VERY good of him, I’m sure. David Cameron has at last promised, or at any rate hinted, that he might allow the public its say on Britain’s continued membership of the European Union. Or has he?

Let’s examine his words, uttered not to the British people but, no doubt agog to hear them, the citizens of Brazil. “I do think that it is increasingly becoming the time for a new settlement between Britain and Europe, and I think that new settlement will require fresh consent. In the next parliament I think there will be opportunities for a fresh settlement and for new consent to that settlement.”

No actual mention of the public, you’ll notice.

Taken literally, which is the fall-back position of all political promises, this “consent”

could be confined to Parliament. But let’s assume, charitably, that Mr Cameron, while avoiding the explosive “r” word, meant asking the public.

The phrase he uses – “opportunities for fresh consent” – suggests that we, the British public, are relaxed, even sanguine about EU membership, only too ready to rubber-stamp a forthcoming “new settlement”. Why does he not define the opportunities as most of us would see them – a chance to say yea or nay to continued EU membership?

With his top team, led by William Hague, singing strongly from the same hymn sheet, Mr Cameron increasingly talks of “repatriating”

certain powers. Mr Hague has launched a “comprehensive audit” to establish which.

But this is against the background, or rather foreground, of the open determination of probably the two most powerful figures within the EU – Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – to press for closer political union – in Mr Barroso’s vision “a federation of nation states”.

Hauling back a contentious power or two today, or perhaps even tomorrow, is one thing. The EU might even collude in the return of powers if this cements Britain within the EU. For it will know that as the EU proceeds with ever greater momentum towards its now clear destiny as a single state, Britain sooner or later must accept its full embrace.

Is this not so, Mr Hague?

DO you believe the banks have been tamed? Thought not. Me neither. And we are right. The International Monetary Fund confirms that banks are as risky as they were before the financial crisis, triggered by the collapse of Northern Rock.

The IMF’s boss, Christine Lagarde, observes: “I am often asked five years into the crisis, whether the financial sector is safer today. My answer: ‘Despite real progress, not yet’.”

Well, if the banks go belly up again, let’s hope the Government is prepared for riots on the streets.

LAST week the column dipped into the Great American Songbook to find a rare use of the word plebeian, topical through an alleged misdeed of a Cabinet Minister.

A survey by a healthcare company suggests that one in three married couples find sex a chore. In I Wish I Were in Love Again, Lorenz Hart captures this brilliantly: “When love congeals, it soon reveals, the faint aroma of performing seals.” It is such wonderful lyrics, allied to unforgettable melodies, in this case by Richard Rodgers, that make the songbook the 20th Century’s finest body of popular music.