My Lords, it has been a long wait for the legislation that will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention and I am honoured that I am able to bring it forward. Unfortunately, recent tragic events have demonstrated only too well the convention’s continued relevance. I refer of course to the savage and wanton destruction of cultural heritage which has recently taken place in the Middle East and north Africa. We welcome the recent steps taken by the International Criminal Court to prosecute war crimes in Mali related to cultural destruction. This sends an important signal that the international community will take a firm stand against this kind of act. In the UK, heritage is very well protected. We have a similar duty of care to protect the heritage, monuments and artefacts of other countries which are vulnerable to barbarism, conflict and natural disasters. I remind noble Lords of Edmund Burke’s counsel that: “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. I hope that future generations will not be able to point to us as examples of that wisdom.
More generally, the Government have committed to a wide package of measures to protect cultural heritage for future generations. This year we launched a cultural protection fund which will support countries in global conflict zones to protect and restore their cultural heritage. In total, £30 million will be available for projects over the next four years. The fund will be administered by the British Council, and the first round of grant applications will begin on 27 June, with grants awarded later this year. These will support projects involved in cultural heritage protection; training and capacity building; and advocacy and education, primarily focused in the Middle East and north Africa. The fund has already provided £3 million for the British Museum’s rescue archaeology project in Iraq, and Iraqi archaeologists are currently in London, completing their training with the museum. The Government also announced last year the creation of a cultural property protection unit in the Army reserves—the so-called monuments men. It is hoped that this team will include individuals from academia, defence and law enforcement backgrounds to advise on the protection of cultural property that comes under threat during conflict. My officials are working closely with their counterparts in the Ministry of Defence to support their work to establish this unit.
The convention was first adopted following the devastating destruction that took place in the Second World War, and provides a framework for the protection of cultural property in times of armed conflict. The convention defines cultural property to include movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments, works of art or buildings whose main purpose is to contain such cultural property. The definition is broad and the list of examples is not exhaustive. As well as statues or traditional art work, it could also include more modern or digital types of cultural property like very rare or unique film or recorded music. My department is considering what cultural property should be covered in the UK, alongside other policy issues related to the implementation of the convention. Of course, we will also reflect on issues raised during the passage of the Bill as part of this process.
Parties to the convention are required to respect cultural property situated within the territory of other parties by not attacking it during times of armed conflict. They are also required to respect cultural property within their own territory by not using it for purposes that are likely to expose it to damage in the event of armed conflict. The First Protocol imposes obligations on parties to seize cultural property that has been illegally exported from an occupied territory, and to return it at the end of hostilities. The Second Protocol, which came into force in 2004 for those countries that are party to it, sets out clear criminal sanctions and provides an enhanced protection regime for cultural property.
The UK signed the convention in 1954 but did not ratify, due in part to concerns that it did not provide an effective regime for the protection of cultural property. The improvements made by the Second Protocol led the Government of the day to commit in 2004 to ratifying the convention and both protocols.
The Bill introduces the domestic legislation necessary for the UK to meet the obligations contained in the convention and its two protocols. It is not retrospective and a person will be criminally liable only if they commit an offence after the commencement of the Bill. Part 2 makes it an offence to commit a serious breach of the Second Protocol, either in the UK or abroad. Serious breaches, which are set out in the Second Protocol, include: making cultural property the object of attack; using cultural property in support of military action; extensive destruction or appropriation of cultural property; and the vandalising, theft, pillage or misappropriation of cultural property in the context of armed conflict. Ancillary offences such as assisting or conspiring to commit an offence, and the role of commanders and superiors, are also covered. The maximum penalty for these offences is 30 years’ imprisonment. This may seem a severe sentence but it must be seen in the context of the seriousness with which such offences are viewed in international law and is entirely consistent with our approach to the wider body of international humanitarian law.
Part 3 introduces the distinctive emblem created by the convention—the Blue Shield—and creates provisions to ensure that it is protected, by making its unauthorised use an offence. The emblem will be used to identify cultural property that is protected under the convention. It is analogous to the Red Cross in its ability to confer protection and immunity in times of conflict. As such, the Bill includes measures to prevent its potency being diminished by unauthorised use.
Part 4 implements measures to deal with cultural property that has been unlawfully exported from occupied territory and has entered the UK. This part of the Bill can apply only to cultural property that has been unlawfully exported from an occupied territory after 1956, when the convention and First Protocol came into force. Clause 17 creates a new offence of dealing in unlawfully exported cultural property, with a sentence of up to seven years. It is important to note that this offence applies only to property that is imported into the UK after the commencement of this legislation. As a result, any cultural property that is already in UK collections will not be retrospectively affected by this legislation.
The Government are clear that dealers acting in good faith have no reason to fear prosecution under the Bill. If a dealer takes temporary possession of an object for the purpose of carrying out due diligence or providing valuations, they will not be “dealing” in that object, because they are not “acquiring” the object. The rest of Part 4 outlines the circumstances in which unlawfully exported cultural property would be liable to forfeiture and creates the necessary new powers of entry, search and seizure.
Part 5 of the Bill provides immunity from seizure or forfeiture for cultural property that is being transported to the UK, or through the UK to another destination, for safekeeping.
Finally, in terms of substantive provision, Part 6 ensures that if an offence under the Bill is committed because an officer of a company or Scottish partnership —for example, directors of private military contractors—agreed to the offence being committed, or assisted in it, they will be guilty of an offence as well as the company or partnership.
In introducing this legislation, the Government intend to do only what is necessary to meet our obligations under the convention and its protocols. The Bill will fit into an existing legal framework to tackle the illicit trade in cultural property. The Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 and the Theft Act 1968, alongside the Syria and Iraq sanctions, already enable the UK to take action where authorities suspect that individuals might be engaged in illicit trade. The Bill before your Lordships strengthens these measures by filling important gaps in relation to cultural property that has been taken illegally from occupied territories that are not subject to sanctions orders.
It is important to note that the existing legislation, as well as enabling prosecution, has an important deterrent effect, aimed at ensuring that the protection of cultural property, whether in the UK or abroad, is as robust as possible. The Bill will add to that deterrent effect, so that people will know that there is no legitimate market for tainted cultural objects in the UK.
The Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill will enable the UK to become the first permanent member of the UN Security Council to ratify the convention and accede to both of its protocols. Together with our other initiatives in this area, including the cultural protection fund, this will make a strong public statement about the UK’s commitment to protecting cultural property in times of armed conflict. I beg to move.
My Lords, on these Benches, we welcome and support the Bill. We recognise that our country behaves, in many ways, as if the Bill had already been enacted. We note, for example, that the Government have said:
“Our Armed Forces already act as though bound by the Hague convention, and … the Hague convention and its protocols already inform our Armed Forces’ law of armed conflict doctrine and training policy, particularly with regard to respect for cultural property, precautions in attack and recognition of the blue shield”.—[Official Report, 14/1/16; col. 501.]
We also appreciate that our abiding at least by the spirit of the convention is bolstered by the work of the joint military cultural protection working group, and it was good to hear just now from the Minister how this work is progressing. It is also bolstered by the UK’s efforts in sponsoring UN Resolution 2199 to support steps to prevent Daesh benefiting from the trade in antiquities from Iraq and Syria and by the £3 million provided for the Iraqi emergency heritage management project run by the British Museum, which is doing excellent work in this area. It is also bolstered by the work of the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit, by the £30 million to be made available through the new and welcome cultural protection fund and by the work of the UK National Committee of the Blue Shield, ably led by Professor Peter Stone.
All of these already give some credibility to our country’s claim to be concerned about the protection of cultural property in times of armed conflict. However, our failure up to this point to ratify the 1954 Hague convention or the 1954 and 1999 protocols has limited that credibility. Commenting on the announcement, somewhat hidden in the Queen’s Speech, of the intention to bring forward this legislation, Peter Stone pointed out that when, in 2003, coalition forces invaded Iraq, neither the United States nor the UK had ratified the convention, but that in 2009 at least the United States did so and that now, as he put it, the,
“UK is arguably the most significant military power (and the only one with extensive military involvement abroad) not to have ratified”,
the convention. He went on to say that,
“the UK is finally on the verge of joining the international community in recognising the value and importance of cultural property to local, national and international communities and their identities”.
In short, the swift passage of this Bill will strengthen our credibility and legitimacy when we seek to work alongside others to prevent the destruction of cultural property and will help us in raising awareness of the need to do so. But as the Minister herself acknowledged, it has been a long time coming, despite promises from many existing and former Ministers and support for action from all three of the major political parties, including my own, represented in your Lordships’ House. It is worth reflecting that all three of those major political parties have had periods in government and have all failed to act since the first draft Bill back in 2004. So it is to the credit of the current Government that we now have the Bill before us. Of course, I accept that they have been spurred into action by some recent events, not least the wanton destruction by Daesh of antiquities in Iraq and then in Syria and the murder of 82 year-old Khaled al-Assad, the curator of important cultural sites in Palmyra. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth said in January,
“these atrocities do more than inflict physical damage. They are a callous assault on the dignity and identity of people, their communities, and their religious and historical roots.”.—[Official Report, 14/1/16; col. 492.]
If the Government were spurred on by atrocities, by such acts of cultural vandalism, and by the public reaction to them, credit must also be given to the pressure that has come from parliamentarians in both Houses through, for example, the newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, and pressure from individuals such as the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, to whom I pay especial tribute for the work she has done in this area, the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, my noble friend Lord Redesdale and many others. They all deserve our thanks.
The measures in the Bill have been clearly set out by the Minister and do not need repeating. I congratulate her and officials in her department for the particularly helpful Explanatory Memorandum. The section entitled “Legal background” makes it very clear why existing UK laws are not sufficient to meet in full the obligations set out in the convention and its protocols and why, while already meeting the spirit, we need to pass this Bill to ensure that we are also meeting the letter of the convention. As the Minister has already made clear, it will show how serious we are about protecting cultural property in times of armed conflict, with the penalty for intentional damage being raised from the current maximum of two years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine to up to 30 years’ maximum imprisonment.
In welcoming the Bill, I ask the Minister three brief questions. First, in January, when asked about the need for increased funding for the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit, the Minister replied:
“I have explained … that the police budget has been protected, and I take the point that the House thinks that more resources should be spent on this. I will certainly think about that.”.—[Official Report, 14/1/16; cols. 502-3.]
Can the Minister tell us where that thinking has led her? Are additional resources to be found?
