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Petition to be Presented on 23rd
Lord Ashbourne and Sir Robin Janvrin, the Queen's principal
secretary, agreed at their meeting yesterday that four peers of the
realm would present their petition at Buckingham Palace on Friday 23
March at 3,00pm.
During a half-hour discussion, Sir Robin said that he had been asked to
receive the petition on behalf of Her Majesty, and that he would
personally give it to her at his earliest opportunity afterwards.
made it clear that the Palace was well aware of the petition itself,
knew what was in it and had taken legal advice.
Sir Robin said that, whilst every weekly audience the prime minister has
with his sovereign was - and always had been - a private, one-to-one
meeting with no minutes taken, he would be surprised if Her Majesty did
not raise the issue of this petition at her next opportunity.
With that in mind, he then asked Lord Ashbourne to bring with the
petition a covering letter which spelled out exactly what - in practical
terms - their lordships were hoping for. (Lord A has asked me to
him draft such a letter, and he is minded to ask specifically for a
referendum on the Nice Treaty before ratification.)
We left Sir Robin a copy of the text, and some of the background notes
previously circulated with our press releases.
Lord Ashbourne emphasised that the purpose of the petition was to
support Her Majesty in her constitutional role. He said: "If
I were the
Queen, I would be concerned at the UK's loss of sovereignty. We
Her Majesty to know that we are too. We also want to provide Her
Majesty with an opportunity to raise this issue on our behalf with the
We were well and warmly received. The whole meeting was positive,
constructive and helpful.
At the end I took the opportunity to ask Sir Robin about the number of
letters received by the Queen on the Nice Treaty. (I did not
Vaz's answer to Christopher Gill) Sir Robin said that the Queen
presently receiving "about a thousand letters a day", and that
substantial proportion" of them expressed concern about the Nice
and/or the loss of sovereignty to the EU. He could not give us an
number. He explained that nobody ever counted them all because
were so many! (So much for Mr Vaz.)
Lord Ashbourne has asked me to organise press coverage at the entrance
to the Palace just before 3.00pm on 23 March, and he will hold an
informal press conference outside afterwards.
He is hoping Idris Francis will drive the four peers from the House of
Lords to the Palace in one of his splendid vintage cars, and is
arranging parking in the Palace yard. Subject to availability, the
other three peers will be The Duke of Rutland, Viscount Massereene &
Ferrard and Lord Sudeley. They will not be wearing robes.
On a personal note, I want to thank all those who have supported this
initiative so vigorously throughout. Having been at the meeting I
say with absolute certainty that the discreet smoke signals I have been
receiving over many months, and which encouraged us to proceed with the
project, were spot on.
We have been strongly and publicly criticised in some quarters for
attempting to involve the Queen in politics, but there was not the
slightly suggestion to that effect from Sir Robin yesterday. Eat your
heart out, Lord Mountgarret and Peter Riddell!
I also want to pay tribute to Lord Ashbourne, who has been a tower of
strength throughout. He has been, and remains, utterly unflinching
his determination to see this project, unique in over 300 years, through
to the end. It is no exaggeration to say we could not have done
without him. He has been lampooned, criticised in the press,
words" have been spoken in various quarters, and he has endured and
ignored them all. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude
Finally, I suggest we now encourage as many people as possible to
assemble around Buckingham Palace on Friday 23 March just before 3.00pm,
and cheer the peers in and out. As you know, banners are not
but noisy support is something else.
We took another great step forward yesterday. Rejoice!
PS: By all means, please circulate this message beyond those listed
above. Thank you.
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