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Setting to rights the terrible crimes committed during the Second World War is just as important for us today-perhaps even more so-as it was following the defeat of the Axis powers in the 1940s. The widespread and systematic seizure of cultural property in territories occupied by or under the control of the Nazis and their allies has been recognised in international declarations-the latest as recently as last week, as I have just said-as warranting particular recognition and deserving of special treatment for more than half a century. The 1943 Inter-allied Declaration, for example, signed by 16 countries, including the United Kingdom, resulted in a commitment by those states to do all in their power to defeat the methods of dispossession in territory under enemy occupation or control. At the 1998 Washington conference on Holocaust-era assets, 44 states, including all EU member states, adopted non-binding principles to assist in resolving issues relating to Nazi confiscated art, and the Vilnius Forum Declaration in 2000 asked all Governments to undertake every reasonable effort to achieve restitution of cultural assets looted during the Holocaust era to their original owners.
Compared with many other European countries, the recovery of looted art has not been a major problem in numerical terms in the United Kingdom. Unlike the Netherlands or France, for example, where many hundreds of works of art have been returned to claimants over the years, very few looted paintings and other cultural objects have been uncovered in UK museums. Indeed, the Spoliation Advisory Panel, established in 2000 to provide advice to claimants and institutions on what might be appropriate solutions, has considered only nine cases in the nine years it has been operational. The honourable Member for Hendon said in the other place that there were a possible further 20 cases in the pipeline. Indeed, this was referred to by two noble Lords today. I do not know what knowledge the noble Lord, Lord Janner, has of these but the Government-and I think that I can speak for the Spoliation Advisory Panel on this point-would certainly find it helpful to know more about these potential claims, if for no other reason than to be able to plan and prepare for the work.
However, this debate and this legislation are not determined by the scale of the problem or the number of applications. As several noble Lords have said, it is about recognising an overwhelming moral imperative to ensure that, where the Spoliation Advisory Panel finds that it would be appropriate for a museum to return a lost item, it is able to do so. That can only be right and I am sure nobody would argue against that.
As regards what the Bill seeks to do, there are currently inconsistencies in how claims made to the panel are resolved. In the case of the national museums listed in the Bill, primary legislation prevents the trustees removing an item from the permanent collection in this way and, when the panel recommends the return of an item, claimants are offered an ex gratia payment instead. However, university museums and those run by local authorities are not prevented by similar express statutory restrictions from so returning an item. As the noble Lord, Lord Janner, highlighted, a good example of how this inconsistency can arise was demonstrated recently in the Spoliation Advisory Panel's
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While, throughout the history of the panel, claimants have generally been content to receive an ex gratia payment, the Government believe that museums should not be prevented by statute from deciding to return an object following the recommendation of the panel. In its seventh report in 2000, the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, stated:
As the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, recalled from first-hand experience, in its second report on the Beneventan Missal in 2005, the panel, guided by the advice of the Select Committee, recommended that legislation be introduced to amend the British Museum Act 1963, the British Library Act 1972 and the Museums and Galleries Act 1992 so as to permit restitution of objects in this category.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for giving way. Before he leaves the point that the noble Baroness made, she said that the Bill was not retroactive. Consequently, I am uncertain whether, following the passage of the Bill, it will be possible to deal with the Beneventan Missal case. Could the Minister help us on that?
The conclusion was that removing the statutory restrictions that stop museums deaccessioning works of art lost during the Nazi era would be beneficial to all. It was also felt that legislation should include a sunset clause. I think that point was raised earlier by the noble Lord.
In 2008, the Government planned to include clauses in the Heritage Protection Bill to allow national museums to return works of art lost during the Nazi era but it was not possible for the Bill to be included in the congested legislative programme. The Government were therefore understandably keen to support this Private
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The Bill will give the 17 national museums in England and Scotland named in the Bill a power to transfer an object in their collection, where it is found to have been lost between 1933 and 1945 by an advisory panel designated by the Secretary of State. In answer to the question of the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that will be the Spoliation Advisory Panel. This is also the case where the Secretary of State, with the consent of Scottish Ministers-in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, devolved Scottish Ministers-has approved the advisory panel's recommendation in respect of a Scottish museum. The intention is to designate the Spoliation Advisory Panel, whose authority and advice is widely acknowledged and respected in this field. Thus, the power to return an object would apply only to those cases where two conditions were satisfied. First, the advisory panel must uphold the claim and recommend the return of the object and, secondly, Ministers must approve that recommendation.
The power in the Bill will not override the conditions attaching to objects held in trust. The requirement that the Secretary of State must approve the panel's recommendation reflects current practice and provides a safeguard in the unlikely event of an irrational recommendation by the panel.
