Tory leader's 1991 view

IN 1991, John Major said that he was opposed to referendums on the Maastricht summit and a European single currency.

The answer, quoted by Downing Street yesterday, may come to haunt him.

Referendums on both issues were urged on Mr Major by a Tory backbench MP on 21 November that year, during Prime Minister's questions. Mr Major said: 'The answer to your question in both cases is no. The Government do not intend to hold a referendum on the outcome of the Maastricht negotiations. There is no case for one and the Government will not offer one. On the second part your question (a referendum on a single currency), that issue would, self-evidently, be a matter for a future Parliament, but my view remains that we are a parliamentary democracy and I see no need for a referendum.'

The Prime Minister reinforced his opposition to referendums on 29 June 1992. 'It has traditionally been the position of the Conservative Party that we do not accept referendums. That was our position when Lady Thatcher led the Conservatives into the lobby in 1975. I recall that she quoted Lord Attlee's view of referendums as a device of demagogues and dictators.'

Pressed by a Labour MP in March last year to support a referendum, Mr Major said: 'You know very well why I think it is right that this House should decide the fate of the Maastricht treaty in all its aspects. That is the basis of parliamentary democracy . . .'

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