Conservative Diary

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The Referendum Lock is good but not good enough

By Tim Montgomerie

Foreign Office Ministers David Lidington (Conservative) and Jeremy Browne (Liberal Democrat) have written to their colleagues in Parliament this afternoon, setting out how the Coalition's Referendum Lock will work. Download a PDF of their letter.

The Lock is a good thing but a limited thing. It signals that the people should decide if powers are transferred to Europe. That's an important principle. Although no parliament can bind its successor the Lock will also make it harder for major transfers of power to be ceded without a fuss.

It is, however, a limited Lock. It does nothing to protect us against ECHR judgments, for example, on votes for prisoners. In addition, in six short months the Coalition has already given significant concessions to the EU...

Yesterday I asked a senior Conservative if Britain had ceded powers to Brussels. The list above was in my mind. "No" was the response. And that's the problem. It will be ministers who will decide if the Referendum Lock needs to be activated. Although it will be acitvated when transfers are undeniably large I do not believe it will stop the continuing draining of colour from the Union flag.

We now have an independent Office of Budget Responsibility to police progress on fiscal policy. Perhaps we need an Office of Sovereignty that will present reports to parliament, monitoring transfers of competence? Chaired by Douglas Carswell obviously.


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