Secondly, when enacted the legislation will require the UK to identify what cultural property in the UK will be afforded general and what will be afforded enhanced protection in the event of armed conflict. In January, the Minister said the Government were already working on a statement that would set out their approach to the identification process. I am aware of the work being done by the department and agencies such as Historic England, but that has mainly focused on the enhanced list. Can the Minister update us on this work? In particular, can she tell us how world heritage sites will be treated, not least those such as the world heritage city of Bath—my former constituency—and the frontiers of the Roman empire, which cover very significant areas? Can she also tell us whether scheduled ancient monuments will be considered for inclusion in the general protection list, bearing in mind that, to the surprise of many, they were excluded from the 2008 recommendations of the House of Commons DCMS Select Committee?
Finally, when that committee, then chaired by the current Secretary of State, scrutinised the 2008 draft Bill on which the Bill before us is based it sought to establish whether it,
“would constrain military operations unduly, for instance by limiting troops’ freedom to protect themselves when coming under fire from opposing forces based in a museum or mosque”.
The committee concluded that the passage of that Bill into law would not impose such a constraint. Can the Minister assure us that both she and the Ministry of Defence have the same view in relation to the current Bill?
The Bill has been far too long in coming. I hope that it will now have a speedy passage through your Lordships’ House and the other place so that our country can have the credibility and legitimacy it needs to work with others to provide the protection of cultural property in times of armed conflict and to persuade others of the need to do so.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to welcome and support the Bill to ratify the 1954 Hague convention and its two protocols, for which the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group has long argued. One may well ask, as the noble Lord, Lord Foster, just did, why it took so long. Successive Governments have been surprisingly slow to ratify the convention, so I would like to express thanks to the Secretary of State for ensuring that it is included in this year’s parliamentary programme. I do so on behalf of the All-Party Archaeology Group and the recently formed All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.
It is particularly welcome to see the United Kingdom ratify the more recent second protocol—which, as the Minister remarked, many of our principal allies have not yet managed to do—with its significant sanction of up to 30 years’ imprisonment for breaches of the protocol. My understanding is that our Armed Forces already, in effect, observe all the provisions of the convention and its protocols and have in place measures to give protection, where possible, to sites and monuments, for instance in Iraq, implemented by the new cultural property protection unit.
Your Lordships’ House has previously expressed concern at the looting last year of the Mosul museum, and the fanatical vandalism by ISIS at the Nergal gate at Nineveh and the destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin at Palmyra. No doubt these outrages, and those at Hatra, have encouraged the introduction of the Bill, but is it not an irony that these episodes, and the looting that has accompanied them, do not fall within the scope of the convention or the Bill? I was surprised that the Minister did not refer to that circumstance in her speech. Can she confirm that damage or looting by the Taliban in Afghanistan, or by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, are not covered by the Bill on the grounds that the Taliban and ISIS are not occupying states? Will she confirm that in international law occupied territory results only when one state occupies the territory of another, and that the Taliban and ISIS, whatever their aspirations, are not recognised as states?
Fortunately, dealing in looted antiquities is already covered by the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, so I hope that the Government will be vigilant and ready to use that legislation when there is the suspicion of illicit antiquities from war zones entering the UK. The recent Security Council resolution to which the Minister referred, relating to cultural property looted in the course of the recent conflict in Syria, is also in place. When enacted, the Bill will apply to occupied territories such as the West Bank, North Cyprus and indeed Crimea, but perhaps not where it is needed most—in Syria, Iraq and Nigeria.
Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, has stated:
“The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime”.
It is clear that traditional shrines and images are being deliberately destroyed by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Does the Minister see a way for this or other legislation to view the destruction of heritage as a war crime and as subject to the application of international law? I quote from the International Business Times of 12 March this year:
“Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court in the Hague made history by initiating proceeding in the first case of cultural destruction as a war crime. It’s an issue that one UN representative wants to see prosecuted more as an increasing number of world heritage sites are first over-run and then destroyed by Islamist fighters. On 1 March, a pre-trial procedure was opened by the ICC in the case against Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi who was charged with ordering and participating in alleged cultural destruction in Timbuktu, Mali. Islamist militants are accused of being behind attacks on 10 religious and historic monuments in the Unesco World Heritage city of Timbuktu in Mali”.
Our role with this Bill is to ratify the existing convention and its protocols but I wonder if the Minister could comment also on the concept of cultural destruction as a war crime, since it is disappointing that the recent outrages in Mosul, Nineveh, Hatra and Palmyra are apparently not covered by the provisions of the Bill. I feel that many Members of your Lordships’ House are uneasy at seeing such deliberate destruction escaping the sanctions of international law, and wonder whether we should not be doing more. I fully support the Bill but perhaps some additional subsequent measures would be in order.
My Lords, six months ago I was privileged to lead a debate in the House in which many noble Lords spoke passionately and powerfully about the need to ratify the Hague convention and its protocols. I argued that, given the wanton violence to world heritage, not a day should be lost before we did so. That day has come, and not a moment too soon—but there is no reason to be churlish. We are delighted that we are here for Second Reading.
Many cultural and heritage agencies outside this House, such as the Heritage Alliance, have made the same case with increasing urgency—and, indeed, anyone who understands and sympathises with the universal values and culture that are expressed through the concept of “world heritage” has long wondered why we have been so slow, especially when sites such as Nineveh, Nimrod and Palmyra bind us together in human history as surely as do Stonehenge or Hadrian’s Wall. Finally we have the opportunity to put this right and make up for lost time—and, as I say, there is joy abounding.
This is not a handout Bill but a government Bill, and that is excellent. Much of it resembles the 2008 Bill that fell because of lack of parliamentary time. It is an opportunity to pay tribute to civil servants such as Hillary Bauer, who spent a great deal of time getting that Bill ready, and indeed to the generation of civil servants who are responsible for it and who have been very helpful. The Minister herself has consistently made it clear that this is something that she wants to achieve.
I feared that events might conspire against the Bill but that has been confounded because all the questions that I raised in the previous debate have been answered, and legislation has been drafted to update the 2008 Bill to ensure that it fully implements our obligations and to reflect organisational and functional change in Whitehall. The Bill has support across Whitehall and the warm support of agencies such as Historic England, and I am sure that it will have a consensual passage through this House.
Like others, I am indebted to Dr Peter Stone, who holds the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace at Newcastle University, and to Professor Roger O’Keefe at University College, London, as well as to all the academics and curators who have been involved on the front line in many ways in the fight to protect cultural property and to strengthen our hand in relation to this convention.
No one is naive enough to think that the Bill will stop Daesh in its tracks violating monuments that contradict its deviant mentality. In Syria, it will not stop the looting and exploiting of ancient sites by terrified and impoverished people. I fully endorse the questions that were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. The roll call of destruction will probably go on, even though the threats may change locally. But the Bill is of signal importance to us in the UK—and not just because we will no longer be isolated from the majority of the world, which has pledged through the convention to put a stop to violence against culture and humanity.
It is much more important than that. It recognises that attempts to destroy cultural identity simply create enemies for life. The monuments which tell a story of a people’s survival signify and validate their existence across time. That is why they are such a threat to an enemy who aims to wipe out—in the words of Irina Bokova, the Director-General of UNESCO—and cleanse all traces of a counter-culture. But we also know from long experience that lasting peace cannot be built in a cultural desert. History, identity and memory cannot be erased. Indeed, in 2010, in the context of the Chilcot report, the agencies documented the different ways in which,
“by failing to provide for the protection of cultural property, Coalition planners made it considerably more difficult for troops on the ground to win hearts and minds”.
The Minister has already outlined the key elements of the Bill, which are required to enable the UK to accede to the Hague convention and its two protocols. Of those clauses in the Bill, surely the most important is the introduction of offences designed to protect cultural property in the event of armed conflict at home and abroad. Questions will be raised about the clauses, not least about how we in the UK continue the fight against the illegal trade in antiquities and about where and how resources can and must be found.
I will raise two technical points, which Professor Roger O’Keefe referred to me. First, there is a need to ensure clarity and consistency in terminology. Chapter 4 of the 1999 second protocol to the 1954 convention refers to “serious violations” of the protocol, not “serious breaches”. It is not evident why the Bill uses different terminology. That is liable to create confusion—it is possible that it is a reference to “grave breaches” of the Geneva conventions—but clarity and consistency of language are extremely important.
Secondly, it is not evident why the scope of criminal liability for an ancillary offence under the law of England and Wales and Northern Ireland in Clause 4 seems to be slightly different from that effectively provided for Scotland and from that provided for in the corresponding Sections 55(1) and 62(1) of the International Criminal Court Act 2001. We must make absolutely sure not to create any unnecessary problems in the context and the content of the Bill which could cause problems for the convention. I am sure that the Minister will have a positive response to that.
The Bill is of course a necessary hurdle to jump before we can ratify the Hague convention and the protocols. Ratification brings with it certain obligations, not least on the part of the Armed Forces. In a previous debate I referred to the work of the Military Cultural Property Protection Working Group, under the inspired leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick, which brings together specialists from the three services and promotes renewed liaison between the military and the heritage sector.
I cannot resist: the Minister made a reference to the Monuments Men—the original team after the war. There was actually a monuments woman—a lady called Anne Olivier Bell, who is in her 100th year. I should like to put on the record that a woman certainly was involved, and she did an exceptional job very modestly, as one would expect.
During defence Questions in the House of Commons on 18 April it was very good to hear the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon MP, say that ratification would prompt,
“the establishment of a military cultural property protection unit”,
and that his Ministry was,
“already engaging with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the stabilisation unit to further develop plans for that capability to help better protect such important monuments in future”.
That is exactly what we want to hear, not least because he went on to say:
“It is also important to deny Daesh the revenue that it has earned from selling artefacts and coins from archaeological sites”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/4/16; col. 628.]
It would be very good if the Minister could bring us up to date with any additional information.
There is other good news and it is about leadership. The move to ratification—especially of the second protocol—has been welcomed by those working with the US Government, who have been waiting for a significant military ally to ratify the protocol before taking action themselves. I also understand that our decision to ratify has prompted the Government in Ireland to take positive action towards their own ratification of the convention and the protocols—in other words, we have inspired other Governments to get their act together. Now begins the hard work of making sure that we do everything in our control to protect cultural property wherever it is threatened by conflict.
