Matthew Dancona

Lest we forget | 12 March 2008

Lest we forget | 12 March 2008
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Lest we forget: in the midst of today’s Budget-mania, pause and consider that the Lisbon Treaty, a sweeping package of reforms to our relationship with the EU, cleared the Commons without a hitch last night. So much for Tony Blair’s promise in April 2004 to mount a definitive national debate on the original EU Constitutional Treaty (of which the present Treaty is a shame-faced near-replica). "Let the issue be put and let the battle be joined!" declared Blair in the Commons. Well, that pledge of a referendum was dumped on the spurious grounds that the new text is not “constitutional” – and so there will be no battle to join. This is how the argument ends: not with a bang, but a whimper.

As I argued in The Sunday Telegraph at the weekend, it is a monstrous breach of trust. But – as our editorial in the March 8 issue of the Spectator says – there is still an opportunity for the Lords to act as the conscience of the nation and turn the Salisbury Convention on its head. By tradition, the Upper House does not reject a manifesto Bill at second reading, nor introduce a wrecking amendment to such Bills. In this case, the Lords have a moral responsibility to compel the Commons to enact the manifesto pledges its members were elected to implement. My conversations with peers in the past few days suggest that they are attracted by the idea – not least because it would dramatise the new assertiveness of the House of Lords – but that there is not yet a critical mass of support for such a measure. Time to apply some pressure, I reckon. What do Coffee Housers think?