We shall no doubt be told that there is no need for a referendum because all three parties supported Maastricht at the general election in April last year. But that, of course, is precisely why we should have one. The issue was never properly discussed. In any case, elections turn on a host of other matters such as Mr. Major's soap-box or the war of "Jennifer's ear". One can never, or hardly ever, have a single issue election. Nor, in general, would one wish to have such an election. However, there are single issues of such importance that they deserve to be put not only to Parliament, which is elected on a multitude of issues, but to the people as a whole. That particularly applies to major constitutional changes which are in effect irreversible. I am not saying that irreversible changes should never be made. I am simply saying that they should not be made without the express agreement of the nation.
We shall no doubt be told that the issues are too complicated and difficult to be put to the public and that they will not be able to understand what it is all about. If a referendum on Maastricht can be held in Eire, Denmark and France without any complaints that it was too obscurely worded or that people did not know what they were voting for, surely it cannot be beyond the wit of a British Government to achieve the same.
During the discussion about the Statement on Maastricht on Monday in your Lordships' House it is recorded at col. 928 of Hansard that my noble friends Lord Harmar-Nicholls and Lady Chalker both said it would be desirable for noble Lords to be adult and sensible in considering this matter. Ought not the Government to recognise that the British public by and large are adult and sensible and are perfectly capable of making up their own minds in a coherent fashion on the subject of Maastricht?
House of Lords, 17 February 1993
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