HC Deb 07 February 2002 vol 379 cc1105-6W
Mr. Gordon Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what recent representations she has received from the Government of Greece concerning the return to Athens of the Parthenon marbles; and if she will make a statement. [27146]

Tessa Jowell

I received a letter from the Greek Minister for Culture, Mr. Evangelos Venizelos, in June 2001 to which I replied emphasising the importance of cultural connections between Britain and Greece. In connection with the Parthenon Sculptures I reminded the Minister of the position of Her Majesty's Government, which had recently been restated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, namely that it is our view that the sculptures were acquired legally and that they are best housed in the British Museum in a multi-cultural context, seen free of charge by up to 5 million visitors a year.

It may also be helpful to be clear about the responsibility of the British Museum for the Sculptures. The Trustees have a statutory duty to protect their collections and this duty could only be over-ridden by primary legislation amending Section 5 of the British Museum Act 1963, relating to the disposal of objects in the collections.