UK museums whose own rules prevent them from returning Nazi-looted art to its rightful owners can now do so thanks to a new Act of Parliament.
The Holocaust (Stolen Art) Restitution Act, which passed into
law early on November 12, will supersede any 'house rules' at
institutions such as the British Museum, whose collections are
protected by a ban on deaccessioning.
The bill was introduced earlier this year by Labour MP Andrew
Dismore, who said the Act would "right a long-standing
It will now be possible for the Secretary of State to order
returns on the recommendations of the Spoliation Advisory Panel,
which was formed in 2000 to resolve disputed artefacts from the
Nazi era (1933-45) and has already upheld nine such claims.
Until now, institutions prevented from returning works have
instead paid over compensation based on the valuation of disputed
objects. The law change affects England and Scotland - Wales and
Northern Ireland already enjoy such powers.
"Whilst I do not envisage the Act having to be used very
frequently, this is an important moral step, to ensure that we can
close yet a further chapter on the appalling crimes of the
Holocaust," said Mr Dismore.
By Ivan Macquisten