On Monday the subject came up because Lord Grocott asked:
Her Majesty's Government what criteria are used to determine whether or not a constitutional change should be submitted to a referendum.HMG in the person of Lord McNally replied:
My Lords, the Government believe that Parliament should judge which issues are the subject of a national referendum.Oh goody. There's a fine body of men and women on whose judgement we can rely. Just have a look at Lord McNally's political career (more here).
The rest of the debate took the form of not very friendly questions about the House of Lords reform and whether that would be put to a referendum vote (stonewalled by the noble Minister) and some other issues such as this one, asked by Lord Pearson:
Why is it right to have a referendum on the voting system, about which the British people appear to be somewhat indifferent, and not right to have a referendum, which was promised to the British people by the Prime Minister who gave a cast-iron guarantee and about which the leader of the Liberal Democrats walked out of the House of Commons when that referendum was not granted; it was in the Liberal Democrat manifesto-in other words, the referendum on whether we want to stay in the European Union or leave it? How can it be right to have the first without the second?And the answer? Well, you might have guessed - quite a lot of waffle.
It is a very interesting question. When the Constitution Committee looked at this matter, one of its recommendations was that, if ever we came to the point of a proposal to leave the EU, it would be a matter for a referendum. What happened with the Lisbon treaty, as with all other treaties since the referendum which endorsed our membership, is that it went through the parliamentary process.You know you can rely on the politicians we, the people of this country, elected in a free and fair election of the kind the majority of the world can look at longingly.