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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 February 2008, 16:04 GMT
EU Treaty court challenge fails
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The treaty aims to replace the failed EU constitution
A UK Independence Party activist has lost a legal challenge to the government over its refusal to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Stuart Bower accused ministers of a breach of contract.

He said the treaty was effectively the same as the European Constitution, on which the government promised a public vote at the 2005 general election.

But a Brighton County Court judge said the effect of breaching a manifesto commitment was political, not legal.

The treaty was drawn up after French and Dutch voters chose not to ratify the constitution soon after the 2005 election.


The government insists the document, signed by EU national leaders in Lisbon last December, is far less radical and should be decided upon by Parliament, rather than voters.

But the Conservatives, UKIP and various Labour and Lib Dem MPs argue that the treaty is largely the same as the constitution, meaning a referendum is still necessary.

MPs are in the middle of a 12-day debate on ratification.

James Fenton, representing Mr Bower at Brighton County Court, said Labour's manifesto had created a "legitimate expectation" of a public vote.

We lend politicians power and they should have the decency to keep their promises
Stuart Bower, UKIP

In arguing that the case should proceed, he said the government had usurped the Crown's authority by signing the Lisbon Treaty, raising fundamental constitutional questions.

Mr Fenton said: "It is quite clear that the government cannot do more than what the Crown can do, so whatever the limitations apply to the Crown apply also to Parliament.

"The effect of the Lisbon Treaty is to transfer governance of this country to a body that does not owe allegiance to the Monarch and is not accountable to the people of this country."

However, the government said an alleged failure to fulfil a manifesto promise fell outside the laws under which the claim was being brought.

Cecilia Ivimy, for the government, said: "A manifesto promise is incapable of giving rise to a legally binding contract with the electorate. It is a point which is so obvious that I don't want to labour it."

Human Rights Act

Responding to claims that the government had usurped the Crown, she added that it was not a judicial issue and that ministers were exercising the Crown's powers.

District judge Paul Gamba struck out the case as being a political, rather than a legal, matter.

It was clear that a failure to fulfil a manifesto promise does not fall under Article Three of the Human Rights Act, guaranteeing the right of free elections, under which the claim was brought.

Mr Bower, a UKIP parliamentary hopeful and former Labour activist, was asked to pay 2,150 in costs.

Outside court, he said: "To file a defence that says 'I can be a blatant liar in a manifesto and get away with it' is utterly mind-boggling.

"We lend politicians power and they should have the decency to keep their promises."

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