Monday, 12 November 2007

Sevso and Questions in Parliament

There has been growing political interest in the Sevso Treasure since its outing at Bonham's last year. This controversial hoard has drawn comment in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn received a written answer to his question about the Bonham's exhibition on 12 October 2006. Lord Davies of Oldham replied:

We are not aware of any proposal by a UK public museum or public institution to acquire or exhibit the Sevso silver. My department's document Combating Illicit Trade: Due Diligence Guidelines for Museums, Libraries and Archives on Collecting and Borrowing Cultural Material sets out guidance and is not legally binding on institutions. However, it is stated clearly under those guidelines that, if a public institution feels that there are any doubts about the legal or ethical status of an object, it should not proceed with an acquisition or loan of that object.

A further question was asked by Mark Fisher on 4 Dec 2006. The minister, David Lammy, replied:

We have had a number of contacts with representatives of the Ministry of Education and Culture in Hungary in relation to the Sevso treasure. Representatives of the Ministry wrote to my Department to set out the Republic of Hungary’s official position in relation to the Sevso silver in October 2005, and subsequently in October 2006 to reiterate their concerns in the light of the exhibition of the Sevso treasure at Bonhams. Officials in my Department have also met representatives of the Ministry of Education and Culture to discuss the Sevso treasure.

This was followed by an Early Day Motion (18 December 2006) on the Sevso Treasure which was put down by Tim Loughton (MP for E Worthing and Shoreham). This reads:

That this House views with concern the re-entry of the Sevso silver into the commercial domain; notes recent resolutions to this effect passed by the All-Party Group for Archaeology; in view of the outstanding importance of the silver and the desirability of it being available for research and public exhibition calls on the Trustee of the Marquess of Northampton 1987 Settlement and the government of the Republic of Hungary to refer all available evidence on the origin, provenance and recent movement of the silver to an independent expert evaluation charged with identifying on the balance of probabilities the country of origin of the silver and making recommendations; and further calls on the Trustee of the Marquess of Northampton 1987 Settlement, the government of the Republic of Hungary and the United Kingdom authorities to put a stop to any disposal of the silver (other than one occurring by consent of all parties) until the evaluation has occurred.

As this stands it has been supported by 51 MPs from across the political parties.

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