Laws :

Consultation on Restitution of Objects Spoliated in the Nazi-Era 2006

Between 10 July and 10 November 2006, the UK government sought comments on whether the current statutory and other legal restrictions which prevent national museums from de-accessioning works of art in their collections, should be lifted to allow restitution of items which were lost during the Nazi era. 
The consultation paper produced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) invited views on how far a power to make restitution of objects lost during the Nazi era should extend, who should be responsible for taking decisions on restitution and what continuing role the Spoliation Advisory Panel should have.
The powers discussed in the paper related only to the return of items lost as a result of the actions of the Nazis or their allies. It did not propose to remove the restrictions on museums' powers to dispose of objects in their collection in any other case.
Eighteen responses were received from organisations and individuals, including the Art Loss Register, the British Museum, the British Library, the Charity Commission, the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, ICOM UK, Marbles Reunited, the Museums Association, the National Archive, the National Gallery, Sotheby's and the Tate Gallery.      
A summary of the responses compiled by the DCMS and published on 22 June 2007 concluded:
"The consultation produced a strong overall message that museums do not wish to retain works of art looted by the Nazis in their collections and that removing the statutory restrictions that stop museums from deaccessioning those works would be beneficial to all. Most respondents felt that a definition of 'wrongful taking' should be included in legislation but recognised that arriving at a satisfactory definition would not be easy. Opinion was divided on whether a separate provision should be made to enable the restitution of the Beneventan Missal to Italy. Most respondents felt that decision-making powers should remain with museum trustees who would continue to be advised by the Spoliation Advisory Panel. They also felt that the legislation should include a 'sunset' clause.
The Department will consider the outcome of the consultation very carefully in developing its further proposals, which will need to be considered against the competing demands for other legislation to be introduced by the Department. As mentioned in paragraph 1.9 of the consultation document, in presenting these proposals, given the very limited number of claims which have been received for items in the national collections, and the even smaller number of claims (two) where the Panel has felt it appropriate to recommend legislation, the Department is unable to say when it may be possible for such legislation to be introduced."
For any queries regarding this consultation please contact:
Cultural Property Unit
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street
London SW1Y 5DH
For any questions or complaints about the process of consultation on this paper, please contact:
Liz Sweet
Consultation Co-ordinator
Strategy Division
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
2-4 Cockspur Street
London SW1Y 5DH