All 7 contributions to the Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Act 2022

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Fri 10th Sep 2021
Fri 28th Jan 2022
Mon 31st Jan 2022
Fri 18th Mar 2022
Wed 6th Apr 2022
Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill
Lords Chamber

Order of Commitment dischargedlords Hansard & Order of Commitment discharged
Mon 25th Apr 2022
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Royal Assent
Lords Chamber

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Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill

2nd reading
Friday 10th September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Second reading
13:28
Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

May I make a declaration of interest? Many years ago, I qualified as a Blue Badge guide, which entitled me to guide in, among other important historic places, the British Museum. I pay tribute to all the Blue Badge guides who do such fabulous work in explaining our culture and history and, indeed, the cultures and histories of other countries, to those who visit the United Kingdom. This Bill seeks to amend part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, which provides immunity from seizure for cultural objects on loan from abroad in temporary exhibitions in public museums and galleries in the United Kingdom. The 2007 Act was introduced by the Ministry of Justice and part 6 was given over to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to introduce immunity from seizure. Under section 134 of the Act, cultural objects on loan from abroad to feature in exhibitions in the UK museums and galleries approved under the Act are protected from court-ordered seizures for a period of 12 months from the date the object enters the UK. The legislation was in response to concerns from a number of countries that their art treasures were in danger of being seized while abroad in response to claims by third parties that they were owed money by the foreign state or because of territorial disputes between countries.

Let me add some context to those concerns. In the early 1990s, Noga, a Swiss trading company, claimed that it was owed a substantial sum by the Russian Government and embarked on a series of high-profile claims against Russian property, including the attempted seizure of state-owned assets. In 2005, Noga turned its attention to art when it attempted to seize 54 French impressionist paintings from Russian museums that were on their way back to Russia and travelling through Switzerland. After some delay and concern for the care of the paintings, they were released, but the alarm bells had begun ringing. Understandably, Russia became increasingly nervous about sending its art treasures abroad and announced that it would not lend any works of art to any country without a guarantee of immunity from seizure. That unhelpfully coincided with the planned “From Russia” exhibition at the Royal Academy here in London, which was scheduled to open in January 2008—thankfully, those loans were secured when part 6 of the 2007 Act came into force.

Section 134 provides that an object will be protected against seizure if it is normally kept outside the UK, it is not owned by a UK resident and it is brought here for temporary public display by a museum or gallery approved under section 136 of the Act. For an object to be protected, the borrowing museum must also have complied with regulations made under the Act which relate to publishing information about the loan in advance of it coming into the country. The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for approving institutions in England, and the devolved Administrations have similar powers for other parts of the UK. To gain approval under the Act, institutions must demonstrate that their procedures for establishing the provenance and ownership of objects are of a high standard. In 2007, it was considered that 12 months was an adequate period of time to allow objects to arrive in the UK and to be returned following their inclusion in a temporary exhibition. Section 134(4) provides therefore that the protection continues

“for not more than 12 months beginning with the day when the object enters the United Kingdom.”

The only exception to that, and when a period can be extended, is when an object suffers damage and repair work is required.

The legislation has been effective over the years and has enabled many exhibitions to be enriched by loans that the public might not otherwise have been able to see. There are now 38 institutions across the UK that have been approved for immunity from seizure and where objects have benefited from protection. In 2020, 14 institutions hosted exhibitions that included objects protected under the 2007 Act. This protection means that international museums are confident in lending some of their most significant cultural objects to appear in these exhibitions for the UK public to enjoy. Some examples of objects that have benefited from protection include the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, on loan from China to the National Museums Liverpool in 2018, and the baby mummified mammoth Lyuba, which was borrowed by the Natural History Museum from Russia in 2014. Indeed, the Egyptian Government made it clear that immunity from seizure was a requirement for the loan of its Tutankhamun treasures to the Saatchi Gallery in 2019 for the exhibition “Tutankhamun”, which was seen by no fewer than 580,000 people.

With their long experience in managing exhibitions, museum staff are incredibly versatile and adept at dealing with unexpected problems, including transportation delays. Thankfully, such delays are uncommon and can normally be managed to the satisfaction of the lending museum, but problems do occur. For example, we all remember the disruption to air travel caused by the Icelandic volcano that erupted in 2010.

Museums rely on international exhibitions as a major part of their income. When museums were required to close last year, many international loans were being held in the UK, having appeared in exhibitions. The restrictions and difficulties of international travel that we have all faced since last March meant that even where exhibitions had concluded, it was not always possible to return loaned items within the 12-month time limit.

The Bill will allow the period of protection to be extended beyond 12 months at the discretion of the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for institutions in England, and of the relevant authorities for the devolved nations. That will ensure that this protection remains fit for purpose and can adequately respond to unforeseen circumstances and increase confidence in the UK’s system for those that generously share their cultural objects with UK audiences.

The new power to extend would apply following an application from a UK museum or gallery, and extensions would be granted for a further three months initially, with a possibility of a further extension if considered necessary. The circumstances under which an extension may be considered will be set out in guidance to be developed in discussion with the devolved nations. The measure is strongly supported by the museums sector and Arts Council England, the Government’s development agency for museums.

I hope that Members will agree that this is a worthy measure that will benefit our museums and galleries and ensure that the very best cultural objects from around the world can continue to be seen by a UK audience, safe in the knowledge that, should there be delays in returning works, those objects may continue to be protected from seizure while they remain in the UK. I commend the Bill to the House.

13:36
Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab)
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I commend the right hon. Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) for bringing this Bill to the House. It might be easy to think of it as somewhat narrow and potentially even niche, but we often underestimate the role that public collections in this country play in communicating our history, our story and our identity to the world, and, similarly, the great role that is played, as the right hon. Member well described just a moment ago, by those same institutions receiving works from abroad so that interchange of histories and stories can occur and they can be told to the British public. What might seem a slightly technical point about protecting those institutions’ ability to do that actually underpins a huge and important role that we as a nation play in the world. I can see the Minister nodding, and I hope that that view is shared broadly across the House.

I have experienced several of the shows and exhibitions that the right hon. Member for Central Devon just spoke of; one in particular was part of a very important year in the life of the city of Liverpool. Being able to receive important, globally relevant works of art from around the world allows cities and institutions in our country to do their job. That has a huge impact not just on tourism and the visitor economy, but on the learning that younger generations are able to participate in. Frankly, what might appear to be a narrow and niche interest is actually profoundly important, not just for institutions such as the British Museum but for galleries and art institutions up and down the country.

With that said, I have just a couple of points to make about the Bill, and some questions that I hope the Minister or the right hon. Member for Central Devon may be able to cover. The Bill takes particular account of what has been a very bumpy year for cultural institutions. The Minister and I have exchanged remarks on many occasions across the Dispatch Boxes about the position that cultural institutions have been in. With some reservations about the scope and the manner in which the Government’s programmes of support through the pandemic have reached cultural institutions, the Opposition share the Government’s view that the Government ought to respond to what has been a very difficult year with support and help to facilitate the things that institutions need to get them through this difficult time. The Bill is one of those things.

The covid pandemic has demonstrated to me how important arts and culture are in this country. It used to be an interesting thought experiment to imagine what would happen if we shut every museum and gallery up and down the land. We did not have a thought experiment in the past 18 months; we had it in reality, and it was horrendous. The Bill shows that if we can make some small changes and facilitations to make things easier, we can see better continuity of our culture, and I think that is a good thing. As I said, it is important, yes for tourism and the visitor economy, but almost more important for learning. Our young people deserve access to the best museums and galleries that our country has to offer, and brilliant works of art from all around the world. People of all ages deserve the comfort and calming influence in their life of cultural institutions. We know about the positive impact that they have on mental health. In order to do that, we have to ensure that the UK protects its leading role. It has an incredible place in the world in demonstrating the very best of global culture. We need to make sure that, despite any turbulence now or in the future, those institutions will still be able to do that.

We have highly experienced and expert curators in the UK. Perhaps in this place we do not recognise enough the diplomatic role that those curators play. As a former chair of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art, I have seen at first hand the work that the UK’s brilliant curators do. They reach out to their equivalent institutions around the world and facilitate the exchange of knowledge, works and expertise. Often, it is those informal connections—institution to institution—that, when the world is a turbulent and difficult place, can really make a difference.

I remind Members of our recent debates on Afghanistan. Hon. Members from all parties mentioned the work of the British Council. I think of the terrible events in Syria and other parts of the middle east and the work that the British artistic and cultural institutions did to try to protect cultural assets and the important heritage of the world. Whichever country you are from, that interchange is extraordinarily important. I hope that, if that is sometimes an issue that does not get the political attention that it deserves, we are going some small way to rectify that this afternoon.

I have a few quick questions for the Minister and the Member promoting the Bill. The Bill provides some powers for the devolved institutions. It is important that in this place we have cognisance of liaison with the devolved institutions. I would be grateful if the Minister said on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Transport how she believes that that will happen now and in the future.

Clearly, covid is not the only global event that could cause interruption to the transport of cultural objects. We know that previous incidents have caused international transport to grind to a halt, which is not much fun for anybody. How does DCMS plan to liaise with the Department for Transport and other relevant Departments, including the Home Office, to make sure we have a smooth transition? Finally, what steps do the Government see themselves taking to prevent future disruption and to make sure that any disruption is handled as smoothly as possible?

I would be grateful to the Minister for those answers. I thank the right hon. Member for Central Devon for introducing this Bill, which hopefully will go some small way towards making sure we keep our place as one of the most important nations in the world for preserving our culture, history and heritage.

13:45
Mark Jenkinson Portrait Mark Jenkinson (Workington) (Con)
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In rising to support the Bill, I declare my interest, which predates my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. For a number of years, I was a trustee and director of a small but wonderful local museum, the Helena Thompson Museum. It probably will not be affected by this Bill, which seeks to protect international artefacts alone, but it wonderfully tells the story of Workington and the surrounding area.

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted almost every area of our lives, and it is entirely appropriate that we take time to revisit existing legislation to take account of such unprecedented events that have a major impact on international air travel, which has created significant problems for loaned objects that are due to be returned to their country of origin and have been unexpectedly delayed here.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) referenced the example of the Icelandic volcano—I will not try to repeat its name—in 2010, when 100,000 flights were grounded, causing major international air travel disruption and posing a risk to the timely return of cultural objects.

I have studied the Bill closely, and it addresses the issue clearly and comprehensively. In giving my support, I thank my right hon. Friend for bringing it to the House. As he has outlined, the Bill amends the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 to allow the period of protection from seizure and forfeiture to be extended from 12 months to a further period of up to three months. I hope Members on both sides of the House can see how this puts museums and international lenders on a much firmer legal footing, creating the higher level of certainty that these international exchanges require and implementing the safeguards they need. I am sure the custodians of these treasures will breathe a collective sigh of relief as the Bill progresses.

Although the risk of seizure is extremely small, a number of countries place great emphasis on having this added layer of protection. Providing this greater degree of certainty on the protection available, with the knowledge that it can be extended at the discretion of the relevant authority, will increase the confidence of owners of loaned objects, providing a boost to our exhibition sector, which after the past 18 months certainly needs it. Providing a power to extend the period of protection helps to mitigate the impact of major unforeseen disruptions, and not just to international travel, which might otherwise leave these objects at risk.

The extension is fully justified as a contingency to mitigate unexpected and unprecedented events beyond anyone’s control. I commend my right hon. Friend for raising this important issue and for the fervour with which he does so. The Bill has my full support.

13:48
Angela Richardson Portrait Angela Richardson (Guildford) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) on introducing this Bill. He made an excellent, informative speech, in which I learned some new things.

My constituents in Guildford, Cranleigh and our villages take an enormous interest in cultural issues. We have the wonderful Watts Gallery and, of course, our much-loved museum. Any measure that militates against collections not coming to this country is very worth while, so I am happy to support the Bill today.

My right hon. Friend referred to unforeseen environmental factors such as the eruption of the Icelandic volcano. I was in New Zealand visiting my family when that volcano erupted, and although I am not a cultural object, I am sure that my parents would have liked to seize me and keep me in New Zealand. My onward flight from Singapore back to the UK was grounded for 11 days. Such disruptions do come along, and of course we have had this horrible time of covid, which has caused much disruption to international travel.

I hope that, as well as looking at this Bill, the Government are looking at and potentially auditing any other bits of legislation whereby a significant disruption to international travel could have unintended consequences, which may also need to be amended. This, however, is a sensible Bill and anything that gives confidence is important. I hope that the Bill moves through the House swiftly and I am very happy to support it.

