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Posted by Helen Monday, April 25, 2005

A number of our readers have asked me to provide some detailed information about the particular event I described in the tribute to Lord Bruce of Donington. Understandably, many people wanted to know about the unfortunate former Commissioner who angered Lord Bruce to the point of a volcanic outburst.

After a certain amount of research, I can reveal that the former Commissioner was Lord Clinton-Davis and the event was the Committee stage of Lord Pearson’s European Union (Implications of Withdrawal) Bill on May 12, 2000.

Let me quote the particular comment Lord Bruce made before moving his amendment:

“The amendment seeks only to institute, if possible, a cost-benefit analysis of our membership of the European Union. What objection can there possibly be to that? It may well be, I readily concede, that a cost-benefit analysis will show that, on balance, membership did not favour the United Kingdom.

But the circumstances obtaining when the report came out and showed that result might not be all that inimical to the further development of the European Union. It would depend on how one regarded the future in the light of the implications that had been determined in relation to the past. All we want to do is to put ourselves in a position where we can make a definitive judgment in which we can believe.

I repeat: successive governments have been very coy about this. When I last sat on the Opposition Benches in another capacity I remember asking the noble Lord, Lord Henley, whether he could give us some indication. His reply was laconic and short. He said that the benefits were so self-evident that it was not worth while going into them.

That, in essence, has been the attitude of successive governments. They will not discuss progress. They will not discuss cost-benefits so that one can get an idea. All we are trying to do as I see it--all the promoter of the Bill is trying to do--is to establish the facts as distinct from vapourings--they are little more than that--based upon nostalgia about past events that only partially happened. There surely can be no objection to that. As I say, those who resist it and oppose the results of the facts immediately imply that they are not confident in their own beliefs.

I am sorry about the attitude of my noble friend on the Front Bench [Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale]. She knows--and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, ought to know--that not only have I been interested in these affairs since 1963 but I have played some, if only minor, part in the unearthing of fraud on massive scale not only in the European Union as a whole but in the Commission as well, of which he possibly ought to have been aware when he was there.

In order to cut short the discussion, perhaps I may say formally, taking due account of the excellent contributions, particularly from my noble friend--I still call her my noble friend--Lady Park of Monmouth, I beg to move …”

Here is the rest of the debate. I hope all our readers will enjoy it and mourn the passing of a great parliamentarian.