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In 2000, the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport recommended that legislative barriers that prevented morally proper restoration should be removed. In the same year, the advisory panel recommended that permissive legislation should be introduced. The panel's recommendation in 2000 followed a particularly tricky and fascinating case, in which not an individual but a library was claiming restoration of a rare Beneventan missal, apparently looted after the destruction of Monte Cassino, sold to Sotheby's by a returning British officer, now deceased, bought by the British Museum from Sotheby's and then in due course passed on to the British Library, where it now is. The missal was extremely valuable as a beautiful example of a kind of local script that gave, along with the words of the Mass, a kind of indication of how these words should be sung. It was a kind of early attempt at written musical notation. The view of the panel was that this priceless object belonged in the place where scholars were most likely to benefit from and enjoy it. There are other examples in the same area of Italy of this kind of script, although not exactly the same. The case did not seem to fall exactly under the terms of reference, because there is no particular evidence that the missal was looted by the Nazis, nor was it a Jewish family who was claiming restoration. Nevertheless, it fell squarely within the time of our remit, and the looting would not have happened if it had not been for the war. Unfortunately, the present Bill, if it becomes law, will not be retrospective, but the principle that informs the Bill is absolutely right, as exemplified in this particular case.
Finally, all the recommendations that the spoliation panel has made and all those that will be made by the new advisory panel are based on moral considerations. Legally, the statutory time for complaints of wrongful acquisition or failure to take proper account of provenance has long been passed, in all these cases. Our task on
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Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock. I am sure that we are all grateful to my noble friend Lord Janner for introducing this Bill, which, as he said, has already been passed by another place.
The power that the Bill gives to national museums and galleries to return a cultural object taken by the Nazi regime from mainly Jewish collections in the occupied countries is long overdue. The confiscation of so many cultural treasures from private collectors by the Nazi leaders in order to line their own pockets was big business. During the Nazi occupation of Paris, so many paintings were taken that the authorities had to take over the Jeu de Paume in the Tuileries to house them. These were then sold through intermediaries, mainly to art dealers in Switzerland, which was a neutral country. The Swiss dealers would sell on the works of art either to other dealers or to private collectors in Switzerland and the United States, who bought them in good faith. Many, of course, must have changed hands several times during the past 60 years, when the original provenance was not known. Some must have arrived at our national museums and galleries through gifts and in lieu of inheritance tax.
Most of the original owners died in the horrors of the Holocaust, when whole families were murdered in the extermination camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka. There are no heirs in many cases. But there are heirs in some cases, who are entitled to claim. The Bill allows the item to be returned if the advisory panel recommends it and this is approved by the Secretary of State. This is surely the least that we can do. I support the Bill wholeheartedly and hope that your Lordships will give it a Second Reading.
Baroness Deech: My Lords, this is no ordinary Bill before your Lordships' House. It is a short one but a complex one. Art is an ethical issue. Displaying looted art, once it is known to be such, is not just an invasion of privacy and a demonstration that wrongdoers may
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The Bill has an exemplary background of preparation. The UK set up the Spoliation Advisory Panel in 2000 consequent on the Washington principles of the 1998 conference on Holocaust assets, agreed by all the then EU states, and a total of 44 states in all. The panel provides mediation and takes moral issues into account, as stressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock. Its existence recognises that the people who lost property in the Nazi era face many obstacles in proving legal ownership in the civil courts, though they may also choose that route. The museum directors set up a working group in 1998 to establish principles governing provenance and spoliation; the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport supported this approach in its seventh report and the advisory panel recommended this legislation. The Bill fills a gap because other museums already have a power to return or to offer compensation. The museum may, however, still refuse to carry out the recommendation of the panel and the Secretary of State. The Bill passed through the Commons swiftly.
This is not the Elgin Marbles situation, because in the circumstances covered by the Bill there is a known victim of a strictly defined period. The victims were ideological targets of the destruction of a people along with their goods; indeed, the looting possibilities may have provided an extra inducement to carry on to mass extermination. This form of looting was recognised as early as 1943 by the Inter-Allied Declaration.
The recent Terezin Declaration of the June Prague Holocaust-era assets conference called on nations to do exactly what is being done in the Bill, and the UK, which had a delegation to the conference, was praised for its initiative. I echo the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Freud, in his brilliant and moving maiden speech earlier today, and of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, in expressing gratitude to this country for its movement towards the correct principles in this situation and for its tolerance and nurturing of those who came here in 1939 and earlier, deprived of all their worldly goods, and who had to rebuild their careers.
The declaration of the June Prague conference together with the joint declaration by the European Commission at the same conference reminded nations that they should support intensified systematic provenance research in archives, make the results known on the internet and establish mechanisms to assist claimants.
The Bill's provisions are a model for what should happen in relation to real property looted during the Nazi era, all of which is situated in the European
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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I speak in the gap because I did not know that I could be here today. However, I am very glad to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, who has made a powerful speech-indeed everyone who has participated in the debate has done so. I congratulate my noble friend, whom I have known for many, many years, on promoting this overdue Bill. He has done a service to Parliament and to many people who have suffered, as the noble Baroness said, at the hands of the Nazis. They are a depleting band of people but it is nevertheless important that both Houses-the Bill has excited no opposition in either-should support what my noble friend is trying to do. The Bill is designed to ensure that an equitable solution can be available to those who have suffered so much. They deserve no less.
