Art Law: The Charity Act 2022

By 7th October 2022 No Comments

The Charity Act 2022 – Announcement.

The Charity Act 2022 will affect the powers of museum trustees and allow more flexibility to museums in England and Wales to return objects to its country of origin. In doing so, the new Act will give charity trustees more flexibility to make decisions.

The Current Legislation

Current legislation has made it difficult for museums to return items to their original country. For example the British Museum, which is governed by the British Museum Act 1963, prohibits the disposal of collection objects. This argument has been frequently raised in recent years, such as in response to the restitution of the Parthenon Marbles. Further restrictions under the Charities Act 2011, applies to trustees compelled by a moral obligation to transfer property. They must first seek authorisation from the Charity Commission. These transfers are known as ‘ex gratia payments’ and relate to charity property in general.

The Charities Act 2022 Art Law

The Charity Act will affect trustees’ powers


However, the new Charities Act 2022 will give more flexibility to allow trustees to make ex gratia transfers of ‘low value’ property, dependant on the gross income of the charity. For property of ‘higher value’, trustees will still need to seek permission from the Charity Commission.

Provisions of the Act

The Charities Act 2022 came as a result of recommendations set out in a Law Commission report in 2017. Provisions set out in the Act will start to be implemented from Autumn 2022 and will be fully in force by Autumn 2023. Under the 2022 Act, trustees will soon be able to seek authorisation to return items if they feel a moral obligation to do so. Further, under section 331a, trustees will be able to return items of low value without any authorisation. However, trustees are obliged to follow the Codes of Ethics for both UK museums, and international museums and in making decisions that are based on a belief of moral obligation, must consider a recent Arts Council document to make an ‘ethical assessment’ to include the following:

(1) the significance of the object to the claimant;

(2) how the object was removed from its place of origin or past owner;

(3) how the museum has engaged with the object; and

(4) the position of the person raising the claim.

The new legislation has taken a long time in the making and places morality at the forefront. As one of the greatest cities of art, culture and history, it is as good a time as ever to visit the vibrant displays that occupy the vast variety of museums and galleries in London.

For More information:

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