Clause 2 - Meaning of ''tainted cultural object''

Part of Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:00 pm on 14th May 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 3:00 pm, 14th May 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 2, in

clause 2, page 2, line 3, after 'of', insert 'the fabric of'.

The first amendment on the Order Paper concerns the definition of what constitutes part of a building. That seems to be a common-sense and straightforward amendment. However, I gather that it has fallen foul of the parliamentary draftsmen because of the terminology used in this legislation. It is important to get it right. It is a probing amendment, but there is an important point at stake.

I gather that the problem was not raised with the Ministerial Panel on the Illicit Trade in Cultural Objects after it was set up in May 2000. If it had been, that panel would have consulted groups such as English Heritage and other learned bodies about how it should be tackled. Although there have been consultations with the Department on this subject, certain people whom it is assumed have been consulted—I name one, Salvo—have not been consulted on quite a few matters in the Bill. It is important that we get the matter right for all concerned. To make clearer the definition of part of the building, I propose that we add the three words ''the fabric of'' before ''the building or structure'' in subsection (4) of Clause 2.

I shall refer to two brief cases. In the case of Lord Haselrigg, the owner of a country house at Nowsley, the local planning officer visited his listed building some time ago and said that certain paintings that Lord Haselrigg wished to sell were also covered by the listing and could therefore not be sold. Subsequently, an expensive and lengthy court case took place over whether the paintings were listed as part of the fixtures and fittings of the building. I believe that Lord Haselrigg's case was upheld, but not before an awful lot of lawyers had earned an awful lot of fat fees to argue the technicalities of the case. The test that is applied is an antiquated one of Victorian terminology called the degree and purpose of annexation test.

A second case concerned Leighton hall, a stately home in Wales, which is a Grade 2 listed property with important Pugin interiors, originally made for John Naylor who commissioned the building of the house. The owner attempted to sell three chandeliers and a Wagner clock. Even though the original owner had purchased those items after the house had been built, the Victorian Society objected to the sale, saying that the items were part of the building and should not be removed from it. In that case, they found against the owner, even though the objects were added after the building had been built.

There is a concern that certain people, perhaps a particularly zealous member of the Victorian Society, would try to make the case that certain parts of the furnishings within a building constitute the fabric of building. I have nothing against the Victorian Society—many good folk up and down the country belong to it—but owners who are quite legitimately

trying to sell paintings or chandeliers could be limited. Owners are usually selling items in order to pay the outrageous levels of death duties imposed by this and other Governments, but that is another matter; they may be selling them in order to keep their stately home in good order. Even if cases do not succeed, they will result in much expense and legal wrangling. It must be made absolutely clear what constitutes the fabric of a building.

There are similar cases. How do we regard some of the Pugin furniture within the Palace of Westminster? Many would regard it as part of the fixtures and fittings. If an over-zealous Speaker—in league with the Serjeant at Arms—decided to flog off some of that furniture, he might be challenged on whether it forms part of the fixtures and fittings of the building. That is an interesting argument, but in the case of paintings and chandeliers, it is quite clear that they do not constitute part of the building. If the term was ''fabric of the building'', I think that such items would not be deemed to constitute part of the buildings.