Perhaps I may also pay a tribute to the father of my noble friend Lord Strabolgi. He did so much to excite my interest and awaken my concern about so many issues which this Bill represents. He spoke when I was a child and I listened assiduously to him. I am glad to say that my noble friend has very worthily followed in his footsteps. He spoke brilliantly today and I wish only that we could hear him more often.
Baroness Uddin: My Lords, I hesitantly rise to pay my tribute to my noble friend Lord Janner and all noble Lords who have spoken. Given their prolific knowledge and understanding of this matter, I am extremely hesitant, but I was emotionally pushed by what I have heard to support this Second Reading. It is a great tribute to my noble friend's work. I congratulate him and salute all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, although I missed some of it. It gives great hope to the relatives of those who lost their lives in the Holocaust and brings back a sense of honour and pride. I hope that the Bill is supported by all sides of the House.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I begin by expressing gratitude to the noble Lord who introduced the Bill and appreciation to Andrew Dismore in another place for so persistently pursuing these objects. All that needs to be said about the purposes of the Bill has been said with great eloquence during the debate, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, and the
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If I appear to be focusing on matters that might be thought to be Committee points, I do not necessarily expect them to be dealt with today, but I hope that when the Minister replies, he may bear them in mind and, if they can easily be dismissed, he will do so today, or will otherwise reflect upon them.
I first came to grips with the problem that we are grappling with here as long ago as 1964 when I worked in a distinguished law firm on Wall Street. Our clients were a family of Czech refugees who had suffered despoliation of their inheritance at the hands of the Nazis. It is with some wry wonder that I think that it happened so long ago, yet there are still evidences of the injustice that have not been put right.
That brings me to the duration of the Bill and its scope. It appears that it is perfectly possible that works that were looted during the period that the Bill covers may emerge and even come into the hands of institutions within the United Kingdom other than those listed in the Bill. I know that the auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's do good research into the provenance of works of art in many public collections and further afield. It is conceivable that there could be other discoveries in the years ahead. I have heard, and I have no reason to doubt it, that the number of cultural objects that has been mentioned is what is known now. I wonder whether it might be worth while adding to the Bill, perhaps at a later stage, a power by order to add to the list of national museums any other recognised national museum that comes into possession of such a work of art at a later date. It is intended that the Bill will expire after 10 years. The sunset clause is an indication that this is not a matter that will go on indefinitely. However, there is still considerable movement of art around Europe and the wider world, and there are those with a commercial interest in discovering where it is moving to who may, in the course of time, come up with information that would be relevant but not covered.
The Bill, perfectly properly, does not deal with the tax issues that may be incidental to its effectiveness. Although some reference was made to this in another place, it would be of interest to know the Government's thinking about this. I understand that any proposals to change our tax law to take account of those issues would be handled in a finance Bill, but it is important that the concerns of this House are taken into consideration in drafting such legislation in future. As a result of its almost de minimis nature, it would seem sensible to give some thought to these matters during the passage of this legislation. For example, what would be the appropriate level of capital gains tax to be paid if an object is sold after being returned to its initial owner? If an ex gratia payment is made, should it be free of tax? Should there be exemption from inheritance tax? If someone donates an item to a museum that is subsequently proven to be of doubtful provenance or to belong to someone else, should the tax advantage gained by donating the item be lost? It
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I understand that the Bill has been helped by the support of the Government, and a very useful Explanatory Memorandum was prepared by the Government in consultation with the noble Lord. For that, we are very grateful. I am not entirely sure whether the language of the Bill was similarly subject to a dialogue with the Government to the extent that the Bill reflects the Government's thinking in its detail. I shall mention a couple of points that might be of slight help.
There is a reference to Scottish Ministers having to be consulted in the event of objects being in the listed cultural institutions in Scotland. It is not entirely clear whether those Scottish Ministers are Ministers of the United Kingdom Government, Ministers of the Scottish Executive or both. I think this may be a matter of standard statutory interpretation, but I am not entirely sure that it is. I should therefore be grateful for elucidation because there is a Scottish dimension to this. I understand that the Scottish Parliament has already been consulted about the purposes of the Bill and that a reply is awaited. It would be inconceivable if approval were not to be forthcoming from that quarter.
I hope that these remarks are constructive. They reflect my strong support and that of my noble friends for the purposes of the Bill. Some concerns have been expressed externally about the possibility of it being widened to cover bigger and broader issues, but the Bill has been cleverly drafted to deal with specific issues, which it does very well. I hope that it will pass.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Janner of Braunstone, for introducing the Bill, and for the careful way in which he has explained how it will work. We should all pass our congratulations to Mr Andrew Dismore in another place on piloting it through that House.
