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Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for at least some of his comments. I am sure that the House would be interested in assessing any procedural innovations of the kind he suggested if he wished to make them. We have to balance the undoubted assistance that having a mobile phone in a car may be to passengers and drivers on their own against the danger that is constituted when people use that mobile phone when driving. The drawing up of a new Highway Code gives us an opportunity to strengthen its provisions. I have asked that the wording of Rule 43, which deals with this issue, be strengthened, and that will go out for consultation in the summer.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, perhaps I may join in the congratulations to the Minister on her new appointment to the transport portfolio. Does she feel that there is a danger of being over-prescriptive in this area, given that people such as airline pilots manage to land a sophisticated piece of equipment while talking on the radio and occasionally while talking to their colleagues? Does the Minister have an opinion as to what effect a tax on mobile phones may have on their use and consequent abuse?
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Government could consult RoSPA, whose members represent a broad base of opinion on this subject? I declare an interest as RoSPA president.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, that would be helpful. I know that RoSPA has recently amended its own advice in this area. When we go out to consultation on the Highway Code I am sure that it will be one of the organisations to which we shall be speaking also about the wider areas where there may be opportunities for improvements.
Lord Winston: My Lords, perhaps I, too, may congratulate my noble friend on her appointment, which is welcome. Is there any clear evidence that using a hand-free mobile telephone or the many other activities, such as smoking a cigarette, which are carried out in a motor car are dangerous? It would be good to have some clear, hard evidence about that.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the evidence that came out in the New England Journal of Medicine based on the Canadian study casts doubt on the assumption that a hand-free phone is safer, and claims that it is the distraction as much as the manual operation which causes the danger. A variety of distractions may occur within a car. The driver's overall responsibility is to remain in control. On the gathering of information, I have asked that in future when the police are recording accident causation data they will include whether a mobile phone was implicated.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we have no plans to reconsider the decision announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage that the Parthenon sculptures should remain at the British Museum.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his appointment and assure him that I understand that the Answers that he gives are necessarily those of the Government. Is he aware--he
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, perhaps I may ask suggestively that those 10 members should form a delegation to the Prime Minister to ask him to reconsider the matter. Does my noble friend recognise that the greatest loyalty one can extend to a friend is to seek to put him right when he makes a mistake?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for those somewhat barbed congratulations. I am afraid that if he seeks early to drive a wedge between me and my colleagues he will not succeed. We acknowledge that there is a strong emotional case for the return of the Elgin Marbles--the Parthenon sculptures. However, having looked at the matter again, the Government recognise that it would not be feasible to return them because they are the property of the British Museum and confiscatory legislation would be required to remove them. Nor would it be sensible because the issue of the return of works of art to their country of origin is much wider than that relating to the Elgin Marbles.
Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, will the Minister bear in mind that the survival of these lovely creations results from their being taken over by this country and that it is therefore very important that they should remain here?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord is right that the marbles have survived because they have been kept free from the damaging atmosphere of outdoor Athens. However, as he will recognise, the Greek proposal is that they should be returned to a museum where, presumably, that protection would continue.
Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that such a move would be an unwelcome precedent? If we started to return works of art to other countries, there would not be much left in our museums and galleries.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend is right--and I have been waiting for 14 years to say that! It would be an absurdity if great national collections around the world consisted only of works of art originating from the country in which they were located. That would be damaging not only for art history and education but for the appreciation of all forms of art.
It also gives us great pleasure to note that the Government have not lost our marbles and, indeed, may show signs of retaining some of their own--at least for the moment. Can the Minister confirm unequivocally that the principle which underlies this decision will be applied to other works of art and that it is not a one-off decision?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his congratulation, which is somewhat less barbed than that of my noble friend Lord Jenkins--but only somewhat. I hope that I made it clear in my earlier answers that the issue of the return of all works of art to their country of origin is wider than the issue of the Parthenon sculptures. I believe that that gives the noble Lord the answer he seeks.
Lord Wyatt of Weeford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that it would be dangerous to return the marbles to Athens because they were under attack by Turkish and Greek fire in the Parthenon when they were rescued and the volatile Greeks might easily start hurling bombs around again?
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt. I did not see him because my eyesight is not very good. I agree with my noble friend that this is more than a local issue; it is an international issue. Is he aware of the existence of the international committee dealing with museums and of the general movement throughout the world to return stated objects which are carefully vetted to ensure that they are of great importance to the country of origin? Is he aware that Australia is returning objects to New Guinea; that France is returning objects to Algeria; and that North America is returning objects to South America? We alone are curmudgeons and it is about time we put that right. Our international reputation is at stake.
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