at that time. But the quite separate issue here will affect the government of the country which you believe to be yours for generations to come. There is a fundamental difference. It is quite natural that people should register in the homes in which they are living currently because they are affected by what goes on locally. But we are now dealing with a totally different situation.
§ Lord Sewel
My Lords, I cannot accept the point which the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, makes. A serviceman who comes from Scotland or Wales and is posted somewhere else—for example, Colchester—and then makes a decision about whether to exercise the vote in Scotland, Wales or Colchester, faced, in a general election, with campaigns from the parties affecting the whole of the country, he makes the decision in relation to the place with which he identifies. That must be respected and, as I said, I do not think we should second guess that.
To suggest that service voters are somehow put at a disadvantage because they did not realise last October that there would be a referendum would always be wrong. We must recognise that people take decisions and that they are meaningful to them. We accept that service personnel are a special case, so we make possible the service declaration which they exercise. If that declaration produces a vote in Scotland or Wales, then that is absolutely reasonable and fair. Nobody would seek to deny a voter on that basis. But if they have decided deliberately to identify with some other part of the country, equally we must accept that decision. I hope that on that basis it will be possible for the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I regret to say that that was just about as thin an argument as that used in Committee. I do not believe that servicemen make a decision in the way in which the noble Lord suggests. If the serviceman had not been posted to Colchester or wherever else and had been posted instead 1257 to Scotland or Wales, there would be no problem. Therefore, he is disadvantaged because of a posting that he has had from his military superiors. I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Lester of Herne Hill, would like to intervene and say whether that contravenes one of those conventions in which the noble Lord is so interested. It seems to me that it is difficult for that serviceman to say that he has been treated fairly because he has been posted out of the area where he would have been able to vote in the referendum, whichever way he had decided to exercise his declaration.
The noble Lord's argument would be conclusive, and I would withdraw the amendment, if we were talking about a separate register being drawn up specifically for the referendum so that every serviceman knew what would be the result of his declaration. The fact is that when the serviceman makes that declaration, by and large, he makes it for parliamentary elections. He knows that wherever he is in the UK, there will be a parliamentary election on the same day and he will be able to vote for the same group of parties. I accept that there may be nationalists in Wales and Scotland who make some difference to that but, by and large, he will be able to vote for the same group of parties. Therefore, whether he is in Colchester, Glasgow, Chepstow or Cardiff does not make nearly as much difference as it does in relation to this referendum.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for courteously giving way. Can he tell the House what electoral register there is in the United Kingdom which has the place where one is born?
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I shall come to that point in a moment, although I do not believe that it is relevant to the point I am trying to make. The argument of the Government Front Bench about the referendum would be valid if a register was being created deliberately with a view to the referendum or if the register created on 10th October last had stated quite clearly:Whether you decide to register your vote, either at your base in Chepstow or Colchester, or to use the election to register your vote in Scotland, will decide whether or not you can vote in the referendum".In that case, the noble Lord would have a reasonable argument against me. However, he has not. The only argument he has is to say that you can hardly say just, "Born in Scotland".
If the noble Lord does not like those words, I could make a few more suggestions to him. After all, he represents the Government, with all the power of the Civil Service and the draftsmen at his disposal. What about the phrase, "Had joined the forces from a Scottish address"? Alternatively, what about, "Had been registered at any time on a Scottish register"? That would take away the obsession that the noble Lord and his friend have about not wanting to consider where a person is born. If that is the only objection, I think that I can easily withdraw the amendment on the assurance that the Government will come forward with another one written along the lines of, "Joining from a Scottish 1258 address". Indeed, the latter seems to me to be a very good phrase, because chances are the person may have been resident in Scotland for his or her lifetime.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, given my general sympathy for at least two-thirds of the argument put forward, which I expressed on the last occasion, will the noble Lord accept that there is another difficulty with the amendment; namely, that a great number—and a very welcome number—in the Welsh regiments are in fact Englishmen who have never lived in either Wales or Scotland, or, indeed, registered themselves there? Therefore, the total number involved is nothing like the number about which we seem to be concerning ourselves.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I accept that point. Indeed, some members of the Scottish and Welsh regiments will not have been born in Scotland or Wales and will not in fact have joined from a Scottish or Welsh address and, therefore, will not have been registered at any time on a Scottish or Welsh register—my three options. I am not bothered about them; they are obviously not my concern. I am concerned with people who, if they had not been in the forces or had not been transferred by the military to a base in England, would be in Scotland and allowed to vote. That is a self-evident proposition.
It may not be exactly what my amendment says, but I am an open-minded person. I have already indicated that if the Government wish to come forward with an alternative to my amendment which actually does what I and other noble Lords want, I would be happy to withdraw it. However, I have learned from fairly hitter experience during the course of the Bill's proceedings that there is not much point to that. Unless you are offering the Government something really good in return—like, for example, a week longer in the Recess—you have absolutely no chance of getting your argument or your amendment accepted.
