Obituary: The Earl of Bessborough

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The Independent Online
AS Eric Bessborough's colleague on the Budget Energy Committee of the indirectly elected European Parliament from 1976 to 1979 may I add to Alan Bell's justifiably kind and perceptive tribute (18 December)? writes Tam Dalyell.

His European Parliament Committee colleagues who assumed rightly that Eric was a considerable grandee soon discovered something else - that he was also a worker. Few members at Luxembourg or Brussels of the Strasbourg parliament went to greater trouble to read their documents beforehand and, if necessary, make inquiries about the subject before it was discussed.

Allow me but one memory. It was decided some months after the terrible earthquake which engulfed Friuli, by Heinrich Aigner, the CSU member for Regensburg- Passau and chairman of the Audit Committee, that a delegation of five MEPs should go to try to ascertain whether the rumours of misappropriation of European funds in the earthquake area had any substance. The delegation was to consist of one Liberal, the German Martin Bangemann, a Conservative, Eric Bessborough and a Socialist, me, and two Italians, one a Socialist and the other a Christian Democrat. I went to Eric and said: 'I've drawn blank. It's beyond me to persuade any Italian member of the Socialist group to come with us.' 'Well,' he said, 'at least I'll have another go with the Christians, but I have done no better.'

The following day I asked him how he'd got on. I never saw him so angry. 'Not one of them will touch it. I told the boss that one of them at least had a moral obligation to accompany us and he looked at me as if I were a silly little boy.' His name? Giulio Andreotti.

Typically when he arrived at the devastated towns and villages, Bessborough - in his mid-sixties - was game to come round the camps of earthquake victims late at night. As the Friulian senior Commission official Senor Lanaducci put it: 'Milord Bessborough is a constructive and useful European]'

For 40 years he was also a useful and constructive member and regular attender of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee.