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I understand from my noble friend the Lord Bishop of Carlisle that the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, was an active member of his local church in the parish of Dacre in Cumbria. He undoubtedly lived his life always as a deeply-committed Christian. He was a good man, a good churchman, and we thank God today for his life and example. We gladly remember in our prayers today his bereaved wife and family.
Lord Denham: My Lords, one of my most endearing memories of Willie was his flashes of extreme anger, which lasted approximately a minute and a half, and were followed by a totally unnecessary, abject apology. He was one of that very small number of immaculate politicians who are supreme in the skills of their profession and at the same time are incapable of doing a mean or dishonourable thing. Even among that select company, Willie stood out for his universal kindness and, above all, his approachability. The legacy of his benign influence will remain in your Lordships' House for a long time.
I first met him through my trade union background. I found him extremely helpful and earnest in his approach. Latterly, he became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Again, with my background of trade unions, not politics, and seeking to represent the broad spectrum of life in Northern Ireland, Willie Whitelaw was a gentleman in many, many ways. He listened attentively. He did not preach or lecture but talked with you. He will always be remembered for the way in which he handled affairs in Northern Ireland in those dark days.
Lord Fitt: My Lords, it may be appropriate if I say a few words, particularly today when there is so much trouble in Northern Ireland over the setting up of an executive. Willie Whitelaw was the first Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in the dark days of 1972 when nearly 500 people were killed. I said today in Northern Ireland that of all the Secretaries of State that we have had since then, he will be remembered by thousands of people from both communities with great affection.
Within a few short months he was able to talk to the majority Unionist party and my own party, the SDLP. He had a great personality. He almost put his arms round the different factions. He brought us into a room on a few occasions and, within a very short time, we had the first executive in Northern Ireland. It was a very real tragedy that Willie had to leave Northern Ireland before the Sunningdale executive was formed. I have no doubt that many people have been saying over this past week, in view of events in Northern Ireland, that if that executive had survived and if Willie had remained there, Northern Ireland would not be going through such trauma today.
Willie Whitelaw was the first and by far the most courageous and far-seeing Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He will be sadly missed in Northern Ireland. He will be sadly missed by all those who knew and loved him throughout his lifetime in this country.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I believe that there have been almost a score of Leaders of the House since the war. We are a mixed bag. Some people find us agreeable; others not so. However, I think that one matter on which all parties will agree, as will the present House, is that Willie Whitelaw was the most lovable Leader of the House that anyone can remember.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the agenda for the next intergovernmental conference was agreed at the Cologne European Council. It builds on the agreement at the Amsterdam negotiations that the Union should prepare for enlargement by looking at the size of the Commission and the weighting of votes in the Council. The IGC will also look at the possible extension of qualified majority voting and other institutional issues arising from this agenda.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does she agree that some of the difficulties that this country faced in becoming a comparable member of the European Union arose from the fact that there has often been a wide gap between what those inside government accept as being on the agenda for negotiation and what those outside government are aware of as being under discussion? Does she accept also that it was helpful when the Government published a White Paper for Parliament in advance of the intergovernmental conference, though only in response to demands from committees of both Houses? Is it possible for the Government to give an undertaking at this time that they will publish such a consultative paper at an early stage to make sure that Members of both Houses are well informed of the issues on the agenda and of the Government's approach to them?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, since the IGC there have been some improvements as a result of the Amsterdam Treaty about the flow of information to the United Kingdom. I hope, too, that the White Paper which the Government published in November last year--The scrutiny of European Union business--has given both your Lordships and Members of another place an opportunity to look at the agenda in a more structured way. The noble Lord is quite right; it has been the usual practice for the government of the day to publish a White Paper setting out the approach to the IGC. The Government undertake to address that in due course. But for the moment we do not know how
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, it was agreed at Amsterdam that in the interests of a more effective Commission the larger member states would be prepared to give up their second commissioner when the European Union expands, provided that a satisfactory agreement was achieved on the re-weighting of the votes in the Council.
Lord Tordoff: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that it is the intention of your Lordships' Select Committee to investigate the IGC? The Select Committee will take on that task in the autumn of this year. Can we look forward to the usual co-operation from government departments in reaching conclusions that we can put before the House? Without wishing to pre-judge the outcome of that investigation, the call for a White Paper might well come from both Houses again.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am delighted to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, says. We look forward to the outcome of the Select Committee's deliberations. During the progress of our discussions on the Amsterdam Treaty the whole House acknowledged the valuable work that the noble Lord's committee undertakes. I note what the noble Lord says about the White Paper. I hope that he understood the points that I made to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire; that is, that the Government cannot make a hard and fast undertaking at this time, but it is my expectation that such a paper will be published.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, can the Minister say that Parliament will be consulted on the possibility of an early and wide enlargement of the European Union, perhaps linked with variable periods of adjustment for individual countries according to their needs and situations?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, perhaps I can remind the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that the Government deposit with Parliament all proposals for Community first pillar legislation coming from the Council of Ministers, as well as the legislative business under the second and third pillars. Certain other documents dealing with major policy, legislative or budgetary implications are also deposited. I hope that the undertakings made in the White Paper published in November last year assure the noble Lord and the whole House that the Government will seek to consult properly on the issues covered in that paper.
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