|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, why does the noble Baroness put it that way? Formerly, it was considered the responsibility of the government to make a contribution in the case of a major work, as was done, for example, with a Titian about 20 years ago.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I shall make various points later about what the Government are doing to help the financial efforts to keep works of art in this country. I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, that there have been enormous changes in how this field has developed in 20 years. For example, there was not a lottery 20 years ago, and so on. There are many reasons why what happened 20 years ago is not very helpful to us now. I was making the point that the decision to purchase is not for Ministers to make. I repeat that.
I am pleased to be able to remind noble Lords that of the 17 items seen by the reviewing committee in 1998 to 1999, which, as other noble Lords have said, is the period covered by the 45th report, and subsequently temporarily barred from export, seven were later acquired at a total value of £2,200,000. These include a first century AD bronze harness mount purchased by the Corinium Museum at Cirencester, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew; three paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby purchased by Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery, referred to by my noble friend Lord Stabolgi, a lady's secretaire by Chippendale purchased by Temple Newsam House in Leeds; a Charles II silver porringer purchased by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and two items which have been respectively donated and loaned: a Roman gold finger ring generously
Noble Lords have asked why the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund cannot do more to prevent such items leaving the country. I remind noble Lords of the magnificent record of these bodies and the trustees who serve on them. Since 1995 they have allocated just over £80 million to acquisitions for public collections. In 1998 to 1999 they gave £560,000.
We should also remember that not all items recommended for an export stop by the reviewing committee are the subject of an application to either the Heritage Lottery Fund or the National Heritage Memorial Fund. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the Heritage Lottery Fund increased by 100 per cent its proposed support for museum acquisitions including export-stopped works, from £5 million to £10 million. Moreover, the Government have undertaken to increase their grant to the National Heritage Memorial Fund to £5 million for the financial year 2001 to 2002.
Perhaps this is the time to deal with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Luke. Perhaps I may call it the "raid on the Lottery" allegation. I believe he used the words "siphoning off". I do not believe he will be surprised that I do not for one minute accept that kind of vocabulary. I point out that the New Opportunities Fund was established with an endowment from the Lottery. Income from Lottery sales has been higher than expected and so the money used was not expected to come into the system through the Lottery. Other good causes, for instance, arts, heritage and sport are not losing out through the money established in the New Opportunities Fund.
I remind noble Lords that, while Ministers have influence at the broadest level on the policy directions of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, they cannot, could not and would not, seek to intervene in the decisions on individual bids to support different projects. In any case, the joint trustees of these two bodies can only respond to actual applications and must judge these on a case-by-case basis and against competing priorities.
The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, referred to the reviewing committee's comment in its report that it was concerned about low levels of funding available to museums and galleries for purchases, coupled with the effect of policies recently adopted by the Heritage Lottery Fund and National Heritage Memorial Fund, which, it is claimed, have contributed to the continuing loss of significant items from our shores.
I do not believe that that is the full picture. The Heritage Lottery Fund, in its museum acquisition policy, has emphasised that applications relating to individual items at risk of loss through export are not
Again, the existence of highly successful schemes such as acceptance in lieu continue to provide owners with an incentive to offer outstanding works of art to the nation in lieu of inheritance tax. This was a factor in the acquisition of the Sherborne Missal and also the important Mondrian "Composition B with Red", which was accepted in lieu of tax last year, again supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It can now be seen at Tate Modern, the magnificent new gallery at Bankside where entrance is free. Perhaps I may make a personal observation. I was immensely impressed by the gallery when I visited it briefly the other evening.
For their part, the Government have increased their funding of museums and galleries that continue to acquire important works, including export stopped items. However, decisions on individual acquisitions are made by the trustees of those institutions. I confidently expect that they will be assisted in that by one of the tax changes that we introduced in April. That will boost charitable giving to the arts, museums and heritage sectors.