The Bill includes a sunset clause, which will ensure that the power in the Bill ceases to have effect 10 years from the date of Royal Assent. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, asked whether the duration of the sunset clause was appropriate. I will clarify that in an answer to him, but my understanding is that there was a significant degree of due diligence before that term was specified in the Bill. It was judged that that period would balance the interests of providing access to restitution with some planning certainty for the institutions. As I recall, it also reflected the majority of the views expressed in the consultation.
The Bill consists of four clauses. The bodies to which the Bill applies are listed in Clause 1. The power to return victims' property is set out in Clause 2. This clause sets out the two conditions that need to be met to trigger the power for the trustees of one of the institutions named in the Bill to transfer an object from its collections. Clause 3 defines the advisory panel for the purposes of the Act, as has been discussed. The panel is to be designated by the Secretary of State and he or she may designate only a panel whose functions consist of considering claims in respect of objects relating to events during the Nazi era-1933 to 1945. Clause 4 deals with the Short Title, extent, commencement and the sunset clause.
We have had discussions with the devolved Administrations on the Bill. There is no need for these powers to apply to institutions in Wales or Northern Ireland, because the principal museums there are not subject to the same sort of statutory restrictions on the return of an object to a claimant. On the other hand, Scottish national museums are subject to the same sort of statutory restrictions and are included in the Bill, following the passing of a legislative consent motion in the Scottish Parliament.
I shall conclude by providing the House with some reassurances and by clarifying two or three specific points that have been raised in the debate. On a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Janner, I should make it absolutely clear that the principle and practice of consent applies here. This is a power of permission, not compulsion. Museum trustees will continue to take the final decision on whether to return an object that has been recommended for return by the panel. This is in keeping with the long-established arm's-length principle, which recognises that trustees are responsible for the items vested in their care, and that it is not for Governments to tell the trustees what to do with them.
The power in the Bill has been narrowly defined, and linking it to a recommendation by the designated advisory panel will ensure that museums can transfer only items lost during the Nazi era. Those issues were raised by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock. The Government consider that, as in the case of human remains on which we legislated in 2005, it is right to allow museums to remove items from the national collections where there are overwhelming moral grounds to do so. The Holocaust era was unique in that it represented a systematic campaign of evil by the Nazis to eliminate whole races of people and their cultures. The widespread and systematic deprivation of property in the Nazi era and the problems faced by individuals seeking to recover their property has also been widely recognised in international declarations as requiring particular measures to remedy these terrible wrongs.
The Government are committed to maintaining our national collections and support the role of museum trustees as the guardians of these collections. The Government will resist other measures that would break up and disperse our national collections.
The Terezin declaration of 30 June 2009, to which I referred at the beginning of my comments, encourages countries to invest more into carrying out provenance research on items in national collections. UK museums have a very good record on carrying out provenance research into the objects in their collections, and it is commonly recognised that the years 1933 to 1945 require special attention where there are gaps in the provenance during those years. The Government have issued guidance on collecting and borrowing art, which also includes advice on these specific issues. Museums publish information about works in their collections where there are gaps in provenance during that period on a searchable spoliation database located on the cultural property website, www.culturalproperty advice.gov.uk.
In response to a specific question, the power in the Bill will not be retrospective. If, after the legislation comes into force, a further claim is made for an item that the Spoliation Advisory Panel has already considered, such as the Beneventan Missal, it will be up to the trustees of the institution concerned to decide whether once again to refer the claim to the panel. I hope that that provides clarity.
There was a whole range of taxation questions, not least on how capital gains tax applies to an institution, what obligation there is on the individual, what the inheritance tax threshold obligations are, and the potentially invidious situation raised by the noble
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In summary, the Bill is a simple, four-clause measure designed, as a number of noble Lords have highlighted, to correct an anomaly in the way that national museums are able to deal with requests for the return of items in their collections that were lost during the Nazi era, and it seeks simply to place all museums on a level footing. I commend it to the House.
Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, I thank all speakers, and especially the Minister, for what they have said, and of course I am very grateful for the kind birthday wishes that I received. I especially greatly appreciate the unanimous support for the Bill from all sides of the Chamber, and I now ask the House to give it a Second Reading.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, this is a modest but potentially very important Bill. Unusually, perhaps, it received extremely thorough scrutiny and examination before and during its progress through the other place, where there has been complete unanimity in support of it across all parties-Front Benches and Back Benches. Its introduction and process through the Commons was led by my honourable friend Willie Rennie, but it had generous and very enthusiastic support from Ministers and shadow Ministers on all Benches. It has also had substantial and thorough preparation, and a complete absence of any opposition. There were only a small number of simple, technical amendments during its Committee stage. It has also had the benefit of very comprehensive and supportive briefings from all the outside interests concerned with the problems with which the Bill deals. Therefore, exactly what are the problems that have been identified-actual as well as potential-with which the Bill is concerned?