Clearly, prosecution work is vital. The trial of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, who stands accused of a war crime regarding the destruction of historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu in Mali in 2011, will start on 22 August in the International Criminal Court. But the most powerful symbol of hope that extremism can be defeated was the liberation of Palmyra from Daesh on 27 March. It is very important that, in the rush to assert that the ancient city will be rebuilt as it was before the recent destruction, caution is taken to recognise that the site is still riddled with home-made mines, that war still rages within miles of the city, and that the civilian population is still wretched and requires more support.
That is not to say that nothing should be done. The International Committee of the Blue Shield has suggested that the whole site be treated as a crime scene in order that evidence can be collected to ensure that those responsible for the appalling destruction are brought to international justice whenever possible. Time is needed to allow everyone to understand how best to help Syria to mark and record not only the destruction of the ancient city but the destruction of contemporary heritage, including the little-reported destruction of the contemporary Islamic cemetery in Palmyra city.
There is no doubt that today we are witness to a change in the status of the leadership of the UK in this area. Through ratification of the Hague convention and both its protocols, we have become, as has been said, the first permanent member of the UN Security Council to ratify all three international instruments. But we also have a new engine and extra fuel for the work. There is overwhelming support for the Cultural Protection Fund, set up by the Government, and for the fact that the British Council has been entrusted with its management. When the fund opens for business on 27 June, I hope that—with due diligence, of course, over the process—we can not only commit but actually spend the allocated £3.3 million in what remains of this year on projects that have been submitted and approved. Anything that the Minister can do to expedite that will be helpful. The fund has been warmly welcomed by many agencies because it will finally give us the opportunity to support the Blue Shield and established organisations in their work to protect cultural property now and in the future.
We may well be recognised as a leader in the field of heritage conservation, but now there is another opportunity to create a permanent legacy. In the 1860s, the Swiss Government gambled on what must have been a very long-odds bet—to introduce greater humanity into the conduct of war by helping to create, and financially support, the Red Cross. Now we have an opportunity to establish the Blue Shield in perpetuity through a modest endowment, which would finally establish it and its willing volunteers as the global leaders in cultural protection.
A small, central team in London to co-ordinate and support the work that is needed would be a commendable legacy to last long into the future, and there will never be a better time or more support to do that. I hope that the Minister, in leading this long-overdue but most welcome Bill through the House with all our blessings, will also be able to give some thought to that idea. Unlike Ozymandias, she will then be able to contemplate a permanent legacy with satisfaction.
My Lords, I also welcome the Bill. I say this because it was on the first agenda of the All-Party Group on Archaeology 15 years ago, where the noble Lords, Lord Renfrew and Lord Howarth of Newport, and I discussed it, and we have discussed it many times since. It would be churlish not to thank the Minister for her work, considering she could not confirm beforehand that this was going to be in the Queen’s Speech, and for bringing it forward, considering how many times we have been disappointed in the past. We have been waiting only since 1954, so perhaps the pace of movement has given us an opportunity to spot some of the problems in the world.
The Bill has been brought forward because of the issues raised by the actions of Daesh in Syria, in the same way that the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Bill was brought forward in 2003 to deal with the problems in Iraq, especially with the museum in Baghdad. However, the real reason behind it is that there are two elements to what Daesh is trying to do. First, it is trying to destroy cultural identity through the destruction of cultural monuments, but secondly, it is trying to finance its activities and campaigns. That should not be underestimated.
One of the greatest sources of finance for Daesh has been illegal excavations and the selling of artefacts to the art market. That is one reason why the MoD is so interested in forming the “monuments men”—which of course I will immediately volunteer for, although I might be getting slightly too old for that. Apparently, the MoD wants people who have been officers in the Army, and who have an archaeological degree and a knowledge of the Middle East. Apart from the fact that my archaeological tutors would find it difficult to believe that I have that knowledge, I would happily stand forward. The Army is certainly going to have to look at this trade if it wants to deny Daesh and other groups the ability to finance their activities in this way.
That moves me on to the point that that finance would not be available if there was not a ready and willing market for stolen items. The art market, which is cleaning up its act considerably, has a history of laundering stolen objects. I am sure that the British Museum should be questioned on some of the interesting documents explaining how it managed to smuggle artefacts out of what is now Syria, but I will not go too far into that.
Can the Minister confirm that the Bill looks only at articles imported into this country and that some of the concerns of the art market are therefore unfounded? There has been discussion about whether articles exported for loan could be seized. However, if they are articles suspected of being stolen after the 1954 Act, they should probably have been seized in this country under the 2003 Act, which the Government should have enforced much more stringently because a very large number of cultural objects in this country have come from war zones. Therefore, I do not believe that the art market can make a case for relaxing this measure. Most museums and art dealers should understand the provenance of the articles they are dealing with. If they do not, should they be dealing in those articles at all?
Cultural objects are not just artefacts. Also included are all the elements of cultural identity. The Minister mentioned saving digital archives and films. Those may be a very modern element but could also be extremely rare and based around cultural identity. Cultural identity is a key element that has been at the heart of the efforts of the Taliban and ISIS to stamp their authority. This is not a new aspect of warfare; it has taken place quite a few times in the past.
The Government have not just brought forward ratification of the Hague convention but also financed the cultural protection fund. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, I particularly welcome the £3 million that will go towards dealing with some of the problems in Syria. But this is not just an issue for Syria. The idea behind the cultural protection fund is to preserve areas that are under threat throughout the world. These are not just manmade threats but natural disasters—one issue is climate change, which will have a massive impact on historic heritage.
One problem with the cultural protection fund is understanding how the money should be distributed. The job has been given, correctly, to the British Council, but I hope that it will have the ability to fund a body that has the knowledge base to make sure that any grants given to bodies which undertake work for the cultural protection fund are precisely targeted. Although we are talking about £27 million—after the £3 million has been distributed—that is over three years and it will not go very far, but I hope that it can be renewed after that point.
We should not just talk about taking objects and storing them safely; we now have the opportunity to make a digital archive of most historic sites. We could be the leaders in this field and help other institutions, especially universities, collate all the digital records in one safe haven. That should probably be London, although digital safe havens could be based in a number of service centres throughout the world to stop any further problems with losing archives.
This important work should not just be about protecting sites in military action but widened to the whole area of cultural identity—of preserving the identity of peoples, the stories, the verbal history and other aspects. I once worked for the English Folk Dance and Song Society, after which I did the great work of getting Morris dancers exempted from the Licensing Act 2003—it is one of the things I am most proud of in my activities in this House; I also got Morris dancing included in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics—but I digress. Although that sounds funny, there are group dances and activities which need to be recorded, because populations become displaced in conflict and lose their cultural heritage. Being able to preserve that cultural heritage so that when those populations go back, there is a record of it, is incredibly important. Such heritage can be fragile, as was shown in Syria. The assassination of the person in charge of the knowledge base of Palmyra probably did as much damage as the explosives used to blow up the monuments.
I hope that such a database is run as a source of knowledge—not just to bring out the knowledge needed to direct the work of the cultural protection fund, but to bring together all the other groups throughout the world who are working to the same aims, so that we can leverage the most finance and work into one space.
The Blue Shield has been mentioned. It is a fantastic organisation that symbolises the work being undertaken. I hope that the Government will include the Blue Shield and UNESCO, as well as the active community in this country and throughout Europe and the world, in populating a centre of excellence that could preserve this knowledge base.
My Lords, I first declare my interests: my wife, Victoria, the MP for Kensington, is president of BADA, the British Antiques Dealers Association, and she used to run the Olympia antiques fairs for some years; I am a part-time fundraiser for both the Science Museum and Historic Royal Palaces, the people who run the Tower of London. I commend any parliamentarian to make friends with the Tower of London. Historically that has been a wise idea.
I generally welcome the Bill. The destruction of cultural property by Daesh and al-Qaeda has been appalling and the pictures we see of the wreckage they leave behind are distressing. However, if they had not been so proud of this destruction, I am not sure that it would have been so comprehensively condemned. Perhaps more insidious, and probably more widespread, is the reported ransacking of museums, followed by the leaking of cultural property to the West. Restoring pride to the citizens and education to their children will help bring these dreadful conflicts to an end. The contents of their museums play a valuable part in that restoration.
However, The Bill could be improved. It is complex and certainly will not be understood easily by an antique shop owner without legal advice. Could it not be simplified? It talks in detail about unlawfully exported cultural property but I am not sure that this really hits the spot. Unlawfully means, I am told, without an export licence.
Does this raise the status of the bureaucracy of the occupied territory and is Daesh or ISIL an occupying state for this purpose? The point has been made more elegantly by my noble friend Lord Renfrew but it is a part of the 1950s origin of this treaty, written before Daesh was imagined. Could we not look at amendments to the Bill to widen it to include the more recent example of non-state organisations such as Daesh effectively occupying states?
Refugees from Assad or Gaddafi or any of the other despots in the area may not have been oppressed by those tyrants but by the goons working for those tyrants’ regimes. To say that something is legal if those goons have issued a licence but illegal otherwise seems to address the wrong point.
I do not want to be tempted into talking much about a place which I have never wanted to visit, particularly in front of a House containing experts on the subject, so let me instead talk about the problem of refugees taking small items with them—a family heirloom, perhaps. No doubt the vast majority of refugees are without any assets other than their iPhones, but I am amazed by the cash prices reported to be paid by the refugees to the people traffickers. How do these refugees manage to pay thousands of pounds, as is regularly reported, and is the exchange control in Syria inhibiting them from taking out cash from that benighted country? I have no doubt that asking Assad’s bureaucracy if you can bring out a small valuable statue will be as quickly refused as asking if you can take out $10,000. How many export licences does the Minister think have been issued from Syria or Somalia or any of the other countries recently? If we do not know or think the answer is zero, is the Bill answering the right question?
Furthermore, is the granting of export licences by a corrupt state a sign that a tyrant’s bureaucracy has a monopoly of knowledge on what is or is not valuable and culturally important? Should not the advice of UK-based art experts be relevant? What we are trying to do here, surely, is attack the crooked curators, not the honest wealthy refugees, even though they may be as rare as each other.
My Lords, I thank Peter Stone of Newcastle University and Historic England for their briefings.
I am grateful to the Government for introducing this Bill and for doing so so early in the Session. As we know, this will not provide a panacea for saving all cultural heritage or bringing back what is lost, but it will put us on the same footing as the countries which have ratified. This means we will be in a better position certainly in terms of having a moral authority which we previously lacked, as well as, importantly, having more of a shared responsibility for the protection of cultural heritage. By ratifying this Bill, we become part of a majority by joining the 66% of the world’s countries to have done so, although one of the far fewer in number to have signed the second protocol.