The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, mentioned that many non-charging museums are at a financial disadvantage when purchasing works of art because they are unable to reclaim VAT. Her Majesty's Customs and Excise are aware of that concern and DCMS officials are in touch with them about it. To the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, I say that there has not been any advance or change since my noble friend Lord McIntosh replied to the previous debate on this subject. However, DCMS officials are in touch with colleagues in Customs and Excise on the matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, suggested that the Government should consider a fourth Waverley criterion to preserve collections intact. The question of the export control of items not themselves of large monetary value, but valuable as part of a collection as a whole, is a thorny issue that has been debated and reviewed on several occasions since 1986. Although the existence of pre-eminent collections has not been questioned, serious practical and legal problems were identified with the proposition. So far no one has been able to find a satisfactory solution. However, officials are looking again at what may be done.
The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, referred to the effect of the Finance Act 1998, but I remind noble Lords that the changes were designed to give the public better access to tax exempt heritage. Those arrangements are being updated by agreement wherever possible.
The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, referred to devolution, a subject, as noble Lords know, that is dear to my heart. The Government fully appreciate the need to take into account the interests of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as other regional considerations down to the local level when an application for an export licence is received. Some of the 50 or so museum experts who advise the Government about licences are already based in Scotland. All the experts to whom licences are referred are also encouraged to consult others, not just over regional matters but also for more specific scholarly advice before deciding whether to object to the granting of an export licence.
My noble friend Lord Strabolgi and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, mentioned the particular issue of items "starred" as being of exceptional importance by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, but which, nevertheless, are sometimes eventually exported. I would remind noble Lords that only six items have been so designated over the past four years and, of those, two--Canova's "Ideal Female" bust and the Moser "Gold Box"--have remained in this country, once again with the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the National Art Collections Fund. I note the concerns of my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, but I remind him that decisions on which items to support are a matter for the trustees of the various funds concerned.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, mentioned the US fiscal system. The budget contained changes to allow individuals to offset charitable donations to cultural institutions against their taxable income. That means that more money should now go to cultural institutions as a result of those changes, and indeed that is happening. It provides individuals with a greater incentive to make such donations.
The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, made a most interesting speech, as is to be expected from someone of his immense expertise. As to the Roman ring to which he referred, that was said to have been found in Norfolk in 1995. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, also mentioned it. I can report that the reviewing committee ordered a lengthy investigation into the provenance and legal status of the ring. However, upon investigation it was concluded that, due to insufficient information, exact provenance could not be established. Therefore, it was decided that it was inappropriate to include that in the annual report.
The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, also mentioned that the department's advisers in the national museums vet catalogues in advance of auction to confirm which objects fall within the limited interest category and which objects will require an export licence. We would expect those same advisers to alert us should they have any reason to believe that a particular object has been recently looted.
The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, also referred to the Council regulation on the export of cultural goods. He is right to state that that provides a derogation which permits member states to exclude from the export licensing requirement objects of limited archaeological or scientific interest. There is no informal financial threshold. The criterion is strictly whether or not something is of limited interest. This exclusion from licensing does not, and cannot, apply to objects which are the direct product of excavations, finds and archaeological sites within a member state since the Council regulation does not permit it to do so. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has produced a guidance note to exporters explaining this in more detail. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, was involved in helping draft that guidance.
I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this most interesting debate. I am sure we would all wish to recognise the valuable contribution of the export reviewing committee, and in cash terms--at the end of the day this is what so often counts--of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund as well as the joint former Museums and Galleries Commission and the Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Fund. I should not close without giving due recognition also to those many thousands of individuals who contribute either personally or through the National Art Collections Fund, which contributed more than £117,000 towards the export-stopped items saved for the nation in 1998 to 1999.
I am sure that, with continuing good will, and all the new developments I have outlined, we can continue to save many previous and beautiful items for this country. Moreover, many more people will now be able to see them in future thanks to the major extensions of free admission that we have introduced at the national museums and galleries. I assure noble Lords that we are determined that our great national collections shall be available for everyone.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page