HL Deb 13 March 2003 vol 645 cc1474-5
Lord Lamont of Lerwick

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the cost to date of the Bloody Sunday inquiry.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

My Lords, the total cost of the inquiry to Government was £104.5 million up to the end of February 2003.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick

My Lords, I make no apology for raising this Question for the third time as every time I raise it the costs have increased. Does the Leader of the House agree that the inquiry should be renamed the "Lawyers' Benevolent Fund" and that the hearings should be moved to the Millennium Dome? How can he justify the fact that one barrister is reported to have been paid over £2 million, others over £400,000 each and those at the end of the gravy train struggle with expenses of just under £1,000 a day? Is it not monstrous that while the Government pay vast sums for the inquiry, the relatives of the victims of the Omagh bombing struggle to find the money to pay their legal fees and are receiving precious little help from the Government?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I first answered this Question on 19th November 2002, secondly on 7th January 2003 and thirdly today. If people keep asking about whether the costs have increased when the legal process is continuing the answer is likely to be in the affirmative. The question is whether allegations of this kind should be investigated. When the Prime Minister announced the inquiry, Mr Hague gave general support. Perhaps the theme underlying the Question of the noble Lord is that we should stop the inquiry now.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, with hindsight—governments are supposed to have foresight as well—does the Minister agree that Nelson Mandela's truth and reconciliation approach would have been a much more economical and sensible approach? Does he agree that already the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has achieved far more than this nonsensical Saville inquiry, which I suspect will achieve nothing? When it was set up I said that it would achieve nothing but bitterness and it has created more and more bitterness. Does he agree that Nelson Mandela's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has achieved exactly the reverse?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, in South Africa the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been an extraordinary achievement of the human spirit and the generosity of the human heart. Your Lordships will remember that to gain the benefits of the commission one has to admit one's liability. Is it suggested that any of those against whom the grave charges have been brought in the Bloody Sunday inquiry would be willing to do that?

Lord Smith of Clifton

My Lords, do the Government have any views on the remark made by the chief constable that he can see no profit coming from the Saville inquiry one way or the other?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am happy to repeat that the chief constable has made it plain that he was misrepresented and misreported. He had the decency, which I respectfully commend, to talk to the relatives of those who were killed to say that he very much regretted the hurt that had been caused by the fact that he had been misreported in the newspaper.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, perhaps I did not hear the noble and learned Leader of the House correctly, but I did not hear him answer the Question about the cost to date of the Bloody Sunday inquiry. Perhaps he could remind me of the cost. Can he also tell the House when the inquiry is likely to complete its work?

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, I gave the figure of £104.5 million, which is divided into £81.5 million in respect of the families' representation generally and £23 million for the MoD representation generally. As I have said on two previous occasions in answering the same Question—I am sorry that my answer has to be the same—it is expected that the report will be concluded in the year 2004.