Yesterday the EU Bill came before the House of Lords (Committee - 5th day) and eventually began at 20:05 hours. This was promptly challenged by Lord Stoddart of Swindon in an excellent excoriating comment in which he pointed out that 1 hour 55 minutes was hardly a day and that the time allowed was insufficient to debate far-reaching matters of constitutional importance.
The Hansard account, link above, is well worth reading if only to see how supposedly learned parliamentarians consider it their right to decide on what the people should be allowed to vote and under what type of constitution they should live.
Lord Liddle does appear to have a problem in understanding what constitutes a loss of power and in answer to Lord Pearson of Rannoch - who pointed out that Liddle seemed to be saying that referendums should be held only on really important issues, such as whether we join the euro and asked whether he therefore agreed that we should hold a referendum on something even more important: whether we stayed in the European Union at all - Liddle's reply contained this:
"We all know the noble Lord's views on this matter. The experience of the 1975 referendum was that it did not resolve the issue of whether we stayed in the European Union. We won a yes vote, but it did not resolve the fundamental issue. However, on issues such as the euro, there is a fundamental constitutional principle at stake, and it is right to have a referendum, so there are circumstances in which referenda are the right thing to do."
If membership of the European Union is an unresolved fundamental issue, one that is of constitutional importance in that it concerns the right of this country to govern itself and thereby decide the laws that affect it; then surely it is of equal status as that same fundamental constitutional principal is at stake.
It was also interesting that the subject of Parliamentary scrutiny arose, to which both Houses of Parliament spend time attempting to convince themselves that it is something they still possess and that it encapsulates the ability to change any EU directive and regulation. As Lord Pearson of Rannoch pointed out, in the years from 2004 to 2010 inclusive, the scrutiny reserve had been overridden no fewer than 347 times in the House of Lords and 364 times in the House of Commons. Those figures, apart from being almost unbelievable, show that parliamentary scrutiny is worth squat-diddly in the process of European legislation.
I referred above to Parliamentarians believing they have the right to decide on what aspects of freedom the people should be allowed and in an earlier debate in the House of Lords on Fixed Term Parliaments, a section of Lord Higgin's speech is worthy of repitition - although not for reasons he may wish:
"Throughout the whole of my parliamentary career in another place I had a passionate feeling that Edmund Burke was right-that Members of Parliament were representatives not delegates-and that there was a danger that the use of a referendum could undermine that basic principle. [.....] None the less, if there is any contemplation of future referendums, it is very important to write in provisions both in regard to turnout and majority, and that it ought not to be mandatory in the sense that after the result has been declared it does not come back to Parliament. It is very important that that should be so. [...] I always explained to my constituents that I was not concerned with what a majority of them might think. I would take account what a majority of them thought but would then take into account the debates which took place in the House of Commons and various other arguments I might hear. Constitutional issue or not, it is still the case that one needs to take other matters into account and not only what a simple majority of the population believes." (my emphasis)Methinks Higgins needs to refer to the Concise Oxford dictionary which defines "representative" as: "the agent of a person or society" and "a delegate, a substitute". The fact that Higgins, as a member of the House of Commons, was not concerned with what the majority of his constitutents thought - a view which many of the present incumbents of that place also seem to believe - demonstrates exactly why I continue to refer to our present system of democracy as one of democratised dictatorship. On that question it must surely be remembered - and cannot therefore be that surprising - that scum always rises to the top.
Whilst also agreeing with Lords Pearson and Stoddart on the need for a referendum, I can but link to my earlier post and question this apparent headlong rush for holding a referendum on the In/Out question of European Membership. That particular post, which also appeared on Orphans of Liberty, much to my surprise did not provoke the debate for which I had hoped. As long as we have Parliamentarians who believe they can impose conditions on any referendum and that they have the right to ignore the peoples views in such referendums, the headlong dash for one on European Union membrship is surely doomed to fail. It is worth linking to a post on Anna Raccoon's blog, by SadButMadLad, as a very valid point is made:
"But it’s not outside the realms of possibilities for those in charge to decide that the population is not voting the way they it should be for the benefit of the country."I believe the debate in the House of Lords shows that those in charge have begun the process to remedy the deficit in the system they impose and which I call democratised dictatorship!
Update: This, from the Lord's Hansard, is also worthy of being read as it shows yet more 'democratised dictatorship' on the part of some Parliamentarians who argue against an amendment (20a) proposed by Lord Stoddart.