HC Deb 04 July 1979 vol 969 cc642-4W
Mr. Faulds

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will specify in detail the current procedures and regulations relating to the sending abroad of works of art for the purpose of lending for public exhibition, including particulars of any role played therein by the reviewing committee on the export of works of art.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Works of art, antiques, collectors' items, manuscripts and documents which are more than 50 years old, and photographic material which is more than 60 years old and valued at £200 or more, require an export licence, for whatever purpose or for however long they are to be sent abroad.

The licence is given on the following basis:

(1) Works of art, antiques, and collectors' items valued at less than £8,000 may be exported under the open general export licence to any country other than Rhodesia;

(2) All other items require a specific export licence. This is given on the following basis: (a) items which have been imported within the last 50 years automatically receive an export licence; (b) items exported for a period of up to six months normally also receive a licence automatically. If they do, the return of the item does not count as an importation within the last 50 years if there is a further export licence application; (c) items to be exported for a period of more than six months (including permanent export) are considered as follows: the export licence application is sent by the Department of Trade to the appropriate expert adviser (usually a director, or keeper, in one of the national collections) who decides whether, in his judgment, an export licence should be withheld because the item meets one of the three criteria used to assist in the determination of national importance of items for which export is sought.

These criteria are: (a) Is the object so closely associated with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune? (b) Is it of outstanding aesthetic importance? (c) Is it of outstanding significance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history?

If the expert adviser considers that the item meets any one of these criteria, the case is referred to the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art. The committee also considers the item against the three criteria, and if it upholds the expert adviser's objection to export, it makes a recommendation to me that the export licence be withheld for a specified period in order to allow a public collection the opportunity to make an offer to purchase at a stipulated fair market price.

I then determine the issue.