Wednesday, 15 May 2013

At Westminster, Henry VIII is alive and kicking !

Today it is reported that the 'Eurozone' continues to be in recession - (The Guardian 15th May).  Yesterday, a DRAFT European Union (Referendum) Bill  was published on behalf of the Conservative Party - BBC 14th May.

The Bill provides for a referendum on EU membership to be held on any date up to 31st December 2017.  The referendum would be triggered by an Order made by the Secretary of State though there is a requirement for the Order to be 'laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.'

Clause 3(3) enables the Order to modify or amend 'this Act or another enactment.'  Henry VIII is alive and kicking - (see views of Lord Judge CJ - Henry VIII clauses).  Clause 3 reads:

Conduct of the referendum and further provisions

(1) The Secretary of State shall by order provide for the rules in accordance with which the referendum is to be conducted. 
(2) The Secretary of State may by order make further provisions about the referendum.
(3) An order under this section may make provision modifying or amending this Act or another enactment. 
(4) An order under this section may not be made unless a draft of the order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

The Bill has been introduced at this time for party political reasons with 'Eurosceptic' MPs worried about the success of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the recent local government elections.  The Eurosceptics are annoyed that a referendum Bill was not included in the recent Queen's Speech.  For more of the political detail see, for example, The Guardian and for details of Britain's financial contribution to the EU - see Budget Information

The draft legislation has been published by the Conservatives so that it can be brought to the Commons for debate by one of the party's backbench MPs in the form of a private member's bill, rather than one sponsored by the government.

It will be interesting to watch the political shenanigans over this matter.  Of course, even if the Bill eventually becomes law, it will not bind the next Parliament since it is a basic principle in Constitutional Law that 'Parliament may not bind its successors' - see Public Law for Everyone

Addendum 16th May:

The Guardian - Cameron snubbed by 114 Tory MPs over absence of EU poll in Queen's Speech 

BBC - EU Referendum: Tory MP will take forward bill


  1. The Bill was published by the Conservatives, not by the government. I think that's an important distinction.

    1. Thanks for that - you are right and I have amended the post accordingly. I see that a backbencher is picking up the Bill as a private member's bill. Will, at least, ensure a debate on the matter.