13:51
Mike Wood Portrait Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con)
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Museums and galleries play an important role in our national life, our heritage, our education and our understanding of who we are and of the world around us, but also, of course, in our enjoyment. That is true of world-renowned venues such as the National Gallery and the British Museum, and also of smaller ones such as the White House Cone Museum of Glass, which is opening in my constituency next summer, and the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, which I understand is now the most popular museum worldwide on TikTok. I think that “1920s Grandpa” was viewed about two and a half million times during the lockdown.

The extensive collections in these museums are supplemented by temporary exhibitions which are enriched by the ability to borrow culturally valuable, significant and relevant pieces from around the world. Clearly most of those exhibitions will be comfortably covered by the 12-month period in the existing legislation, but, as we have seen over the past 18 months, the unexpected happens rather more frequently than people might imagine, whether it is a global pandemic or a catastrophic environmental issue. Events that can stop international travel can, perhaps, disrupt, delay or postpone those exhibitions.

Our country and our cultural life would be very much poorer without access to displays and exhibits that is made possible by the protections in existing legislation. If by allowing for those protections to be extended by a further three months we can secure the ability of our world-class museums and galleries to borrow these exhibits from their partners around the world, that has to be an extremely important thing for us to strive to do. I therefore congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) on an important Bill, which I look forward to supporting during its passage through the House, and wish him all luck.

13:53
Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore (Keighley) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) on a Bill that will enhance our cultural offering. I am fortunate enough to represent a constituency that contains the Ilkley Toy Museum alongside the Brontë Parsonage Museum, and I think that the ability to bring to such places small exhibitions with the potential to feature objects of huge importance from other parts of the world is incredibly important.

One of the key things that have been highlighted in this debate is the flexibility that the Bill brings in being able to provide an extended three-month period for unforeseen circumstances. I stress the flexibility that the Bill offers with the power for the Secretary of State or the equivalent in the devolved Administrations to consider the period of protection on a case-by-case basis. Flexibility when dealing with objects coming from across the world and being able to transfer them between one museum setting and another is incredibly important.

The current 12-month period of protection typically provides a sufficient length of protection for popular museum exhibitions to take place before an object must be returned, but we have noted that issues such as the pandemic have caused many problems with getting artefacts transferred between one country and another. We can have unforeseen circumstances, such as the eruption of the volcano in Iceland. By extending the period of protection from seizure, owners of these artefacts will have much more confidence in lending them to UK museums. This Bill will provide a much-needed boost to the United Kingdom’s exhibitions sector. The UK is home to a wealth of museums benefiting from the ability to transfer artefacts from one lender to another across the globe. I very much welcome the Bill and will be wholeheartedly supporting its passage through this place.

13:56
James Davies Portrait Dr James Davies (Vale of Clwyd) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore) and to stand in support of this Bill, brought forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride). This is a practical Bill that serves a straightforward purpose, but it will I hope have positive consequences for many people across the country. The closure of so many cultural venues over the past 18 months has highlighted to us all how lucky we are in this country to have access to some of the world’s greatest museums and exhibitions. Thanks to our world-leading vaccination programme, we are now at the point where these places are once again welcoming visitors, and I am keen to provide support in any way that I can, including via this Bill.

While our national institutions own many of the artefacts that are displayed or restored, many pieces here for a short time travel from overseas. The provisions within the Bill, as we have heard, will reassure the lenders of those objects and in turn safeguard the ongoing exchange of cultural artefacts between the UK and partners throughout the world.

Under section 134 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, cultural objects on loan from abroad to British museums and galleries approved under the Act are protected from seizure or forfeiture for 12 months from the date the object enters the UK. Disruptions caused to international travel during the pandemic created problems whereby loaned objects due to be returned to their country of origin were unexpectedly delayed in Britain. These objects were left at risk of being unprotected, should the 12-month limit have expired before the borrowing institutions could arrange for their return. Similarly, we have seen environmental factors such as the eruption of unpronounceable volcanos.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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It is pronounced Eyjafjallajökull.

James Davies Portrait Dr Davies
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Very well done. Hansard now needs to type it up, of course. Such environmental factors can pose a risk to the timely return of cultural objects on loan from international lenders. While the risk of seizure and forfeiture is extremely small, a number of countries place significant importance on the security of such protection. The Bill will provide greater certainty over the protection available, with the knowledge that it can be extended by up to three months at the discretion of the relevant Minister. It is hoped that, as a result, the confidence of owners of loaned objects will increase, providing a boost to the UK’s exhibitions sector and ensuring that this country continues to be recognised as a leader for the display of culturally significant artefacts. I support the Bill.

13:59
Caroline Dinenage Portrait The Minister for Digital and Culture (Caroline Dinenage)
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I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) not only for introducing this important Bill, but, with his Blue Badge guide status, for guiding us through it so beautifully.

As we have heard, the protection afforded to cultural objects on loan to our UK museums and galleries from abroad is of huge significance to many international lenders. Understandably, the owners of such objects expect and require a degree of certainty that, when agreeing to lend their most precious national treasures, they will be safeguarded from seizure or forfeiture while they remain in the UK. We have heard from Members across the House why this is so important—this is the lifeblood of some of our great cultural institutions—and why it really matters.

Immunity from seizure has provided that certainty since the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act was passed in 2007 and the first of our museums and galleries began to apply for and achieve approved immunity from seizure status. As a result, we have seen a great number of remarkable exhibitions featuring internationally owned objects that have benefited from immunity from seizure. Between 2015 and 2020, over 200 separate exhibitions in the UK benefited from this coverage, with hundreds of fascinating objects protected by the Act while on display for the public to enjoy and learn from.

The loan of objects allows museums across the UK and the world to stage exhibitions and displays that would not otherwise be possible and enables them to further contextualise their collections and attract more diverse audiences, as well as to contribute to the education, learning and wellbeing outcomes that museums are well known to provide. The Opposition spokesperson, the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), spoke about how we have seen an experiment this year regarding what happens when such places are closed to us and how it really does impact on our everyday lives. We really need those cultural institutions in our lives for our general wellbeing.

All this demonstrates the effectiveness and the value of the legislation so far, but the proposal put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon is a real opportunity to address a small but important gap. It will ensure that immunity from seizure legislation continues to remain fit for purpose during these uncertain and changeable times. I am happy to say that the proposed measure is therefore very much welcomed and supported by the Government.

While this amendment is small, it is sensible and forward thinking, and it responds to real concerns expressed within the sector about what would happen should circumstances prevent objects being returned to their country of origin within the standard timeframe. The hon. Member for Wirral South asked me how we have worked with the devolved nations on this, and of course they have been consulted on the proposals and have welcomed them, as she would expect. We will of course continue to work with them on implementation and guidance.

The measure will clearly have a positive impact, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon set out in his opening words. It will help to reduce the risk of international cultural property being left unprotected while in the temporary care and custody of UK institutions. International exhibitions are such an important source of income for the sector, and they will be ever more important as museums and galleries recover from the challenges we have seen over the last year. The provisions of this Bill will have a very positive impact on our sector. They will allow museums and galleries to continue to co-ordinate and plan important loans with international partners for tourist-drawing exhibitions, safe in the knowledge that contingency against unpredictable events is available.

This will also help museums and galleries maintain the really strong relationship they have with counterparts in other parts of the world. We have heard about some of the really impressive outcomes produced by the exciting exhibitions our UK museums and galleries have been able to hold as a result of loans of international cultural objects. My right hon. Friend mentioned that a single exhibition, the Saatchi Tutankhamun exhibition, reached more than half a million members of the public. That underlines how valuable the immunity from seizure protection is. It just simply would not have been possible without it.

Another one that my right hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Wirral South mentioned as having an amazing benefit from this protection was the terracotta warriors exhibition in National Museums Liverpool, which are quite brilliant, in 2018. Some 36% of visitors to this exhibition were from outside the area. It generated about 200,000 staying visits to Liverpool throughout the exhibition’s run and contributed over £78 million to the local economy. Is that not incredible? These are really impressive examples showing how immunity from seizure contributes so positively to our culture sector and provides fantastic opportunities for the UK public to experience these incredible pieces of history—these cultural works of art—from across the world. That is why it is so important that the Bill underpins all this as practically as possible for our museums and galleries, and it is clear that it will help to do so.

In conclusion, I thank my right hon. Friend for bringing this incredibly worthy Bill to the House and for setting out so articulately and clearly the benefits that it will bring. I confirm that the Government support the Bill.

14:05
Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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With the leave of the House, I thank all those who have participated in this debate to support what I think is a very important Bill. The shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), managed to convey far more eloquently than I did the importance of this narrow Bill to the broader issues at stake. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mark Jenkinson) for sharing his experiences and knowledge of this sector. My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Angela Richardson) told us about the time that the volcano erupted and informed us that she was not a cultural object. Perhaps one day she will be a cultural icon—who knows?

My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) shared his experience of many museums, particularly those in his constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore) raised the issue of the Ilkley Toy Museum, which sounds absolutely fascinating and I look forward to visiting that at some point in the future. Through my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Dr Davies), by way of an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), we finally got the pronunciation correctly delivered of the volcano in Iceland, so I thank him for that contribution. Finally, I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for all her support and her very hard-working officials at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who were very patient in answering the many questions I had of them in pursuing the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Public Bill Committee (Standing Order No. 63).

Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Before we get on to our proceedings, it might be useful for hon. Members if I set out the differences between Report and Third Reading. Report stage, also known as consideration, is an opportunity for the whole House to consider what has been done during Committee. Members may table amendments, either as probing amendments to elicit more information or because they want to make changes to the Bill. The scope of the debate is restricted to the amendments that have been selected. Third Reading is the final opportunity for MPs to pass or reject the whole Bill. Members can speak about the Bill as a whole and the debate is much wider.

Members may wish to consider those points and then decide at which stage or stages they want to try to catch my eye. If they are on the list and do not want to speak to the amendments, it would be helpful if they could let me know.

Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Public Bill Committee

Clause 1

Protection of cultural objects on loan

09:36
Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I beg to move amendment 1, page 1, line 6, at end insert

“in relation to an object that is in—

(a) the United Kingdom for the purpose of public display in a temporary exhibition at a museum or gallery in England or Scotland, or

(b) England or Scotland for any of the purposes listed in subsection (7)(b) to (e).”

This amendment provides for the extension of the maximum protection period to apply only in relation to objects that are in the United Kingdom for the purpose of an exhibition in England or Scotland, or otherwise in England or Scotland for certain purposes.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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With this it will be convenient to discuss amendments 2 to 6.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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Perhaps I should begin with a brief declaration of interest, Mr Speaker, in that as a hobby, I am a qualified Blue Badge guide—qualified to guide in such wonderful places as the British Museum, Westminster Abbey and others. I pay tribute to all those Blue Badge guides who work so hard to promote our country and our culture.

Amendment 1 provides for the extension of the maximum protection period to apply in relation only to objects that are in the United Kingdom for the purpose of an exhibition in England or Scotland or otherwise in England or Scotland for certain purposes. That follows a decision by the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland not to prioritise the legislative consent motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly, which would have allowed the powers to apply to Northern Ireland. Similarly, and following discussions between the UK and Welsh Governments, it has not been possible to reach agreement on how the power to extend the current 12-month period of protection will apply across the two nations. The Welsh Government have therefore declined to table a legislative consent motion for the Bill as it stands.

Amendment 1 and the other amendments, which are consequential on it, will ensure that the Bill addresses that situation while introducing the Bill’s important measures for application in England and Scotland.

Amendment 1 agreed to.

Amendments made: 2, page 1, line 14, leave out paragraph (b).

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1.

Amendment 3, page 1, line 26, leave out paragraph (d).

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1.

Amendment 4, page 2, line 10, leave out “two or more” and insert “both”.

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1.

Amendment 5, page 2, line 21, at end insert—

“(4E) In relation to an object the maximum protection period for which is the period mentioned in subsection (4D)(c), references to the United Kingdom in subsections (4)(a), (5) and (8) are to be read as references to England or Scotland.”

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1.

Amendment 6, page 2, line 23, at end insert—

“(4) In section 137 (interpretation), in subsection (10)—

(a) For “‘United Kingdom’” substitute “A reference to the United Kingdom or any part of the United Kingdom”;

(b) after “adjacent to the United Kingdom” insert “or that part of the United Kingdom”.(Mel Stride.)

This amendment is consequential on Amendment 1.

