HC Deb 05 June 1992 vol 208 cc646-7W
Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what decisions he has made on the recommendations of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art in its recent report; and if he will make a statement on the proposal for the introduction of a very restricted list of heritage objects which could be prohibited from export.

Mr. Mellor

I share the view, expressed by almost all who made representations on the report, that the disadvantages of listing far outweigh the advantages. Listing would represent a diminution in the rights of owners to dispose of their property as they saw fit. And prohibition upon the export of outstanding heritage items would distort the market value, both for outstanding items and others. Therefore, I have firmly decided against the committee's recommendation, made most reluctantly, to list works of art.

The protection of the heritage is one of my prime concerns. There are, however, ways of achieving that aim other than listing, such as the scheme for acceptances in lieu of tax. The recent acquisitions of the paintings "Portrait of a lady with a squirrel and a starling" by Holbein and "The Old Horse Guards, London from St. James's Park" by Canaletto demonstrate the role that both the private and public sectors can play. I have assumed responsibility for the controls on licensing the export of works of art, formerly undertaken by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, with effect from 1 June 1992. I am considering the committee's other largely procedural recommendations.