Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:56 pm on 10th September 2021.

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Photo of James Davies James Davies Conservative, Vale of Clwyd 1:56 pm, 10th September 2021

It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Robbie Moore and to stand in support of this Bill, brought forward by my right hon. Friend Mel Stride. This is a practical Bill that serves a straightforward purpose, but it will I hope have positive consequences for many people across the country. The closure of so many cultural venues over the past 18 months has highlighted to us all how lucky we are in this country to have access to some of the world’s greatest museums and exhibitions. Thanks to our world-leading vaccination programme, we are now at the point where these places are once again welcoming visitors, and I am keen to provide support in any way that I can, including via this Bill.

While our national institutions own many of the artefacts that are displayed or restored, many pieces here for a short time travel from overseas. The provisions within the Bill, as we have heard, will reassure the lenders of those objects and in turn safeguard the ongoing exchange of cultural artefacts between the UK and partners throughout the world.

Under section 134 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, cultural objects on loan from abroad to British museums and galleries approved under the Act are protected from seizure or forfeiture for 12 months from the date the object enters the UK. Disruptions caused to international travel during the pandemic created problems whereby loaned objects due to be returned to their country of origin were unexpectedly delayed in Britain. These objects were left at risk of being unprotected, should the 12-month limit have expired before the borrowing institutions could arrange for their return. Similarly, we have seen environmental factors such as the eruption of unpronounceable volcanos.