Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Anne Main, MP for St Albans, and Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, have today issued a joint statement on the vote taken last week for a referendum on the EU Treaty.

    Anne and Peter said:

    “We both voted for a referendum on the EU Treaty in accordance with our promises to our electors. But Wednesday 5th March was a black day for Parliament and for democracy.

    Some 300 MPs elected on a clear manifesto pledge to give their electors the final say in a referendum on the European Constitution broke that pledge and voted against a referendum on the European Reform Treaty implementing the substance of the European Constitution. In so doing they bring contempt not only on themselves but on Parliament and the democratic process.

    We pay tribute to those honourable MPs – a quarter of Lib Dems and some 30 Labour members – who defied their leaders’ threats to take away their posts and even expel them from their party if they kept their solemn promise to their electors. Such a threat is without precedent in the history of our democracy.

    The decision of Nick Clegg to order his party to abstain on whether or not to keep their promise was particularly contemptible.

    Neither Brown nor Clegg can claim the Lisbon European Reform Treaty does not contain the substance of the Constitution. The author of that constitution, Giscard d’Estaing, says it is substantially the same; so do the prime ministers of Belgium, Spain, Italy, Ireland and most other countries. Why should they be lying?

    Moreover, Parliament’s all party European Scrutiny Committee, which has a Labour majority, compared the two and reported:

    “Taken as a whole the Reform Treaty produces a general framework which is substantially equivalent to the Constitutional Treaty. Even with the ‘opt-in’ provisions on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and the protocol on the Charter, we are not convinced that the same conclusion does not apply to the position of the UK under the Reform Treaty.”

    Some cosmetic changes were made to the Constitution following its defeat in the French and Dutch referendums. But they cannot absolve Labour or LibDems from their promises. Tony Blair told us “We don’t know what is going to happen in France, but we will have a referendum on the constitution in any event and that is a promise.” And Nick Clegg moved a motion that: “Any proposals which involve significant change in the relationship between the Union, the Member States and its citizens should be approved in Britain by a referendum”.

    Arguments about whether this Reform Treaty is more or less significant than previous treaties cannot override the pledge all parties made to give voters a referendum on this Treaty.

    However, there is little dispute that this Treaty is of great significance: it will establish a permanent President and Foreign Minister; it will abolish more vetoes than any previous reforming treaty; and it will give Europe more say over Defence as well as Immigration, Asylum and Border Controls even though Parliament has not been allowed to debate a single line, clause or amendment relating to these issues.

    We profoundly hope that the Lords will force the House of Commons to think again so that MPs of all parties will have a chance to restore public faith in their integrity and that of the political process by reversing Wednesday’s shameful decision.”