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Sir Christopher Chope, who blocked 'upskirting' law, defends blocking Holocaust Restitution Bill

Bill expands people's rights to reclaim art stolen by the Nazis

    Sir Christopher Chope
    Sir Christopher Chope (Photo: Parliament)

    The MP who controversially blocked a bill to make "upskirting" a specific crime has blocked one seeking to help families reclaim items looted by the Nazis.

    Sir Christopher Chope, the Tory MP for Christchurch, blocked a Private Members Bill by MP Theresa Villiers to remove a “sunset clause” which placed a time limit on claims.

    He has a track record of using the same tactic on a stream of Private Members Bills which he opposes, arguing such bills are a means of establishing legislation without a proper parliamentary debate.

    He hit the headlines in June after objecting to, and thereby derailing, a bill to make taking a photo up a woman's skirt a crime.

    On Friday, Sir Christopher also blocked Ms Villers' Holocaust Restitution Bill at its second reading, as the JC reported it was feared he would.

    He told the JC: "As I have said to Theresa Villiers this should be a Government Bill.

    "I shall support any efforts Theresa makes to impress upon the Government that this Bill is no less deserving of Government support than the Voyeurism Bill.

    "It is also well suited to the Second Reading Committee process which has been used by the Government on the voyeurism legislation and which should ensure a passage to the statute book long before other bills which have already received a second reading and are ahead in the queue for Private Members Bills."

    Ms Villiers’s office confirmed Sir Christopher blocked her bill, which had government backing and cross-party support.

    “I’m disappointed that my Bill was blocked on Friday, but the story isn’t over," Ms Villiers said. 

    "I will continue to engage with MP colleagues to try to persuade them to let the Bill through when it reappears on Parliament’s agenda in October.

    “I am also appealing to Ministers to provide a slot for legislating on this issue in Government time. It is vital that our national museums can continue to restore property to its owners which was stolen by the Nazis.

    "I remain optimistic that it will be possible to save the legislation which enables this to happen and keep it on the statute book.”

    Anne Webber, co-chair of the Commission for Looted Art in Europe, described the blocking as “hugely disappointing.”

    She said Sir Christopher had “killed this very important bill, and on no substantive grounds at all.

    "He has stopped it simply because he doesn’t like Private Members Bills and thinks there should always be extensive parliamentary debate.

    “The government will now have to find time to put this bill through in an already very crowded timetable. Britain’s commitment to restitution of Nazi looted art goes back to 1943 and Chope cannot seriously claim that it hasn’t been discussed in Parliament."

    The bill had been expected to pass through Parliament unchallenged.

    In 2009, legislation made it possible for families to claim property including paintings, figurines and other cultural treasures that remain unaccounted for after being stolen between 1933 and 1945.

    But this contained a clause that made it impossible for families to claim property after November 2019, if it was found in major national museums, libraries and galleries.

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