Question: Museum Exchanges and the Parthenon marbles (to Estelle Morris, Minister of State for Arts)

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Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Does the Minister agree that there is no point whatsoever in sending the Parthenon marbles back to Athens, since there is no prospect of those sculptures ever being viewed in situ on the temple? To do so would be to rip the heart out of the British Museum, which is one of the great cultural landmarks of Europe, and whose defence ought to be a matter for the Minister and her Ministry.

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): There are many facets to this debate, and I take the hon. Gentleman’s points. The British Museum contains world collections and receives more than 4.6 million visitors every year. People can see historic artefacts and heritage items gathered in one place. Although this is not quite to do with the hon. Gentleman’s point, the museum in Athens that could house the Parthenon sculptures, were they to be returned, is not yet ready, and we have no date for when it will be. In that respect, he was right. I am pleased that the sculptures are in the British Museum and part of a world collection. I am pleased that the number of people able to visit is increasing year by year.