Friday, 4 November 2016

Government is ignoring its own policy on Parliament and referendums

Letter to The Times:

Your distinguished Parliamentarians, Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC, and MPs Labour BREXIT spokesman Sir Keir Starmer QC, and former Conservative minister and barrister, Anna Soubry, ( along with your leader “Election  Fear”  (Nov 4)(  all make important points about the High Court decision directing Parliament to have its appropriate say over the nature of Brexit following the referendum.

But none makes reference to possibly the most relevant text, a clear statement by Government on Parliament’s role. This may be found in the ‘Government Response to 'Referendums in the United Kingdom; comprising a report by the House of Lords Constitutional Affairs Committee report  (HL Paper 99), published on 30 September 2010, replying to the committee report issued on  7 April that year.

In a letter to the Committee, the then responsible Conservative minister, Mark Harper MP, wrote:

“I welcome the report … and, given the profile and importance of the subject, the Government has considered its response carefully in light of the recent introduction of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill.”

In its substantive reponse to recommendations theGovernment asserted: “Under the UK’s constitutional arrangements Parliament must be responsible for deciding whether or not to take action in response to a referendum result.”

HOUSE OF LORDS Select Committee on the Constitution 4th Report of Session 2010–11 Government response to the report on Referendums in the United Kingdom

Yet the Downing Street response to the High Court judgment was to say:” The government is disappointed by the court’s judgment. The country voted to leave the European Union in a referendum approved by act of parliament. And the government is determined to respect the result of the referendum. We will appeal this judgment.”

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