Third Reading

09:38
Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This is a short, two-clause Bill that extends the period of protection against court-ordered seizure for cultural objects on loan from abroad. The Bill amends part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, which provides immunity from seizure for cultural objects on loan from abroad in temporary exhibitions in public museums and galleries in the United Kingdom. Under section 134 of the Act, cultural objects that are on loan from abroad to feature in exhibitions held in UK museums and galleries approved under the Act are protected from court-ordered seizure for a period of 12 months from the date when the object enters the United Kingdom.

The legislation was prompted by events in 2005, when 54 paintings, including works by Picasso, Matisse and Cézanne, were seized by customs officers in Switzerland. The paintings, from the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Russia, were impounded after they had left the town of Martigny in Switzerland. The Swiss authorities acted on a court order obtained by a Swiss import-export firm, Noga SA, which claimed that the Russian Government owed it several million dollars in unpaid debts relating to an oil-for-food deal signed in the early 1990s and which sought to enforce a Stockholm arbitration award in its favour.

The impounding of the paintings was just one of several attempts by Noga to recover its purported debt by seizing assets abroad. In 2000, Noga instituted proceedings to seize a Russian sailing ship that was due to take part in a regatta in France; it then sought to freeze the accounts of the Russian embassy in Paris. Both actions were dismissed by court rulings in favour of Russia. In 2001, it tried to appropriate two Russian military jets during the prestigious Le Bourget air show in France; that attempt also failed.

But it was Noga’s seizure of the Pushkin paintings that sparked the most outrage of all. The director of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg said that

“works of art are now being used as hostages in trade disputes”.

Although the seizure order was quickly cancelled by Switzerland’s Federal Council, the Hermitage warned that no Russian museum would be able to send objects on loan to any overseas venue unless it received concrete legal guarantees that its artworks would not be seized during the loan period.

John Lamont Portrait John Lamont (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his Bill. Does he agree that the relatively minor change in it will give great reassurance to overseas lenders about their capacity and confidence to lend assets to the United Kingdom? In the Scottish Borders, across Scotland and across the UK, all our constituents will now benefit from being able to enjoy those assets, and the lenders will have the comfort of knowing that they are safe here.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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My hon. Friend precisely pinpoints the advantage of the Bill, which is very narrowly defined but will provide extra certainty to those who lend artworks to England and Scotland and the museums therein that those artworks will be returned in due course. That comfort will drive further loans in future, which will be to the benefit of the people in this country, our tourism industry and our cultural offering in general.

The measures in the 2007 Act enable the UK Government, the Governments of Scotland and Wales and the Northern Ireland Executive to give guarantees for such loans in the United Kingdom. Since the Act’s introduction, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been responsible for approving institutions in England for immunity from seizure, and the devolved Administrations have similar powers for other parts of the United Kingdom. To gain approval under the Act, institutions must demonstrate that their procedures for establishing the provenance and ownership of objects are of a high standard.

In 2007, it was considered that 12 months was an adequate period to allow objects to arrive in the UK and to be returned following their inclusion in a temporary exhibition. Section 134(4) of the Act therefore provides:

“The protection continues…for not more than 12 months beginning with the day when the object enters the United Kingdom.”

Greg Knight Portrait Sir Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend on getting this far with his Bill. Has he received any letters of objection from anyone, anywhere, to what he proposes?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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The Bill has widely been received very positively. There have been very positive discussions with the devolved Governments, as I outlined in the debate on amendment 1 and my other amendments. There have been some changes in relation to Wales and Scotland, but the Bill has received support across the House; it went through Committee without Division, and my amendments on Report have been agreed to without Division. It is an important and widely supported set of measures.

The only exception in which the 12-month period can be extended is where an object suffers damage and repair work is needed. The legislation has been effective over the years and has enabled many exhibitions to be enriched by loans that the public might not otherwise have been able to see. There are now 38 institutions across the United Kingdom that have been approved for immunity from seizure and where objects have benefited from protection. Those 38 institutions are in England and Scotland; there are currently no approved museums in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Alex Sobel Portrait Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)
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For many of our regional museums, galleries and historic houses, temporary exhibitions are made up with a relatively small number of items from abroad. Does the right hon. Gentleman think we will expand on that number of 38 institutions, to allow many more of our regional museums and galleries to have immunity from seizure?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. My understanding is that the application process to become an approved institution or museum is relatively straightforward. It is rigorous in the sense that, clearly, a number of important aspects have to be met. I would defer to the Minister, who might tell us a little more in his concluding remarks about the guidance that is appropriate and how it operates in those circumstances.

As I was saying, my Bill was drafted to allow the period of protection to be extended beyond 12 months, at the discretion of the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for institutions in England or the relevant approving authority in the devolved nations. That was to ensure that the protection remains fit for purpose and can adequately respond to unforeseen circumstances, and to provide increased confidence in the UK system for those who generously share their cultural objects with UK audiences. The new power to extend would apply following an application from an approved museum or gallery, and extensions would be granted for a further three months initially, with a possibility of a further extension if that is considered necessary. The circumstances in which an extension may be considered will be set out in guidance.

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne (South Cambridgeshire) (Con)
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I commend my right hon. Friend for getting the Bill before the House. It is clearly an important measure and it is important to support the tourism industry, which generates so many jobs. In what sort of circumstances might an institution want to apply for the extension? Have those circumstances happened in the past or is this just a precaution to deal with situations that might arise in the future?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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I will come on to these points imminently, but let me immediately address the question my hon. Friend has posed. The circumstances have not arisen in the past in the UK, and the 12-month period has always been adequate. However, things such as the covid problems and the grounding of air flights—a volcanic eruption happened in Iceland some years ago and grounded flights—are causes for concern. The most important thing is that although we have not had a situation where we would have needed an extension in the past, there is no doubt that this comfort is required for those lenders who generously lend their cultural artefacts to our museums and galleries.

The devolved Administrations have all shown strong support for the purpose of the Bill. However , the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland has decided at this time that it is unable to prioritise a legislative consent motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly and that Northern Ireland must, regrettably, be removed from the Bill. That is unfortunate, although in practical terms it has little impact at present, as there are currently no approved museums in Northern Ireland, as I have said. Furthermore, following discussions between the UK and Welsh Governments it has not been possible to reach agreement on how the concurrent power to extend the 12-month period of protection will apply across the two nations, the Welsh Government have declined to table a legislative consent motion for the Bill as it stands. Therefore, the Bill has been amended to remove its application in Wales. As with Northern Ireland, there are currently no Welsh institutions approved for immunity from seizure, so in practical terms that has no direct impact at the moment. I am informed that a legislative consent motion has been successfully lodged in the Scottish Parliament so that the measures in the Bill can and will have effect in Scotland. Given the decisions taken in relation to Wales and Northern Ireland, the Bill has been amended so that the power in proposed new subsection (4A) to extend the protection period for three months applies only in relation to objects that are either in the UK for the purpose of a temporary exhibition in England or Scotland, or in England or Scotland for one

“of the purposes mentioned in subsection 7(b) to (e)”.

I know all hon. Members will be very familiar with them. That will limit the effect of any extension of the maximum protection period to England and Scotland. I emphasise that the 12-month protection period under the 2007 Act will continue to apply across the United Kingdom as it currently does.

Our museums have shown, particularly during the anxious times of the past two years, that they are incredibly good at managing unforeseen events. Where it has been possible, exhibitions have gone ahead and works returned to lenders on time. However, that has not always been the case and the restrictions and difficulties with international travel that we have all faced mean it has not always been possible to return loaned items as rapidly as desired once exhibitions have concluded.

As restrictions in the UK continue to be eased, museums will be able to plan with greater confidence. A number of exciting exhibitions are already planned for this year, including the Raphael exhibition at the National Gallery, Van Gogh’s self-portraits at the Courtauld Gallery and “Surrealism Beyond Borders” at Tate Modern. We can expect all those exhibitions to be popular with the public.

We may feel safer in going about our daily lives, but we should not forget mother nature’s ability to surprise us. On Second Reading, I raised the disruption to air travel caused by the Icelandic volcano that erupted in 2010; the eruption earlier this month of the Tongan volcano, which threw out a huge cloud of volcanic ash, is further evidence that we can be taken unawares and forced to change our plans, sometimes at very short notice.

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his detailed exposition of the legislation, which I strongly support. He mentioned in his introduction the various circumstances in which it is deemed necessary for there to be protection against action taken overseas—in Switzerland, France and so on; is he aware of any UK cases of the court-ordered seizure of artworks that have come here for exhibitions? In what sort of circumstances might that happen in future? Would it be when law enforcement authorities are worried about, for example, the breaking of anti-money-laundering rules, which we have talked about? Or would it be families trying to get back goods that they think belong to them rather than to foreign galleries?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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My hon. Friend is, of course, very familiar with the issue of economic crime as he serves with me on the Treasury Committee and we are currently looking into these very matters in great detail. I believe there probably have been instances in which there has been a need within our country’s borders to seize objects and cultural artefacts. I cannot give my hon. Friend specific examples, but there will have been such seizures and the capacity for them will remain—for example, under proceeds of crime legislation if artefacts are used to conceal drugs or similar or for something associated with money laundering. Seizures could still occur under certain circumstances, but those circumstances are narrowly defined and will not be changed in any way by this legislation.

I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will agree that the Bill is an important and worthy measure that will give our museums and galleries, and those who lend to them, greater comfort in knowing that the protection afforded under the 2007 Act can be extended if travel plans are disrupted and it is not possible to return loaned objects within the current 12-month period.

Greg Knight Portrait Sir Greg Knight
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I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way again; he is being generous. I notice that the power to extend by three months can be repeated again and again—there is no limit on how many times the relevant authority can extend the period for three months. Why has my right hon. Friend phrased the legislation in that way? Would it not have been better to give the relevant authority the power to extend for a longer period?

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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I believe the three-month period came out of the consultation process. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been conducting an informal consultation with museums and the rest of the sector and it was felt that, in the context of the existing 12-month protection, three months was a reasonable and proportionate further extension. It is relatively straightforward for the Secretary of State, or for Scottish Ministers when the question relates to Scotland, to bring forward further extensions—it is not a lengthy or onerous process—so three months seemed a reasonable period of time. We have to put forward some kind of period for extension because that has to be addressed.

The Bill will ensure that our national museums and galleries can continue to host major exhibitions, which provide so much enjoyment for the many millions of people who visit them every year and which are vital as we continue to rebuild our economy. I commend the Bill to the House.

09:54
Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho (East Surrey) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) on bringing forward this important Bill. My constituents care passionately about our arts sector, as do I, and I am enormously proud to represent Caterham, which is home to the world-famous East Surrey Museum.

The pandemic has been extremely hard on our cultural sector, but it has made me and my constituents realise how lucky we are that this country is home to some of the finest museums, galleries and exhibitions in the world. Thanks to the Prime Minister’s world-leading booster programme, our country was spared another lockdown and our cultural organisations were spared having to close their doors once more.

Some challenges remain, however, which is why I am delighted to support this iconic sector in any way I can, including through this Bill. Many objects have benefited from existing legislative protections, such as the baby mummified mammoth Lyuba, which was borrowed by the Natural History Museum from Russia in 2014; the terracotta warriors loaned from China to the National Museums Liverpool in 2018; and the Tutankhamun treasures loaned to the Saatchi Gallery in 2019.

Without protection from seizure, the loan of such objects would never have been granted; world-famous exhibitions and galleries may never have come to fruition; and the opportunity of blockbuster success for our museums and cultural sector would have been squandered. Although the risk of seizure in Britain is, of course, very low, legislative protection none the less ensures that our museums and galleries can reassure their lenders and retain their status as some of the most enviable across the globe.

We have heard about some of the exhibitions this year, such as at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, which will host several self-portraits of Van Gogh, three of which will be loaned from the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Art Institute of Chicago; the Tate Modern, which will host pieces from Vancouver, Berlin and New York; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, which will host a piece from Princeton University library. That gives a sense of how difficult it can be to weave together the wonderful exhibitions that we can all enjoy so much.

The prudent three-month extension that we are discussing will further boost Britain’s exhibition sector by increasing the confidence of international owners to lend to British institutions and will make the exhibition planning of our museums and galleries easier. Although the 12-month period of protection has generally provided a sufficient length of time for museum exhibitions to take place and for objects on loan to be returned in line with agreed schedules, on occasion, we can see how that would leave us vulnerable. We have heard a bit about international travel; we all remember the 2010 volcano eruption in Iceland; and we have debated in the House some of the real difficulties that we see in Tonga this year as well.

Supporting our cultural sector is about not just the arts but our economic strength. Over the years, I have witnessed many attempts by other countries to lure our brightest and best—our top talent—to other areas. It is our rich cultural fabric that acts as a magnet to this country. The museum sector alone also generates £2.64 billion of income and £1.4 billion of economic output to the national economy, which inputs to our £75 billion tourist economy. We know that several countries would almost certainly be unlikely to loan us objects if the protection was not in place.