I should mention the two technical issues already referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, and add to what she said. The word “violation” is in fact used in Clause 3, so there is a confusion. As a non-legal person it feels to me that the word “breach” by itself is less strong than the word “violation”, which is the term used in the convention. I notice, however, that this is the wording that was used in the 2008 draft Bill, so it has probably been simply carried over.
On the question of possible claims of ownership made on pieces which are loaned abroad, in addition to what the Minister has already outlined, one thing I would say is that other countries in Europe such as Germany have signed the second protocol, where it has been in force since 2004. Germany has an arts and antiques trade and public museums comparable to those of the UK, so the question is simply this: have any concerns been felt by Germany over the past 12 years or by other countries which signed in 1999? I have heard nothing of that.
In regard to the illegal trade in antiquities, there is clear anecdotal evidence in recent newspaper articles and on television programmes that London is a market for this trade. My feeling is that until auction houses and the antiques trade become, or are compelled by law to become, less secretive about the provenance of the goods they sell, it will be difficult to do a great deal about this. The Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 has not yet produced a single conviction, so one hopes that the strengthening of the law which the Minister has outlined will have an effect. What is the current strength of the Metropolitan Police Arts and Antiques Unit, are there plans to expand it, and what other measures might the Government use? I would also ask the Government what is to be the strength of the new cultural protection capability for the Armed Forces—the new monuments men and women?
The £30 million fund is of course hugely welcome, but there is a question about the long term and whether there is to be a legacy, and here I echo what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews. I certainly support the idea of a Blue Shield international co-ordination centre in the UK, possibly based in London. It could co-ordinate work on a global basis, ensuring that among the much necessary work there is no unnecessary duplication of projects such as mapping. The idea is backed by, among many other organisations, the British Museum, the Museums Association and the Council for British Archaeology. This is an opportunity for the UK to be a leader in the field, and if we do not take it, another country will.
The more I learn about this area of cultural protection, the more I am convinced of its importance. The riposte to those who say that people come before cultural property is this. By protecting cultural heritage we also protect people because our cultural heritage in its broadest sense is also what we inhabit not just literally in terms of bricks and stone, but more abstractly in terms of our learning—the sciences, the arts and everything that we term as “culture”—and which we transform using our minds into the material environment that surrounds us. Of course all art and culture, if it lasts for 2,000 years, did once start off as brand new.
There are questions for the longer term of what is cultural property, and it has to be said that the perception of cultural heritage changes over time. A danger for our own culture is that we get drawn into formalising a hierarchy of cultural value where some things are worth saving and others are not. My hope for the Bill is the opposite: that it will help to raise awareness of the value of cultural heritage more generally. Even in the Middle East distinctions are tacitly made. The destruction of Palmyra, which I am sure was a trigger for the timing of this Bill, is tragic, but once you get away from the more classically influenced sites there is considerably less reporting of the destruction of sites of equal significance. I am thinking for instance of the old city of Sana’a in Yemen, itself a world heritage site. I hope that the Bill will focus our minds on how the UK might have helped better to prevent that destruction.
Cultural heritage also needs to be protected in peacetime, not just from military attack. No doubt the Minister will have seen last week’s UNESCO report detailing the effects that climate change poses to world heritage sites including Stonehenge, Venice, Easter Island and many others, including natural heritage sites. The risk from fire, flooding and even simple neglect and lack of funding are also potential causes of destruction. In relation to this Bill, I understand that every four years countries are invited by UNESCO to give answers to a questionnaire specifying what they have done to protect their own cultural heritage. What preparations are being made in advance of these questions?
My Lords, I, too, thank Her Majesty’s Government for allowing parliamentary time for this important Bill. I declare my interest as co-chair of the All-Party Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief. I am grateful that some noble Lords have already mentioned the fact that cultural heritage is often the religious heritage of people. The United Kingdom should be proud of its role in giving aid to refugees in Syria and Iraq but we can now also be proud of our role in protecting the cultural and religious heritage in that region.
History is full of examples of the destruction of religious and cultural heritage as a means of domination of people and limiting cultural and religious diversity. The rebuilding of the Temple by the people of Israel was just one such example. The 20th century saw Chairman Mao in China, Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and, closer to home, the destruction and abandonment of churches and mosques in Cyprus. I note that the recent restoration and new visitation rights both for Christians to churches in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and for Muslims to mosques in the republic is a key part of the peace process—a process that is a rare beacon of hope at the moment in that region. However, the Hague convention, which the Bill will enable the UK to ratify, was born, as has been noted, of the destruction of the Second World War. We can now, conversely, see inspirational stories, such as that depicted in the recent film “Woman in Gold” of the healing that the restoration of looted art brings to victims of conflict and war.
It is so important for the UK to ratify, as London is such a key centre for the sale and display of art with world-leading museums and auction houses. Stolen cultural and religious heritage is not just about wiping out the evidence of other people but is a key way for groups to raise money to fund such violence. Daesh is thought to have raised tens of millions in this way. Also, it should be remembered that for any items whose provenance is unclear, such as looted art, this is an easy way to launder money.
It is pleasing to note that the UK Armed Forces have been trained and are acting in ways already consistent with the second protocol of the Hague convention, as outlined in Part 2 of the Bill. The use of the cultural emblem in Part 3 has proved surprisingly effective, especially to avoid aircraft bombing buildings close to enemy combatants. Prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the staff of Iraq’s national museum in Baghdad painted a giant blue shield on the roof of the museum. As a result, the museum was included on USCENTCOM’s no-strike list and was not subjected to aerial or ground attack.
Perhaps most relevant to the UK is Part 4 of the Bill, which puts individual responsibility on people who deal in unlawfully exported cultural property. I note in Clause 17 the low threshold of only,
“having reason to suspect that it has been unlawfully exported”.
However, I join the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, and others in my reading of Clause 16: it has to be a state that is occupying another person’s territory, not a group such as Daesh. This may just be because the Hague convention was written in the 1950s. It is now part of a wider issue that has become clear in international law, which was drafted at a time when it was the state that violated people’s human rights. We did not have non-state actors, such as Daesh, but groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, which had incredible capability. I hope that we will come back to the matters in Clause 16 later in the Bill.
I am pleased to note that the Bill will cover any property that has been unlawfully exported since 1956, not when the Bill is enacted. That is important to note because property that is dealt with unlawfully in the UK, such as that already in the country from Northern Cyprus, could then be the subject of a criminal offence. I note in this context that aiding and abetting, conspiring and attempting to deal in unlawfully exported cultural property will also be an offence. It is perhaps within that realm of what we call the inchoate offences that those who seek to deal and trade in this property need to be keenly aware of the extension of the criminal law in that regard.
However, joining others, I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister would outline whether the Met police has been given any additional resources to deal with these very specialist crimes. The officers I have met are experts in their field and provide the national policing lead, but there is only a handful of them. It is hard to know the exact extent of the crimes here in the UK and, without adequate resources, it is difficult to know how we will find out.
I am not sure that the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, under which there has not been a successful conviction, will entirely fill the gap left by Clause 16. A cursory glance at that Act gives a different mens rea for the offence, concerning cultural objects rather than cultural property. It is important that we come back to that.
I am pleased to see that many noble Lords speaking in the debate are trustees of museums. I hope my noble friend the Minister will confirm whether the cultural protection fund outlined will be available to be used by museums to store valuable and delicate artefacts seized by the UK police or customs. Many of these items need specialist storage to avoid their being damaged. They can remain in police custody for months, if not years. Also, I do not think that the Bill currently makes clear who is to pay for the costs of storage and transportation back to the occupied territory. In many circumstances, that can involve a considerable sum. I hope my noble friend will look at whether the Government could bring forward an amendment in that regard. One can easily foresee complicated litigation, with parties arguing over who was responsible for which cost, which would potentially delay the return of the item to its rightful owner.
I notice, however, that there is growing good practice in this area. On a recent visit to Cyprus, I visited the Leventis collection and found a museum that had spent well over 10 years authenticating the provenance of every piece in that museum. I join other noble Lords in saying that until there is that clarity about the ownership and provenance of these artefacts, we will not see an end to this trade, despite this welcome legislation.
My Lords, I welcome the Bill. As other noble Lords have said, it is long overdue.
The looting and destruction of cultural heritage has gone on since the beginning of civilisation. In 1700 BC the Assyrians invaded Arab tribes and settlements on the western side of Iraq—then Mesopotamia, now Ramadi and Fallujah. This was to subjugate their stone gods, taken all the way to Nineveh and used as objects of negotiation to humiliate, so that the Arabs would have to beg the Assyrians to have their gods back. And there was the Lion of Babylon, looted by the Babylonians in antiquity from Iran and brought to Iraq to the city of Babylon, which is so famous for this giant stone lion.
Many years ago, I remember browsing through the shelves of the library at the University of Glasgow. I came across some dusty-looking documents that were lost or forgotten. They were part of an audit compiled by a British military officer of the treasure looted from one of the palaces in India around 1857—the time of the First War of Independence, or what others may refer to as the Mutiny. It was page upon page of the most staggering number of items—from gold, silver and diamond jewellery to swords, precious stones and valuable artefacts. That was just one palace of the many that were looted on the Indian subcontinent, with the contents to be melted down or sold, or to go on to grace stately homes and museums in Britain.
The Hague Convention addresses not just the destruction but the removal of culture. This clearly opens a can of worms for former colonial powers such as the UK—a possible reason why we have never ratified this treaty. The Bill would make it an offence to deal in cultural property illegally exported from occupied territory during armed conflict, and would introduce appropriate measures to deal with offenders.
The highly developed antiques and collectors markets of the UK mean that London is still the biggest market for antiquities, be they Greek, Roman, middle-eastern, south Asian, south-east Asian or Chinese. However, there has been some real and concerted effort on the part of individuals to comply with standards set by the Hague Convention. For example, the British Antique Dealers’ Association has a strong code of conduct but has only about 350 members. This Bill would surely hope to encourage others to join.
