The Lords must halt this unconstitutional Bill
If the Lords don’t push for a referendum, they deserve to be abolished, says Daniel Hannan MEP
The chief function of a second chamber is to temper hasty or ill-drafted legislation. The House of Lords, like all upper houses, is there to give pause for thought, to act as a check on Bills that have emerged out of shoddy partisan calculation.
Peers now have a textbook opportunity to discharge their primary responsibility. The European Union (Amendment) Bill has just received its third reading in the Commons. It provides for the ratification of the European Constitution, now called the Lisbon Treaty, without a referendum. It is an unambiguous case for amendment in the upper house.
The Bill ticks every box. In the Commons, it violated the convention that constitutional measures should not be subject to time limitation. As the treaty had only just been issued in English, no MP could possibly have read it all the way through.
The manifestos of all three parties promised a referendum. Such a referendum is, moreover, plainly the will of the British electorate. In a ballot invigilated by the Electoral Reform Society, people in ten constituencies voted by 88 per cent, on high turnouts, for a national plebiscite.
Here is a perfect opportunity for the Lords to vindicate its anomalous position. On paper, the upper house as presently constituted is indefensible. The appointments system favours the elevation of lifelong quangocrats and careerists - hardly the sort likely to defy the Establishment.
Once or twice, their lordships have shown themselves to be surprisingly independent, notably their opposition to the Government's more illiberal anti-terrorist measures.
But the defining test comes now. Vote to let the people decide, and the Lords will justify its role as a house of legislators. Deny the voters their say and it will only confirm the British public's suspicion that it's full, after all, of nothing but toadies and parasites. ·
Comments are now closed on this article