Deputies in the British Parliament on Thursday urged their government to return the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, saying the United Kingdom should “engage constructively and engage also in a gracious act” to recognise that the sculptures should return to Athens.
According to Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George, during culture questions on Wednesday, “parading stolen booty in the otherwise excellent British Museum” brings “shame on this country.”
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn similarly backed the view that the sculptures were “stolen” from the people of Greece and said there were “very strong feelings” about the matter in the country. He suggested that relations with Greece could be improved “if we constructively engage with a view to returning some, if not all, of these items”.
Replying, British Culture Minister Helen Grant told MPs that UNESCO was ready to facilitate mediation, and that the government would consider the proposal “and respond in due course”. She added, however, that the sculptures were “legally owned” by the British Museum, which “provides access to all, free of charge.”
She did not accept that they were stolen and reiterated that there was constructive engagement between the UK and Greek governments on the matter, with a discussion held in early October at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris.
The discussion was held after Andrew submitted a question on Wednesday regarding the British government’s intentions in response to UNESCO’s proposal. The issue has dominated the British press in recent days due to a visit to Athens by London-based lawyer Amal Alamuddin-Clooney and members of the firm she works with to discuss the Parthenon Marbles case with Greece’s government.