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Tory former minister to chair new body aiming to return Elgin Marbles to Greece

The House of Lords will debate a motion brought by Lord Vaizey.

13 October 2022

Conservative former culture minister Lord Vaizey will chair a new body aiming to return the so-called Elgin Marbles to Greece.

The ex-MP for Wantage and Didcot will use the 40th anniversary of the 1983 Heritage Act to bring a motion before the House of Lords to debate “contested heritage”.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of Thursday’s debate, Lord Vaizey said he is confident “a deal is within reach”.

It comes after the Prime Minister ruled out supporting a deal to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece, despite George Osborne, chairman of the British Museum and former Tory chancellor, saying there is a “deal to be done” to share the Parthenon Marbles with Greece.

Liz Truss told GB News at the Conservative Party conference: “I don’t support that.”

The sculptures – 17 figures and part of a frieze that decorated the 2,500-year-old Parthenon temple at the Acropolis – were taken by Lord Elgin in the early 19th century when he was the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and have been the subject of a long-running dispute over where they should be displayed.

Undated file photo of a section of the Parthenon Marbles in London’s British Museum
The Parthenon Marbles are on display in London’s British Museum (Matthew Fearn/PA)

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called for the marbles to be returned to Greece on many occasions, even offering to loan some of his country’s other treasures to the British Museum in exchange.

In a recent interview with the Sunday Times, he said he will raise the subject with Ms Truss on a visit to London this year.

Mr Mitsotakis said: “At a time when Truss will be looking to build her credibility and when the UK is sort of cornered in terms of its overall image after the (Queen’s) funeral, it will be a fantastic gesture and that’s what I’ll tell her.”

In 2021, then-prime minister Boris Johnson told the Greek premier during talks at Downing Street that the issue was “one for the trustees of the British Museum”.

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