Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act 2009: repeal of sunset provision

Part of Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) (Amendment) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Michael Ellis Michael Ellis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2:45 pm, 27th February 2019

I start by thanking all colleagues who have spoken so powerfully this afternoon. This is one subject where we should all speak as one. Let me say on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government that we strongly support the Bill. As a nation, we must continue to pursue every effort to track down and return cultural objects lost during the Nazi era, when families were wrongfully and criminally dispossessed of these items, often in the most vicious and cruel way.

Our national museums take these issues very seriously, as they should, and they have been working to identify objects in their collections with uncertain provenance from between the years 1933 and 1945. That research is held on a recently upgraded online database, which is actively maintained by editors from the 47 contributing UK museums, and co-ordinated by the Collections Trust on behalf of the Arts Council.

This is an ongoing task. Potential claimants may still be unaware of the location of objects that used to be in the possession of their families. Given that progress is still being made in carrying out comprehensive research on the provenance of items in relation to the 1933 to 1945 period, it is vital that the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act 2009 be renewed, as the Bill in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet proposes, in order that claimants may continue to have their property returned to them where they Spoliation Advisory Panel recommends it and Ministers of the Crown agree.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the brilliant work she has done and is doing. It is not easy to progress a private Member’s Bill through this House, and I would like to express my admiration and thanks to her. Her constituents can be very proud of her.