Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am not aware of the sense of "wobble" to which the noble Lord alludes. I was not clear from his Question whether he was suggesting an all-party conference on behalf of his noble friends or on his own behalf. If it is merely for himself, it will not be a very useful conference.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the unelected Commission's growing penchant for legislating by regulation, such as the regulation which at the moment endangers our lettuce-growing industry? Is he aware also that those regulations do not even have to be deposited in Parliament? Does he agree that that at least is a practice which should cease?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, all secondary legislation brought forward in the Community is made under primary legislation. We believe that the principal democratic focus in the Community is the Council and, in turn, its democratic legitimacy rests on national parliaments. My noble friend points to something which might well be usefully thought about more.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the most urgent problems facing the European Union will be its larger membership and keeping the EU effective with a larger membership? Does he think that the Commission will have to grow or stay the same size?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right to point out the problems posed by enlargement. That is one of the reasons why the implications of enlargement have been put on the agenda for the 1996 IGC. Matters such as the number of commissioners will have to be addressed in that context for the kind of reasons that are well known.

10 May 1995 : Column 63

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, will my noble friend reconsider the rather abrupt answer which he gave to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce? I think that on mature consideration he will realise that he would get more sense out of cross-party talks with the noble Lord than with any of his colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench. After all, the noble Lord does not believe in the imposition of a single currency or the abolition of Britain's right of veto.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, it is not for me to weigh in the balance the various merits of individual members of the Opposition. The point I wished to make was a simple one. If there are to be inter-party talks, there needs to be a wish for those talks from all the parties concerned. We have heard no evidence that any of the parties opposite wish for such talks.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that to the best of my knowledge all the main political parties in the United Kingdom are united in their desire to preserve political democracy in this country? Without in any way diminishing my loyalty to my party, which I joined in 1935, may I say to the noble Lord, bearing in mind that I never knowingly undercharge, that I am very pleased to advise Her Majesty's Government on this aspect of the matter?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, as I mentioned to your Lordships last week, we value and weigh carefully the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington. We live in a democratic country and it is the case that all mainstream political parties are committed to that democracy. We may disagree from time to time on emphasis, but, with respect, that is not a matter at issue in this Question.

Lord Richard: My Lords, the noble Lord values what my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington says and the advice that he gives. Perhaps I may say that from time to time we also value the advice that my noble friend gives and greet it with sometimes the same degree of surprise when it actually arrives, as does the party opposite. Perhaps I may ask the Minister a serious question.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: Hear, hear!

Lord Richard: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord is absolutely right. I have been listening to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and various other noble Lords. There have not been many serious questions so far. Is it the Government's intention that before the Inter-Governmental Conference takes place they will publish their views as to what it is they wish to get out of the conference? Will they also give us the opportunity to debate it?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the Government are developing their negotiating stance in the run-up to the Inter-Governmental Conference, which, as noble Lords will know, takes place next year. Between now and then, and no doubt during the conference itself, we shall be debating in this House and in another place what is happening. In answer to a question from the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, I indicated a number of the Government's priorities for the Inter-Governmental Conference. But, at the same time, just as anyone playing a game of cards will

10 May 1995 : Column 64

not sit down at the table with the cards face-upwards, we must preserve the right to keep the details of our negotiating position to ourselves.

Lord Richard: My Lords, with respect, the Minister has not answered my question. Of course he must keep the details of his negotiating position to himself and of course he must not disclose the cards face-upwards. But will he tell us, please, what game it is that he is going to play?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, it is the same game I described when I was talking to your Lordships about this last week. It is a game for getting the best for Britain and the British people.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, the noble Lord will no doubt recall the many occasions on which the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, has appeared to attack the Commission as an unelected body. Does he agree that it is worth recalling that the members of the Commission, all eminent personalities drawn from their respective countries, are nominated by the elected governments of those countries? Furthermore, does he agree that the last suggestion made in the noble Lord's Question,

    "the establishment of the Council's right to reject such proposals without further explanation",

would be a most objectionable procedure for considering proposals put forward by the Commission?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord is right about the way in which the members of the Commission are appointed. The point about the current system of Community legislation is that the final decisions are taken by the Council—

Lord Bruce of Donington: Under pressure!

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, they are taken by the Council. We believe that that is the way matters should remain.

"Marchioness"/"Bowbelle" Collision

2.56 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the finding of unlawful killing at the coroner's inquest into the deaths occurring following the collision between the "Marchioness" and the "Bowbelle" they will review their decision not to set up a public inquiry into the disaster.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, the Government do not believe that a public inquiry is needed. The circumstances of the tragedy were established by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch whose findings were accepted by the inquest jury. We have acted on the recommendations in the MAIB report and on those of the later Hayes inquiry into river safety. The inquest jury welcomed this and put forward 12 further safety recommendations to which we are giving urgent and careful consideration.

10 May 1995 : Column 65

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is the Minister aware that his reply will disappoint those who were primarily affected—the relatives of the deceased—by this horrible collision? Is he not also aware that in the recently televised "Dispatches" programme there appeared to be serious conflicts of evidence as to the location of the accident, the supervision and training of crews and the responsibilities of the department itself to ensure safety on the river? The Court of Appeal expressed serious reservations about the situation in saying that a full public inquiry was needed. Will the Minister reconsider this matter in the light of the evidence obtained in that television programme, which was something of an indictment of the situation affecting many parties, including the department?

Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the purpose of any inquiry must be to establish the facts of what actually happened during the accident and also to discover and to evaluate what lessons should be learnt to improve river safety. I believe that the facts have been fully established by the independent Marine Accident Investigation Branch's expert technical investigation into this matter. The lessons to be learnt were followed up by recommendations included in the MAIB report and in the Hayes inquiry into river safety and indeed by the recommendations made by the jury.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, is it not very unusual for a catastrophe of this kind not to be followed by a public inquiry? Is there not a great deal of force in what has been said by the noble Lord opposite about the issues still left uncertain, and is that not somewhat disturbing to those of us who use the river?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page