The House of Lords inquiry
34. On 5 March 2001, shortly before the Government responded
to the PAC, Lord Chalfont moved in the House of Lords "that
the Liaison Committee
should consider the appointment of a Select Committee to consider
all the circumstances surrounding the crash of Chinook helicopter
ZD 576 on the Mull of Kintyre on 2 June 1994". The Government
did not oppose this motion; indeed Baroness Symons of Vernham
Dean, speaking as Minister of State at the MoD, appeared to give
it some encouragement by observing that "the Air Marshals
will then be able to explain properly in their own words to the
Select Committee why they reached the conclusions that they did,
something they have not been able to do properly before".
The motion was agreed to without a division.
35. The Liaison Committee duly considered the
matter, taking evidence from Baroness Symons and Lord Chalfont.
By then the PAC had received the Government's response to their
report, and it instructed its then Chairman, David Davis MP, to
write to the Liaison Committee commenting on it in critical terms.
This letter, and the other evidence, are printed with the Liaison
36. The report dealt first with Lord Chalfont's
proposal for a committee "to consider all the circumstances".
It advised against this, on the grounds that it "would not
be practical: it would take too long, and a House of Lords Committee
would not be equipped to undertake it".
37. The Liaison Committee then considered the
alternative proposal of a review limited to the justification
for the decision of reviewing officers. Some members favoured
this course. A majority, however, did not, for the following reasons:
(a) To re-examine all the evidence
would take a long time, and would still not put a Select Committee
in a position to make a better judgment than experienced and senior
(b) Whatever its conclusions, a Select Committee
Report would be unlikely to put an end to the controversy.
(c) Select Committees are a good vehicle for
the examination of issues of public policy, but are not equipped
to replicate the function of the higher courts in addressing alleged
miscarriages of justice.
38. The Liaison Committee accordingly recommended against
the appointment of a Select Committee. However, when on 30 April
the Chairman of Committees invited the House to accept the report,
Lord Chalfont moved the following amendment:
"this House rejects the recommendations
of the Liaison Committee and appoints a Select Committee of five
members to consider the justification for the finding of those
reviewing the conclusions of the RAF Board of Inquiry that both
pilots of the Chinook helicopter ZD 576 which crashed on the Mull
of Kintyre on 2 June 1994 were negligent".
39. The then Leader of the Liberal Democrat peers, Lord Rodgers
of Quarry Bank, a member of the Liaison Committee at that time,
had tabled an alternative to Lord Chalfont's amendment, in the
form of a motion to resolve that
"this House calls on Her Majesty's
Government to set up an independent review of the conclusions
of the Board of Inquiry into the crash of Chinook ZD 576 on the
Mull of Kintyre on 2 June 1994".
40. For the Government, Baroness Symons indicated that Lord
Rodgers' proposal was unacceptable, since the Government acknowledged
no reason why they should expose the Board of Inquiry's judgment
to review. She added that if the Liaison Committee were to reconsider
the question and to recommend a committee along the lines now
advocated by Lord Chalfont, the Government would not resist it.
The Chairman of Committees indicated, however, that the Liaison
Committee was highly unlikely to change its mind. The House therefore
divided on Lord Chalfont's amendment, which was agreed to by 132
votes to 106. Lord
Rodgers' motion was not moved.
41. In short, the gestation of the Committee
whose report this is was highly unusual. We are very conscious
that a majority on the Liaison Committee, and a large minority
of members of the House, believed that our Committee should not
be set up at all. Set up we were, however, on 2 July 2001, and
we have done our best to fulfil the remit given to us by the House.