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Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, is it not true that if the sculptures had been left in the Parthenon they would no longer exist due to pollution, marauding and everything else that has happened in Greece in the interim? Therefore, in the interests of conservation and evolutionary scholarship--certainly developing scholarship--the British Museum is the best place for them to be maintained.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I can confirm that the whole world owes a great debt to Lord Elgin for having done what he did with the statues; he has undoubtedly saved them for posterity. I reiterate that it is the Government's intention that they remain where they are.
Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Elgin Marbles were legally acquired by Lord Elgin and, as the noble Baroness said, would have deteriorated if they had been left where they were? Is he aware also that, if the Government followed the advice of my old and noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney and returned all objects acquired from other countries, there would be very little left in our national museums?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right. If one builds a museum in anticipation of displaying objects that belong to somebody else, one does not need a great deal of foresight to see either that that particular part of the museum will remain empty or that it will have to be used for some other purpose.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will have been reassured to be reminded by my noble friend of how robustly, then as now, the Foreign Office defends British interests and assets. However, does the Minister not agree that, were any decision to be taken to return such treasures from any international museum, it would be far better for it to be taken under an international agreement by international arrangement? For example, it could be done through UNESCO; it should certainly not be done through any unilateral gesture.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for underscoring the commitment and role of the Conservative Government over the years to looking after our country's best interests. There has been considerable international debate in respect of the illegal export and acquisition of stolen works of art. I merely draw to your Lordships' attention the fact that the scope of the debates at no stage took into account items such as the Parthenon sculptures about which we are concerned today, which were legally exported from their country of origin. The title of the British Museum to the Marbles is unimpeachable.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the Minister aware that my noble friend Lord Donoughue is apparently ignorant of the fact that there is an existing agreement of an international character and that that agreement is being carried out? Countries throughout the world are restoring major objects--only major objects--of interest to their country of origin, and we are opting out of that agreement. We are a bunch of Scrooges and curmudgeons. The Government ought to be interested in our reputation in the world. They are sometimes interested in our reputation and trade for the wrong reasons; why cannot they be interested for the right reasons?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): My Lords, the Government announced yesterday that the Transport Research Foundation had been selected as the preferred purchaser for the final negotiations on the sale of the Transport Research Laboratory. I regret that the announcement was made in advance of the Question on the Order Paper, particularly in view of the noble Baroness's long-standing commitment to this issue.
Baroness Castle of Blackburn: I was going to thank the Government spokesman for a generous apology. However, it strikes me as being slightly lame in view of the fact that his argument was that he could not give an answer to my Question today because the Government were giving an answer to the Commons yesterday. It turns out that no such Question was tabled in the Commons yesterday--at least there is nothing on the Order Paper. But I accept that that is another example of the cock-up history of this Government rather than deliberate discourtesy.
I want to go on to congratulate the Government on having at last seen what has been obvious for a long time to everyone else; namely, that the only way to preserve this centre of excellence, the TRL, from the worst effects of privatisation was to allow its staff and management to form a non-profit-distributing company. It was thus able to give the Government, among others, impartial and independent advice. May I express the hope--
Baroness Castle of Blackburn: May I express the hope? That is a question. I really think some honourable Lords--or whatever they are called--on the Benches opposite should take grammar lessons. That certainly was not a statement, though I am by no means over-confident. May I express the hope--
Baroness Castle of Blackburn: --that that highly welcome and enlightened decision of the Government means that they will now give wholehearted support to the research work of that splendid institution and devote more resources in future to research in general?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, we have always supported the Transport Research Laboratory. We feel that the right decision was made and that the laboratory has a strong future in the private sector. It will be able to compete on its own terms. We believe that that is the right decision for the laboratory and look forward to a strong future for that institution.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, will the Minister join me in paying tribute to my noble friend Lady Castle for the relentless campaign she has waged in this matter to see that justice was done? Will he also agree that a lesson to be learnt by the Government from this is, "Don't mess with Barbara"?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I have no hesitation whatever in commending the noble Baroness for her long-standing campaign on this issue. She brought the issue to the attention of your Lordships' House on a number of occasions, not least recently in an Unstarred
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lady Blatch will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on prisoners in hospital.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I should point out that the membership proposed differs in one respect from the membership agreed by the Committee of Selection last Thursday. It had nominated the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur--and we are grateful to him for being willing to serve--but, unfortunately, the likely dates proved impossible for him. The noble Lord, Lord Bruntisfield, has kindly agreed to take his place.
L. Carmichael of Kelvingrove,
f L. Ewing of Kirkford,
L. Mackie of Benshie,
L. Pearson of Rannoch,
Ly. Saltoun of Abernethy,
L. Wilson of Tillyorn (Chairman);
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind that it is generally understood that the Select Committee will be meeting in Scotland and taking evidence there, can the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees give the House some indication of, first, where the Committee is likely to meet in Scotland; secondly, the likely dates of those meetings; and, thirdly, whether the staff of this House who will be required to service the Select
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