As I have said, the risk of seizure in Britain is low, but I wholeheartedly support the Bill to ensure that all our opportunities in museums, galleries and exhibitions remain open. It will reassure those who lend to British institutions, secure our ability to host some of the finest cultural objects across the globe, and retain Britain’s status as a cultural superpower.

09:59
Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) on bringing forward the Bill. It is not just a London issue; many hon. Members who represent constituencies with historical links are appreciative of what we have in this country. For Hertford and Stortford—this is a link with covid—during the reign of Elizabeth I, this Parliament sat in Hertford castle. It moved there to escape the plague, so there is a link there, and we also have the amazing Great Bed of Ware, which resides in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is one of its prime objects. Our cultural heritage is important to all of us, and all the people, and the constituencies that we represent.

I had no idea that my right hon. Friend was a Blue Badge guide. It is something I have always intended to do. I was honoured in 2018 to be one of the volunteers lighting candles in the moat of the Tower of London to commemorate the end of the first world war, and many of my fellow volunteers were Blue Badge guides, and it was very inspirational. I commend him on doing that; perhaps one day in the future I will join him.

I commend the importance of cultural objects, museums and galleries in this country. There are about 2,500 museums in the UK, and the UK’s tourist industry is worth about £75 billion. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Claire Coutinho) said, it makes a hugely important financial and economic contribution to our economy. The ability to put on exhibitions with new material from overseas is an important way for museums and galleries not only to survive—we have seen how important that is over the past couple of years—but to thrive and continue to attract a wide range of audiences, including tourists, and from all across the country, too. The purpose is to educate, to inform and to widen people’s knowledge of history and culture.

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne
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My hon. Friend raised the importance of tourism to the economy, which is right. As she said, it is about £75 billion, and the measures in the Bill will clearly help promote tourism. As fellow members of the Treasury Committee, she and I have been looking at the economic progress over the past two years since the pandemic, and clearly the economy has done a lot better than most people predicted at the beginning. We have had progressive easing of travel restrictions—now there are virtually none. Does she agree that that, along with the measures in the Bill, will help promote tourism in the UK and help it bounce back from a difficult time?

Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. It is amazing how we are coming out of this pandemic with a lot of support from the Government to the cultural sector, but as we come out of this pandemic, galleries and museums will effectively be competing for business with all sorts of other attractions. The certainty offered by the Bill will enable museums across the world to lend to each other with confidence, and that can only help with the important task of getting our cultural sector back up and running and making that economic contribution to the country that it always has made, and we hope it will continue to grow.

I remember—vaguely—one of the first major cultural exhibitions, which was the Tutankhamun exhibition in 1972. It began the phenomenon of great big blockbuster exhibitions, and from then they have gone from strength to strength. I think there were 1.6 million visitors to that exhibition. There were pictures of people queueing around the corner of the British Museum. That was what sparked this whole thing, and it is a vital part of the business model of museums and galleries. Exhibitions attract tourists and visitors, increase the cultural importance of institutions, attract sales in gift shops and so on—an important part of the business model—and they attract sponsors.

The impact of large exhibitions cannot be underestimated, and their contribution goes beyond money: they are extremely important to inclusivity in the cultural sector. Many people in this country cannot afford to go abroad to see important artefacts, so to bring them to this country could and should be seen as part of the Government’s levelling-up agenda, by enabling everybody to see them. Many museums and galleries are free; sometimes people have to pay for the exhibitions, but it is about the accessibility to things that people, particularly young people, could not otherwise see.

We have seen some fascinating exhibitions focusing on LGBT history and culture, and they are not exclusive. We had an amazing David Bowie exhibition a few years ago, which was hugely popular—I think one of the most popular in the past 20 years. Exhibitions are not exclusive; they are very inclusive. If people want to see indigenous Australian art or African art, those are important things that can be achieved only with the security this Bill helps to provide.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson (Heywood and Middleton) (Con)
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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point about this being part of the levelling-up agenda. Does she also agree that it is a pretty powerful symbol of global Britain?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I have been quite lenient, but this should not become a political broadcast for what the Government are doing. We have to be careful. I know it is Friday and we are a bit more relaxed, but we must try. This is about seizure of objects, and I have allowed all the exhibitions and everything, but we must be a bit careful that we do not totally make this about patting the Government on the back for everything they are doing.

Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will say briefly to my hon. Friend that I agree, and move quickly on. In fact I will close here, because I am aware that others want to speak, but I emphasise that in so many different areas—financial, cultural and practical—this Bill goes a long way towards helping to secure all those benefits with more certainty than in the past.

10:07
Suzanne Webb Portrait Suzanne Webb (Stourbridge) (Con)
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I will try not to make this a political broadcast, Mr Speaker, but stick to the subject matter.

I rise to support this Bill, which I know will be of great reassurance to museums and galleries in the Black Country and the wider west midlands, particularly because I spent much of my youth and adult life in museums and galleries. They are a joy. That is what I used to do: we did not have the internet or those exciting things that absorb us now, attached to a phone. We used to get out there and see incredible exhibitions. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) mentioned the blue badge, and I may look into that myself—it sounds very interesting.

The coronavirus pandemic underscores why this legislation is needed. Back in March 2020, no one could have foreseen the disruption to international travel that would occur. With nearly all overseas flights suspended, objects on loan to British museums could not be returned to their country of origin. As a result, the artefacts were at risk of being left unprotected by the current 12-month period of protection from seizure. By changing existing legislation, this Bill will help to mitigate those unforeseen disruptions to the timely return of artefacts on loan from lenders abroad.

However, the Bill is more than a contingency for unforeseen events: it strengthens the partnerships between our museums and international institutions by providing a greater degree of certainty and building trust. Many foreign lenders insist on immunity from seizure when lending artefacts, so the Bill is crucial to ensuring that international owners have the confidence to lend culturally significant objects to British institutions, in the knowledge that they will not be at risk of inadvertently being left unprotected.

Museums and galleries across the country and in the west midlands stage incredible exhibitions, many of them only made possible by the borrowing of objects from international lenders. These international exhibitions are vital to both enhancing their existing collections, and attracting new audiences. Other hon. Members have stolen my thunder, because I was going to mention Tutankhamun myself. My hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Claire Coutinho) mentioned the 2019 exhibition, which I believe marked the 100-year anniversary and was the last visit. Some of us remember the 1972 exhibition, which I remember as a child of the time—my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) mentioned that, and I think it quite unbelievable that she can remember it. It was absolutely thrilling, the excitement of it all, and there were record crowds of 1.7 million people. I remember the black and white pictures of the queues going round—I think we used the word Egytpomania at the time—and it was so exciting. It was an exhibition of the beautiful painted wood torso of the young king, exquisite domestic objects, and the glint of gold everywhere. I seem to remember that exhibition coming to Birmingham, which is where I was born and bred, but when I did a bit of research I could not find it. Nevertheless, I believe it moved around slightly. Imagine if that incredible exhibition had been blighted by a pandemic.

The Bill provides a greater degree of certainty, and makes it easier for British museums and galleries to plan their exhibitions. It will help to ensure that the UK continues to be able stage international exhibitions, with the finest artefacts from around the globe. Many such exhibitions are made possible only through the borrowing of objects from international lenders.

I now want to tell the tale of an artefact of great distinction and notoriety that resided in the midlands: an 8 foot tall, 890 kg fibreglass statue commissioned for display in Birmingham in 1972, as part of the sculpture for public places scheme in partnership with the Arts Council of Great Britain. It was commissioned to make something city-oriented, and the sculptor chose King Kong—I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) remembers the King Kong that resided in Birmingham. I do not want hon. Members to do a quick Google now, as I will be told off by Mr Speaker, but when they leave the Chamber, they can see the incredible artefact that was in Birmingham and supposed to represent it. It was down to the sculptor’s association with New York City, and he created it for their own petty reasons. It was displayed in the heart of the city for many years—imagine if it was actually seized! It was something of a notoriety, and I loved it as a child growing up. We used to drive round to look at it. Hon. Members will be pleased to hear that King Kong lives on, and is now retired in Penrith.

I welcome the Bill for non-UK artefacts, because the ability for museums and galleries to stage international exhibitions is vital for the tourism sector in the UK. Tourism is a vital part of the local economy in Stourbridge, and in the wider Borough of Dudley. More than £534 million was spent by visitors to the area over 7 million trips, supporting more than 8,000 jobs. The west midlands is home to plenty of fantastic museums and galleries, such as the Glasshouse Heritage Centre in Stourbridge’s historic glass quarter. That heritage attraction is a real gem in my constituency. It is run by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, and it hosts a wide array of artefacts that tell the incredible 400-year story of glassmaking in Stourbridge. I know that the Bill will be welcome by institutions such as the Glasshouse Heritage Centre, as the arts sector makes a strong recovery after the pandemic. The Bill will be of great reassurance to museums and galleries in my region, and the wider west midlands. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) for introducing the Bill, and long live King Kong.

10:13
Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne (South Cambridgeshire) (Con)
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As I said in my earlier intervention, I strongly welcome the Bill. That is not because any of the 38 institutions that might take advantage of it are in my constituency—I have not checked the full list of institutions, but I am pretty sure none of them is there. However, I know that a lot of my constituents enjoy these big exhibitions, as some of my hon. Friends have said, and I declare an interest because I also went to the 1972 Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum. I remember being part of the big queues outside it with my parents, and I have very vivid memories of seeing those Egyptian artefacts. It is incredibly important that we carry on having these big blockbuster exhibitions, by giving foreign galleries and institutions the reassurance they need when lending to the UK. I have seen other international blockbuster exhibitions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) mentioned the Terracotta army. That has also been to the UK and I went to see it.

The Bill is especially important because of the disruptions we have seen to international air travel. Indeed, I have personal experience of that. When the Icelandic volcano erupted I was in Malta, on a little holiday with my family in a nice hotel by a swimming pool. Then the airspace closed and I was condemned to stay in Malta at this lovely hotel for another week before a hole emerged in the volcanic ash cloud and we managed to escape to Toulouse and drive back to the UK. So clearly disruption to international travel does happen—I have experienced that myself.

The other thing that no one has mentioned yet is that we are in a period of rising international tensions. We have had debates here about possible events in Ukraine. Clearly tensions are mounting between the west and China. Many of the blockbuster exhibitions that we have and want to attract come from those two countries—for example, the terracotta army from China. Other hon. Members have mentioned the Hermitage Museum, which is one of the world’s biggest museums, with an incredible wealth of exhibits that we may want to bring to the UK. In a time of rising international tension, we want to be able to give reassurance to galleries and museums in other countries that they can lend to us in full safety.

I want to give one little anecdote about the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. If people have never visited it, I strongly recommend it if they can ever get there. It is one of the most extraordinary buildings on the planet and a real tribute to the—I am not quite sure how to put this—wealth of the Tsarist regime, which built the winter palace. It has rooms that are made out of gold, malachite and everything else. The building itself is as astonishing as any of the exhibits in there, and it is vast. It has such a wealth of art that the Russian empire and then the Soviets built up and put in there. A lot of that art—there are Picassos and so on—is stuff that we would want to see in the UK.

There are also a lot of Russian icons, and this is relevant to today’s debate. It is illegal in Russia to export any of the icons, but there is a really busy industry in making replica icons that people might want to exhibit at home. The gift shop of the Hermitage Museum sells replicas of the icons that are on display there. As it is not allowed to export real icons, you get a certificate of fakeness when you buy a replica—a very nicely done certificate saying, “We confirm this is a fake”—and you can then export it. I bought a little icon which is proudly in my sitting room now. When I went out through Moscow airport—I went back to Moscow—the customs official uncovered it, and I said, “Ah, but it is fake, look I’ve got a certificate of fakeness.” The official said, “But this certificate of fakeness, it could be fake.” [Laughter.] Clearly there are big concerns about exporting and expropriating different bits of cultural heritage.

The Bill is important because of concerns about air travel and rising international tensions. It is important to continue blockbuster exhibitions, for all the economic reasons that various hon. Friends have mentioned. Tourism is a £75 billion industry, and blockbuster exhibitions are important for that. People come from other countries to the UK to see those exhibitions. One reason why the Bill is important is that if the Hermitage Museum or the Chinese Government are thinking about where their exhibits might go, they will go to only one or two places in the world. They want to lend them to the place that can give the greatest reassurance. The fact that we can provide this extra reassurance makes it more likely that they will agree to UK institutions as opposed to institutions elsewhere.

