Lords slam move to force art into public

Government moves to force 700 owners of more than 20,000 works of art where inheritance tax has been deferred to allow the public 25 days’ access to them a year have been strongly criticised in the House of Lords.

Tory peers claimed the changes were unworkable, describing them as ‘a sledgehammer to crack a nut’. They claimed it would be difficult to allow the public to see works in owners’ properties, or to find museums willing to stage temporary displays.

The Inland Revenue believes such displays are the ideal way to ensure access ‘without appointments’.

Owners are unwilling to allow access because they would have to publish whereabouts of the works, which they claim would be a ‘burglar’s charter’.

Labour’s deputy chief whip Lord McIntosh has approached culture secretary Chris Smith, who stepped into the row from last month’s Cannes Film Festival (above), to discuss the idea of a clearing house to link owners with museums or galleries willing to show pieces.

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