All 1 Lindsay Hoyle contributions to the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017

Mon 20th Feb 2017

Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [Lords] Debate

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Lindsay Hoyle

Main Page: Lindsay Hoyle (Speaker - Chorley)

Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [Lords]

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
3rd reading: House of Commons
Monday 20th February 2017

(7 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Act 2017 Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 20 February 2017 - (20 Feb 2017)
Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
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Let me begin by repeating what I said on Second Reading. Both the SNP and the Scottish Government welcome the Bill and the purpose that it serves. Like the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), I support its enactment.

When talking about amendment 4, the hon. Gentleman made some good points about the use of the blue shield in digital form, which seems to be an eminently sensible idea. I also agree with his amendment 5. It is only right that foreign troops who are embedded in United Kingdom forces adhere to the same standards and rules as those forces. The Government can be assured of our support for this important legislation, so that the United Kingdom can ratify the 1954 Hague convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, and accede to both the 1954 and the 1999 protocols.

Although the United Kingdom has never ratified the Hague convention, it is widely and rightly acknowledged that UK armed forces already comply fully with it during military operations, and that they also recognise the blue shield, which is—as the hon. Gentleman explained—the emblem that identifies cultural property that is protected under the convention and its protocols. I think it would be useful if the Government considered extending it to digital property. Ratifying the protocols would allow the Government to give our troops formal responsibility when they are operating in armed conflict.

We firmly believe that, no matter where it is located in the world, we all benefit from having a rich and diverse historical and cultural heritage, and that every effort must be made to protect that in time of war—and, indeed, at all times. I do not expect to hear many, if any, dissenting voices when it comes to the principles of the Bill. We all recognise that a people’s culture is a crucial part of who they are now and what they were in the past. For virtually all communities, regardless of where they are in the world, cultural heritage is a symbol whose importance cannot be overstated.

With your permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I shall return to a theme on which I touched briefly on Second Reading: the fate of the Parthenon marbles, which are still referred to by some as the Elgin marbles in memory of the man who misappropriated them from the Parthenon just over two centuries ago. What better way could there be of marking the passing of the Bill than allowing the Parthenon marbles to return to—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle)
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I have tried to allow the hon. Gentleman some latitude, but, as he knows, we are dealing with amendments rather than with Second Reading speeches. Tempted though I was to hear the hon. Gentleman’s Second Reading speech again, I must keep him within order.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara
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I will be very brief indeed, Mr Deputy Speaker.

We know that there has been systematic looting of priceless artefacts, and that a flood of artefacts are coming on to the market throughout Europe, America and the far east. We must do everything that we can to protect those artefacts, and I hope that the Government will take on board the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Cardiff West. I think it incumbent on all of us to protect the cultural heritage, regardless of whose it is. I look forward to supporting the Government, and I am sure that they will accept the amendments.