Parthenon Sculptures

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 16th October 2014.

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Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives 9:30 am, 16th October 2014

What his policy is on the UNESCO proposal for mediation with Greece on the Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum.

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The Government note that UNESCO stands ready to facilitate mediation discussions on the Parthenon sculptures. We will consider the proposal and respond in due course. We are clear that the sculptures are legally owned by the British museum, which continues to provide access for all.

Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives

I am sure that if the UK is confident in its position, it will willingly engage with UNESCO in the offer of mediation. Although some might delude themselves on this matter, the fact is that parading stolen booty in the otherwise excellent British museum brings shame on this country. Surely the United Kingdom now needs to engage constructively and graciously recognise that the Parthenon sculptures should return to Athens.

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We are engaging constructively. We will respond to the offer in due course. The suitability objectives and benefits of mediation need to be considered before that point, but I repeat that the sculptures are the property of the British museum, which provides access to all free of charge.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Can the Minister be a bit more specific about when the constructive engagement will come to a conclusion? The point made by the hon. Gentleman was that those items were stolen from the people of Greece, and there are very strong feelings in Greece about that. Perhaps our relationship with Greece would be improved if we constructively engaged with it with a view to returning some, if not all, of these items.

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I do not accept that the items were stolen, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is constructive engagement between the UK and Greek Governments. The matter was discussed at the beginning of October at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.