High Court Judge Rules that the Wedgwood Collection Must be Sold - campaign continues.
Following the court hearing in September 2011 Judge rules that the - Wedgwood collection can be sold to meet pension liabilities. HOWEVER THE CAMPAIGN CONTINUES: Join our, Supporters List, use the campaign resources to lobby your MP and Ministers - leave a comment and spread the word.
What can supporters do to help?
Please use the links and contact details below to lobby your Member of Parliament and the responsible Ministers in Her Majesty's Government. Overseas supporters should write to the Ministers.
Write to your MP:
Search for your MP here: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/
Write to the Ministers:
Rt. Hon. Maria Miller MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hon. Ed Vaizey MP Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Dept for Culture, Media and Sport. E-mail: email@example.com
Rt. Hon. Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Steve Webb MP, Minister for Pensions E-mail: email@example.com
Post: House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Key points to include:
- The Judge’s decision is the worst possible outcome, a grave day for British history, a sad testimony of Britain's resolve to neglect, and not cherish, its internationally significant cultural, scientific, social and industrial treasures.
- It is grossly disproportionate, that a 2008 statutory instrument added to Pensions legislation, meant that a solvent museum with 5 employees, is liable for the entire debt of a pension fund with 7,000 members. Particularly when the Wedgwood family were so protective of the collection that they legally separated it from Wedgwood the Company in 1962.
- The Museum Trust now face a bill for £134m - can the Government make a discretionary exemption to enable the Museum to meet a more proportionate liability?
- The Collection was donated freely over 250 years by the Wedgwood family and descendants, Wedgwood employees and supporters, with the intention that they should be kept in perpetuity, on display for our nation to enjoy and learn from.
- The collection comprises over ten thousand pieces of British ceramics, art, archives, private letters and details of 250 years of scientific experiments, revolutionary marketing and exquisite design – all at risk of dispersal, and loss to the public.
- The government has just agreed a £40 million increase in the cost of the Olympics opening ceremony, £8-12 million will save this collection for ever - this time in a lock-tight trust, with Trustees that will look after it in perpetuity.
The Wedgwood Museum Predicament
The world-renowned, UNESCO recognised, Wedgwood Museum collection can be sold off. A High Court judge ruled on 19th December 2011, that the 10,000-piece collection is not held by the Wedgwood museum in trust, and so can be sold to pay off a claim by the government quango, the Pension Protection Fund (PPF). New pensions legislation means any solvent organisation is liable for the entire debt of a pension fund if any of its employees are in that pension fund. Tragically, no one could foresee the consequences of the arcane, ill-conceived 2008 statutory instrument which meant that a separate, solvent, award winning, regional museum with 5 employees, became liable for the entire debt of a pension fund with 7,000 members.
The Wedgwood family separated out the Wedgwood collection from the Wedgwood pottery company in 1962, with the foresight that once Wedgwood became a public company, with Directors and shareholders, it would be impossible to know what might happen to the firm and its assets. Their foresight was borne out in 2009 when Wedgwood went into administration; but because the collection was separate, Deloittes, the administrators who handled the collapse of Waterford Wedgwood Ltd, could never get their hands on it. We all felt relieved that at least the collection was always safe.
It is the worst possible outcome, a grave day for British history, a sad testimony of Britain's resolve to neglect, and not cherish, its internationally-significant cultural, scientific, social and industrial treasures. Treasures that represent 250 years of the toil, craftsmanship, design and sheer genius of the people of this nation. Are we willing to let ill-thought out pensions legislation lead to the loss, forever, of an internationally important collection? The tragic answer is yes. It is like a mouse expected to support an elephant, but inevitably the mouse gets squashed, and this time the mouse is an important piece of our history. No other country would so adhere to such arcane rules, and let quangos and technocrats run rough shod-over common sense.
But for the people of North Staffordshire, the Wedgwood descendants and all those who value our history, culture and art, it is a devastating blow. We are now faced with the ludicrous situation where we are frantically trying to raise money to buy the very pieces of history that were donated freely over 250 years by the Wedgwood family and descendants. They were donated with the intention they should be kept in perpetuity, on display for our nation to enjoy and learn from.
How much must we raise to stop the thousands of pieces of British ceramics, art, archives, private letters and details of 250 years of scientific experiments, revolutionary marketing and exquisite design, ending up in the private vaults of the ludicrously rich? It is deeply depressing our legal process can lead to such an outcome.
We urge all those who share our outrage to urgently write to their own MP and to Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt, both Ministers at the Department for Culture Media and Sport.
If we do not act now, there is a real risk that this collection will be sold off - and once sold it will never return to the UK again.
The court was told the collection is worth between £11.5 million and £18 million which falls well short of the £134 million fund deficit. So even when it is sold off, there will not be any more money for the pension fund, but it will mean that the PPF will finally allow the Wedgwood Group Pension Fund to join its scheme.
Administrators will now wait to see if the Attorney General appeals against the decision. There are no immediate plans to close the museum.
Supporters of the Museum from all around the world, and members of the family who have invested so much in it, appeal for common sense to prevail.
It was former Government Minister Jeremy Hunt himself who said 'Philanthropy is central to our vision of a thriving cultural sector' - but what kind of signal is now being sent out that anything that we leave to the nation in good faith is not safe? When Phoebe Wedgwood donated the Stubbs, when Ralph Vaughan Williams donated the Joshua Reynolds paintings, they intended them to be kept within a Wedgwood collection for posterity.
The government now risks ending all philanthropy unless it shows this basic tenet of generational trust can be maintained.
Minister Ed Vaizey is on record as saying in Parliament:"It is absolutely clear from remarks of hon..Members that have already been made during this debate and I hope it will be absolutely clear from the remarks I will make in concluding the debate that none of us would like to be in this position. We are almost, as it were, walk-on parts in an obscure Dickensian novel, in which a complicated piece of legislation has the most dramatic and unforeseen consequences. Potentially, those consequences put one of the great cultural jewels of the nation under threat."
Minister, the most dramatic and unforeseen consequences really are happening. Our great cultural jewels are to be sold off. What can you do to help get us through this mess?
Read more from the Minister here.