I understand the point that the Government Front Bench are making about being born in Scotland. Indeed, a person could have been born in Scotland, left the next day and joined a Scottish regiment after some time. However, I think that "Joining from a Scottish address" is a fairly simple proposition. The military will have all these records. I know many young men and women who joined from their Scottish addresses. Alternatively, if they want to say that such people must have registered at some time, we could have, "Registered on a Scottish register", though I would he less happy about that because some people could join at such an early age that they would never have the opportunity to be registered at their original home address in Scotland or Wales. We could get round the problem if there was a particular determination on the part of Her Majesty's Government to do so, but I distinctly get the impression that they do not understand or sympathise with the argument.
§ Lord Lester of Herne Hill
My Lords, the noble Lord invited me earlier to intervene. There is an aspect to his argument which puzzles me. Can he say whether he accepts that it is objectionable, as the amendment 1259 stands, to seek to draw a distinction between those who are born in Scotland and those who are not? Does he accept that that is objectionable because it is based upon place of birth or ethnicity and that, if one were to differentiate on that basis, it might well involve discrimination in breach of basic British principles, as well as those of international human rights law?
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I have heard the noble Lord speak on a number of occasions about international human rights issues, on which I know he is an acknowledged expert. However, sometimes a little dribble of common sense has to come into such matters. I am not talking about ethnicity; indeed, a person can be born somewhere and not actually be the ethnic of where he or she was born. I am attempting to address an issue which involves servicemen. It is possible that I am wrong about the "born" aspect, because someone could have left the next day. I am not too worried about whether the wording would offend some of the courts in which the noble Lord appears. Indeed, it is much more important to get the matter right so far as concerns people in this country who think that they ought to be able to vote.
I have in mind young men and women who, if they had been posted in Scotland, would perhaps have made a decision to be registered at their home base in Scotland or Wales or indeed may have decided to go back to their old home to be registered. However, when given that choice in England, those young people did not realise the serious significance of what they were doing and what would happen to them this September; namely, that they would find that their colleagues still based in Scotland and Wales would have a vote in the referendum but that they, because they decided to register in Colchester or Chepstow (where they reckoned they would be stationed for some little time) instead of registering in Scotland and Wales, would not.
I must be honest and consistent as I divided your Lordships' House on the question of the overseas voters. Frankly, the Government's case as regards the overseas voters is only marginally better than it is for the servicemen. By and large, the overseas voters have made the decision to go overseas, whereas, although the servicemen made a decision to join up, they made no decision about where they would be based in the UK; indeed, that was decided for them. Therefore, I should like to test the opinion of the House.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 7) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 67; Not-Contents, 99.1261
|Division No. 3|
|Biddulph, L.||Cadman, L.|
|Bledisloe, V.||Campbell of Alloway, L|
|Brentford, V.||Campbell of Croy, L.|
|Brigstocke, B.||Carnegy of Lour, B.|
|Burnham, L.||Chesham, L. [Teller.]|
|Colwyn, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Cox, B.||Milverton, L.|
|Cranborne, V.||Molyneaux of Killead, L.|
|Crickhowell, L.||Monson, L.|
|Cross, V.||Montgomery of Alamein, V|
|Cumberlege, B.||Mountevans, L.|
|Darcy de Knayth, B.||Northesk, E.|
|Dean of Harptree, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Dixon-Smith, L.||Pearson of Rannoch, L.|
|Forbes, L.||Pender, L.|
|Gray, L.||Platt of Writtle, B.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Rees, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Renton, L.|
|Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Rotherwick, L.|
|HolmPatrick, L.||St John of Fawsley, L.|
|Hooper, B.||Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.|
|Kenilworth, L.||Seccombe, B.|
|Lawrence, L.||Sharples, B|
|Leigh, L.||Shaw of Northstead, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Stewartby, L.|
|Lucas, L.||Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]|
|Luke, L.||Taylor of Warwick, L.|
|Lyell, L.||Thomas of Gwydir, L.|
|Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Marlesford, L.||Weatherill, L.|
|Masham of Ilton, B.||Weir, V.|
|Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Wharton, B.|
|Addington, L.||Hoyle, L.|
|Archer of Sandwell, L.||Hughes, L.|
|Ashley of Stoke, L.||Irvine of Lairg, L. [Lord Chancellor.]|
|Barnett, L.||Jay of Paddington, B.|
|Berkeley, L.||Jeger, B.|
|Blackstone, B.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|Blease, L.||Judd, L.|
|Blyth, L.||Kilbracken, L.|
|Borrie, L.||Kirkwood, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Lester of Herne Hill, L.|
|Callaghan of Cardiff, L.||Lestor of Eccles, B.|
|Carlisle, E.||Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Carter, L. [Teller]||McCarthy, L.|
|Chandos, V.||McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.]|
|Clinton-Davis, L.||Mackie of Benshie, L.|
|Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.||McNally, L.|
|Dahrendorf, L.||Mar and Kellie, E.|
|David, B.||Merlyn-Rees, L.|
|Dean of Beswick, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.||Mishcon, L.|
|Desai, L.||Molloy, L.|
|Dixon, L.||Morris of Castle Morris, L.|
|Donoughue, L.||Murray of Epping Forest, L.|
|Dormand of Easington, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Eatwell, L.||Parry, L.|
|Ewing of Kirkford, L.||Perry of Walton, L.|
|Falconer of Thoroton, L.||Plant of Highfield, L.|
|Farrington of Ribbleton, B.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Prys-Davies, L.|
|Gilbert, L.||Ramsay of Cartvale, B.|
|Gould of Potternewton, B.||Rea, L.|
|Graham of Edmonton, L.||Robertson of Oakridge, L.|
|Gregson, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Grenfell, L.||Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.|
|Grey, E.||Russell, E.|
|Hamwee, B.||Sewel, L.|
|Hardie, L.||Simon of Highbury, L.|
|Harris of Greenwich, L.||Smith of Gilmorehill, B.|
|Haskel, L.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Hayman, B.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Hilton of Eggardon. B.||Symons of Vernham Dean, B.|
|Hollis of Heigham, B.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Taylor of Gryfe, L.||Wedderburn of Charlton, L|
|Thomas of Gresford, L.||Whitty, L.|
|Thomas of Walliswood, B.||Williams of Elvel, L.|
|Thurso, V.||Williams of Mostyn, L.|
|Tordoff, L.||Winston, L.|
|Turner of Camden, B.||Young of Dartington, L.|
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ 7.25 p.m.
Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 1, line 13, at end insert
("But an alteration in a register of electors under section 11(1) or (2) or 57 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 (correction of registers and registration appeals) shall not have effect for the purposes of the referendum unless it is made before the start of the period of eleven days ending with the date of the referendum.").
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 9:
Page 1, line 17, leave out ("local government area") and insert ("parliamentary constituency").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a topic that we missed at Committee stage. We can address it quickly. Essentially the counts after the referendums in Scotland and Wales are to be based on local government areas. My amendment seeks to change that to parliamentary constituencies in Scotland, and in Wales to change the criterion from county or county borough to parliamentary constituencies. I propose that in Scotland and Wales the counts should be based on parliamentary constituencies.
§ I understand that in 1975 the original idea as regards the European Union referendum was to have a central count. The reason for that was that the then governing party was a little frightened that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland might deliver different verdicts to England which could be embarrassing. Constituency counts might be even more embarrassing to individual Members of Parliament whose views turned out to be contrary to those of their constituents. Eventually it was decided to base the count on local government areas.
In 1979 the referendums were again based on local government areas in the regions and islands of Scotland and in the counties and county boroughs of Wales. Now the Government propose that the forthcoming referendums should be based on local government areas. It is interesting that the Commission on the Conduct of Referendums stated,
If the practice in general elections is applied to referendums, counting should be organised on a constituency basis. The machinery is well known and there are people already available who have experience of electoral procedure".
However, it also states—I mention this in case the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, is about to quote it—
On the other hand, the precedents of the 1975 and 1979 county-based counting suggest that for political reasons a constituency count may be inappropriate in a nationwide referendum".
I do not believe that a constituency count can ever be inappropriate. After all, we decide parliamentary elections in this country on a constituency count.
I suspect that may change at the next elections to the European Parliament where the proportional representation system will probably remove the constituency base. Frankly, I am not a supporter of that move, but it looks as if the Government wish to move in that direction. No doubt, given their majority in another place, they will succeed in persuading their colleagues to vote for that.
§ I understand the reasons for the precedents of 1975 and 1979. As I said, the 1975 precedent sought to achieve a kind of balance between holding a countrywide count and avoiding the embarrassment of constituency MPs knowing that their constituents' views differed from their own. I have no desire to shield Members of the other place from embarrassment in these matters; indeed, I wish actively to encourage such embarrassment. For that reason I believe that a count based on parliamentary constituencies would be an excellent idea.
§ In the 1979 referendum some parts of the country which clearly voted "No" caused great embarrassment to their sitting Members. That embarrassment will arise at least in certain parts of Scotland—I do not know about Wales—where some of the council areas are small enough to be contained in one constituency. However, at present, thinking on my feet, I can think of few of those. The majority of counts will be across more than one constituency. Constituency representation has served this country well over many decades, indeed centuries. It is the sensible way to do the count. People who operate counts are used to doing so on a constituency basis. I commend my amendment to the Government. I beg to move.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I support Amendment No. 12 with which Amendment No. 9 is grouped. I believe that Amendment No. 12 is more important than Amendment No. 9.
Judging by what happened 18 years ago, the Orcadians and the Shetlanders had no wish to be governed directly by Edinburgh; and the people of the Borders had no wish to be governed indirectly by Glasgow. It is important for the stability of any semi self-governing Scotland, if one comes about, that we know whether the people living at either extremity of Scotland are of a like mind today. Unless Amendment No. 12, or something like it, is accepted, that will not be possible.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, when the Minister replies, perhaps he will clarify a point. If my memory serves me right, last time, in Wales certainly, if the count was not by constituency it was by areas. I remember exactly to what extent Gwynedd voted against the assembly. If I am right, why has the provision been changed?
