What is the difference in meaning between a referendum and a plebiscite? Around the world these terms can be used interchangeably, or they may have specific meanings. In another country which began with English Common Law, namely Australia, a referendum is binding but a plebiscite is not. It is suggested that this usage be adopted here in the UK.
The Alternative Vote Referendum held in 2011 was indeed a referendum under this terminology. Had there been a “Yes” vote, then section 9 of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 would have come into effect at once, without further reference to Parliament. The vote on the European Union held this year was simply a plebiscite. There is nothing resembling section 9 in the Referendum Act 2015, which of course should have been titled the Plebiscite Act 2015 to make it clear.
This may be incompetent draughting. Such draughting does happen if we recall rubbish like non-corporate distribution tax. However, this cannot be remedied by use of the Royal Prerogative. It is up to Parliament to sort it out. Had Parliament intended the use of royal powers, it would have specified something like section 9 in the 2015 Act, presumably with an authority to make an Order in Council.