It is not just the wholescale looting of the past, and which continues in war-torn countries such as Iraq and Syria, which is of such grave concern. There is also the destructive power that has increased with modern methods of warfare. When I travelled to the town of Kljuc and surrounding areas in Bosnia in 1996, shortly after the Dayton peace accord, I saw many mosques blown to rubble, recognisable only by the part of a minaret—evidence of what had stood as a symbol of faith and culture. In Sarajevo, I saw the sickening sight of a burnt-out library, where a musician had set up his piano and played a haunting melody each day in the blackened shell. As Bokava has written,
“Destroying culture hurts societies for the long term … Warlords know this. They target culture because it strikes to the heart and because it has powerful media value in an increasingly connected world”.
Now, whole towns can be flattened with the technology and firepower available.
Despite invasions over the centuries, most Syrian towns were not destroyed—until now. Because of the nature of their construction—they are made of stone—they have stood since pre-Mongol invasions: Raqqa, Palmyra and Aleppo. Muslim, Sufi and Christian shrines alike, ancient tombs of historical figures, and the oldest minaret still standing in the Middle East, have all been reduced to rubble and are gone because of ISIS. More than 17 religious locations of Christian, Yazidi, Shia and Sunni heritage have been destroyed. Nothing and no one is spared. In 2014, when ISIS embarked on the systematic destruction of Mosul, the women of that town made a human chain and surrounded the oldest mosque, al-Nuri, with the leaning minaret which gives the town its nickname of al-Hadba—the hunchback. The women, or the human spirit, protected it from destruction. On 24 July 2014, ISIS or Daesh destroyed the Arab/Muslim shrine to—and most likely the burial place of—Nabi Yunus or Prophet Jonah. The walls surrounding the ruins of Nineveh where this shrine was located, and which dated from 700 BC, were also destroyed by Daesh in February 2015. Then, there is the cynical use of deeming things to be anti-Islamic—permission to loot for a return of 20% of the value of that loot, and if Daesh does not receive that 20%, it makes a public show of destroying the loot as an example.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, who said in the debate on this subject in January, that,
“More than ratification and legislation is needed,”
to tackle ISIS’s
“full-blown criminal enterprise dealing in cultural property to finance terrorism”.—[Official Report, 14/1/16; col. 490.]
Franklin Lamb states that,
“The German government is seeking to cut the supply of illicit antiquities to the market, and thereby cut the flow of money to looting and smuggling mafias and militants”.
That is welcome. It has long been known that Munich, the second-largest market after London for antiquities, is where every mafia dealing with antiquities is based.
One motivation for looting is blatant criminality. The other is dire poverty, which is inevitable in conflict zones. It is clear that there is a real desire on the part of the Government and Opposition parties to bring into effect legislation that, although not perfect, would go some way to halting this illicit trade in antiquities. There has been real support, following the publication of the draft Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny, for the UK’s meeting the obligations contained in the convention and two protocols. That is really positive. But despite the various agreements and resolutions, including the 1970 UNESCO convention and the 1995 UNIDROIT convention, and the overwhelming aversion to this illicit trade, we are still far from closing the loopholes and making it not pay. That is why it is so important to put a stop to current and future crimes. Action is required now.
The use of the cultural emblem is also to be welcomed, but how far can it protect archaeological sites and sites of historical importance? Ninety per cent of archaeological sites in Iraq have yet to be excavated since the 1920s surveys were conducted. This issue is down to the sensitivity of the various players. We know that the American and British forces have maps of important historical sites in the Middle East and act with sensitivity, and that the United Kingdom already complies with the convention during all military operations. However, the existing laws are not sufficient to meet in full the obligations set out in the convention and its protocols. Although not relevant to this Bill, what about the Russians or the Syrian Government? The damage being inflicted by them on territory held by ISIS or Daesh, as well as the damage inflicted by ISIS itself, does not bear thinking about.
If the worst comes to the worst in a conflict situation, do you protect an area of archaeological importance or save the people? Of course, the saving of human life would have to be the priority but there is an admission that humanity is about more than eating and breathing: it is about the right to a cultural identity and a multitude of cultural identities, something we in this country can be proud of promoting.
The second protocol of the Hague convention, which was adopted in 1999 and entered into force in March 2004, extends and clarifies obligations under the convention and establishes a system of enhanced protection for cultural heritage. That is of particular importance for mankind. Perhaps ultimately, this Bill will enable us to undertake disaster planning, recovery and contingency planning. Can my noble friend the Minister clarify whether the £30 million to be channelled through the British Council, which has been set aside for the protection of heritage and empowering and equipping people to protect heritage, will mean a greater commitment to repair and conservation and to the restoration and rebuilding of cultural identity, both material and non-material? I suggest that the material already held in Britain’s museums be used to engage the communities to which it is relevant, and thus to enrich their cultural identity, particularly the Middle East and Arab diaspora communities which have lost so much of their heritage. This would also go far in resisting destructive ideologies. Glasgow Museums is leading the way with the use of its Mesopotamian collection under the guidance of its Curator of Islamic Civilisations, Noorah Al-Gailani. More of this activity across the UK would be welcome.
As I say, I welcome this long overdue Bill. Since the Hague convention of 1954, which was born out of the Nazi looting during the Second World War, the world has seen many more conflicts, with much looting and destruction of cultural property. It is vital that we ratify the first and second protocols of the convention, whether perfect or imperfect, in order to strengthen our legislation and enable us to deal with the ongoing plunder of cultural heritage, to the ultimate cost of all humanity.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a commissioner with Historic England, which, among other responsibilities, is the Government’s adviser on international conventions, regulations and directives, and the UK’s 29 UNESCO world heritage sites. To ensure effective collaboration across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, we work closely with historic environment expert bodies in each country. In addition, Historic England works with the UN National Commission for UNESCO, World Heritage UK and the UK national committee of the International Commission on Monuments and Sites to ensure effective joint working on international heritage issues.
Like other noble Lords, I have watched with dismay as monuments, statues, historic buildings and cultural artefacts have been destroyed deliberately or have been the subject of collateral damage. Historic England welcomes this strong statement about the UK’s commitment to protecting cultural property during armed conflict, as do I, although—like other noble Lords—I wish we had signed up to the convention much sooner. There are three areas in particular to which I would like to draw the attention of the House. First, as other noble Lords have mentioned, intentional damage to cultural property will, under the Bill, carry a penalty of up to 30 years’ imprisonment, which is to be welcomed. Currently, the deliberate destruction or demolition of a listed building or scheduled ancient monument is regarded as a criminal offence in England and carries a penalty of up to two years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine. The changes embodied in the Bill recognise the value of cultural property that is of international significance to communities, be they local, national, or international, and their identities.
The bold measure of establishing a £30 million cultural protection fund, which will help create opportunities for economic and social development through building capacity to foster, safeguard and promote cultural heritage in conflict-affected regions overseas, provides the necessary support. The fund is being managed by the British Council in partnership with DCMS. Initially, it will be focused on UK organisations working in partnership with bodies in the Middle East and North Africa region, specifically Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.
The enshrining in law of procedures relating to cultural protection that are already practised by the Armed Forces is another area of legislation to be welcomed. It is also most encouraging, as the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, mentioned, that the Secretary of State for Defence is committed to the establishment of a military cultural property protection unit within the Armed Forces. This is already at an advanced stage of preparation and, as stated by the Secretary of State for Defence in April this year, is working closely with DCMS. The combination of that unit from the Ministry of Defence with DCMS and the FCO’s Stabilisation Unit has the potential to be a formidable force that will develop effective plans to contribute towards the protection of historically significant cultural monuments.
I move on to the categories of cultural property. Historic England has worked with sister agencies in the home countries, and with the DCMS, in identifying the categories of UK cultural assets to be protected under the Hague convention. Cultural property is defined in Article 1 of the convention and two levels of protection are afforded. The first is enhanced protection, which allows for a handful of sites to be selected that represent,
“cultural heritage of the greatest importance for humanity”.
The main focus of concern in the DCMS Select Committee recommendations in 2008 was the resource implications of developing an enhanced list. However, only five countries—Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, Italy and Lithuania—have identified a combined total of 10 sites to be listed as cultural property under the enhanced protection category, and all are world heritage properties.
The second level is general protection. While there is no legal imperative to produce a national list, further to the DCMS Select Committee recommendations in 2008 the categories identified to be covered under general protection are: listed buildings of grade 1 status, or category A in Scotland and Northern Ireland; listed historic parks and gardens of grade 1 status in England; the collections of those museums and galleries that are directly sponsored or funded by government; and, finally, the museums, galleries and universities in England with designated collections and, in Scotland, with important collections.
These categories have raised concern among some heritage organisations, as scheduled ancient monuments —archaeology—are not included in the proposed list because they are not graded in the same way as listed buildings. However, with almost 20,000 recorded scheduled ancient monuments, your Lordships can see why their inclusion as a category is deemed unfeasible. It could be argued that archaeology may not be adequately recognised under the convention. However, some archaeology will be represented since 12% of grade 1 listed buildings in England are also scheduled ancient monuments.
Most forms of categorisation are prone to at least mild confusion and anomalies, and this area would appear to require further consideration, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath. Will the Minister commit to convening an expert group to discuss and perhaps refine these categories further? She may wish to wait to see how the current categories work in practice. However, I hope she can see the benefits of assembling such a group to hone this area of work before implementation.
Like other noble Lords, I very much welcome the Bill, as I have already said, particularly the potential to prosecute those who loot cultural treasures from other countries and attempt to gain financial benefit from stolen goods. The Minister has said that this legislation will not operate retrospectively, thus calming the nerves of those British institutions that have inherited stolen goods in their collections. I was most interested to hear the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik, on historical acts of stealing and looting. I simply ask noble Lords and, indeed, the institutions concerned to think about the significance we are attaching to these contemporary crimes of cultural destruction when peoples from across the world make the case for repatriation of cultural objects.
It is crucial to state that history and heritage are really important and not frivolous or insignificant when lives are at stake in conflict situations. The UN Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, published less than a decade after the end of World War II, recognises that,
“damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind, since each people makes its contribution to the culture of the world”,
“the preservation of the cultural heritage is of great importance for all peoples of the world and that it is important that this heritage should receive international protection”.
In the efforts to rebuild lives scarred and shattered by conflict, the narratives of the past embodied in monuments, sites and artefacts, whatever form they might take, constitute a record of where those communities have come from—and where all of us have come from—and thus where they, and we, might go.