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, surely a referendum is a measure of the opinion of the entire group, namely the nation. The opinion of the constituent 1263 power of the group does not matter in so far as it contributes towards the totality. The amendment is surely frivolous.
§ Lord Crickhowell
My Lords, I would not have spoken on the amendment, but I am provoked by the last intervention. It is a matter of extreme importance and considerable significance, in particular in a country like Wales where 1.75 million of the population of 2.5 million live in a concentrated area of south-east Wales, to know how the individual constituencies of mid-Wales, west Wales and north Wales voted last time. It was so important that during debate at Committee stage of the Bill a number of noble Lords on the same side of the House as the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, spent a good deal of time commenting on the embarrassment that they felt when their constituents so clearly differed from them on the issue. A number of noble Lords commented that they had voted yes in the campaign and discovered that they did so with no support from their constituents.
We are dealing with parliamentary democracy. On this occasion we are dealing not with a post-legislative but pre-legislative referendum. When a Bill comes before this House with the proposals for government, it is of extraordinary importance to know how different parts of the country voted, their views, and the balance of opinion. It is important that Members of Parliament who will vote on the Bill should know the views of constituents.
Any Member of Parliament is entitled to form a judgment and to vote against the views and wishes of his constituents. However, most Members of Parliament are careful to consider their options if they discover—as occurred last time in Wales—that a majority of four or five to one in their constituency is against them. The Secretary of State of the day was forced to recognise on that occasion that if an elephant appeared in one's back garden one could not fail to recognise it. It is extremely important that if an elephant were to appear in any hack garden on this occasion it should be clearly recognised, and that Members of Parliament in another place should understand how powerful that elephant is and what it is likely to do in trampling the undergrowth if they go against its wishes. I strongly support the amendment.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, the noble Lord may be an elephant trampling over a back garden. He has done it often in his career here. But the other side of the House has consistently confused parliamentary elections and traditions with a referendum, which is quite different. The amendment is frivolous. It was most ably moved by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, with his normal wit and frivolity.
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
My Lords, I wonder whether I can introduce a calming note. I believe that I can give an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, which will meet his legitimate interest. I shall be as brief as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. The purpose is to alter the basis of counting from local government areas to parliamentary constituencies. We have debated at some 1264 length the Government's reasons for choosing the local government register of electors. That is why we believe respectfully that it makes more sense to do the counting in the way we suggest.
However, I can say this. We expect that the returning officers for the referendums will be the same people who are returning officers for parliamentary elections. If the count is done by local government area, the process is actually made simpler; otherwise a returning officer could have to cover several separate counts.
Amendments Nos. 12 and 23 were the objects of questions from the noble Lords, Lord Monson and Lord Stanley of Alderley, and of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. The amendments require that the local results be publicly certified by the chief counting officer at the end of each local count. This is in addition to the national results that he is already required to certify and in addition to the duty on local counting officers to certify the results for their area. We have no intention of suppressing publication of the certificates of the individual counting officers or to prevent them from making a public announcement of the results. The draft Orders in Council clearly envisage local announcements being made.
The results have a limited meaning in isolation—but they have a meaning. I respectfully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. Taken together, they will make up the national result which is ultimately the only decision which determines whether we have a Scottish parliament and a Welsh assembly. There will be understandable local and probable national interest, I agree, in individual local results. We have no intention of preventing that disclosure.
There is no need to require the chief counting officer to certify the local results as well as the national results. There is no practical utility in the effect. The local results will be certified and announced by the local counting officers. To require the same results to be certified again by the chief counting officer is unnecessary and probably inappropriate because he will not have been present at those counts. We would expect that the chief counting officer will publicly report the local results as they become available before announcing and certifying the grand totals. These are to be major events in our constitutional life. We believe that public announcement of local and national results is a part of the process upon which we are embarked.
I hope, therefore, that I have been able to satisfy the concerns, which I readily understand, expressed by the noble Lord. Lord Crickhowell. I hope that my assurances about our thinking and the way in which we imagine things will continue have been satisfactory.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, for confirming and putting on the record that the returning officer responsible for each individual local count will make a public announcement at the end of that count of the result of the referendum in his or her area. That is good and I am delighted about it. I did not think that the Government would propose 1265 otherwise, but it is nice to have it on the record—in case my suspicious mind of earlier today reasserts itself.
I thought that there was an interesting contrast between the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, and my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, admired seeing his country estate on television over the past four days in most magnificent weather.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
If the noble Lord was there in person, even better. He suggests that the referendum is the opinion of the whole nation. His argument would have held more water if this were a post-legislative referendum, if the referendum were mandatory and made the decision of the whole of Scotland and Wales.
There has been much debate about the nature of the referendum and what the result signifies. I suspect that that question will arise again shortly. Time and again we have been told that this is an advisory referendum. Whom will it advise? It will advise Parliament. Do Members of Parliament want the advice to be on the basis of, let us say, Glasgow Members knowing only how the whole of Glasgow voted, whereas the Member for Orkney and Shetland will know exactly how his constituency voted. He will therefore have received direct advice about how his electorate feel and also about how the whole population feel. If the referendum is to be advisory, surely it is an important piece of advice for Members of another place, who have then to decide when and to what extent they will proceed with the Bill.