I want to end on one little note that is not totally relevant to this debate, but almost is. There is a reciprocal debate about what we do with the Elgin marbles; the Minister may or may not want to comment on this later. We have the Elgin marbles here in the UK, and there is obviously a big debate about whether they should or should not go back to Greece. I do not want to reopen that whole debate, but there is an issue about whether we could lend them to Greece for an exhibition and what sort of reassurance we could get that we would get them back. That is a mirror image of the legislation that we are talking about today. I put that there; maybe we could encourage other countries to give similar legal reassurances.

I fully support the Bill and the amendments that my right hon. Friend tabled. I think we should all say Aye to it.

10:19
James Davies Portrait Dr James Davies (Vale of Clwyd) (Con)
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It is a privilege, as always, to follow the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne). I congratulate the right hon. Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) on his hard work on the Bill. In September, I was pleased to speak on Second Reading in support of the Bill and its sensible and straightforward changes, and I warmly welcome the opportunity to briefly do so again on Third Reading.

The enforced closure of cultural venues during the pandemic emphasised to people across the country, including—as we have heard—many in this House, the true value that those venues and the exhibitions and pieces in them can provide our society. While restrictions were in place over some of the last couple of years, the learning opportunities and inspiration provided by those venues were well and truly missed. Thanks to our apparent recovery from the pandemic—we all hope that is the case—I believe 2022 can be the year that the people of this country rediscover our world-leading museums and exhibitions, and the venues can make a strong recovery.

As we are aware, under section 134 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, cultural objects from abroad on loan to UK museums and galleries approved under that Act are protected from seizure or forfeiture for 12 months from the date that the object enters the UK. That provides international lenders with reassurance they may consider vital, even though the risk of seizure and forfeiture in this country would be incredibly small.

The disruption caused by the pandemic, especially to international transport, has highlighted concern about unforeseen delays to the return of loaned objects to their country of origin. Under the current rules they would, in theory, be at risk of being unprotected should the 12-month limit expire before the borrowing institutions can arrange their return. I am sure many of us feel the pain of those cultural objects, having been denied family trips abroad, as I have been now for 27 months.

At present, the only way the 12-month period can be extended is when an object suffers damage and subsequent repair work is required. It is right to allow the relevant Minister the discretion to extend the standard protection period by up to three months, where necessary. That will provide the owners of those loaned objects a greater degree of confidence and certainty that their objects are protected, and thereby boost the UK’s reputation as a cultural magnet.

I have listened with interest to hon. Members’ references to museums in their areas around the country. We heard, for instance, about the terracotta warriors, which were on display four years ago in the National Museums in Liverpool, an important city for my constituents, being not far from north Wales. Such exhibitions provide vital income, as we have heard, for the centres. They also educate and inspire many of those who come to see them.

At a personal level, as a Welsh MP, I am disappointed that the Welsh Government have been unable to come to an agreement on the matter with DCMS, even though the Scottish Government have apparently done so. I worry that that will mean that, in future, international artefacts will be less likely to be displayed in Wales. However, the priority must be to progress the Bill to ensure that objects in the principal museums in the United Kingdom—in reality, in the major cities of England and Scotland—are protected.

The steps set out in the Bill are as important as they are reasonable. As the impact of the 2007 Act showed, the improvement of legislation on the seizure of cultural objects has a practical, real-world effect on our cultural venues and the exhibitions they can host. The Bill will help ensure that the UK continues to attract some of the most significant cultural pieces from across the world. For that and all the other reasons I have mentioned, I support the Bill and wish it success in its passage through the other place.

10:24
Marco Longhi Portrait Marco Longhi (Dudley North) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Dr Davies) and to speak about this straightforward and reasonable Bill, which has been designed in a specific and targeted way, and will only help to support a sector that, like so many others, has been affected during the pandemic.

Our museums and cultural institutions in the United Kingdom do an incredible job. They have the power to transcend barriers, to preserve and to educate. Our museums, galleries and cultural institutions teach us about the past—the good, the bad and the ugly. By learning about the past, we can be inspired for the future to do better or learn from past mistakes. They stimulate our brains and make us smarter.

My Dudley North constituents are lucky that we have many rich cultural institutions on our doorstep: the Black Country Living Museum, Dudley zoo and castle, the Wren’s Nest site of special scientific interest, the Dudley canal tunnel trust, nature reserves, our microbreweries and pubs, and our bowling greens and parks. The list really does go on.

Suzanne Webb Portrait Suzanne Webb
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Will my hon. Friend give way?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I think I might have to intervene first. We are stretching it to mention pubs and zoos; the Bill is about museums. I know Members want to get it all on the record, but I would be more than happy if the hon. Lady intervened to say something that might get us back on track.

Suzanne Webb Portrait Suzanne Webb
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I was not going to mention pubs, Mr Speaker.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. The Bill is about museums. It does not say that we can advertise things. I could say that Astley Hall in Chorley is beautiful and my constituency has good gin, but I would be totally out of order, because the Bill is nothing to do with pubs. I would not expect Members to follow that example.

Marco Longhi Portrait Marco Longhi
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The past year has undoubtedly had a huge impact on this sector in many ways, but with resilience and Government support such as the culture recovery fund and the zoo animals fund, our museums, zoos and entertainment venues will once again see us all flocking back to them.

Across the country, and indeed internationally, our museums and galleries loan artefacts and exhibitions to each other, which makes exploring culture far more accessible than it has ever been before, and I want to see more of that. I am not just the Member of Parliament for Dudley North—the heart of the Black country and birthplace of the industrial revolution—but the trade envoy to Brazil. I would love to see more British exhibitions taking place in Brazil and vice versa. How cool would it be, ahead of the 200-year anniversary of Brazil’s independence this September, to have even more access, in the UK—with nearly 200,000 Brazilians living here—to learn about Brazil’s rich cultural history?

Under section 134 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, cultural objects that are on loan to UK museums and galleries from abroad are protected from seizure and/or forfeiture for a period of 12 months from the date that the object enters the UK. The Bill will go further and offer yet more invaluable support in the cultural sector.

Our cultural sector has been hard hit by the pandemic in more ways than simply not being allowed visitors. Disruptions to international travel during the coronavirus pandemic created problems beyond limiting tourists. They meant that loaned objects due to be returned to their country of origin were unexpectedly delayed in the UK. Those objects, unable to travel out of the UK, were left at risk of being unprotected should the 12-month limit expire before the borrowing institutions could arrange their return. Yet it is not just a global pandemic that can create such issues. As we have heard, environmental factors such as smoke clouds from volcanic eruptions have also proven to be problems.

Although the risk of seizure and forfeiture is extremely small, several countries place great importance on having those protections. Providing greater certainty about protection, and the knowledge that it can be extended at the discretion of the relevant authorities, will increase the confidence of owners of loaned objects, and will provide a boost to the UK’s exhibition sector.

We all deserve the security of protecting our institutions for generations to come. We have a hunger for cultural appreciation, and we should be doing whatever we can to ensure that it continues. On that note, Mr Speaker, I would love to invite you to a pub in my constituency—[Laughter]—to appreciate the cultural impacts that it has on my local area.

10:30
Jane Hunt Portrait Jane Hunt (Loughborough) (Con)
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I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Marco Longhi) on inviting you to his local hostelry, Mr Speaker—but I also greatly, and gratefully, congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride). He is the Chairman of the Treasury Committee, and today he has told us about his cultural skills. He is clearly a man who uses both sides of his brain.

The UK has some of the finest museums in the world, which play a significant role in educating and inspiring people of all ages. They are also critical to our £75 billion tourism industry, which supports 4 million jobs. In Leicester, we are proud to have the Richard III Museum. Another museum, in Charnwood, features a wide range of exhibits reflecting the history, geology, archaeology and industries of our area. Of course, our museums also have great relationships with other institutions around the world, allowing for the import and export of cultural objects for temporary exhibition to help broaden our understanding of different cultures, as well as other countries’ understanding of ours. That, I think, is vitally important. We have talked about the Tutankhamun exhibition of the 1970s. The recent Treasures of the Golden Pharoah exhibition featured 150 authentic pieces from the tomb of King Tutankhamun, 60 of which travelled outside Egypt for the first time. Such exhibitions are also an important source of revenue for museums, and help to ensure that visitors come back.

We must do everything we can to support museums, especially given the impact that the pandemic has had on them. I welcomed the nearly £2 billion that the Government provided over the course of the pandemic to support our cultural sector, along with the original £1.57 billion that the Cultural Recovery Fund announced in July 2020. I want to record my thanks for the funds that came to my constituency, including funding for Great Central Railway and the Loughborough Bellfoundry, the only working bell-foundry and bell-foundry museum in the country.

I am pleased that the Bill will support the sector by addressing another issue that has arisen from the pandemic, that of culturally significant objects being left at risk of seizure or forfeiture owing to the major unforeseen disruption to international travel. As has been pointed out, that also happened in 2010 as a result of the volcanic eruption. Although the risk of seizure or forfeiture is extremely small, we know that a number of countries ascribe great importance to having adequate protection in place—and, I imagine, their insurance would be affected. By giving the Secretary of State power to extend the period of protection from seizure and forfeiture for a further period of up to three months, we will ensure that international owners retain confidence in the system and continue to lend to our great institutions.

May I ask the Minister to clarify two points? First, might one reason for that extension be the popularity of a touring exhibition and the need for it to spend more time in the United Kingdom? Secondly, is the agreement of both parties necessary for the extension to be validated?

10:33
Danny Kruger Portrait Danny Kruger (Devizes) (Con)
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I congratulate, in particular, my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride). In a sense the Bill is very technical, simply extending a law that is already in force, but it is seems significant at a time when our country is going through a period of great change.

Earlier, Mr Speaker objected to a reference to global Britain, suggesting that that was some sort of party political point. I do not think it is. Surely, even Opposition Members believe in the UK playing a successful role in the world, and I think it matters enormously that we are doing this; it is an important signal of our commitment to global exchange.

I hope that it is not just because he is the Chair of the Treasury Committee that my right hon. Friend is promoting the Bill. There have been lots of references to the boost to GDP from our role as a place of cultural exchange; my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Claire Coutinho) also made the pounds, shillings and pence argument, rather depressingly. It is a fair point—£75 billion is not to be sneezed at—but surely, the real value of what we are proposing and, I hope, voting through today is the value of cultural exchange. It is a great thing. My hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne), who is also on the Treasury Committee, made the point that at a time of tension with Russia and China, increasing the opportunities for exchange of cultural objects with those countries matters enormously.

While I enthuse about the role of the UK, and particularly of the London museums, as a meeting place for the world’s artefacts, surely the real value of the United Kingdom in the cultural sphere lies in our local museums. I echo the point made by the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) about the importance of regional museums. My hon. Friends the Members for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson) and for East Surrey made the same point about their local museums. Those were good efforts, but surely the Wiltshire Museum is the one to mention. We have in Devizes the museum that houses the oldest artefacts in the United Kingdom. We talk about the terracotta soldiers and Tutankhamun’s tomb and the Elgin marbles, but those are flashily new objects—box fresh—by comparison with the Neolithic artefacts that were dug out of the long barrow at East Kennett and, of course, our great stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury, which are 5,000 years old.

I welcome the renewed focus on the United Kingdom as a place of cultural exchange, and I hope to welcome the terracotta army to Devizes at some point.

10:36
Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
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I will be brief; we have had an extensive debate this morning, ranging from Tutankhamun and Richard III to pubs and zoos, so I do not intend to detain the House much longer.

On Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) set out our support for the Bill. We think it is a sensible and proportionate measure that will provide useful safeguards for the ability of our cultural institutions—the British Museum and galleries, museums and libraries up and down the country—to stage the kinds of exhibitions that add so much to our cultural and tourism offer. We reaffirmed our support in Committee, and the Opposition support the measures before us today. It therefore remains only for me to congratulate the right hon. Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) on bringing the Bill to this stage and to wish him success as it moves forward.

10:37
Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nigel Huddleston)
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Many thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) for introducing the Bill and for speaking so eloquently about it today. Indeed, I thank all those who have contributed to today’s debate.

The Bill will provide an important improvement to an already worthy tool, which is used by many of our fantastic cultural institutions across England and Scotland. The useful recap that my right hon. Friend provided, setting out the history of how immunity from seizure legislation was first arrived at in the UK, was very important. It emphasised the confidence that such measures have built, and the willingness and trust that our international partners now have when they lend their objects for temporary exhibitions in our approved museums and galleries.

