§ 12. Mr. Garro Jones
asked the Minister of Economic Warfare whether he will make a statement about the recent seizure at Bermuda of a large number of works of art belonging to the French Vichy Government; and, further, what is the policy of His Majesty's Government in relation to any practicable measures of control over supplies of foreign currency for that Government?
§ The Minister of Economic Warfare (Mr. Dalton)
Yes, Sir. It came to the knowledge of officers of my Department that more than 500 pictures, some of which appeared to be valuable, had been shipped in the steamship "Excalibur" from Lisbon to New York via Bermuda. Thereupon, instructions were given for these pictures to be removed from the ship on her arrival at Bermuda. This was done on 3rd October and the pictures were landed and have been placed in Prize under the Reprisals Order in Council. The pictures are said to include works by Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, Dégas, Picasso and other French artists. It appears possible that these pictures were abstracted from a well known Paris collection. In reply to the second part of the Question, it is the policy of His Majesty's Government, as announced by me on 30th July, to take all practicable measures to prevent the acquisition of 577 foreign exchange by the enemy. An important means to this end is the prevention, wherever possible, of exports from all enemy or enemy controlled territories including unoccupied France.
§ Mr. Garro Jones
Are these works of art of any considerable importance from the point of view of foreign currency? What is to be their ultimate destination and custodianship?
§ Mr. Dalton
As I have said, at the present moment they are placed in Prize at Bermuda under the Reprisals Order in Council, which, as my hon. Friend knows, governs our dealings with exports to enemy and enemy-controlled territories. It is reasonable, I think, to assume that they should be moved from the climate at Bermuda at a fairly early date, as that may have an enervating effect upon them, and it is now under consideration as to where they could best be stored for the duration of the war, at any rate, so that, on the one hand, they may not suffer physical damage and, on the other hand, that they may be seen by a large number of people from the point of view of their artistic value. I am now considering what we can do to achieve those two ends.