This is an important point. I am sorry that the Government will not take it further. There will be a great deal of speculation about the result in each constituency, drawn from the result in each area. In some areas it will be fairly easy to reach a decision. Last time, the views of voters in two or three areas of Scotland represented at the time by fervent Liberals, deeply in favour of the referendum, turned out to be totally at variance with the views of their Members of Parliament, much to the embarrassment of those Members. As I said, I am not in the business of stopping Members being embarrassed, and I am sorry that the Government will not accept this modest amendment in order to take the count by parliamentary constituency. However, I accept that the Government have kept their troops here in considerable numbers in order to prevent my winning any further Divisions. Safe in that knowledge, I beg leave to withdraw this one.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 1, line 20, after ("with") insert ("paragraph 11 of Schedule (Conduct of the referendums, &c.) and").
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 11:
Page 2, line 4, at end insert ("and
(c) the proportion of the total eligible electorate represented by the total votes cast for each proposition.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 11 and 22 in my name are to a considerable extent paving amendments for the amendment in the names of my noble friends Lord Stanley of Alderley and Lord Renton.
§ These amendments return briefly to the question related to the point I have just made about the referendum being advisory; namely, how one interprets the results. I said at Second Reading and in Committee—though I do not think the Government believed me so I shall say it again—that, looking at referendums in general and those that are to be held over the next four years and nine months, we ought to address the proposition: how do we judge the result? At the risk of repeating myself, I pose the question only because I have never received a satisfactory answer. If the level of turnout is down to that for a local election on a wet day—30 per cent. to 35 per cent. —even if the proposition wins by a vote or two, is that sufficient? I have never received an answer. I fully accept that in higher (general election) turnouts a simple majority is more than acceptable. In the amendment I put forward I proposed a cut-off point of 60 per cent. As the turnout goes down, we do have to ask how valid the referendum then is as an instrument for changing the constitution or whatever has been the subject of the question.
§ One of the reasons for my two amendments is that I want the returning officer, at the end of the count, in addition to doing all the things just discussed, to announce what was the proportion of the total electorate who voted in favour of each proposition. That allows my noble friends to move their amendment, which I shall not intrude upon other than to say that, although the amendment may well take a broad-brush approach, I hope that they will argue that the Government ought to address this issue.
§ I know that the Government will tell the House that, so far as this referendum goes, they are confident of a large turnout in Scotland. I rather gather that some journalists are beginning to doubt that confidence and say that the Scottish Office is beginning to worry about the turnout. I am sure that the same must be true in Wales, where, according to opinion polls, enthusiasm is markedly less than it is in Scotland. We recall the result in Wales at the last election.
§ It is not just a matter of this referendum. I hope that the Minister in replying will go a little beyond that. If a referendum is held on a mayor for London, on PR or a number of other difficult issues, and if we begin, as I believe we inevitably shall, to have referendums on issues that are more about morality than constitutional matters and in which party politics does not play the same part, the question will have to he addressed as to what constitutes a reasonable majority. That becomes very important in relation to a post-legislative referendum; it is equally important with a pre-legislative referendum.1267
§ I therefore hope that the Government will give some more philosophical thought to the result of referendums in general without feeling that they are in some way weakening their position in relation to the referendum in September over which they appear to be so concerned. I beg to move.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Gresford
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, invites us to consider the matter on principle. In states which have a written constitution such as Australia or New Zealand, there are provisions within that written constitution for a certain proportion to count when a referendum is held. In Australia, for the constitution to be changed, 50 per cent. of the votes are required in a majority of states. In New Zealand it is 60 per cent. of the votes cast to change the written constitution.
In this country, I should have thought that noble Lords who sit on the official Opposition Benches are supporters of the unwritten constitution. The advantages of the unwritten constitution are said to lie in its flexibility. When one examines the way in which the constitution has operated over the years where referendums are concerned, one looks for precedent. The important precedent, the one that effected the greatest constitutional change in this century, was the 1975 EC referendum, when a simple majority sufficed. That is the precedent upon which referenda in this country should be based until we have a written constitution where matters can be formally set out.
The percentages that were written into the Wales and Scotland Bills in 1979 for the purposes of that referendum were not based on principle. They were included not as a matter of government policy but halfway through consideration of the Bill, in order to get it through the Houses considering the Bills at that time. It was not a matter of principle. If we are to retain our belief in a flexible constitution, then we should go by the precedent of the 1975 referendum—namely, a simple majority: one vote is enough.
§ Lord Rees
My Lords, I am sorry to intervene in this debate, but I have been provoked by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. I vividly remember the 1975 referendum. I took a minor role in it myself as a then Member of Parliament. That was a post-legislative referendum. Indeed, it took place about two or three years after a prolonged analysis during the passage of the Bill which led to this country's accession to the European Community.
