The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
I am pleased to lay before Parliament the sixth annual report on the operation of the export controls on objects of cultural interest, as required by section 10(1) (a) of the Export Control Act 2002 (the 2002 Act). The report covers the period 1 May 2009 to 30 April 2010.
This is the 56th year that the Government of the day has published the Annual Report of the Reviewing Committee and I wish to express my personal support for the work that the Committee undertakes with so much care, in order to consider all the cases that are put before them with the benefit of the expertise displayed by our expert advisers. We are indebted to them and to all the members, who give so much of their own time and expertise to considering each of these cases and in particular to the astute chairmanship of Lord Inglewood.
I am also pleased to endorse the value of the Committee’s role in providing a safety net that offers a window of opportunity to save for the nation the most important cultural objects that come before them, through our export licensing process. I am impressed by the way this operates evenhandedly, maintaining a fine balance between the protection of our heritage, the encouragement of a free market in cultural objects and the protection of the rights of owners. Obviously at a time of national belt-tightening, it has not proven possible to save everything that the Committee considers to be of importance according to the well tried and tested Waverley Criteria and the figures speak for themselves. But it is remarkable how much has been achieved and it is a tribute to the Committee that, in spite of harsh economic realities and the persistently high prices obtained in the free market for objects of the highest quality, this year has nevertheless seen iconic objects worth over £10 million saved for collections throughout the UK.
I was delighted to learn of the Hardy papers which have been purchased by Dorset County Museum; that the Eglinton Tournament watercolours recording that unique historical event have gone to Dean Castle in Kilmarnock; and that the Walker archive has been saved by the British Library. The highly elegiac Dyce landscape depicting the two knitters has been purchased by the National Museum of Wales and I am especially pleased to note that this year there was a “Ridley” purchase1 of the magnificent Domenichino portrait of St John the Evangelist whereby the very generous purchaser will enable the painting to be on display at the National Gallery for eighteen months in every five years. I would like to place on record the Government’s appreciation of the generosity of such private purchasers in enabling such a precious object to remain in this country.
The Committee has rightly drawn attention to those objects which have departed these shores, despite my predecessor’s temporary deferral of an export licence on their recommendation. Each of the six objects which were exported is a loss to the nation, and it is particularly regrettable that three starred items were exported. I will be monitoring such cases closely in future and, in this context, I am pleased to note our decision to increase HLF’s share of the Lottery proceeds from 16.66% of the Lottery now to 18% in 2011 and 20% in 2012.
The Committee has drawn my attention to perceived shortcomings in the tax system, and have also expressed their support for greater encouragement for cultural philanthropy as a means by which to support acquisitions by public collections.
I believe there is scope to boost cultural philanthropy over the next few years and beyond. The first step towards that is to recognise properly those who already give, and I want to record my appreciation of the huge numbers of people who give so generously to support cultural activity and the protection of our national heritage. They have set a standard to which all of us should aspire, and I want to build on those foundations to encourage a step change in giving to culture across society. Government cannot do this alone, but we will work with a broad range of partners to promote private giving for the public good. This will not be easy, but it will be worthwhile and, if we get it right, our collective legacy will be to have exercised effective stewardship of our cultural heritage for the benefit of generations yet to come.
The tax system is the prerogative of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I shall draw his attention to the enduring success of the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which has continued to ensure that an exceptional range of pre-eminent objects have been taken into public ownership. In its centenary year, the scheme continues to be a vital means of supporting acquisitions, and I hope it will continue to flourish.
Finally, I wish to record my gratitude to all those organisations and individuals highlighted in the Reviewing Committee’s report, who have given so generously towards the objects that were saved. It is their commitment, together with the continuing enthusiasm and commitment of world class experts in museums, and the many volunteers and supporters across the country which deserves our profound thanks and appreciation.
Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport