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Referendum Act 1975
"Long title An Act to provide for the holding of a referendum on the United Kingdom's membership of the European Economic Community.
"Citation 1975 c. 33
Introduced by "Edward Short, "Lord President of the Council
Territorial extent United Kingdom
Dates
"Royal assent 8 May 1975
Repealed 2 May 1986
Other legislation
"Repealed by "Statute Law (Repeals) Act 1986 (1986 c. 12)
Status: Repealed

The Referendum Act 1975 (c. 33) was an "Act of the "Parliament of the United Kingdom, which made legal provision for the holding of a non-binding "referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the "European Communities (EC)—generally known at the time in the UK, with reference to their main component, the "European Economic Community (EEC), as the "Common Market".[1] The Referendum Bill was introduced to the "House of Commons by the "Leader of the House of Commons and "Lord President of the Council "Edward Short on 26 March 1975 and on its second reading on 10 April 1975 MP's voted 312-248 in favour of holding the referendum which came the day after they voted to stay in the "European Communities on the new terms set out in the renegotiation and was given Royal Assent on 8 May 1975.

The Act gave effect to a manifesto commitment of the "Labour Party at the "general election of October 1974, and set out the arrangements and procedure for the United Kingdom's first ever national referendum, in which voting was to take place simultaneously in all parts of the country. In accordance with the Act, the "European Communities Referendum took place on 5 June 1975, and voters approved continued EC/EEC membership by 67% to 33% on a national turnout of 64%.[2]

Contents

The referendum[edit]

The Act legislated for a referendum to be held in the "United Kingdom on Thursday 5 June 1975 on the issue of continuing membership of the EC and the EEC (the Common Market), which was to be a single majority vote, to be overseen by an appointed "Chief counting officer" who would declare the final result for the United Kingdom. As there was no previous precedent for the holding of any such plebiscite across the United Kingdom the Act also set out its procedure and format.

Referendum question[edit]

The Act set out the following question which the British electorate would be asked:


The Government has announced the results of the renegotiation of the United Kingdom's terms of membership of the European Community.

Do you think that the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?

permitting a YES / NO answer (to be marked with a (X)).

Original proposed question[edit]

When the bill was introduced it gave the question to appear on ballot papers:

Do you think that the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community?

permitting a YES / NO answer (to be marked with a (X)).

The question was revised after the Government agreed to amend it to include the term "the Common Market" in brackets at the end of the question.

Campaigning[edit]

The Act also provided for the equal public funding of two campaigns, one for a Yes vote, the other for a No vote. While each campaign was to receive the same amount of public money which amounted to £125,000 each, other donations were also to be permitted with no upper spending limit for either side .[3]

Counting areas[edit]

The Act allowed for the appointment of a "National Counting Officer" (later "Chief Counting Officer") who would lead and oversee the referendum both centrally and nationally. Also within the legislation it oversaw the appointment of the "Returning Officers" who would oversee the counts within their local areas. The Act legislated for verification which would be held at local authority level (district councils) after the close of polls but the counting of votes would be only permitted and declared at the level of administrative regions under the "Local Government Act 1972 and the "Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 as follows:

This meant there would be a total of 68 counting areas across the United Kingdom (47 in "England, 8 in "Wales, 12 in "Scotland and a single area for "Northern Ireland). Verification took place locally in England and Wales after the polling stations closed but the referendum count itself did not begin until the day following the poll on Friday 6 June from 0900 "BST.

Franchise[edit]

The right to vote in the referendum was given to those who were residents of the United Kingdom, who were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKCs) and other persons with most other forms of "British nationality, or "Commonwealth citizens, under the "British Nationality Act 1948, in both cases, and also "citizens of the Republic of Ireland resident in the United Kingdom, all of which as according to the provisions of the "Representation of the People Act 1969. Members of the "House of Lords were permitted to vote. Voting took place from 0700 to 2200 "British Summer Time on Thursday 5 June. The minimum age for voters in the referendum was 18 years, a figure in line with general elections in the UK at that time.

Referendum result[edit]

The final national referendum result was declared late on Friday 6 June 1975 by the Chief counting officer "Sir Phillip Allen in "London. The result, with "yes" votes from all four countries of the UK, confirmed the commitment to continued membership of the EC and of the EEC ("the Common Market") on the renegotiated terms; and the government led by "Harold Wilson took no further direct action. Until the "2016 EU Referendum this was the only referendum to be held in the United Kingdom regarding its relationship with the European Communities, by then both the EC the EEC had transformed (retrospectively) into the "European Union (EU), under the terms of the "Treaty of the European Union (EU), known as the Maastrict Treaty (TEU) (1992, effective 1 November 1993).

United Kingdom European Communities membership referendum, 1975
National result
Choice Votes  %
Yes 17,378,581 67.23%
No 8,470,073 32.70%
Vaild votes 25,848,654 99.78%
Invalid or blank votes 54,540 0.22%
Total votes 25,903,194 100.00%
Registered voters and turnout 40,086,677 64.67%
Yes:
17,378,581 (67.2%)
No:
8,470,073 (32.8%)

Results by United Kingdom constituent countries[edit]

"Constituent country Electorate Votes Proportion of votes
Yes No Yes No
"England 33,356,208 14,918,009 6,812,012 68.7% 31.3%
"Northern Ireland 1,030,534 259,251 237,911 52.1% 47.9%
"Scotland 3,688,799 1,332,186 948,039 58.4% 41.6%
"Wales 2,011,136 869,135 472,071 64.8% 35.2%

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Current Law Statutes Annotated 1975, vol. 1 (Sweet and Maxwell, 1975), pp. 1,051-1,058
  2. ^ Colin Turpin, Adam Tomkins, British Government and the Constitution: Text and Materials (2007), p. 535
  3. ^ Referendums in the United Kingdom (Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 2010), p. 140
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