This referendum is pre-legislative. We are told that it is advisory. In other words, the Government are rather making things up as they go along. I do not believe there is any respectable precedent for this. In this instance the House should therefore not attach any weight to a linkage between this referendum and that undertaken in 1975.
I am led on by the powerful intervention from this Front Bench. I asked a question of the noble Lord speaking for the Government at Committee stage, to which I received no answer. Is the House to understand 1268 that, whatever the size of the majority—if there is a majority—whatever the number of people who turn out to vote, the Government will proceed with a legislative measure to introduce devolution in Scotland and Wales? I am not asking the noble Lord speaking for the Government to say precisely what the figure is; I have altered the question slightly: are we to understand that, whatever the size of the majority, whatever the turnout, the Government will still wish to proceed with their legislation to introduce devolution in Scotland and Wales?
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, as my noble friend said, my Amendment No. 35 is grouped with this amendment and is possibly the substantive one that the noble Lord will wish to destroy when he comes to reply.
The purpose of my amendment is to explain and clarify to the electorate what they will be voting for in the referendum. They may think that when I cast my vote I am voting for or against a Welsh assembly—I trust that your Lordships will forgive me if I refer particularly to Wales as I have little knowledge of Scotland—and that if there is a simple majority for either "Yes" or "No" that is the end of the matter.
As I read the Government's replies in Committee and the replies and remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, on Amendment No. 5 this afternoon, nothing could be further from the truth. In the end—I am sure that the noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—it will be Parliament that makes the final decision. In fact, it will not be Parliament at all which decides but the elective dictatorship that appears not to listen to Parliament. I see no reason to believe that that dictatorship will necessarily listen to the electorate—until, of course, nearer the next election.
Be that as it may, I hope to persuade the Government that my amendment is helpful, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers used to say when we were last in Opposition. The Government Front Bench have the advantage of youth and may not remember that sad but short lived period.
As I said at Second Reading, it would have been much wiser, and certainly more honest, if the Government had chosen to explain the full details of what an assembly might or might not do by holding the referendum after the passing of the Bill. My amendment goes a small way towards warning the electorate that their opinion may possibly not count.
The two amendments are designed to protect the electorate from being misled and deceived; not only that, they will encourage the electorate to vote, contrary to what the noble Lord said. Under subsection (a) of my amendment, if less than 35 per cent. of the electorate vote, regardless of the majority, the vote will be decided in the negative; but under subsection (b) of my amendment, if more than 35 per cent. and less than 50 per cent. of the electorate vote, the matter will be undecided. I have to admit that in the latter case I would have proposed a further referendum after the passing of the devolution Bill, when the full details of the duties of the assembly would have been spelled out. But that was outside the scope of the Long Title. Suffice it to say that 1269 I am sure that the Government would wish to consider the matter carefully and perhaps considerably amend the White Paper should less than 50 per cent. of the electorate vote.
I accept that the Government may not wish to accept my 35 per cent. and 50 per cent. figures, in which case I should like to know what figures they suggest. After all, they are the Government now and must have a minimum figure in mind which they should declare to the electorate. A determination to go ahead with an assembly if less than 35 per cent. of the electorate vote would show a total disregard for the 65 per cent. that are content with the present situation.
I know that the noble Lord, Lord Parry, is going to get upset, but perhaps I may finish so that he can get more upset.
The Government are determined to push through this legislation to their party's political advantage, in that any Welsh assembly will always be dominated by South Wales, a Labour Party stronghold. Pity poor North Wales and Plaid Cymru.
I accept that my amendment does not overrule the Labour Party's promise to decide on a simple majority. However, let me put two extreme cases. If only 10 per cent. of the electorate voted, with 51 per cent. in favour, would the Government really go ahead with a Welsh assembly? If 90 per cent. of the electorate voted, with 51 per cent. in favour, I presume that the Government would consider—as indeed I would—that vote sufficient to proceed with an assembly? There must be a middle, sensible figure which, if they are to be seen to be responsible, the Government should spell out to the electorate before we go to the polls.
In passing, I would have thought that my amendment would appeal to the Liberal Democrat Party, who I understand believe a referendum to be totally unnecessary. Maybe I have misunderstood them.
The fact that I am personally extremely doubtful about a lot of chattering councillors in Cardiff deciding on my future in North Wales is incidental to the amendment. I hope that the Government will give me and the electorate a helpful answer and not say that my amendment is otiose—a horrible word—or that it poses a hypothetical question. Everyone must accept that it is essential to prepare and declare a contingency plan in case something such as I have described happens.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, having lived in Wales all my life and never lived anywhere else, I share some of the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley. I think though that he has gone far into the realms of conjecturing about situations that will never arise.
Those of us who took part in the earlier referendum in respect of an assembly for Wales were massively disappointed with the result. But it was nothing like my personal disappointment with the campaign on which it was based, because it was virtually non-existent. On this occasion we have a well organised campaign already springing up in Wales, even for the "No" vote. The campaign is already under way. It will be well co-ordinated and well staffed, and I am certain that the 1270 result will be a very good turn-out, probably as high as any turn-out in a general election. I see no reason to go into these difficulties. Having been born in south-west Wales, I certainly do not think the noble Lord need be afraid of the citizens to the south.
