Peers back extension of scheme to help Shoah victims’ families reclaim items
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Peers back extension of scheme to help Shoah victims’ families reclaim items

The bill, which has already been passed by the Commons, extends a 2009 law allowing listed national museums and libraries to return items taken during the Holocaust

Lord Sherbourne
Lord Sherbourne

Peers have backed the extension of a measure helping families of Holocaust victims to reclaim art and cultural items stolen by the Nazis.

The Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects)(Amendment) Bill has already cleared the Commons.

The Bill extends a 2009 law, due to lapse later this year, allowing listed national museums and libraries to return items lost, stolen, looted or seized during the Holocaust.

Its sponsor in the Lords, Tory Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury, said the legislation dealt with the legacy of a “dark and uniquely evil period” of European history.

Between 1933 and 1945 thousands of works or art were stolen by the Nazis as part of a “grotesque and systematic” campaign to eliminate a race and culture.

Lord Sherbourne said the original Act contained a sunset clause so it was due to expire this year but the new Bill would remove the clause to allow its provisions to continue indefinitely.

He warned that to “stop the clock” now would be terrible for those who were Holocaust victims and their families.

Eric Pickles speaking at an Association of Jewish Refugees event in the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Pickles, backing the Bill, said the Nazis were not only murderers but also thieves who “looted and plundered” throughout Europe.

For Labour, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port said the Bill had proved successful over 10 years and the sunset clause should be removed so it could continue.

For the Government, Viscount Younger of Leckie also backed the measure, insisting the Act had worked well but there was still much work to do, which warranted an indefinite extension.

The Bill was given an unopposed second reading and awaits its detailed committee stage at a later date.

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