Although there has for some time been some recognition of a loophole in the law relating to the regulation of driving instructors, the matter only really came to a head in 2005 and, sadly, missed an opportunity in that year to be incorporated in legislation. However, in that year, Ms Lesley Anne Steele, living in the constituency of my honourable friend, suffered the traumatic experience of a serious sexual assault by the instructor who had been teaching her to drive.
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The instructor who made the assault was charged, found guilty and placed on the sex offenders register but continued to teach vulnerable learner drivers, even in the immediate vicinity of Ms Steele's house. Therefore, her dreadful experience appeared to have had no proper remedy. Members of your Lordships' House will not be surprised to know that she was amazed, horrified and angry. Having no recourse or hope of remedy under the existing law, she eventually sought the assistance of her constituency Member of Parliament. This Bill closes the alarming loophole which she, and then he, discovered.
The background is that paid instruction on how to drive has been a regulated activity for some 40 years. It is now covered by the Road Traffic Act 1988, the RTA, and the Road Safety Act 2006, the RSA. Approved driving instructors, ADIs, are registered by the Driving Standards Agency, the DSA. To gain entry to the register, instructors must pass a series of examinations and, most importantly, they must be demonstrably fit and proper persons. Under the RTA, the registrar has power to remove a person from the register if satisfied that they have ceased to meet those various conditions. However, there is a long, potentially cumbersome process of notification, response, review and even appeal before that actually takes place. I am advised that the minimum delay during that process is 45 days from the date on which the instructor is notified. Obviously in a serious case such as I have described, a delay in deregistration of several months is totally unacceptable and hence this Bill.
The Bill's main purpose is to provide that the registrar can suspend an ADI at exactly the same time as notification is given that his or her name can be removed from the register. It does not weaken or undermine the due process of deregistration. However, it means that the registrar can prevent continued instruction where there is a significant threat to the safety of members of the public. To avoid unreasonable bureaucratic procrastination, there is a time limit of 75 days during which a determination must be reached. This specific power to suspend will, therefore, be available only in the most serious cases where an ADI has already been convicted of a serious criminal offence, such as a sexual or a violent attack or when an ADI has repeatedly failed the qualifying test.
The structure of this simple and modest Bill is very straightforward. Clause 1 inserts a new section in the RTA to provide the new suspension powers for the registrar. Clause 2 inserts a further new section to provide for a compensation scheme to cover the possibility of a suspension and potential deregistration being overturned on appeal. Clauses 3 to 7 provide for exemptions, transitional arrangements, consequential amendments, the commencement date and so on. Schedule 1 simply completes the necessary arrangements.
The co-operation of the Government has been very much of assistance to those promoting the Bill in both Houses. There are some very modest financial implications anticipated by Ministers: perhaps something in the region of £50,000 to £55,000 a year. I think Members of your Lordships' House will agree that that is a modest total to deal with this important and potentially very damaging loophole.
Similarly, there is a very good assessment in the Explanatory Notes-I pay tribute to those who have given me assistance in preparing them-of the implications for the European Convention on Human Rights. Those implications have been examined most carefully. Given that, in a similar case, a nine months' suspension was judged not to be an arbitrary or unjustified process and that the maximum in this Bill is 75 days, there is no obvious problem here.
It is obviously a strange and disturbing anomaly that when any other professional or regulated person-for example, a doctor or a dentist-commits a serious offence, there is an immediate procedure to prevent even the remotest possibility of repetition, even a suggestion of a threat to the safety of the public. But that is not so in the case of driving instructors, as we have discovered.
The Bill is urgent and necessary, even if its provisions are required very rarely. In recognition of the courage of Lesley Anne Steele, who could have simply put this awful incident behind her, but was determined to ensure that no one else had that experience, I hope very much that your Lordships' House will give the Bill a fair wind and speedy passage. I beg to move.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships very long. My noble friend has made his case absolutely. As someone a little more familiar with the Road Traffic Act 1988, it seems to me to be a bit like the proverbial cricket bat that has had seven new blades and eight new handles, it is so hung around with anomalies. This attempt to correct an anomaly deserves the support of the House.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, for introducing his Bill and for the careful way in which he explained its purpose and background. Although I shall not repeat his points, I agree with them all.
I have an interest to declare as an out-of-date qualified Army driving instructor. I have taught both civilian and military personnel to drive both cars and heavy goods vehicles. I know from my experience that a driving instructor temporarily has considerable power over a pupil. Pupils need to be confident that their instructor is a competent and fit person. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, explained the welcome compensation provisions in Clause 2, which inserts new Section 128ZB into RTA 1988. As an aside, and following from what the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, perhaps that Act would benefit from consolidation, as it has been amended several times.
However, new subsection (1) covers "income losses" and "non-income losses". Subsection (9) defined income losses as "losses of income", and non-income losses as
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