Many international lenders require immunity from seizure protection when they loan cultural objects to other countries as a matter of course, and it is often an uncompromisable condition of their loan that the object is protected in that way during its stay. If that condition were not met, we would risk not having those very objects that we want to come here. The protection provides a legal assurance that a lender’s objects will be protected from court-ordered seizure for a limited period while in the UK. Many countries have their own similar version of immunity from seizure, for the same reasons, enabling us to lend abroad.

The process that sits behind immunity from seizure protection is necessarily robust. To use the protection, museums and galleries must go through a rigorous application process to attain approved status. That involves demonstrating that they are an ethical organisation, that they follow proper due diligence processes for examining the history of loans in, and that they will not borrow items if there is any suspicion that they were stolen, looted or illegally obtained. For the protection to apply to objects they are borrowing, approved institutions must also publish detailed information about such objects at least four weeks before the objects enter the UK. That diligent work is all part of the high standard of professional practice that our museums carry out as part of their loan procedures. It is fantastic that 38 museums and counting have achieved immunity from seizure approved status. That is a testament to their excellent track records and their continued commitment to upholding the highest standards of due diligence.

Many Members highlighted the very important fact that this is not a London issue. Many museums that provide the service are outside London, including Manchester Art Gallery, the National Museums of Scotland, Wolverhampton’s museums and museums in Liverpool, Norfolk and elsewhere around the country. Therefore, the important points made by my hon. Friends the Members for Hertford and Stortford (Julie Marson), for Vale of Clwyd (Dr Davies) and others about this not being a London issue are very well taken and noted. My hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Claire Coutinho) highlighted that fact by giving specific examples of where the protection has already meant we have had loans from incredible institutions around the world, with many more coming this year.

Many Members also mentioned, rather interestingly, the issue with the Icelandic volcano. I did note, however—maybe you can help, Mr Deputy Speaker—that none of us were actually brave enough to name the volcano.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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May I just check? Is the Minister referring to Eyjafjallajökull?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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There’s always somebody, isn’t there, Mr Deputy Speaker? [Laughter.] I was just about to say that, but there is no point anymore.

Several Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Stourbridge (Suzanne Webb) and for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) and others, mentioned their memories, decades later, of visiting the Tutankhamun exhibition or even just watching the news coverage of some incredible exhibitions. That shows the importance and embeddedness of these events and the impact they can have on us, in particular when very young.

The 12-month limit of protection was an issue raised specifically by approved museums and galleries during the more restricted periods we all faced during the pandemic. What would happen to loans approaching 12 months if coronavirus measures and global travel delays meant the borrower could not return them in time, despite all their efforts to comply with regulations and to satisfy the owner’s conditions of the loan? The issue is most relevant to our approved museums and galleries in England and Scotland, as the current users of immunity from seizure protection. As the world begins to feel a little more certain again, I am sure that the recent experiences have taught us to expect the unexpected. As we continue to support the sector’s recovery, it is important that we consider measures such as this. An option to extend the length of time that objects can be covered by immunity from seizure is a sensible contingency to have, especially in uncertain times.

The proposal for such extensions to be considered on a case-by-case basis where needs arise is welcomed, as it will allow for some flexibility. Assessing scenarios in that way will also help to ensure that the extensions are used only where absolutely necessary, and that in the majority of cases objects on loan to approved museums in England or Scotland are returned in a timely manner and within the standard 12 months.

Several Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Jane Hunt), raised questions about guidance and when that would be implemented. Policy guidance for museums on how they should apply for extensions and in what circumstances is in development at an official level and will be a collaborative effort with officials in the Scottish Government to ensure they provide succinct practical steps for approved museums to follow in the event that they cannot return objects in time. It will set out broad examples of acceptable circumstances where an extension protection may be justified, for example where long-term national or international travel disruption is expected to last beyond the expiration of the 12-month loan period.

As I have said, it is regrettable that the Bill will not have effect in Northern Ireland and Wales. There are currently no museums in Wales and Northern Ireland approved under the 2007 Act, but the Bill does not change their ability to apply for approved status in the future, and of course any objects loaned by approved museums in Northern Ireland and Wales will be covered by the standard 12-month period available to all approved museums.

The Government are content that the drafting of the Bill offers the best protection to cultural objects. I am pleased, therefore, to confirm once again that the Government welcome and support this private Member’s Bill, and I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon for introducing it.

10:44
Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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With the leave of the House, I would like to express my gratitude to various individuals who have assisted me in bringing in this Bill. First, I thank the officials at DCMS for their advice and, in particular, Mark Caldon. I thank the Clerks who assisted me with process and particularly Adam Mellows-Facer, who is no longer at the Table so I am sparing his blushes. I thank the Members who helped to take the Bill through the Bill Committee. I thank the Minister and the Opposition, including the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith), for his very generous words a moment ago. I thank all those who spoke on Third Reading and crammed in so many other Government policies; this is a narrow Bill, but it seems to me that it promises a very great deal beyond its intention. I also thank in advance Lord Vaizey, who will sponsor the Bill, and all those who work in our museums and galleries and who enrich the lives of so many of us.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill

First Reading
15:18
The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill

Second Reading
10:25
Moved by
Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Lord Vaizey of Didcot
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Lord Vaizey of Didcot (Con)
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My Lords, this is a wonderful opportunity for me to take this important Bill through your Lordships’ House. I thank—I do not know if I can call him my honourable friend—the Member for Central Devon, Mel Stride, whom I have known for a while, who guided this Bill through the other place and very kindly asked me to take it through your Lordships’ House. I was delighted to take over the reins, given my interest in these issues in my former role, now so elegantly occupied by my noble friend Lord Parkinson.

Before I get into the meat of the Bill, I thank the excellent Bill team at DCMS—Mark Caldon, Karl Jagdis and Aisling Parrish—as well as the brilliant DCMS lawyer, Lydia Williams. I am sure my noble friend Lord Parkinson will agree with me that he is lucky enough to be working in a department full of the most excellent civil servants who give so much to us.

The Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill is a short two-clause Bill and, I think, relatively uncontroversial. It extends the period of protection for an art object against a court-ordered seizure. It covers an object that is loaned to an institution in this country—a listed institution, which I will come to in a minute—for a temporary exhibition and ensures that it cannot be seized while it is in this country.

That provision was brought in by Part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. Under Section 134 of the Act, provided that certain conditions are met, these objects are protected from a court-ordered seizure for a period of 12 months. It is obvious why the legislation was originally brought in: there were concerns from a number of countries that their art objects were in danger of being seized while abroad if a third party, for example, had brought a claim against that object or indeed if a third party had a dispute with the state, albeit some kind of territorial dispute, and it wanted to use the object as a bargaining chip.

Section 134 of the Act clearly provides protection against seizure, provided that the object is normally kept outside the UK, it is not owned by a UK resident and it has been brought here for temporary public display by a museum or gallery—provided that that gallery is approved under Section 136 of the Act. In order for the object to be protected, the borrowing museum must have complied with the regulations made under the Act relating to publishing information about the loan in advance of it coming to the UK, and also doing due diligence on the provenance of the object.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for approving the institutions in England—and, indeed, in the devolved Administrations—that come under the provisions of the Act. To gain approval under the Act, institutions have to demonstrate that their procedures for establishing the provenance of the object and the ownership of the object are of the highest standard.

When the Act was passed in 2007, it was considered that 12 months was an adequate period of time to allow objects to arrive in the UK and then to be returned following their inclusion in a temporary exhibition. Section 134(4) of that Act provides that the protection continues for not more than 12 months, and that begins on the day that the object enters the UK. The only exception to that is where the period can be extended if the object suffers damage and repair work is needed.

The legislation has worked well over the years; it has enabled institutions across the UK to borrow some outstanding objects that the public would not otherwise have been able to see. There are now 39 institutions across the UK that have been approved under the regulations. I could point to many examples where the regulations have enabled an exhibition to take place, but I need only cite two that will be very familiar to your Lordships: the terracotta warriors, loaned from China to National Museums Liverpool in 2018, and of course the “Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh”, Tutankhamun, loaned from Egypt to the Saatchi Gallery in 2019, an exhibition that was seen by almost 600,000 people.

A more up-to-date example is the eagerly-anticipated Raphael exhibition at the National Gallery, which opens next month. The exhibition is unique in exploring Raphael’s complete career, featuring his celebrated paintings and drawings as well as his work in architecture, poetry and design for sculpture, tapestry and prints. But it has loans from abroad: from the Louvre, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Uffizi Gallery and the Vatican Museums. I am sure that it will draw huge crowds.

Many of these loans will of course be protected under immunity from seizure. These include Raphael’s letter to Pope Leo X from the state archives of Mantua, a tapestry of “St Paul Preaching at Athens” from the Vatican Museums and paintings such as the self-portrait, the portrait of Baldassare Castiglione, and “St Michael” and “St George” from the Louvre. One of the star exhibits is featured on the front page of the exhibition catalogue: the portrait of Bindo Altoviti, which has been loaned by the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

I do not know why I am banging on about the Raphael exhibition at the National Gallery, because I have just been appointed as a trustee of Tate. I turn instead to that great institution and commend to your Lordships the new “Surrealism Beyond Borders” exhibition at Tate Modern, which runs until 29 August—so, by my calculation, your Lordships have five months to get across the river. Previous stories of surrealism have focused on Paris in the 1920s. Our exhibition at Tate will reach across the world and over 50 years. It shows how artists around the world have been inspired and united by surrealism from centres as diverse as Buenos Aires, Cairo, Lisbon, Mexico City, Prague, Seoul and Tokyo. Again, many of the loans would not have been possible without immunity from seizure.

The logistics involved in planning and hosting blockbuster exhibitions such as these are immense. With their long experience in managing exhibitions, museum staff are incredibly versatile and adept at dealing with unexpected problems, including transportation delay, but problems can still occur. For example, the Icelandic volcano which erupted in 2010 and, of course, the global pandemic, have both led to delays. Thankfully, travel restrictions have now eased and museums are enjoying hosting and planning future exhibitions with a degree of confidence. However, I say that as the current appalling conflict in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia illustrate that safely moving and returning artwork around the world is never straightforward. That is why this Bill is important.

Where there are unexpected delays in returning protected objects, the Bill allows a period of protection to be extended beyond 12 months, at the discretion of the Secretary of State. It will ensure that the protection remains fit for purpose and that foreign lenders continue to lend to the UK. The new power to extend would apply following an application from a museum or gallery, and extensions would be granted for a further three months initially. There is the possibility of a further extension, if considered necessary. The circumstances under which an extension may be considered will be set out in guidance, which is being developed in discussion with museums and the Scottish Government. It will be published before the Bill completes its passage in this House. The measure is strongly supported by the museums sector and the Arts Council. I am also delighted to tell your Lordships that, only yesterday, the Scottish Parliament passed its legislative consent Motion, so the Bill can now have effect in Scotland.

Although Part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act provides immunity from seizure, there are currently no approved institutions in Wales or Northern Ireland. During the Bill’s passage in the other place, it was actually amended to remove its application to Northern Ireland and Wales. This was because the Department for Communities in Northern Ireland decided that at the moment, it is unable to prioritise a legislative consent Motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Also, following discussions between the British and Welsh Governments, it has not been possible to reach agreement on how the concurrent power to extend the current 12-month period of protection would apply across the two nations. The Welsh Government have also therefore declined to table a legislative consent Motion for the Bill as it stands. I am afraid those are unfortunate developments; I emphasise again that objects may still be protected under the current immunity from seizure legislation in Northern Ireland and Wales, but without a power to extend the current 12-month period.

We have a very busy day today so I will bring my remarks to a close. I trust your Lordships will agree that this is a worthy measure, ensuring that cultural objects can continue to be protected from seizure from their country of origin. I am sure your Lordships will breathe a mild sigh of relief that I will not be taking the House through the current exhibitions at the museums designated in the Act, from the Ashmolean Museum to the Wolverhampton Art Gallery. I beg to move.

10:35
Lord Strathcarron Portrait Lord Strathcarron (Con) (Maiden Speech)
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My Lords, I am most honoured and grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the Second Reading today. I must declare several levels of interest. First, I am a trustee of the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu and a director of two of its trading companies. Secondly, I am a cultural realm mediator and a founding member of the ADR panel Art Resolve, which was established to mediate in exactly the kind of dispute which this Bill is trying to prevent, and I am vice-chair of the Society of Mediators. Thirdly, my publishing company publishes with the Art Loss Register, the world’s leading resource and database for lost and stolen art, to which any disputes about provenance that the Bill envisages will certainly be referred. Fourthly, the same publishing company has among its publishing partners the National Gallery in London, the Imperial War Museum, Royal Museums Greenwich and the Royal Armouries, all of which could actively benefit by the provisions in this Bill.