We know from history that the destruction of heritage is the attempt to destroy the identity and morale of a people. We must make a real effort to ensure that the full breadth of human histories is not appropriated and destroyed because of the ideological positions of the combatants. The Bill will enable us to go at least part of the way and to act decisively to protect cultural and historic artefacts at the moment when arguably they are most needed.
My Lords, one of the advantages of being well down the speakers list is that a lot of what you were going to say has been said. I welcome the Bill. I am pleased that the Minister is here. It shows the range of her expertise—the last time we were here together was during the passage of the Trade Union Act. I notice that when she has finished on armed conflict, she will move on to British Home Stores—which is probably another version of armed conflict to come.
I am not sure whether these are interests or just background but I have been associated with two events that I would say are relevant. First, I am a patron of an outfit called the Dresden Trust, which was established to rebuild the Frauenkirche in Dresden. I mention that because when I became interested in Dresden, I also became interested in the impact of war on populations. There is no doubt who bombed Dresden but there is also a history that came about after the bombing, and a lot of that history was to do with looting by impoverished German citizens who had no money or artefacts to live on and who used the proceeds of the churches and many of the other buildings that were open to looting to feed themselves and their families. The point I make is not that it is right but that it is sometimes understandable. I am pleased to see my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, in the Chamber. He is also a patron of the Dresden Trust.
I make that point because this is a complex area and a complex Bill. One other item I want to mention is how long these matters can take. For a time I was associated with an outfit called the Ethiopia Society, which had a gentleman called Professor Pankhurst, who worked tirelessly to get what was called the Axum obelisk repatriated from Italy, where it had been taken after the Abyssinian war, back to Ethiopia. An agreement was brokered by the United Nations in 1947, and the obelisk got back to Axum in 2008—61 years after. I just make the point in passing that cultural agreements can often take a lot of implementing.
As for the content of the Bill, there is a tendency to inflation of imprisonment, and I think that 30 years—going up from two years—is an extraordinarily long prison sentence to provide for. I will not propose any amendments on this, but I note that it is rather disproportionate given the prison sentences we have. I was also interested to see in the briefing from Historic England that only five countries—a pretty random lot, consisting of Azerbaijan, Belgium, Cyprus, Italy and Lithuania—have identified a combined total of 10 sites for enhanced protection. That is after 12 years of the convention being in place. Could a move be made to look at whether all world heritage sites should be given enhanced protection automatically under the convention?
In the definition of cultural property, the convention refers to,
“groups of buildings which, as a whole, are of historical or artistic interest”.
However, Article 6 of the Second Protocol, under the heading, “Respect for cultural property”, says that a “waiver” to the convention, allowing you to take action against this class of building,
“may … be invoked to direct an act of hostility against cultural property when and for as long as”,
two exemptions apply. One of those is where,
“there is no feasible alternative available”.
You could have a very long debate about that, and many people would say, “Well, there was no feasible alternative; there was nothing we could do”.
The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, mentioned that this is about occupying states. My final point is that a lot of conflict today is not between states but civil war. Last week, I was in Turkey, where there is a conflict—which I do not propose to adjudicate—between the PKK and the Turkish military authorities. In south-east Turkey there is a city called Diyarbakir, which has a very old, long-standing, historic centre. That has more or less been destroyed because one group of people, identified with the PKK, has used it as a base for street-to-street, house-to-house fighting. The Turkish army—rightly, probably—in trying to regain control over the city, has more or less destroyed a significant part of that inner city, which has happened within the last few weeks.
I knew little about this until I got to Turkey, because it has not been widely reported in the English-language press, but it is a very good example of where the convention and the Bill will not cover much at all, because the clause I read out about exemptions could clearly be invoked by the Turkish army, and of course the PKK is not a member state anyway. The Bill is very useful and I congratulate the Government on bringing it forward, but one thing that has to come to mind when we think about it is that it covers only a small part of the problem and of the consequences that arise from terrible actions of this kind.
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to join all other speakers in this debate in welcoming the Bill. After having listened to so many well-informed speeches, I shall be brief, rather than repeating everything that has been said.
Cultural heritage provides a literal way of touching the past. It is a tangible demonstration of what binds a people together. In the aftermath of conflict, heritage offers a force to help rebuild communities. That, of course, is why extremists are so keen to wreak the havoc that we are currently seeing in Syria—to damage the civilisations that have gone before, and leave no trace. That is why we need to act. We can protect the world’s cultural heritage to a certain extent, despite the difficulties that the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, listed, and this Bill is an important step in that direction.
Ratifying the Hague convention and its two protocols, the second of which is the crucial one, is an important step. Crucially, the reciprocity that we will achieve in signing these documents enables us also to protect our own cultural heritage and lift it to the enhanced protection level. The UNESCO committee that has to decide what qualifies for enhanced protection has no easy task; as noble Lords have heard, only five countries have had their heritage sites approved so far. I am not sure that everybody would agree with what goes on to that list. The city of Baku in Azerbaijan may be straightforward, but maybe not everybody would see the Neolithic flint sites in Belgium as worthy of enhanced protection. But what creates cultural heritage is what the people who live in those cultures believe. While we can hope that there will never be another armed conflict on this island again, it would be foolish for us not to seek to safeguard our own cultural heritage as far as we can. Ratifying these treaties takes us along that way.
I am happy to declare my own interests as deputy chairman of the British Museum. The museum likes to be known as a museum of the world and for the world, and it is clear, to me at least, that it must fulfil the first criterion for enhanced protection. It is a site of the greatest importance to humanity. Yet just a few days ago the museum was forced to close its doors to visitors from home and abroad. The reason? Protesters from Greenpeace. We were advised that what they were doing would put our visitors in danger, and we had no option but to turn them away—some people who had come a short distance and some who had travelled across continents. I support the right to protest, but I do not support the right of any group, however strongly they might feel, to force a site of cultural heritage to close its doors to the public. I hope that noble Lords will agree with me on that.
The Government’s support for this Bill is evidence of their support for cultural heritage, and we all applaud that. The £30 million cultural protection fund, of which there has already been mention this afternoon, is testimony to the work that is going to be done and already is taking place. The £3 million fund that the British Museum is currently working with Iraq on is going to make a huge difference. We are training up teams of Iraqis so that, when they are able, they can go back to their home country and begin to rebuild their damaged heritage.
I will conclude my remarks by quoting Jonathan Tubb, the British Museum’s keeper in the department of the Middle East. He said, in response to the fund:
“Thanks to DCMS we can at last do more than monitor from afar the relentless assault on Iraq’s cultural heritage”.
That has to be good news.
My Lords, I shall speak briefly in the gap. As soon as I knew the Government had had the good sense, foresight and courage to put this Bill before us, I put my name down to speak. However, I had to withdraw this morning because recently there was a sad accident involving two members of the congregation of Lincoln Cathedral. They were killed in a car crash in France and their funeral was today. I felt my first obligation was to be there, but as I got back in time to hear every word of the debate, I shall say a few things.
I must declare my interest as the founder and current president of the All-Party Parliamentary Arts and Heritage Group, to which many of your Lordships belong. I have long taken a particular interest in the subject before us today. I emphasise that there is a difference between destruction, where something is gone for ever, and looting, where there is a possibility of restoration. I am reminded of destruction every time I go into the glorious cathedral in Lincoln because all the brasses that were there in the 17th century, many of them going back long before that, were taken out and melted during the Civil War. So we are not dealing with a new problem, although recent horrific events have made it all the more necessary that we ratify the convention, and this Bill is an extremely important step on the way to doing that.
I remember a few years ago going with the All-Party Parliamentary Arts and Heritage Group to an amazing exhibition at the British Museum of treasures from Afghanistan. Many of your Lordships will remember that. In those cases, we saw some wondrous objects, some of which had been brought for safekeeping at a particularly difficult time in the history of Afghanistan. This was in the wake of the destruction for ever of the great Buddhas. We looked at those marvellous things, and I felt what a great service the British Museum was doing for this country and the world by putting on that exhibition.
In this brief contribution, I want to underline and emphasise the good sense of the proposal by my noble friend Lady Berridge. She talked about displaying in this country, whenever we can, looted objects that might strike a real chord with many of the communities which are now part of our nation. Indeed, the interesting speech of my noble friend Lady Mobarik touched on similar themes. I put it to the Minister that I hope we might be able to have a special fund to enable looted objects or objects that have been brought here for safety to tour our provincial museums and galleries. That would have a dual purpose. Obviously it would bring pleasure and enlightenment to those who saw them, but more importantly it would provide a link with those communities—Muslim and others—which are now part of our nation. This could do nothing but good. Touring objects from our own museums is a very good thing. Loan exhibitions for people who cannot easily come to London bring great pleasure and joy, which I know from what we have done in Lincoln over the past couple of years. Amid the general awareness that has been aroused by the Bill, I hope there will be a determination to do one or two specific things about it.
My final point is to endorse the comments made by my noble friend Lord Borwick, who did not criticise the Bill—like me, he welcomes it warmly—but pointed to it not necessarily being the easiest Bill to understand. I hope we will be able to clarify it a bit in Committee. I give the Bill my warmest endorsement.
My Lords, I support the Bill, and in my response the other day to the gracious Speech I congratulated the Government and the Minister on including and introducing it. As the noble Lord, Lord Foster, has pointed out, all three major political parties represented in this House have long called for action on this matter but all three have spent time in government when no action was taken, so I repeat my congratulations today to this Government on this belated event. It has been embarrassing, and counterintuitive, that Britain is one of the last major powers to have done so, considering that we are seen as a leading light in the world of heritage, particularly due to the admirable work of the British Museum and the British Council.
As the Heritage Alliance, whose admirable notes I think many noble Lords have received, points out:
“This formal ratification is all the more urgent as military operations increase across the world. The destruction of cultural capital—the … Buddhas and the Palmyra Arch—demonstrate that aggressors are following a long history of using cultural warfare to demoralise communities by destroying the symbols of their nationhood”.
While it is obvious that cultural artefacts are susceptible to damage and destruction where there is armed conflict, it is something that can and must be addressed. We on these Benches, along with so many people who have already spoken, welcome the introduction of the protection of cultural property fund and the development of a military cultural property protection unit within the Armed Forces.
