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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, there are some 68 regimental and corps museums throughout the country. In 1998, the executive committee of the Army Board agreed a policy which allows the trustees of museums on the MoD estate to lease their museum accommodation for up to 50 years on sites where the MoD is prepared to agree to such a lease being taken out. That is very different from the
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, in Scotland, museums are devolved to the Scots Parliament but defence, of course, is not. Is the noble Baroness able to give any assurance or information regarding the important military museum at Edinburgh Castle?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I shall write to the noble Baroness with any details that I manage to get together about the museum at Edinburgh Castle. However, the MoD estate will remain a matter for the Ministry of Defence. Any museum which is currently on Ministry of Defence land will be affected in the way I have described. There are three categories: a museum may have tenure of occupation under the commitment made in 1956; it may secure a lease under the 1998 Army Board requirements; or it will not be able to do so because it is on Crown property.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, like a good deal of what Mr Max Hastings has written recently, it was very interesting indeed and I can recommend it. It was written on 28th October, and Mr Hastings apologised to the MoD on 25th November for getting the matter wrong.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the noble Lord's Question is based on a factual inaccuracy. At no point in the opinion to which he refers did the Advocate-General state that criticism of the EU was akin to blasphemy or that the right to freedom of expression did not apply in criticism of the EU. The Advocate-General merely concluded, in the context of an internal Commission
Lord Monson: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. It is true that the Advocate-General in question, Senor Damaso Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer, whose 18-page opinion in the French translation I have with me, did not actually say that it was akin to blasphemy. What he said--and this is an opinion commonly held among the continental elite but not, thank goodness, in this country--is that damaging criticism that undermines the prestige, the self-confidence, the dignity, and so on, of institutions like the European Union is as heinous and as unacceptable as blasphemy. He did not say that it was "akin", but it comes to very much the same thing. In the light of that, when the proposal for a European public prosecutor comes to be discussed at Nice in less than a fortnight's time, can we hope that Her Majesty's Government will be extremely cautious?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Lord raised a number of questions in his response. I should point out that the appointment of a public prosecutor is not something for which the Government find there is any need. Perhaps I may remind the House that the opinion of the Advocate-General is not binding; the European Court of Justice may or may not heed the opinion; and that substantive comment should await the final judgment. Noble Lords will know that advocates are prone to making arguments and suggestions and that judges are prone to disregard them.
Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, in the light of her previous answers, is my noble friend the Minister able to inform the House as to why in her opinion the European Court of Justice has not so far sought a retraction from the Daily Telegraph?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I can assist the House. The press articles written by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard are factually inaccurate. The ECJ wrote to the Daily Telegraph twice asking it to print a rectification. Only this Saturday, nearly one month after the appearance of the original story, did the Daily Telegraph finally print a response from the ECJ. In that letter the ECJ wrote:
Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, does my noble friend agree with me that we now find ourselves in the position where it is no longer prudent to believe everything that we read in newspaper reports?
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, is it not true that Article 52 of the new Charter of Fundamental Rights provides for limitations on imposed rights and freedoms otherwise recognised by the charter "if they are necessary" and
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, perhaps the Minister could answer my point about Article 52 of the new Charter of Fundamental Rights, which proposes precisely the sort of sanction to which the noble Lord's Question applies.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, Article 52(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights does not permit the wholesale undermining of citizens' rights, as subsequent Articles 53 and 54 make clear. Fundamental rights are guaranteed by the legally binding ECHR, the treaties and the member states' constitutions that the non-binding charter cannot go below.
Lord Acton: My Lords, does my noble friend agree with me that it is not altogether akin to blasphemy to suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, for whom I have the greatest respect, is not always totally sound on the subject of the European Union?
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