HC Deb 10 December 1984 vol 69 cc733-4
32. Mr. Robert Sheldon

asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State answering in respect of the Arts what discussions he has had concerning the export of works of art.

Mr. Waldegrave

The export control system for works of art and antiques is kept under continuous review. My right hon. and noble Friend meets the chairman of the reviewing committee on the export of works of art as appropriate.

Mr. Sheldon

Most of our artistic heritage was acquired in the 18th and 19th century when our prosperity, compared to that of other countries, was much greater than we are ever likely to achieve again. Is it not clear that the net effect of events during the next few decades is likely to be the export of some works of art that are of great importance to us? Should not there be a ban on selling a special category of works of art which we cannot keep in this country by raising the requisite money? We have no objection to people selling their works of art, but there should be a ban on the export of certain works of art.

Mr. Waldegrave

All those matters are kept under consideration. However, I take the point made in the annual report of the National Heritage Memorial Fund that Britain has greatly gained from the free trade in works of art over the years and that it would not be in our long-term interests to do away with it. We have great public collections. What is important is that we should try to ensure that private owners do not have to sell in the first place.