East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton said he was “honoured” to have been selected to sit on the Committee which scrutinised and approved the draft Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) (Amendment) Bill.
The Bill, introduced by the Conservative MP Theresa Villiers, allows Holocaust survivors and their families to continue to have art stolen by the Nazis returned to them, by removing a ten-year sunset clause from a law passed in 2009. Without this new piece of legislation, victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants will not be able to claim their property after November this year if it is discovered in several major national institutions.
The 2009 Act gives 17 national institutions, including the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Library of Scotland, the power to return artworks in cases where it is recommended by an advisory panel and approved by the Culture Secretary. Without the 2009 legislation, there is a legal bar to property being returned by those institutions because of rules preventing them giving away their collections.
The Bill has been welcomed by the local Jewish community in East Renfrewshire. Mr Masterton noted that there may still be potential claimants who are unaware of the location of artworks owned by relatives who died in the Holocaust, with around 100,000 cultural objects estimated to still be hidden.
Paul Masterton, MP for East Renfrewshire commented:
“It should be no surprise that claims for objects are still coming forward, given some Holocaust survivors have only recently found surviving family members. The Holocaust was intended to eradicate the Jews, their culture and their history, so placing an arbitrary time-bar on the return of property which was stolen by the Nazis would entrench one aspect of its horror in perpetuity. I was absolutely delighted to be able to represent the local Jewish Community and give my unequivocal support to this Bill, which will now move on to the next stage of the legislative process.”