Lib Dems vs Brexit: Roger Roberts says young people must have a say

Last year, Roger was on the front page of the Daily Mail for upsetting the Brexiteers.

Now, the octogenarian Liberal Democrat had two of the most prominent Tory Brexiteers in the Lords intervene on him in his speech.

My Lords, those who argue for this deal say that the people have voted and that we must honour that. The people voted two and a half years ago, when they were a different constituency. Many of them have now departed and millions more are now eligible to vote. Therefore, we are disregarding the views and the future of many of these young people. Not only that but we are withdrawing from the European Union, which means that we are withdrawing their European citizenship. These young people were born into European citizenship.

Lord Lilley (Con)

Does the noble Lord intend to have a referendum every two and a half years?

Lord Roberts of Llandudno

That is not my intention, of course, but I shall mention something in a moment that might go in that direction. As I said, we are denying young people their voice in this issue. People change their minds. Even Prime Ministers can change their minds. The Commons were to have a vote in December; now they will have a vote in January. If the people are not allowed to change their minds but the Prime Minister and parliamentarians are, we are denying a democratic right to the people.

We know all about referenda in Wales. In 1979 we voted against having a Parliament for Wales—900,000 people voted no and about 200,000 people voted yes—yet we now have a Parliament. Why is that when the people voted against it? It is because in 1987 we had another vote and the people changed their minds. People are allowed to change their minds. The same thing happened in Scotland. People reflect the era and the thinking that they are part of. To deny them the right to change their minds is to make them fossils. Therefore, we really have to think about whether we are reflecting the views of the people today or those of the people of yesterday.

Noble Lords will be glad to hear that I will not keep them for long. We have had other votes in Wales. We voted against opening pubs on Sundays. In, I think, 1891 we had a licensing Act that closed the pubs on Sundays and it was another 70 years before, in 1961, we had the Licensing Act that gave local authorities the right to open the pubs in their area on a Sunday. I remember it well. I was in the Llŷn Peninsula, and being a Methodist minister I knew which side I was going to battle for. Most local authorities in Wales said, “Yes, let’s keep Wales dry”, yet between 1961 or 1962 and 1990 all the pubs in Wales opened on a Sunday, although the people had voted for that not to happen. During that time, we had six ballots. Here, we are asking for two but in those six ballots the Sunday opening campaign was squeezed forward. I was in the studio when the count came in from Carmarthen. We thought, “Oh gosh”, but these things happen—people change their minds. Only one local authority claimed to keep Sunday dry and that was Dwyfor on the Llŷn ​Peninsula. The only reason that pubs there started to open on Sundays was that the local government boundaries changed.

Therefore, people change their minds. Are noble Lords going to say that people are not allowed to do that? Are they going to say, “No, we’re going to be as we were. We’ll go ahead with slavery and women won’t have the vote”? People change their minds and we as a Parliament should be ready to reflect that change. That is why we need another opportunity, following which we will be able to say, “Yes, the people of 2019 have decided”. I hope very much that when the vote takes place in this House on Monday, we will be able to reflect the need for an opportunity for the young people who were disfranchised last time to cast their votes.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean

The noble Lord talked about people changing their minds about a Welsh Assembly, where the vote was very narrow—just over and just below 50%. The young people did not have a chance to vote on that, so, following his logic, shall we have another vote on the existence of the Welsh Assembly?

Lord Roberts of Llandudno

If the noble Lord wants to organise another vote, he should do it.

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  • The Tories have destroyed the hopes of young people with this disgusting Brexit, and their hyper nationalism. Labour will destroy the hopes of young people with their regressive socialism and support for Brexit.

    When I see young people, they reject the ethos of both parties pretty much universally. They do not identify with the faith, flag or forces and rampant nationalism put forward by the Tories and far right. They also do not identify with 70s Leninism and trade union militancy of the far left, and are supportive of privately provided public services.

    There is no demand for pomp and ceremony, nor beer and sandwiches. Fortunately we are offering neither.

  • @ Stimpson – neither, when I last checked, are we offering your prescription of “privately provided public services”! Whilst our party is a home for all strands of “liberalism”, unless I misunderstand your position from your various previous comments on LDV, you seem to be an ideological libertarian and disciple of unregulated free markets rather than a “mainstream” Lib Dem in the broad Social Liberal tradition.

  • Support for free markets and private delivery of public services does not mean opposition to regulation. Nick Clegg or Vince Cable never argued for state ownership and state delivery of public services, and strongly supported (correctly) privatisation and outsourcing as the best way of providing services. It does not mean individual corporations or for that matter charities should be exempt from regulation or inspections and so forth. If Capita or G4S or whoever are as terrible as the far left say, then the regulators can punish them.

    I am strongly socially liberal, strongly pro EU and strongly pro immigration. That is why the Lib Dems appeal. The extremist parties which form the government and opposition are resurrecting the ghosts of Enoch Powell and Tony Benn have no place in modern society.

  • Thank you for that clarification, Stimpson. At least, it seems, that you’re not opposed to all regulation – but your doctrinaire devotion to “privatisation and outsourcing as the best way of delivering [public] services” is IMO an ideological aberration.
    As a largely pragmatic party which believes in evidence led policy, many Lib Dems may be attracted … on a strictly case by case basis … by limited market solutions to public service provision where these can be shown to work in helping to deliver wider social objectives … although these are not the universal panacea which you seem to imagine.
    However, this is all a diversion from the original article and, rather than engage in further exchanges, I now hope to be able to watch the remaining EU Withdrawal Agreement Debate on BBC Parliament!

  • Suzanne Fletcher 16th Jan '19 - 9:12am

    “people not fossils”

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