§ Lord Hooson
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, mentioned that the Liberal Democrats did not regard a referendum on this issue as being necessary. He is absolutely right. However, the Government have undertaken to have one. The reason why I very much doubt the value of referendums is that they are usually the sign of a weak government. This is not a weak government; they had a large vote and have a very large majority. Nevertheless, they had a minority of the vote in the country—44 per cent. of the popular vote, I think. Yet throughout our history one has been sufficient for a majority, as the late Lord Wilson said, and I have never known a Conservative to disagree with that.
The truth is that we take the most vital decisions on the result of an election in which often the majority of the people are against the Government. That has never been an impediment to government in this country. But when there is an issue such as this, thresholds are required. Why? There is not a case for it. If people are not inclined to vote because they are indifferent and do not care, why should they be counted as negative votes? That is the effect of the threshold, however it is dressed up.
It seems to me that there is little justification for that argument. Indeed, I believe that referendums altogether, save in quite exceptional circumstances, are a very bad thing. They are bad for democracy. Anyone who knows the history of the Weimar Republic before Hitler came to power knows how that weak government eventually was slaughtered as a result of their own referendums. Hitler, indeed, used them after he came into power to demonstrate that he had popular support.
However, as we are to have a referendum, I should like to add to what the noble Lord, Lord Stanley, said. He does not need to fear domination by South Wales. As a boy I was brought up in North Wales. I remember very few students—I knew one—who went to Cardiff to study at the university. Cardiff was regarded as a coal centre in Wales. From the moment that it became a capital city, to a large extent it meant that Wales was transformed. From all parts of Wales the percentage of students who now go to the university at Cardiff and the number of schoolchildren who visit the folk museum there and so on are increasing all the time. The noble Lord, Lord Stanley, frowns. But no government have spent sufficiently on communications in Wales. There is a capital in the south and it is time that there was a serious attempt to improve the communications.
That apart, we are not living 40 or 50 years ago but in the modern age. The younger generation are much more in favour of local control over local affairs. This will be the first democratically-elected assembly in Wales in history and that means a great deal.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, I am sorry to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, whom I have known for many years. I like referendums. I was vaguely under the impression that the Greek city states were governed by a series of referenda, as they called them in those days. It seemed to work quite well. I know that the electorate was very limited, but that is not the point.
I shall make three points extremely briefly because I do not wish to disturb my noble friends on the Front Bench who do not want to be kept up all night. First, I can give a certain amount of comfort to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. The whole of this debate has indicated that he is right to say that there ought to be a general law on referendums. It cannot be achieved in time for this set of referendums but I feel that the Government should put their mind to working out a set of arrangements for referendums in the future, of which I sincerely hope we have a great many. I am happy to say that I agree with the noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench, although he probably wants fewer than I do.
My other two points are very simple. There has been a great deal of discussion in our general debates about pre-legislative referendums, as though we had never had a referendum before. There was a referendum on the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, which had nothing whatever to do with legislation and which had entirely to do with opinion. It seems to me that the referendums now proposed have to do with opinion related to self-government or home rule of some kind, however limited it might be. I leave the matter there.
I have raised my last point before in this House and it was mentioned also by the noble Lord, Lord Hooson; namely, the proportion of votes. There is no way in which an abstentionist should be counted. If he abstains, he has resigned from the competition. He is not in it. He has totally abstained—he is TT, so to speak. He does not count at all. He has taken himself out of the argument and therefore has resigned. Since he has resigned, he can and ought to be forgotten. There is no point in trifling. One can only count those who have voted.
§ Lord Stanley of Alderley
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord is speaking on behalf of the Scots. I do not feel that he understands the Welsh character.
§ Lord Sewel
My Lords, I shall deal first with Amendments Nos. 11 and 22 tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. I admit that when I first saw the amendments I had to start thinking about their purpose. I came to the conclusion that it was exactly the purpose explained to us by the noble Lord; that is to say, they are Trojan horses. They are just there to let through the threshold amendment that follows. I should have realised that such a distinguished mathematician as the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, did not 1272 need to have the counting officer use his own calculator to come up with the figures on turn-out and that it was not some kind of academic treatise for which the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, wanted the data. It was, in fact—let us be generous—a slightly more Machiavellian purpose that he had in mind.
But the amendments highlight one issue: the importance of distinguishing between turn-out and the eligible electorate. Turn-out is generally taken to be those voting as a proportion of those on the electoral register, which is a familiar concept. The eligible electorate is a little different, which, if we pause and reflect for a moment, becomes absolutely clear. On the register there are names of people who have died, people who have not reached voting age by the time the event takes place and some people who are registered twice but only have the right to vote once. Also, in this context and particularly in parts of Scotland, it is important to remember that there are those whose religious beliefs prevent them from voting. So, the eligible electorate is a slightly difficult animal to define. If we use proportions in terms of the eligible electorate, we get into very deep and complicated waters, if deep waters can be complicated.
