§ Mr. Colvin
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent contact he has had with the Greek ambassador about the Elgin marbles; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Whitney
I have today informed the Greek ambassador that we regret we are not in a position to meet his Government's request for the return of the Elgin marbles.
We have given this very careful consideration. The collection secured by Lord Elgin, as a result of transactions conducted with the recognised legitimate authorities of the time, was subsequently purchased from him and vested by an Act of Parliament in the trustees of the British museum "in perpetuity". The trustees are prohibited by statute from disposing of the sculptures and new legislation would have to be passed by Parliament for this position to be altered. A Bill to amend the British Museum Act of 1963 to empower the trustees to return items to their countries of origin, should they so wish, was rejected in another place on 27 October 1983.
We have been in touch with the trustees of the British museum who have made clear the importance they attach to preserving the integrity of the museum's collection for the benefit of international scholarship and the enjoyment of the general public.