I have heard nothing today with which I disagree. The one certain way of finding ourselves in another holocaust is either to forget about the events of the Nazi era or to deny them-simply to airbrush them from history. We must never, ever do that. I have personally seen, both in Bosnia and Rwanda, how difficult reconstruction can be post-genocide or ethnic cleansing. Some believe that installing democratic processes must be the highest priority in these situations, but security, justice and the rule of law can be more important. Property rights are an important component of this, but are clearly very difficult to provide for.
The Bill marks a positive step forward in the moral and legal task of redressing some of the wrongs committed in the Nazi era in regard to the looting of cultural objects. The Holocaust Educational Trust and other bodies have done a good job, along with the Government, in helping Holocaust survivors and their relatives trace and recover lost works of art and in keeping up the profile of the cause. A legal solution to this problem need be delayed no longer. While some Holocaust survivors are still alive we must concentrate our efforts
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The Holocaust was a horrendous and shameful period and its legacy weighs on us all. The noble Lord, Lord Janner, was right when he noted that history will judge the nations who participated by their conduct today. Immediately after the war, restitution of property was not a major priority for the allies, leading to many objects being scattered around Europe and lost to their owners. As time progresses and these owners become fewer, the Bill is one of the last chances to ensure that justice prevails and a right which has been denied for decades is recognised.
There are some tax implications that I am aware of, and the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, touched on them. To me they sounded frighteningly complex and I do not pretend to understand them. I will certainly not articulate them, lest any noble Lord challenge me on the details. Is the Minister confident that these issues have properly been thought through? We need to be aware of the law of unintended consequences. For instance, it would indeed be a harsh result if a work restored to a claimant shortly before his or her death had to be sold or returned to a public collection to pay or minimise the liability of the claimant's estate for inheritance tax-a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart.
The Bill also makes it clear that it is in no way extendable to the problems of regions and times outside the Nazi era, even though claimants might argue that the circumstances in which cultural and religious objects were removed from their original societies were of a comparable severity. However, the nature and extent of the Nazi atrocities were quite exceptional-orders of magnitude greater than the disasters of Bosnia and Rwanda. There should be no implication of an argument, by extension, that if claims for cultural objects wrongfully taken by the Nazis can be accepted, so too should claims for deaccession arising from other circumstances in other eras. The Museums Association's code of ethics for museums, which was updated in 2007, already covers claims regarding objects from other periods, and sets out agreed ethical codes and standards that allow museums to deaccession items from their collections, subject-in the case of national museums-to statutory limitations. The museums and libraries authority has ensured that its accreditation scheme has incorporated this code of ethics.
Finally, although the existing Spoliation Advisory Panel is able to offer a swift, independent and transparent assessment of claims in a way that is cost-effective for all parties, its recommendations are rightly only advisory. The power of independent decision-making remains with the museums. This will maintain the arm's-length principle on which our national museums, galleries and libraries are governed. Can the Minister confirm that the existing Spoliation Advisory Panel will be the advisory panel mentioned in the Bill?
The Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting (Lord Carter of Barnes): My Lords, I am pleased, if somewhat humbled, to represent the Government on this Private Member's Bill, and to follow what has been an august range of speakers, all of whom have demonstrated their personal interest in many instances. Speaking personally, listening to some of the personal passion and commitment has been an experience in understanding the reality of the work of the Spoliation Advisory Panel, and the case and need for permissive legislation. I echo the earlier comments of another noble Lord about the power of the particular points made by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi. There were some powerful reminders, particularly from the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, that an essential element of the enjoyment of art is informed by the knowledge of its provenance involved in the act of observation. That should be borne in mind by the institution as well as the participants.
This whole debate has reminded me of the importance of restitution, of perseverance on issues that people care about, and the mechanisms that acknowledge the morality, as well as the legality, of claims. As an aside, it is also, in procedural terms, a shining example of the power of a Private Member's Bill to make a real difference. Andrew Dismore deserves both thanks and admiration for what my honourable friend in another place described as his "sleepover technique" in securing a Private Member's Bill. The Government have offered our strong support to the Bill in the other place, and have worked closely with the honourable Member for Hendon, who introduced it, to ensure that it both matched the Government's own policy objectives in this area and was in good shape for debate and consideration by this House.
I am doubly pleased and personally honoured that the Bill has been taken up by my noble friend Lord Janner, who is so knowledgeable on these issues and who has campaigned for so many years for the restitution of property belonging to Holocaust victims. Indeed, he was instrumental in arranging the Nazi-looted gold conference that took place in London in 1997. As the noble Lord mentioned in his opening speech, he has only recently returned from the Conference on Holocaust Era Assets in the Czech Republic, where he delivered a powerful statement on his personal involvement in this work and the efforts that have been made internationally to address the restitution of Holocaust-era assets. The outcome of the conference was the Terezin declaration, supported by 46 countries, which seeks, among other things, to further efforts to bring about the restitution of Jewish cultural property lost during the Nazi era. That is, of course, highly relevant to our debate today.
If any further evidence of the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Janner, were needed, I am aware that he has regrettably had to cancel an important birthday celebration-I am not sure which number it is, or that he would thank me for mentioning it even if I was-in order to be here today. I hope the House will take note of that and join me in wishing him many happy returns for tomorrow.
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