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Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007

Part 6: Protection of Cultural Objects on Loan


615.Part 6 provides immunity from seizure to objects which have been lent to this country from overseas to be included in a temporary exhibition at a museum or gallery. Immunity will be given from any form of seizure ordered in civil or criminal proceedings, and from any seizure by law enforcement authorities. It will apply to objects of any description which are owned by a non–resident person or an institution and which are lent for temporary exhibitions to the public at any approved museum or gallery in the United Kingdom. The immunity will apply provided that the import of the object in question complies with the law on the import of goods, and that the museum or gallery has published information about the object as required in regulations made by the Secretary of State.


616.Under the previous law, the United Kingdom has given immunity only to objects which are covered by the provisions of the State Immunity Act 1978. The absence of a more general immunity for works of art and other cultural objects which are lent to temporary exhibitions in this country has made museums and private owners in other countries increasingly reluctant to lend to such exhibitions without a guarantee that their art treasures will be returned. Provisions in Part 6 will enable such a guarantee to be given.

Commentary on Sections: Part 6

Section 134: Protected objects

617.Section 134 defines the conditions that need to be met for an object to be protected from seizure and specifies where and for how long the protection will be given.

618.Subsection (2) provides that an object will only be protected if five conditions are satisfied: the object must usually be kept outside the United Kingdom; it must not be owned by anyone resident in the United Kingdom; the import of the object must comply with the law on the import of goods; it must be brought to the United Kingdom to be displayed to the public in a temporary exhibition at a museum or gallery and the museum has complied with regulations requiring publication of information about the object. The Secretary of State is given power to make such regulations.

619.Subsection (4) provides for the extent of the protection. An object must only be in the United Kingdom for the permitted purposes (defined further in subsection (7)) and, with one exception, the protection will only last for twelve months. It is only intended to protect from seizure objects which are being lent for the purposes of a temporary exhibition. Objects on long term loans to museums will not be protected.

620.Subsection (5) provides for the single exception to this rule. Where an object has been damaged since coming to the United Kingdom, and is being repaired, conserved or restored in this country, it will continue to be protected until it has left the United Kingdom following the completion of the repair, conservation or restoration.

621.Subsection (7) ensures that objects will only be protected if they are on display in a temporary exhibition at museums, undergoing related repair, conservation or restoration, or travelling to or from the place where they are being displayed or repaired/restored. Subsection (8) defines the repairs, conservation or restoration which will be considered to be related for these purposes.

622.Subsection (9) gives the Secretary of State a power to require a museum or gallery to provide further information about an object to inquirers. The information which must be produced, the circumstances in which it must be produced, and any conditions on the production of information may be specified in the regulations. This power is additional to the power given to the Secretary of State in subsection (2) to require museums and galleries to publish particular information about an object.

623.Subsections (10) and (11) make further provision in relation to the regulations to be made under subsections (2) and (9). The regulations may only be made with the consent of the devolved authorities, and they will be made by statutory instrument, subject to the negative resolution procedure.

Section 135: Effect of protection

624.Section 135 defines the effect of the protection and sets out the limited circumstances under which it is not available.

625.Subsection (1) ensures that where seizure or forfeiture of an object is required to enable the UK to comply with its obligations under EU or international law, the object concerned will not be protected. This could apply where, for example, the court is asked to enforce an order for the seizure of an object made by the courts of another country to confiscate proceeds of crime.

626.Subsection (2) ensures that the protection given to an object loaned to an exhibition does not give any protection from prosecution to those dealing with the object, where the dealing in question constitutes an offence.

627.Subsection (3) clarifies the extent of the protection which will be given to objects under this Act. It includes immunity against all forms of execution which might be made against an object protected under the Act, any order made in civil proceedings and any measure taken in criminal proceedings (or for the purposes of a criminal investigation) which might affect the control or custody of an object. The protection given is intended to exclude any form of seizure or detention of an object lent to an exhibition in this country whether by a claimant to the object, a creditor or by law enforcement authorities.

Section 136: Relevant Museums and Galleries

628.Section 136 defines “museum or gallery” for the purposes of Part 6. Only objects which are loaned to those institutions which have been approved by the relevant authority will qualify for immunity under this Part.

629.Subsection (2) sets out the factors to which the approving authority must have regard in deciding whether or not a particular institution should be approved. These are the institution’s procedures for establishing the provenance and ownership of objects, and whether it complies with guidance published by the Secretary of State on such procedures. This list is not exclusive. The approving authority may also take account of other factors in deciding whether an institution should be approved.

630.Subsection (3) makes it clear that once approval has been given, it may be withdrawn, and identifies two situations in particular which are likely to lead to the loss of approved status. These are if an institution’s procedures for establishing the provenance and ownership of objects are deemed to be inadequate, and if an institution fails to provide information on request as required in regulations. The approving authority may however also consider other factors.

631.Subsection (4) clarifies the effect of withdrawal of approval. Those objects which are already in the museum or in the United Kingdom en route to the museum on the date on which approval is withdrawn will not lose their approved status. However, objects which are loaned to the museum after its approval has been withdrawn will not qualify for immunity.

632.Subsection (5) identifies the appropriate authority. The Secretary of State will be responsible for approving museums and galleries in England. Each of the devolved administrations will be responsible for approving museums and galleries in their respective countries.

Section 137: Interpretation

633.Section 137 contains interpretation provisions for Part 6.

634.“Public display” is defined to include any display to which the public have admission, except displays with a view to sale. The immunity will not apply to any objects which are included in an exhibition organised by art and antiques dealers or auctioneers to advertise works for sale, or to publicise an auction.

635.This section also sets out the rules for determining whether an individual, the trustees of a settlement, a partnership or a body corporate should be considered to be resident in the United Kingdom.

Section 138: Crown application

636.This section provides for Part 6 to apply to the Crown, and agents of the Crown, in the same way as to all other persons and institutions.

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