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Elgin Marbles

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 9 May 1961

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asked the Prime Minister what conversations he has had with the Prime Minister of Greece regarding the return to that country of the Elgin Marbles removed from the Acropolis in Athens in 1799 and now at the British Museum.

The Prime Minister will be aware of the gratitude generated and the appreciation felt when we made a similar gesture in returning the national treasures of Ethiopia and Burma some time ago. Now that relations between the United Kingdom and Greece have returned to their former happy state, would not the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of first taking copies of these antiquities and then returning them, on grounds of generosity, to a very loyal ally, causing them to be restored to their former sites where they would certainly be likely to be seen by far more people, probably including far more British people, than they would by remaining in a musty room in the British Museum?

I will consider what the hon. Gentleman has said, but this is a complicated question and it can hardly be solved without careful consideration. I am told that it is thought by many experts that, after their many years of careful preservation in the British Museum, the Elgin Marbles are better in that position and are certainly seen by a much larger number of people than would be the case if they were returned. There is a problem and I will certainly not dismiss it from my mind, but this is a very important matter.