While I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the debate, I am equally grateful to the many kind and courteous people who have helped me over the last month while I settle into your Lordships’ House. As noble Lords will recall, it is a humbling and daunting experience for a new arrival, geographically as much as procedurally. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Borwick who, apart from being my Whip, has taken a considerable amount of time and trouble to show me around the Palace of Westminster and explain many of the House’s more esoteric ways and means.

Likewise, Black Rod and the Clerk of the Parliaments found time in their busy days to explain their roles, my role and the workings of the House. The Registrar of Lords’ Interests was endlessly patient in explaining into which categories my interests should be registered. I must also thank the numerous attendants for redirecting me when lost around the endless red corridors and, most importantly, the doorkeepers, who seem to recognise me before I even arrive and who are, at this moment, keeping your Lordships captive in here while I finish this maiden speech.

The instructions for a maiden speech are that it should be short and uncontroversial. The brevity side of the requirement will soon, I hope, become apparent, and it is hard to think of any Bill less controversial than the one before us. Having consulted the interested parties already mentioned, all are in total agreement that this is a welcome proposal, which will only strengthen England and Scotland’s ability to attract loans from the world’s most significant collections, many of which are appreciated by hundreds of thousands of visitors.

After hearing my noble friend Lord Vaizey extol the virtues of the Bill far better than I can, I would still like to draw attention to a significant benefit of it not so far mentioned. The Bill directly contributes to a cultural environment whereby British and overseas museums and galleries can, with great confidence, contribute to displaying each other’s exhibitions. It is well known that UK soft power plays a major ambassadorial role in promoting British values around the world, and I believe the Bill will succeed in ways which have so far not been envisaged. The Bill can only help to foster the kind of international cultural collaboration which benefits everyone who participates in it—from schoolchildren to curators, from visitors to guides and all the many specialist staff it takes to organise a major international exhibition.

10:39
Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this Private Member’s Bill debate. I congratulate my honourable friend Mel Stride, from another place, on introducing this, and my noble friend Lord Vaizey, who wonderfully introduced it today. He is a man of culture and an ex-Minister for Culture, and he is now the pilot of this cultural objects Private Member’s Bill.

It is an honour to follow the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Strathcarron, a man of culture, an internationalist, a man of travel and, as we have heard, a supporter of the motor museum in the Midlands—more than that, he is a real global traveller and thinker, not least in some wonderful publications, retracing the travels of Mark Twain across Europe and that wonderful journey where he steamed up the Mississippi River from New Orleans. I look forward to spending more time with my noble friend, to understand more about his thinking around such subjects as mysticism and bliss—I am sure that he will find plenty of both in your Lordships’ House. His was a wonderful maiden speech. Today, by the good offices of Hansard, the publisher becomes the published, and I am sure that we would all agree that, in his maiden speech, he has given us a wonderful first edition.

This is a beauty of a Private Member’s Bill—simple, straightforward, clear and concise. I hope that my noble friend the Minister agrees that it does two things. It gives institutions around the world clarity, confidence, safety and security to lend marvellous cultural objects, not least those that my noble friend Lord Vaizey has set out. It gives the public the chance to see those objects in our wonderful museums and galleries, across the country. Would my noble friend the Minister agree that we have a fine, rich tapestry of museums and galleries, with doors open to everyone, right across the country? This is a simple and straightforward Bill, and I hope that it has a swift and safe passage on to the statute book.

10:42
Earl of Clancarty Portrait The Earl of Clancarty (CB)
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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strathcarron, on his maiden speech, and I hope that we will hear more contributions in this particular area of his expertise. The visual arts are of course a feature, in various ways, in creativity and commerce, and together they are a sometimes underrated but hugely important part of our creative industries.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey of Didcot, for introducing this debate and taking the Bill forward. I am sure that all of us here are perhaps planning to visit or will have been—perhaps not recently enough—to exhibitions containing significant work on loan from other countries. It is great that we can have exhibitions again, although I for one will certainly be wearing a mask to visit, until cases are right down.

I am a great believer in the worth of cultural exchange in the wider sense, and engaging with exhibitions is an important aspect of that: it is a way of connecting with other cultures and periods through objects, including artworks, that we would not otherwise have the chance to see in this country. In addition to the list of the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, this could also include British art that has been dispersed around the world but brought back for exhibition. It is worth bearing in mind that this will also include contemporary art, which can now be very valuable, with there perhaps being a potential for the seizure of that as much as older recognised treasures. The last exhibition that I visited was the brilliant Hokusai exhibition at the British Museum—“Hokusai: the Great Picture Book of Everything”. All of the original drawings have been purchased by the BM, which is one way to solve the problem.

This is clearly an excellent Bill, designed to instil confidence and trust in lenders and facilitate exhibitions, supported on all sides of the House during what was a very good Second Reading debate last year, in the Commons. I have a couple of questions for the Minister. The first is very basic, and there may be a straightforward answer to it. It is simply this: why does there have to be a fixed period of time in the first place in which seizure cannot take place? Once a museum has been approved, following the high standard of checks that it will need to make around provenance and so on, why does there have to be a cut-off point and therefore a necessity for this Bill? Of course, the Bill will very helpfully extend that original one-year time period further, if required, but perhaps the Minister can explain that. I ask this question not just as a matter of clarification but because we now live in very uncertain times indeed—more uncertain perhaps than when the Bill had its Commons Second Reading, in September. There is now arguably the increasing potential for cultural objects not to be returned for a long period, depending on where they might be lent from.

My second question relates to the approval of museums and galleries to participate in the scheme. I counted 39 public museums and galleries on the approved list published on the Arts Council site, as the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, said. This is actually one more than the government website, which lists only one of the two Scottish museums, giving the Hunterian but not the National Galleries of Scotland, which are both on the Arts Council site. It has been 15 years since the original legislation, and 39 feels still quite a smallish number, although many of our major museums are on that list. However, they are mostly from England rather than the devolved nations—Wales and Northern Ireland do not have any approved museums at all, which seems strange. Is this because some museums have yet to apply because they have not yet felt the need to do so or are even unaware of the scheme, or have some applications actually been turned down? It would be interesting to know what the department’s view on that is. Perhaps the Minister can clarify its expectations about extending the list, if that is a concern.

A similar argument applies for Wales and Northern Ireland for inclusion in this extended scheme. Has anything changed with regard to Wales and Northern Ireland since Report, when they were excluded from the Bill? It would be helpful to know whether there has been a development on that front. It seems a shame that this legislation could not apply equally across the whole of the UK, even without as yet approved museums.

A museum’s desire to exhibit art and artefacts from other countries presupposes their existence, and it is distressing when we hear about the destruction of cultural property. The Minister will of course be aware of UNESCO’s huge concern about the threat to Ukraine’s artistic and cultural heritage, and we know that art has already been destroyed and cultural sites targeted, on top of the appalling loss of life that we have seen. I thank the Government for their written reply to my question on this last week; in it, the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, outlined some of the action that the DCMS has been taking with regard to this. It would be helpful if the Minister could say a few words about this.

I wish the Bill success and again congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, on steering it through this House.

10:48
Baroness Merron Portrait Baroness Merron (Lab)
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My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and today is no exception. From these Benches, I offer congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Strathcarron, on his rich and considered maiden speech. I extend a very warm welcome to your Lordships’ House—we certainly look forward to hearing more from him.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, on bringing this very practical and straightforward Bill to your Lordships’ House today. We are delighted to support him in his endeavours. The principle of granting extensions, which will relieve the pressure on cultural institutions should they come up against practical hurdles in respect of returning items, is certainly extremely timely and welcome.

We cannot underestimate the role that public collections in this country play in communicating history, stories and identity to the world. Similarly, as noble Lords have well described, these institutions play a great role in receiving works from abroad, so that an interchange of histories and stories can occur, and be told and shared among the British public. What might seem to be a slightly technical point about protecting the ability to do that actually underpins a huge and important role that we as a nation play in the world. Being able to receive important and globally relevant works of art from around the world allows cities and institutions across our entire country to do their job.

This has a great impact, not just on tourism and the visitor economy, but on the learning in which we are all able to participate, particularly the younger generations. This is profoundly important. I have noticed some discussion of late about the value of school trips, and whether they contribute to examination grades. On this point, it is perhaps an appropriate moment to raise my feeling that it is rather limiting to see the offering of museums, galleries and other cultural houses simply as places we quantify as marks on an exam paper. We do not necessarily need art galleries, museums and other institutions to help with exams, but we do need them to make us think and feel. That is an enrichment of life, particularly for the younger generation.

The reason this Bill is particularly timely is because it takes account of the very challenging year which cultural institutions have faced in respect of the pandemic. We share the view that the Government need to respond to what has been a very difficult time with support and help, and by facilitating the very things which institutions need to get them through such a difficult time. This would also pre-empt any difficulties which may come in the future. The Bill which the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, brings to us today is certainly one of those things which would make a contribution.

Reflecting on the pandemic has made us realise just how important arts and culture are in this country, because we had limited access to them. It could have been an interesting thought experiment in the past to imagine what it would be like if we shut down every museum and gallery across our country. Of course, it was not an experiment; it actually happened. Therefore, the Bill shows that if we can make small changes and facilitations to make things easier, we can see better continuity of culture—and that must be a good thing. Our young people deserve access to the best museums and galleries which our country has to offer. Tourism, the visitor economy and the learning which we all experience are absolutely key. We all deserve the comfort and calming influence on our lives of cultural institutions, and we know about the positive impact they have on mental health. To do this, we must ensure that we can play our part. The UK has an incredible place in the world in demonstrating the very best of global culture. We need to ensure that, despite any turbulence now or in the future, these institutions which we so treasure are still able to do that. Therefore, I once again congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, and wish this Bill every success as it continues its passage in your Lordships’ House.

10:53
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my esteemed predecessor and noble friend Lord Vaizey of Didcot for bringing forward this Bill which, as he said, was successfully taken through another place by our right honourable friend the Member for Central Devon, Mel Stride. I also take this opportunity to congratulate my noble friend on his recent appointment as a trustee of the Tate, one of the most important institutions in this country and a principal user of immunity from seizure protection. I am very grateful to him for his absolutely correct words of praise for officials at DCMS, not least the team which has been working on this Bill. We are very lucky to have their support on this legislation and all the other matters with which we deal.

It is a great pleasure to very warmly congratulate and welcome my noble friend Lord Strathcarron to his place in your Lordships’ House. Often maiden speeches show some ingenuity to bring to bear the expertise and experience which new Members have. In this case, his credentials were set out very clearly and have direct application to the matter at hand. We are very lucky to have him in your Lordships’ House scrutinising the Bill, and I look forward to more contributions from him on matters relating to DCMS, and many more besides.

As my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond said, this is a beauty of a Bill. The beauty lies in its simplicity. It is a short, two-clause Bill amending existing legislation in Part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, to ensure that our immunity from seizure provision remains fit for purpose. It will mean that approved museums and galleries are better able to respond to unforeseen obstacles which might otherwise threaten the safe and timely return of the wide range of cultural objects which they so regularly borrow from abroad for the benefit of the public across the United Kingdom. The 12-month limit of immunity from seizure protection is an issue which was raised specifically by approved museums and galleries during the more restrictive periods we all faced during the pandemic. The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, asked why there needs to be a limit at all. In general, the 12-month limit had been sufficient for the normal length of exhibitions, allowing time for those exhibitions to conclude and for items to be returned. Of course, recent events—not least the pandemic but others which have been mentioned—highlight that it is important for this provision to be needed occasionally. There will be no limit to the number of three-month extension periods which can be granted. However, as with all applications, there will need to be a good case for granting each extension. There will be flexibility, as well as protections, in the new system.

As with all sectors, our cultural institutions have faced tremendously difficult times recently, and we recognise the need to support them to recover, thrive and welcome people back across their thresholds as we emerge from the pandemic. As noble Lords have noted, there are 39 museums and galleries across England and Scotland which make use of immunity from seizure protection. As my noble friend mentioned, it is unfortunate that the territorial application of the Bill had to be amended in another place to exclude Wales and Northern Ireland. None the less, as all museums and galleries currently approved for the purposes of immunity from seizure are in England and Scotland, the 12-month time limit is of most relevance in those territories. As my noble friend noted, we are very pleased to see that the legislative consent Motion was granted in the Scottish Parliament yesterday. However, the territorial extent of the Bill remains UK-wide.