Amendment No. 35 takes me back to Committee stage and the debate on thresholds, when we heard about the tartan sliding scale of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. I forget how many arbitrary cut-off points the scale had but there were quite a number. The argument was advanced that it was a sophisticated, fair and reasonable way forward. But it was not fair, reasonable and a way forward that appealed to us; nor would it appeal to the people of Scotland and Wales. Now the noble Lords, Lord Stanley of Alderley and Lord Renton, have produced their own thresholds. The dark ages have dawned again. Rather than making progress in the sophistication of thresholds, there is a very crude approach which states that there has to be a 50 per cent. vote before the measure is passed; and if between 35 per cent. and 50 per cent. of the eligible electorate vote, the matter should be undecided. That is a novel idea in itself. If under 35 per cent. of the eligible electorate—however defined—vote, it falls.
Let us pause for a moment and think what the proposition was that was put before the people in the general election. The manifesto upon which the Government secured their majority; the manifesto that secured an overwhelming majority in both Scotland and Wales, put the simple proposition that the people endorsed as follows:A simple majority of those voting in each referendum will he the majority required".That is absolutely plain; absolutely straightforward; it is understandable, simple and democratic. That is the way we should proceed. We put our proposals to the people in Scotland and Wales. We invite them to make a judgment. We count the votes. If there is a majority in favour, then the proposition is carried. If there is not a 1273 majority of those voting in favour, then the proposition is defeated. We are not going to have this matter settled by those who remain on their backsides.
§ Lord Rees
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, he may recall that I posed this same question both during Committee stage and this evening. With his habitual courtesy I have no doubt that he will wish to answer it. Will he say simply that whatever the size of the majority, whatever the size of the turnout in Scotland and Wales, if there is a "yes" vote the Government will proceed with devolution legislation?
§ Lord Sewel
My Lords, I thought I had made the Government's position clear by reading out the passage from the manifesto where it says,A simple majority of those voting".Indeed, in this case, in terms of the Government's position, one is enough.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, to sum it up, the Government do not care what the turn-out is. It is not something that bothers them one way or the other. I am sorry that we have not been able to tempt government Ministers away from their narrow briefs into a wider consideration of the question I posed. Not only in relation to this referendum—I accept what is in the Government's manifesto, I have heard it often enough—but also in relation to other referendums, it would be interesting to hear what noble Lords felt about the general proposition in regard to turn-outs and majorities.
I was happy to hear the noble Lord, Lord Howie of Troon, recruited to my view that we need a generic referendum Bill. That is one of the questions which may or may not be addressed in a generic referendum Bill.
§ Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that I have no intention of even beginning it tonight.
The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, asked why fresh rules were required. I commend him to the Marshalled List and to the amendments tabled by the Government. He will there see detailed rules, and they are required because a referendum is quite a new animal. It does not have any legislative provision. It therefore has to ride piggyback, so to speak, on the Representation of the People Act, which is designed for parliamentary and local elections.
If the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, does not see that there is a huge difference between a referendum, which is a one-off question with a one-off answer, and a parliamentary or local government election, where people are electing a government or a local authority to deal across a whole range of issues, then nothing I can say tonight will ever manage to persuade him of that difference. It is self-evident to me that there is a huge difference.
1274 However, that is not the proposition, though it is related to it. It is because it is different that we ought to address the problem. I am sorry that government Ministers have not even begun to turn their attention to the wider question: if we are to have lots of referendums, what are we going to do—if anything—about turn-out and majority? I have said to the Government before that, if we have lots of referendums and we come to one where there is a low turn-out and only a bare majority of a couple of people, should the Government then say, "We are going to ignore it because people do not feel strongly about it", they will have real trouble from the people who thought that they had won. I remind the noble Lord of all the people who thought that they had won in 1979. They have borne it girning in their souls ever since; ad nauseam, despite the fact that they made the rules. They were the people who told the people of Scotland, "If you want to vote no, you do not have to bother turning out". I gave them an answer to that in my formula. If a formula had been accepted rather than a table, we would have got rid of the cliff edges.
Clearly we are not going to make progress on this matter. I am sorry that the attempts of my noble friends Lord Stanley and Lord Rees failed to persuade the Government to address this proposition in general terms. Does any old turn-out count? Clearly, any old turn-out counts. If only 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. of the people of Wales turn out, the Government will be happy with that.
I will only say that those of us who want a resounding "No" for Scotland and Wales will redouble our efforts to make sure that people realise the significance of their votes and what damage may be done to both our countries. We are not going to make any more progress on this point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 12 not moved.]
Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 13:
Page 2, line 5. at end insert—
("() An order under this section shall be made by statutory instrument.").
§ Clause 2 [Referendum in Wales]:
Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 2, line 6, leave out ("Her Majesty may by Order in Council") and insert ("the Secretary of State may by order").
§ [Amendment No. 15 not moved.]
§ Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton
My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.