Cultural Objects (Protection from Seizure) Bill

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Museums and galleries play an important role in our national life, our heritage, our education and our understanding of who we are and of the world around us, but also, of course, in our enjoyment. That is true of world-renowned venues such as the National Gallery and the British Museum, and also of smaller ones such as the White House Cone Museum of Glass, which is opening in my constituency next summer, and the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, which I understand is now the most popular museum worldwide on TikTok. I think that “1920s Grandpa” was viewed about two and a half million times during the lockdown.

The extensive collections in these museums are supplemented by temporary exhibitions which are enriched by the ability to borrow culturally valuable, significant and relevant pieces from around the world. Clearly most of those exhibitions will be comfortably covered by the 12-month period in the existing legislation, but, as we have seen over the past 18 months, the unexpected happens rather more frequently than people might imagine, whether it is a global pandemic or a catastrophic environmental issue. Events that can stop international travel can, perhaps, disrupt, delay or postpone those exhibitions.

Our country and our cultural life would be very much poorer without access to displays and exhibits that is made possible by the protections in existing legislation. If by allowing for those protections to be extended by a further three months we can secure the ability of our world-class museums and galleries to borrow these exhibits from their partners around the world, that has to be an extremely important thing for us to strive to do. I therefore congratulate my right hon. Friend
the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride) on an important Bill, which I look forward to supporting during its passage through the House, and wish him all luck.