The Government has promised to step in to ensure the priceless collection of ceramics housed by the Wedgwood Museum is secured for the nation if it comes up for sale.
Although it said it would not provide any further cash, peers in the House of Lords were told that the Government had been supporting the museum in what was described as “an extraordinary case”.
The Wedgwood Museum was placed into administration earlier this year as the small charitable trust which runs it is being held responsible for the shortfall in the pension scheme at Wedgwood, the pottery giant which collapsed last year.
In a debate in the House of Lords, peers put pressure on the Government to act to make sure the 10,000-piece collection would be safeguarded and remain at its home in the Potteries, the historic centre of ceramics manufacturing in the UK.
Although it is run as a separate entity to the collapsed pottery company, a pensions link means the Museum Trust is deemed to be liable for the £134 million shortfall in the Wedgwood companies’ pension plan.
The fate of the collection hangs on a court case next month which will decide whether the collection is “alienable” – in other words whether it can be transferred to another owner.
Labour’s Lord Howarth of Newport said it would be “grotesque” if the Wedgwood archive was broken up and sold to raise the money.
Conservative peer Baroness Rawlings said that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) would attempt to protect the collection.
“We hope that museums will learn from this case and make certain that collections held in trust have legal protection to safeguard their objects,” she said. The court will determine whether the collection is available to an administrator and is put up for sale. DCMS will attempt to secure the collection for the nation.
“Clearly this is an extraordinary case.
‘‘DCMS has helped all along, but it cannot provide further funding.”