As we continue to support the recovery of our museums and galleries from the recent uncertain and challenging times, an option to extend the length of time that objects can be covered by immunity from seizure is a welcome and sensible contingency to have. I am therefore pleased that this Bill looks to ease some of the uncertainties with which our museums have been grappling in recent months, and I am happy to confirm that the Government continue to support this succinct and helpful Bill. The depth and quality of the permanent collections held by these institutions is of course already exceptional, but lending and borrowing objects is also an important core activity for our museums and galleries. Immunity from seizure protection often plays a fundamental role in enabling loans from other countries to go ahead, with many lenders stipulating that such protection is in place as a condition of loan. The Bill will provide a sensible improvement to an already worthy tool used by many of our esteemed cultural institutions across England and Scotland.

My noble friend Lord Vaizey mentioned some of the upcoming or newly launched exhibitions to which we can look forward this year: no less than a visit from one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance at the National Gallery, and a re-examination of surrealism at the Tate. I hesitate to say that my noble friend’s speeches sometimes show the influence of surrealism, but they are certainly rich with cultural allusions on every occasion. Loans help to complement and enhance the stories told by our UK institutions. The British Library recently hosted the excellent exhibition “Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens”, which I had the privilege of seeing. I was fascinated to view the letter—on loan from archives in Spain—penned by King Philip II, lamenting the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and declaring his determination to proceed with the Spanish Armada. Immunity from seizure cover enabled this fascinating letter to sit alongside some of the British Library’s most exceptional Elizabethan manuscripts, adding to the tale of the two rival queens and providing a fantastic opportunity for visitors to view these documents in their wider context.

I was one of 600,000 people who had the pleasure of seeing the breath-taking Tutankhamen exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery a couple of years ago. Another show benefiting from immunity from seizure coverage is “Van Gogh. Self-Portraits”, which opened at the newly refurbished Courtauld Gallery last month, which I saw on Wednesday morning. This is the first exhibition dedicated to Van Gogh’s self-portraits, promising visitors a unique insight into the life of the great artist. The Courtauld is home to perhaps Van Gogh’s most famous self-portrait, “Self-portrait with Bandaged Ear”, and this new show assembles portraits of the artist’s own likeness from museums across the globe.

It is clear from the small selection of examples mentioned today that borrowing objects allows museums to stage exhibitions and displays that would not otherwise be possible. These loans enable them to further contextualise their own collections, create opportunities to attract and inspire new audiences, and re-engage their existing visitor base with new offers and insights. It is understandable that many lenders require certainty around immunity from seizure protection when they lend such valuable artefacts, and it is therefore important that we ensure that the legislation that underpins this protection is up to the task. The Bill will help to reduce the risk of cultural property from other countries being left unprotected while in the temporary care and custody of approved institutions. The option to extend the length of time an object can be protected while on loan will allow our approved museums and galleries to continue to co-ordinate and plan important loans with international partners, safe in the knowledge that contingency against unpredictable events is available.

For the reassurance of noble Lords, I wish to take a moment to affirm the Government’s current view regarding the loan of cultural objects from institutions in Russia at present. The Government recommend that museums and galleries should not be borrowing objects or negotiating new loans from state-sponsored or state-funded Russian institutions at the moment, in light of recent events. Indeed, I am aware of several prospective loans that will now not be proceeding, as well as exhibitions that have been cancelled in recognition of the unfolding conflict in Ukraine. Her Majesty’s Government fully support the decisions made by those museums and galleries to take such action. In the case of cultural objects currently on loan from Russian institutions, it is for the borrowing museum concerned to decide whether it is appropriate to keep them on display and to arrange for their return at the appropriate time. I have had a number of discussions with museums and galleries, and I know that they are engaging with this very important issue very thoughtfully, in consultation with their staff, their audiences and others.

The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, asked what the Government are doing to protect the cultural property in Ukraine. Like other noble Lords, I was horrified to see the attack on the Mariupol theatre in Ukraine this week—of course, for the fact that children and families were sheltering in it, but also for the appalling destruction done to the building. The Government are working closely with relevant organisations and our international partners to support the Government and people of Ukraine in protecting their incredible cultural property. Russia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom are all signatories to the 1954 Hague convention, designed to protect cultural property from destruction and looting during armed conflict, including monuments, archaeological sites, works of art and other important artefacts. Through UNESCO, we are working to ensure that Russia conforms with its responsibilities under that convention. The deliberate destruction of cultural heritage can be designated a war crime, so officials are also working with non-governmental organisations to record details of where deliberate destruction may have taken place.

In discussing the loan of objects from abroad, I also believe it is important to highlight that the process that sits behind immunity from seizure protection is necessarily robust. To use the protection, museums and galleries must go through a rigorous application process to attain approved status. That addresses the question from the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, about why there are just 39; this rigorous process involves demonstrating that they are an ethical organisation, that they follow proper due diligence processes for examining the history of the objects that they borrow, and that they will not borrow items if any suspicion lingers that they were stolen, looted or illegally obtained. For the protection to apply to objects that they are borrowing, approved institutions must also publish detailed information about such objects at least four weeks before the objects enter the UK. This diligent work is all part of the high standard of professional practice that our museums carry out as part of their loan procedures.

It is fantastic that 39 museums so far have achieved immunity from seizure approved status. That is a testament to their excellent track records and their continued commitment to upholding the highest standards of due diligence. Of course, new institutions join their number, and I am pleased to say that the 39th on the list of approved institutions was made as recently as last month, when Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham successfully met the rigorous requirements to achieve approved status ahead of its upcoming exhibition, “The Grand Tour”, which will now feature two paintings on loan from galleries in Italy. As an approved museum, Strawberry Hill House will be in good company, sitting alongside great institutions such as Manchester Art Gallery, National Museums Scotland, Hampton Court Palace, the Natural History Museum, Norfolk Museums, the V&A and many others that have been mentioned this morning.

Layers of hard work, training, rigorous provenance research and meticulous record-keeping go into making immunity from seizure work in practice. This provides assurance that approved museums and galleries borrow items from abroad in an ethical way. While immunity from seizure protection builds the confidence of lenders that their objects are safe, it also builds confidence in our sector that only sound loans are followed through, and this in turn reduces the risk of seizure being likely. There has, in fact, never been such an incident in the UK.

The Bill my noble friend has presented us with today is an excellent recognition of where existing legislation can do more to help the work that our museum professionals deliver. While our approved museums and galleries demonstrate an admirable execution of skill in attending to all the necessary work that sits behind immunity from seizure protection, the measures in this Bill can help them to be more confident that, in the event of the unexpected, the objects they are loaning can stay a while longer in the UK, and that they will remain protected until they are able to be dutifully returned to their owners overseas.

In conclusion, I thank my noble friend Lord Vaizey of Didcot for bringing this incredibly worthy Bill before your Lordships and for setting out so articulately and clearly the benefits that it will bring. I am very grateful for the support that it has had from all the contributions across your Lordships’ House today.

11:06
Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Lord Vaizey of Didcot (Con)
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My Lords, this has been a fantastically erudite and insightful debate, covering a wide range of issues, but coming back always to focus on the importance of the Bill. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, on mentioning school trips, and the controversy, and I commend the article from Maria Balshaw, the director of the Tate, in yesterday’s Evening Standard, in which she agrees with the noble Baroness—as do I—that school trips are absolutely essential to museums and should not simply be seen as there to promote grades.

I am tempted to take up my noble friend’s invitation to compare every speech to a great exhibition. If my speech was a surreal one, may I say that the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Strathcarron was absolutely excellent. I am going to compare it to the British Museum exhibition on Stonehenge—rooted in tradition, reaching back to the ancients and yet still illuminating us with new and current modern insights. I say this with all sincerity: it is wonderful to have him in the House, and I look forward to partaking with him on many debates on cultural policy.

I would compare the great speech of my noble friend the Minister to the V&A exhibition that opened yesterday, “Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear”. As we listen to his erudite comments, we simply must acknowledge also that he is one of the most elegant Members of the Front Bench, in terms of how he puts his case and how he presents himself in the House. I commend the Bill to the House.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill

Order of Commitment discharged
Wednesday 6th April 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Act 2022 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 28 January 2022 - (28 Jan 2022)
Order of Commitment
15:51
Moved by
Lord Harlech Portrait Lord Harlech
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That the order of commitment be discharged.

Lord Harlech Portrait Lord Harlech (Con)
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My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Vaizey of Didcot, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Motion agreed.

Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill

Third Reading
15:33
Motion
Moved by
Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Lord Vaizey of Didcot
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That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Vaizey of Didcot Portrait Lord Vaizey of Didcot (Con)
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My Lords, I will keep my remarks extremely brief. The Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill amends Part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, which provides immunity from seizure for cultural objects on loan from abroad in temporary exhibitions in public museums and galleries in the UK. Cultural objects on loan from abroad featuring in exhibitions held in UK museums and galleries approved under the Act are at the moment protected from a court order seizure for a period of 12 months from the time when the object comes into the UK.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is responsible for approving these institutions in England, which can come under this regime, and the devolved Administrations have similar powers in other parts of the UK. To gain approval under the Act, the institutions must demonstrate that their procedures for establishing the provenance and ownership of objects are of a high standard.

When this Act was passed, 12 months was considered to be a very adequate period for objects to arrive in the UK and to be returned. During the Bill’s Second Reading, I mentioned that unforeseen travel delays can now result in works not being returned on time, and that risks undermining the confidence of foreign lenders to lend their art treasures to the UK.

The measures in the Bill would allow the current period, therefore, to be extended beyond 12 months at the discretion of the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, or indeed Scottish Ministers when it comes to Scotland. That will ensure that this protection remains fit for purpose. The new power to extend would only apply following an application from the approved museum or gallery. Extensions would be granted for a further three months initially, with a possibility of a further extension if considered necessary.

I am pleased to inform noble Lords that guidance for approved museums and galleries on how they can submit an application for extension has now been published in draft by the department, so the process and the guidance to support it are now ready to go.

I am delighted that the Bill has received such strong support, and I thank everyone who has contributed, including the Member for Central Devon, Mel Stride, for his work steering the Bill through, and the civil servants in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. As the department’s Secretary of State pointed out in the newspapers only today, they are knocking it out of the park in DCMS—whether they are present at their desks or not. Finally, I thank my favourite cultural object, who is, of course, our wonderful Minister, my noble friend Lord Parkinson. I am delighted that, after his successful visit to the Venice Biennale, he was protected from seizure and has returned to our shores to give the Bill the final seal of approval.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend not just for bringing forward this Bill but for his kind words. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Sonia Boyce, who represented the United Kingdom at the UK Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, as well as Emma Ridgway, the curator, and everyone at the British Council who commissioned her work, which I am very pleased to report won the coveted Golden Lion for the first time since 1993. It is a tremendous achievement and everyone in the UK is very proud of them all.

I am pleased to reiterate the support of Her Majesty’s Government for this Bill. It is short and straightforward but will be of great benefit to the many approved museums and galleries in England and Scotland that rely on immunity from seizure protection when they borrow cultural objects from abroad. It will add an appropriate layer of flexibility to the existing legislation covering immunity from seizure. Currently, as my noble friend says, the maximum length of time an object can be protected from seizure while on loan is 12 months. As we learn and move on from the unprecedented challenges that museums and galleries have faced over the past two years in particular, the Bill rightly recognises that unpredictable delays do sometimes happen and that it may not always be possible for objects to be returned within that existing timeframe. The ability to extend the protection afforded to cultural objects is a sensible option to have. I am very grateful to my noble friend for presenting these helpful measures and for all his work in guiding the Bill through your Lordships’ House, to all noble Lords who have supported it, from all corners of the House, and, as my noble friend says, to the DCMS officials who have supported it.

As my noble friend says, the guidance for approved museums and galleries on how and when to apply for an extended period of protection has now been published in draft. The policy is therefore ready to be put into effect, subject to Royal Assent being granted. I am grateful to all those who helped the Bill speed on its way to the statute book.

15:39
Bill passed.

Royal Assent

Royal Assent
Thursday 28th April 2022

(2 years ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
12:38
The following Acts were given Royal Assent:
Local Government (Disqualification) Act,
Down Syndrome Act,
Animals (Penalty Notices) Act,
Professional Qualifications Act,
Skills and Post-16 Education Act,
Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act,
Subsidy Control Act,
Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Act,
Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) Act,
Glue Traps (Offences) Act,
Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Act,
Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act,
Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Disabled Persons) Act,
Building Safety Act,
Health and Care Act,
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act,
Pension Schemes (Conversion of Guaranteed Minimum Pensions) Act,
British Sign Language Act,
Judicial Review and Courts Act,
Nationality and Borders Act,
Elections Act,
Monken Hadley Common Act.