Return Parthenon sculptures to Greece, say MPs


The government has faced calls to return the Parthenon sculptures - known as the Elgin Marbles in the UK - to Greece.

Liberal Democrat Andrew George said "parading stolen booty in the otherwise excellent British Museum" brings "shame on this country", as he raised the matter during culture questions on 15 October 2014.

The 5th Century BC treasures - which depict ancient Greek gods, men and monsters - are kept in the British Museum in London. They were removed from the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens in 1811 by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Greece at the time.

Addressing culture ministers in the Commons on 16 October 2014, Mr George said: "Surely the United Kingdom now needs to engage constructively and engage also in a gracious act and recognise that the Parthenon Sculptures should return to Athens."

British lawyer Amal Clooney, who recently married Hollywood actor George Clooney, is advising Greece on how to reclaim the Parthenon sculptures from Britain.

Culture Minister Helen Grant told MPs UNESCO was ready to facilitate mediation, and that the government would consider the proposal "and respond in due course".

But she added that the sculptures are "legally owned" by the British Museum, which "provides access to all, free of charge".

However, Labour backbencher Jeremy Corbyn was of the view that the items were "stolen" from the people of Greece.

He said there are "very strong feelings" about the matter in Greece, and suggested relations with the country could be improved "if we constructively engage with a view to returning some, if not all, of these items".

Responding, Ms Grant did not accept they were stolen, and reiterated that there was constructive engagement between the UK and Greek governments on the matter.

Culture questions was followed by question to ministers for women and equality, and covered a range of topics including equal pay and violence against women.

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