The much-mentioned Professor Peter Stone, someone we all recognise and admire, has argued that while not all cultural property can be protected, it is surely a mark of a moral and civilised nation that it deploys its armed forces with enough training and knowledge to avert wanton and unnecessary damage to our common heritage. I think we all agree with that. He notes that there has already been work by the cultural heritage community with the military—again, something that has been mentioned quite a lot today—over the identification of cultural property prior to conflict. He gave as an example the NATO air campaign in Libya to show that specific sites can be successfully protected as a result of information supplied by NATO and Blue Shield to the Armed Forces. Apparently armed vehicles were placed around the Roman fort at Ras Almargeb, thought to be in order to deflect NATO attacks. We took out the vehicles, not the fort.
When it comes to the Bill, we wholeheartedly support consultation with UNESCO, Blue Shield and other stakeholder groups about how to ensure that the money is put to best use. Will the Minister also look at our suggestion that it should be used as a way of leveraging funds from other countries around the world? Does she agree that the protection of cultural property fund needs to establish a strategy for the future if it is to be used to achieve its full potential? Does she agree that co-ordination is essential and that there needs to be a central team based in London, not large but recognised and with clear credibility within the heritage community, military, police, customs and NGO sectors? Does she agree that training needs to be a core purpose, and that it needs to look to the future—in other words, to be ahead of the game in helping countries at risk to prepare for the worst? Does she agree that a balance needs to be struck between emergency response and long-term support?
However, as so many noble Lords—my noble friend Lord Redesdale, the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, and the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge—have said, the likes of Daesh of course do not just destroy. A fascinating and disturbing “Dispatches” on Channel 4 called “ISIS and the Missing Treasures”—I hope the Minister will note that I have managed to get the brilliance of Channel 4 into this debate—showed how looted treasure, which many noble Lords have referred to, funds terrorism. London is the second-largest art market in the world and items move through our ports and customs all the time, yet, as my noble friend Lord Foster mentioned, we have a tiny team to police the situation. Why are they not doing more? I take on board the question from the noble Lord, Lord Borwick, about how we treat family heirlooms that are brought out of war zones and sold, but listening to the Minister it seems that Part 4, which many noble Lords have mentioned, offers lots of opportunities to try to solve these issues.
I am afraid that I will get a little political. While we are debating and discussing—and supporting—the Bill, why are the Government simultaneously supporting and abetting the Saudi-led coalition’s destruction of cultural property in Yemen? Parts of the old city of Sanaa are gone, as is the Great Dam of Marib—a feat of engineering that was undertaken 2,800 years ago. Missiles fired from the coalition’s planes have obliterated a museum where the fruits of an American-Yemeni archaeological dig were stored, historic caked-mud high-rise dwellings, 12th-century citadels and minarets, and archaeological sites at Baraqish, Sirwah and other places, whose importance to humanity’s heritage has been recognised by the UN. There seems to have been a bit of a breakdown of our adherence to international humanitarian law, which is at odds with the welcome ratification of this convention.
Finally, there is always a danger when we talk about protecting cultural heritage that we appear to ignore the appalling suffering of the people caught up in the conflicts that threaten them—that artefacts are somehow more important than flesh and blood. Of course they are not, but destroying a people’s culture is also a way of destroying them—a point emphasised on the plight of the Yazidis by Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, who was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. She uses the term “cultural cleansing”:
“What are Yazidis if they are uprooted from a place where they have been living for centuries? … You destroy the temples, you take away what they have … It’s really more than ethnic cleansing, because you deprive them of their identity. You just want to destroy them totally, you don’t want anything from their culture left there for humanity. It’s as if they never existed”.
We must not allow this to happen anywhere, to anyone, and the Bill is part of recognising that.
My Lords, how wonderful to be discussing culture and to be doing so at the very centre of the work of your Lordships’ House: the first Bill to come through in the new Parliament and as far as I recall the first Bill we have seen for nearly six years—apart from a very small gambling Bill—which deals with issues relating to that great department, DCMS. I am delighted to be here to respond on behalf of the Labour Party. Today’s debate has been of high quality and it shows that when Members of your Lordships’ House get together and talk about issues of mutual interest and concern they can bring insights and new thoughts to bear on a topic that has been far too long neglected. However, at least it is out in the open air and, indeed, the sunshine.
It is good news that after some 62 years we are bringing forward the necessary legislative arrangements for the UK to ratify the convention and the protocols of the original Hague convention. We welcome the Bill and will do what we can to make speedy progress on it, while of course ensuring that it gets proper scrutiny. As the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said, ratifying the treaty will not bring back what has been destroyed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and far too many other places but it will help in the future, as UK ratification will not only strengthen the treaty but provide the UK with the necessary international moral authority, which of course by failing to sign the treaty it has so far lacked. It should be recalled and noted that for some time the UK has been acting as though it were already part of the Hague convention. We have been doing the things necessary to comply with it, and we should congratulate those who have had the good sense to operate in that way over the years and salute the good work that has been done.
One concern that I have about the Bill is that, because it has been necessary to adopt the original definitions of the convention—indeed, the convention appears as a schedule to the Bill—we have ended up with a definition which, as others have mentioned, is largely buildings-based and focuses on artefacts. Article 1(a) talks about,
“movable or immovable property of great importance … such as monuments of architecture, art or history”.
Paragraph (b) refers to,
“buildings whose main and effective purpose is to preserve or exhibit the movable cultural property”,
and paragraph (c) talks about,
“centers containing a large amount of cultural property”.
As the Minister said in introducing the Bill, those paragraphs could be interpreted to include all cultural activity, but those of us who have had experience of how laws, once written down, are interpreted by people called lawyers may worry that the definitions are too tight and that they need to be reconsidered. It may not be possible to do that within the rubric of this Bill, because delaying it by trying to amend it may cause collateral damage in the sense of making it difficult to ratify and adopt the protocol. Many noble Lords who have spoken today, including the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, who displayed great skill in making sure that morris dancing became part of our cultural fabric—it would not perhaps have been my original choice—have made the point that I am trying to make, perhaps more graphically than I am able to do. However, I am concerned that work, which I did previously, at the British Film Institute and the BFI National Archive might not be included in the definitions, although it certainly could be if good sense were applied. I want to come back to that point later.
A related point, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, is what this country is doing to exemplify the categories that might be protected under the convention, should that be required. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response to that, given the concerns that were expressed by her department in 2008, with particular reference to resources if enhanced protections are listed. The argument seems to be very clear. There is obviously an issue about scheduled ancient monuments, but not including grade 1 listed buildings and other properties of considerable cultural value to the country seems perverse. In that regard, it would be helpful if the noble Baroness could respond to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, about non-state cultural destruction, which a number of people have touched on—again, I should like to come back to that—and the related question of whether plans to protect UK cultural sites in case of say, terrorism, are robust. After all, we seem to have a war on terrorism but that would not be covered by this convention.
Over the years, there has been welcome evidence of an increasingly close understanding between civil and military leadership, which will be crucial if the Bill is to work properly. Going back to the original convention, two responsibilities were placed on the country, as applied to the Ministry of Defence and our military colleagues. There was not just one, and to my mind this is quite an interesting way of expressing it. The parties,
“undertake to introduce in times of peace into their military regulations or instructions such provisions as may ensure observance of the present Convention”.
I can understand that the plans for that are not yet fully advanced but it would be helpful to probe those a little in Committee, and I give notice of my intention to do so. I believe that it would be better for us all if we could understand how the responsibilities, which are fairly significant, are to be placed on members of our military personnel.
I want to pick up a second point. There is also a requirement in the convention to,
“foster in the members of their armed forces”—
the parties concerned—
“a spirit of respect for the culture and cultural property of all peoples”.
Those are good words, but I am not quite sure how that will apply to every individual member of the Armed Forces in all its branches. However, I am interested again to probe a little further into how that is intended. It seems to me a very significant amount of work and I worry that the resourcing of it will not be sufficient. However, it is very clear that the involvement and support of the MoD and all the armed services in making the convention as effective as possible will be a crucial part of this. Present evidence is that they are doing well on this, and we want to support that as we go forward.
A number of noble Lords mentioned the trade in illegal artefacts, and I am sure that this is something we will need to come back to. As the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, said, it is surely of some significance that, in the 13 years since the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act came in to force, there has not been a single prosecution. Yet there seems to be evidence that something is going wrong in the art and other markets in the UK. As my noble friend Lord Howarth of Newport said in a previous debate, we surely need a cross-governmental drive on law enforcement in this area which engages the police, the National Crime Agency, the Border Agency and HMRC. Although the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit is clearly very successful in monitoring the trade, again, because of the lack of prosecutions, it may need to be additionally resourced. This is something that we might need to come back to if this section of the Bill is to work well.
It is good news that there is going to be a cultural protection fund to support this legislation, and it is good news also that that is going to be administered by the British Council. However, we will still want to probe this a little in Committee as we seek answers about how this fund is to be grown or enhanced to meet additional needs. As I understand it, it is a fixed amount of money over a fixed period, but obviously once a number of projects have got going and more work is happening, we will need to think about how that fund would be refreshed and grown.
My noble friend Lady Andrews, raised a couple of what she called technical issues—although I think they strike at the heart of the Bill—in relation to the definitions that have been used. The Hague convention refers to a “serious violation” of the protocol but the current legislation refers to a “serious breach”. It may be that there is an easy answer to this, and I hope that we will be able to resolve that by the time we get through Committee.
There is also a question around why the scope of criminal liability for an ancillary offence under the law of England and Wales differs from that in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Again, that is a matter that I am sure can be tidied up without detriment to the overall progress of the Bill.
Finally on this point, as others have pointed out, five members of the UN Security Council have still not ratified the convention, so there is some work to be done through diplomatic channels once we have joined. This needs to be picked up and driven forward. We are either all in this together, in which case there may be an opportunity to do some good, persuasive and continuing work, or there will be those who will work against it.
As I said earlier, it is a bit of a worry that during today’s debate, a lot of anxiety has been expressed about how the Bill is framed and how it will work in the modern world. It is limited in definition, as I pointed out, and limited in scope, as others have picked up, and of course there are a lot of new cultural forms that might need to be included. The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, asked why the Bill applies only to state interaction and not those that we have seen in the Middle East. There is also a new dimension that perhaps needs special focus: the idea that somehow an attack on cultural objects is part of the battle and that by destroying cultural objects one can win more than if one respected them.
These points are all important but it may not be appropriate to take them forward in this Bill. I therefore leave it with the Minister that in parallel to the progress of this Bill, we should be thinking about a third protocol—perhaps we can discuss it in Committee—to be offered as an entry prize for having signed up to the existing two protocols. We could make it three in a row and add an additional point that would update and refresh this work as we go forward. That may be ambitious progress, but it is not unachievable.
