Monday, 15 February 2010

Constitutional Reform

On Friday, February 5, the House of Lords debated Lord Willoughby de Broke's Constitutional Reform Bill. At the Second Reading (when the House traditionally does not divide), the Bill was committed to the Committee of the Whole House. No date has been set yet.

Lord Pearson's speech was in support of the Bill's "two most radical proposals are that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union and that the British people should be granted the power to hold binding referendums at national and local level".
The people have not yet understood that process, by which most of their national law is now made in Brussels and imposed on them here. Their political class, which includes the BBC of course, has done a brilliant job by simply refusing to reveal how the EU's legislative process makes our law. I have said it before in your Lordships' House, and I will go on saying it until the frightening truth reaches our people. EU laws are proposed in secret by the unelected bureaucracy, the European Commission. Those laws are then negotiated, still in secret, in a shadowy body called COREPER, the Committee of Permanent Representatives, consisting of bureaucrats from the nation states. They then go to the Council of Ministers from the nation states, where the UK has some 8 per cent of the votes, and to the European Parliament for final decision. The European Parliament, to which we elect MEPs, cannot propose EU legislation; it can only delay it. Of course, it does not do much of that because it does not want to derail its famous gravy train. Again, all our UK MEPs put together have only some 8 per cent of the votes in a process that now makes most of our law. So the European Parliament is a democratic sham, and was designed to be so by the founders of the project of European integration.

It is safe to say yet again that our membership of the European Union has removed our democracy; it has taken away the right of the British people to elect and dismiss those who make their laws. Our system of representative parliamentary democracy, for which millions have died over hundreds of years, has been frittered away. It no longer serves the people. That is why the time has come to give power back to the people. They deserve it anyway; it is their power and it belongs to them. Before long their anger will overflow if they do not get it back.
There is more in the speech along those lines.

There were other interventions, particularly when the Minister, Lord Tunnicliffe, said in his response:
First, and perhaps least surprisingly given the noble Lord's membership of the United Kingdom Independence Party, Clause 1 would withdraw the United Kingdom from the European Union. The Government believe that our membership of the European Union has brought real benefits to the United Kingdom through jobs, peace and security. Through our membership, we belong to the world's biggest trading bloc. Over half of the United Kingdom's trade is within the EU, with an estimated 3.5 million British jobs linked to it. Our membership allows us to live, work and travel across Europe.
These appear to be the best arguments the europhiliacs can produce and every single one of them can be destroyed with very little effort. Lord Pearson asked:
I wonder if the noble Lord could explain how leaving the political construct of the European Union and continuing in free trade with our friends in Europe would have any effect on jobs whatsoever.
Lord Tunnicliffe seemed unable to respond:
My Lords, I do not think that it would be sensible to stray into an answer that would last for several hours. The realities of living within the European Union and the value it brings to the citizens of this country are self-evident to most of us, as are the mechanisms.
It seems likely that what is self-evident to the political classes will no longer appear to be so to the people who cast those votes.


  1. We are always being fed these stories that the average man in the street is "benefitting" from EU membership. I have yet to meet anyone who agrees. This word "benefits" has been bandied about so much it is becoming a much-hated one. I dont travel abroad, can't afford to; I do not have a job that sucks the EU-teat because I am effectively self-employed; and I derive no benefits whatsoever from this cosy, "heart-warming" scenario of being an EU "citizen". It means nothing to me and nothing to most UK anti-EU people. The "benefits" are solely for the EU quangos and that's the limit of their vision....their own pockets.

  2. I agree with much of this bill but have serious reservations on Section 6.2 which states

    "Each subsequent parliamentary general election is to take place on the first
    Thursday in May in the fifth year after the previous parliamentary general

    I would suggest that 5 year terms are far too long in this age. We have seen the disastrous consequences of the present parliament which will run to it's full term of 5 years. In my view the parliament needs to be accountable to the people more frequently. My preference would be for fixed 3 year terms or 4 years at the absolute maximum.

    The Australian parliament House seems to manage very well with 3 year terms and just 150 members. With our larger population I think a reduced number of MPs to 250 is just about right.

    On reform of the House of Lords I agree that there must be reform and although this is a complicated matter I disagree with abolition, unless it is replaced by a more powerful chamber. Again the Australian Senate is a good example of the type of system we could implement. In particular I think that the following, taken from the Australian Parliamentary Education site would have served us well over the past few years.

    "The modern Senate is a very powerful Chamber. Bills cannot become law unless they are agreed to in the same terms by each House, except in the rare circumstances of a double dissolution followed by a joint sitting of both the houses".

    Of course the Australian Senate is fully elected and this would need to be discussed very fully before being put to the people as it must if there is to be change. Again this is what happens in Australia.

    "Changes to the Constitution involve action by Parliament and the people. Both Houses of Parliament must agree on a proposed change, or if agreement cannot be reached, the Governor-General can present a proposal to the people. For a proposal to succeed, it must be favoured by a majority of voters in a majority of the states, and by a majority of voters overall".

    Finally the practice of having referenda is well established in Australia and I am pleased that UKIP has binding local referenda as a policy. Sorry to quote Australia yet again but an example of how this works was the issue of daylight saving in Western Australia. The state parliament passed a bill that gave rise to a 3 year experiment after which a referendum had to be held. The experiment ended last year, the referendum was held and the voters rejected the proposal to make the experiment permanent. Real democracy in action.