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Viscount Falkland: My Lords, as noble Lords will agree, this is a complex and sensitive matter. The Question on the Order Paper relates to British collections. However, works of art that were looted from victims of the Holocaust could have gone to collections all over the world. Is there any liaison or contact between the department of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and similar authorities in other countries?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Viscount is probably aware that in addition to the initiatives that have been taken in this country--I pay credit to my noble friend Lord Janner for his part, two years ago, in those initiatives--we are all working on the basis of the recommendations of the Washington conference on Holocaust era assets. In that sense, as many countries as possible are working on the same basis. Clearly, my department will be keen to take part in any international co-operation that is required.
Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, if a gallery has purchased a painting in good faith after it has passed through many hands--it may have been marketed by Nazi leaders through Switzerland or through other sources--and no known heirs can be traced, does a gallery have title to the work of art or do further searches have to be conducted?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said, this is an enormously complicated matter. I do not believe that I can give a general answer as to the circumstances in which the gallery will have title. I believe it will depend on each individual case. That is why we have an expert,
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, while I fully support the advisory panel in its future work, some owners, and even their heirs, are very elderly. Do the Government agree that time is important in deciding these matters?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords, we agree with the noble Lord. For that reason, when the issue was raised two years ago, the museum directors' conference immediately set up a body of experts to search for works of art that might fall within the category of spoliation. Those experts have carried out intensive inquiries, not only in national museums and galleries, but in all recognised museums and galleries in this country. So far, only one case has come forward. As soon as that happened we took steps to set up our advisory panel. However, we regret that it has taken a long time.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, there is a degree of disappointment that eight months have elapsed since the Government's proposals were announced but the one claim is still outstanding. Sadly, the claimant is elderly and unwell. Can the Minister indicate how much longer the claimant will have to wait?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I well understand the disappointment to which the noble Lord refers. When the claim was made in the summer of last year, first, we had to find a chairman. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and his department assisted us in finding the distinguished judge, Sir David Hirst, for that position. Then we had to adopt Nolan procedures to find the members of the panel. We had to consult on the membership of the panel with a wide body of people whom last month I listed in a Written Answer. The panel members--distinguished and busy people--had to find time in their diaries to meet. As I said, they will meet on 8th June. As soon as they have set up their procedures, I am sure that they will proceed as quickly as possible towards the determination of the case before them.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the human rights situation in Tibet remains a matter of serious international concern. We, in common with the United States and our EU partners, use every available opportunity to press the Chinese Government to respect international human rights standards in Tibet. We also continue to press the Chinese Government to enter into a genuine dialogue with the Dalai Lama with the aim of finding a long-term political solution.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. I welcome the fact that China has now signed the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights and on civil and political rights, although it has not ratified that. Does the Minister agree that in the past few months there has been a considerable worsening of restrictions on religious expression in Tibet and a crackdown on the free media? Given that, in Geneva, the EU could not form a common position, but decided to recommend that it would follow a basis of seeing whether results justified the continuation of the acceptance of what China had to say, can she tell the House how we should define such results-based outcomes? Will the dialogue continue regardless of whether there are results that indicate China's greater concern for human rights in Tibet?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we share the concern expressed by the noble Baroness about the difficulties that Tibetans are experiencing now. Tibet remains an area where we have serious concerns for human rights. We are deeply worried at the reports of continued arbitrary detention, torture and re-education of monks and nuns. We have not ignored Tibet; we have kept it at the forefront of our minds. We take the issue seriously and the issue of human rights in Tibet, including the cases of individual Tibetans, is raised at every opportunity and at the highest level.
It is difficult to give the noble Baroness a prescription of the outcomes. She is aware that we have entered into a number of programmes with the Chinese in relation to the human rights dialogue in terms of their judiciary, their lawyers and their infrastructure. We are pursuing that with vigour. On a continuing basis, we are trying to assess and re-assess the situation. I can assure the noble Baroness that we share the anxieties that she has expressed and that we shall continue to keep a keen eye on whether the process of dialogue is working in the way that we would like.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, following on from the first Answer given by the Minister to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and in the spirit of open government and transparency, can she tell the House whether the Foreign Secretary discussed Tibet with the President of China during his recent visit? If he did press the president on the human rights situation in Tibet, what was the response?
Lord Weatherill: My Lords, I should declare an interest as patron of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tibet. Is the Minister satisfied that the World Bank's project, which will involve the movement of some 60,000 Han Chinese into areas traditionally occupied by Tibetans, has the approval of the British Government? Will that project affect the human rights situation of the Tibetans in that area? If not, will the project go ahead?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we are extremely aware of the concerns that have been expressed about the dam project. We still await the publication of the report of the independent inspection panel into the decision of the World Bank to approve the project and the World Bank's formal response to it. We shall then take a position on the project's future. However, I can assure the noble Lord that when that report is to hand, Her Majesty's Government will give their full attention to its recommendations and the comments contained in it. We shall respond in an appropriate and informed way once we have had an opportunity to consider its contents.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, has the Minister noted that yesterday the UN Committee Against Torture expressed concern about the continuing allegations of torture, in particular against Tibetans and other minorities? Although the Chinese authorities stated that none of those allegations was fully substantiated, they did agree that the UN Committee Against Torture should pay a visit to China. Will the Government press for that visit to take place at the earliest possible moment and for it to include Tibet in the itinerary?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, certainly we shall press for the Chinese authorities to live up to their commitment, as the noble Lord suggests. However, the committee must first accept the invitation. This is an important and welcome step by the Chinese authorities. We welcome China's engagement with UN mechanisms, including the UN Committee Against Torture. Furthermore, we have carefully noted the committee's oral conclusions which were issued, I believe, on 9th May. We shall address these, including the recommendation that China should incorporate a definition of torture into its domestic legislation in the context of our bilateral human rights dialogue. The incorporation of such a definition is also
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