There is a duty on us all in this Parliament not to delay further the progress that has already been made in ratifying this convention and protocols so that the UK can finally show its wholehearted commitment to the protection of universal cultural heritage, establish consistency with our pride in our own history, and signal our shared human values and culture. We will do what we can to expedite the passage of the Bill, subject always to the need to ensure that no legislation agreed by your Lordships’ House is done without appropriate scrutiny.
My Lords, the debate has clearly shown that the House is united in approving the intentions of the Bill. It is pleasing to introduce a Bill with widespread support in this House.
The Hague Convention may be 60 years old, but, as so many have said, we are discussing UK ratification at a time when its effects and measures are all too relevant. Precious artefacts have been destroyed and many others are under threat. Ratification makes an unequivocal statement about the UK’s position on the destruction of cultural heritage and allows us to do all we can to prevent such actions and, if necessary, to prosecute malefactors.
However, a number of noble Lords—my noble friends Lord Renfrew and Lord Borwick and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson—have said that the Bill is a little too narrow and that we should be more ambitious. I do not see it that way. I celebrate the fact that this Bill is in the Queen’s Speech after so many years of disappointment. It is ready early in the Session; it has been consulted on; it has the benefit of input from the expert and the wise; and it will introduce the necessary changes to UK law to enable the UK to ratify the convention and accede to its two protocols. It will complement and augment the strong cultural property legislation that already exists in the UK and is accompanied by an ambitious programme of initiatives to support the protection of global heritage, including the cultural protection fund. So let us get it on to the statute book.
I thank my noble friend Lord Renfrew for his words. We are fortunate to have in him one of the world’s leading experts in archaeological theory and paleolinguistics, who has already done so much valuable work relating to the looting of archaeological sites. We are also lucky to have the input of the all-party parliamentary groups and committees on archaeology, culture and the arts. These grace this House and I am grateful to all noble Lords who contribute to their proceedings, including my noble friend Lord Cormack. I was glad to see him here and sorry to hear about the death of his colleagues from Lincoln—home of such a wonderful cathedral.
As one would expect from such a distinguished and knowledgeable gathering, many great points have been made and a number of challenges raised, some of which we will have to come back to in Committee. However, perhaps I could respond in four key areas—the military, international issues, the art market and the cultural protection fund.
Concerns have been raised about this legislation placing yet another burden on British soldiers. However, as has been said, the Ministry of Defence and our Armed Forces already act as if bound by the Hague Convention, and respect for cultural property is upheld across the UK’s Armed Forces in military law, our targeting policy, training and in-battle area evaluation and assessment. My department has worked closely with the Ministry of Defence in preparing the Bill. I was glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, mentioned the “monuments woman” and centenarian, Anne Olivier Bell. The joint military cultural property working group is still developing the concept of this unit. It will start to recruit specialists into the Army Reserve in the near future pending final approval.
Of course, the obligations are not absolute. The convention and Second Protocol provide that they may be waived in cases where military necessity imperatively requires it, such as if cultural property has, by its function, been made into a military objective or there is no feasible alternative available to secure a similar military advantage. It is important to note that, under the Bill, in order to commit an offence of a serious breach of the Second Protocol, a soldier must know that the property to which the Act relates is cultural property. This would protect a soldier from prosecution in circumstances where it really was not apparent that the property was cultural property. That is a long way of confirming in response to the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath—Bath being one of the world’s greatest heritage sites—that it is the Government’s view that the Bill will not constrain the military or have any negative consequences for UK soldiers or their commanders.
My noble friend Lord Balfe said that 30 years in prison seems too long a time for just destroying a building. I touched on the logic for this in my opening speech. The maximum sentence of 30 years is comparable with other similar sentences in UK law. The International Criminal Court Act 2001 covers war crimes, including directing attacks on certain buildings or monuments, which are punishable by up to 30 years’ imprisonment.
Turning to the international aspect, a number of noble Lords have rightly deplored the destruction of cultural heritage by Daesh. I share these sentiments. In raising revenue Daesh relies primarily on oil sales, internal taxation, extortion and kidnap for ransom. It also derives a much smaller amount of funding from other sources such as foreign donations and, yes, of course, the excavation and removal of antiquities.
My noble friend Lord Borwick asked a number of questions about the Bill. The intention of the Bill is to introduce legislation that will enable the UK to ratify the 1954 Hague Convention and accede to its two protocols. We have been guided by the convention and protocols to ensure that we have fully met the obligations they set out and have drafted the Bill in the simplest way we can. The definition of “unlawfully exported” used in the Bill does not necessarily equate to whether or not an item has an export licence.
My noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, are right—the UK does not recognise Daesh or the Taliban as a state. Sanctions already exist for cultural property illegally exported from Syria and Iraq since March 2011 and August 1990 respectively. These sanctions prohibit, among other things, the importing, exporting and trading in such objects, and breaching these prohibitions is already a criminal offence under UK law. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, made a related point to which I am sure he will return in Committee.
Ratifying the Hague Convention would be a strong public statement of the UK’s commitment to international humanitarian law and cultural heritage and will further strengthen the UK’s international leadership on this subject. Taken together with the other government initiatives, passage of the Bill will demonstrate that we condemn all instances of cultural destruction and illicit trade in antiquities.
My noble friend Lady Mobarik asked about the cultural protection fund. Our objective is to help to create opportunities for economic and social development through building capacity to foster, safeguard and promote cultural heritage in conflict-affected regions overseas. Applications will be welcome for projects which support the protection of heritage that particularly matters to the people in the countries affected or—this is important—tells the story of the peoples that once lived there.
The noble Baroness also made an important point about the role of UK museums. I especially commend the work of the Glasgow museum, which she described so well, and other museum services which are engaged in diaspora communities around the country. These play an important part in understanding our shared heritage.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, gave the Bill warm support, for which I am grateful. She rightly professed her concerns about the Yazidis. We, too, remain extremely concerned about the barbarity of Daesh relating to that important people. She shared her experience of Libya and Yemen, which I know much less about. She made a number of suggestions for bringing in funds from around the world. I am glad that she mentioned the Channel 4 documentary, which I must make sure I see before we move into Committee.
Perhaps I can have a word with the noble Lord after the proceedings in the Chamber have finished and make sure that I have met his concerns.
I know that the impact on the art market is of concern to some in the House. The Government believe that the legislation does not impose any obligations on dealers in cultural property that go beyond the normal due diligence they should undertake for any piece of cultural property they wish to buy or sell in accordance with the industry standards, such as the British Code of Practice for the Control of International Trading in Works of Art. During the implementation of the Bill my department will work closely with all stakeholders with an interest in the Bill, including the art market. I will ensure that the British Antique Dealers’ Association is included in those discussions, and I thank my noble friend Lord Borwick for his suggestion. I know that there have been concerns about the role that the illicit trade in antiquities may play in money laundering in the UK, although noble Lords did not focus on that strongly today. The Government will take decisive action to strengthen the UK’s anti-money laundering regime in the criminal finances Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, all asked about the identification of sites in the UK which would be protected. Our provisional plan is to enshrine the protection of our most valuable cultural sites and property in international law through general protection listing status. This general protection is likely to extend to buildings, historic gardens and parks of grade 1 or category A status, cultural world heritage sites, nationally important collections in museums, galleries and universities, as well as the National Archives and our five legal deposit libraries. We will also consider the submission of our world heritage sites as candidates for enhanced protection. We plan to decide this list by means of a panel of cultural experts and key stakeholders. The interesting points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will inform our implementation and I will consider carefully her idea of a round table. As noble Lords know, I find such meetings extremely useful, as does the Culture Minister my honourable friend Ed Vaizey, a veritable knight of the round tables.
The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, also asked what cultural property is, so I hope that he finds this explanation helpful. He went on to ask about the impacts and changes felt in Germany following the 1999 measures, as well as the UNESCO climate change report and the UK’s response to it. I will have to write to him once I have had a look at Hansard. I have a personal interest in this as I come from a village close to Stonehenge, and indeed we have often debated the need for the proposed investment in the A303 to protect that extraordinary five-star site.
My noble friend Lord Renfrew asked what we could do to ensure that the destruction of cultural property is viewed as a war crime. The International Criminal Court Act 2001 already makes it an offence to direct attacks at certain buildings and monuments, and under the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 extensive destruction of property and attacks on certain monuments are grave breaches of the convention, which of course is punishable by up to 30 years’ imprisonment.
The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, suggested the formation of a digital archive. I note that interesting proposal, and I thank my noble friend Lady Berridge for the keen interest that she has taken in police resourcing. The responsibility for decisions on operational matters of course lies with chief constables, but the National Police Chiefs Council has recently established a national network of heritage and cultural property crime liaison officers and is working to raise awareness of cultural property crime right across all police forces. She and other noble Lords asked about police funding, a point which also came up in our useful debate in January. Since then, police funding has been ring-fenced in line with inflation with an increase of £900 million by 2019-20 and the Chancellor has made a generous settlement for important cultural property protection where illegal sales can fund the most appalling regimes and crimes, a point that was extremely well made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, talked about enforcement in prosecutions. There has recently been a case leading to prosecution. An individual was sentenced to three years and eight months in jail for committing an offence under the 2003 Act, as well as other related offences.
The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, asked about “breach” instead of “violation”. Breach is used instead of violation because it is a more familiar UK legal term, but I am advised that the meaning is the same. The scope of ancillary offences in the devolved Administrations is not different, but the drafting takes account of the different laws in different places across the UK. My noble friend Lady Berridge asked who would pay the costs of storage and transport. The matter of who will pay associated costs will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis. The DCMS will work closely with any museum if that need arises.
Finally, to come back to the cultural protection fund, the British Council will be responsible for managing the grants process and will draw in additional expertise for project selections. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, asked about the British Museum’s £3 million and funding for future years. As I am sure he knows, it has not yet been allocated. Of course, the British Museum will be able to apply when applications are invited. The cultural protection fund will be open for bids later this month, and the Blue Shield organisation will be able to apply to this.
I have sought to answer the main questions. We will write where I have missed important points. This in reality is a good time to consider UK ratification of the convention, even if the reason—the great increase in devastating and mindless destruction of priceless, important artefacts—can only be a matter of great sadness. We in the UK must do our bit to counter the appalling destructive forces at large and to protect the world’s heritage. I commend this Bill to the House.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.