Rishi Sunak ruled out of changing a law that would prevent the British Museum from handing the Parthenon marbles back to Greece, after it emerged that trustees had secret talks with the Greek prime minister about the future of the artefacts.
The prime minister s official spokesman said there was no plans to amend legislation under which museums can dispose of objects within its collection only in very limited circumstances. It may decide to lend part of the collection to Greece.
The British Museum wants a new Parthenon partnership with Greece but it is not going to dismantle our great collection as it tells a unique story of our common humanity. The former chancellor George Osborne, chair of the British Museum since November 2021, has been talking with the Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis about the possible return of sculptures, according to the Greek daily Ta Nea.
Sunak s official spokesperson said that they had no plans to change the law, which prevents removing objects from the British Museum's collection except in certain circumstances.
Our position on this hasn't changed. The museum and its trustees are responsible for the decisions relating to the care and management of the collections. The trustees own the Parthenon sculptures and are operationally independent of the government. The marbles that decorated the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple in the Acropolis in Athens were taken by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century when he was British ambassador to the Ottoman empire, and have been the subject of a long-running dispute over where they should be displayed.
In recent weeks, the Horniman Museum in south London has returned looted bronzes from Benin City to Nigeria, and the Wellcome Collection closed its Medicine Man gallery because it perpetuates a version of medical history based on racist, sexist and ableist theories and language Downing Street said the public would vote with their feet if they were removing controversial objects from their collections.
I am cautious about commenting about how specific museums should display their collections, and I think that is a matter for them, the spokesperson said. They will need to justify any decisions made to the public and the public will make a decision based on voting with their feet on whether they think they have the right balance.