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Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am afraid that I am going to be in a very small minority today, probably not for the first time, which gives me no tremors whatever, as I am unable to add to the fulsome welcome that this report has received.

Before I turn to the substance of the report, I wish to draw the Committee’s attention to some of the stylistic matters that caught my eye. I do not normally care to read reports but I had intended to read this one from cover to cover. However, I gave up on page 10, actually only the fifth printed page of the report, where there is a misplaced apostrophe. Noble Lords will ask why I am wasting the Committee’s time on a misplaced apostrophe. On the previous page, page 9, there is one of many subordinate clauses without any commas at either end so you have to read the sentence over and again to find out what it actually means. On page 8, going backwards, there is an egregious spelling mistake that any child of 15 would be punished for making. On page 7 we have a sentence starting with a conjunction.
The noble Lord is unlikely to have seen the funny side if Hansard had begun that last sentence with "And…"

The real blow, though, comes on the very first page. I am now going to read out to the Committee a direct quote from the middle paragraph of the summary:

“By better co-ordination of forces and most of all by ensuring that forces are capable of, and willing to, deploy Europe can achieve this now”.
I will happily buy lunch for any member of this Committee if he can show me how to parse that into an English sentence; it is not capable of being made into a sentence. It really is disgraceful.

This accumulation of grammatical solecisms, misspellings and punctuation errors says to me one of three things: that the members of the committee read the report and did not notice these things, which I find unbelievable, seeing how talented they are; that they read the report and did not give a damn about them, which I do not think would be the case; or, much more likely, they never the report. That is the most charitable explanation. The noble Lord, Lord Roper, may frown, but his name is on this report. [Starts banging the table in time with his words] He is chairman of the committee and is responsible for putting the report in front of us with the House of Lords imprimatur on it.

Lord Radice: I am loath to intervene on my noble friend’s speech because I am sure that it is going to be extremely good, but I suggest that the noble Lord reads the sentence before the one that he has criticised. He might then find that it was more intelligible. It is a good thing to read a couple of sentences rather than just taking one on its own.

Lord Gilbert: Of course, I read the whole page. The noble Lord is right, but that sentence is rubbish. It is not even a sentence and it should not be in a House of Lords report. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Roper, to ensure that in future any reports from any sub-committee of his committee are written in decent English. I have got that off my chest but I stand by what I said; it seems to be perfect evidence that the people who wrote the report did not read it before it was printed. [Hansard]
As threatened, he turns to the substance of the report.

[The committee] found some idiot called Pierre Vimont. What a lunatic. This is what he is summarised as saying:

“Despite the limited success of the A400M”.
I would like to hear anybody else in this Committee talk to me about the “limited success” of the A400M—it is a disaster, but there is not a word in this report saying why it is a “limited success”… The A400M is a complete and absolute wanking disaster and we should be ashamed of ourselves. [Hansard]
Lord Gilbert is very fond of this word but his usage of it here is even more idiosyncratic than usual. Could it be, I find myself wondering more and more, that he doesn't actually know what it means?

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