Obituary: Lord Ardwick

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The Independent Online
FURTHER to the perceptive obituary of Lord Ardwick (by Terence Lancaster and James Fergusson, 19 August), may I, as his colleague on the first indirectly elected Labour Delegation to the European Parliament, 1976-79, offer a flavour of his significant contribution? writes Tam Dalyell.

John Ardwick was a most assiduous attender in the Luxembourg and Strasbourg Chambers. His verbal contributions were sparing, and discerning. Speaking for the last time in May 1979 Ardwick was prophetic:

It is generally very important when we are saying what a measure of harmonisation is, also to say what it is not. There is more trouble in a country such as Britain about harmonisation, which is not very clearly understood, than about anything else. In fact, I am reminded of my school days, of a volume called Les cents meilleurs poemes de la langue francaise, which contained a poem by de Musset, I think, which began, 'Harmonie harmonie, fille de la douleur'. If you are saying that you are going to have a kind of minimum harmonisation of qualifications, there are two possibilities: one is that you are going to recruit illiterate youths and that they will be regarded as qualified; the other extreme is that you will have to do 10 years at a university and have two doctorates before you can practise (a) profession.

Ardwick was the first among us to identify the perils of harmonisation. Repeatedly, he won by the hearts of the French members by using his wide knowledge of French philology and literature.

Ardwick was an active member of the Legal Affairs Committee. A master of his brief, he was regularly asked to speak on behalf of the Socialist Group and the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, on complex subjects such as the insurance industry. Thus on 17 January 1978:

Now, one of our long, arcane discussions in committee was on the subject of what law should govern insurance contracts. Should it be the law of the State in which the risk is situated, or should it be the law which the parties to the contract themselves freely choose? And it was after very many long hours of discussion that the committee came to a slightly less liberal conclusion than the Commission proposes. The committee felt that, in principle, in order to protect the consumer and to create equal conditions of competition, the law applying to contracts should be that of the country in which the risk is situated, but there is an important exception. The committee accept that in areas such as transport insurance and where very large risks are concerned, then the parties themselves should choose which law should apply.