Letter: Much thought given to selling paintings

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The Independent Online
Sir: Contrary to the impression given in the article 'College sale of paintings challenged' (25 September), the decision by Royal Holloway and Bedford New College to sell three paintings from its collection was not made by the Charity Commissioners and is a matter for the college council. It is true that the Commission's consent was needed before a sale could be arranged.

Far from treating that matter lightly, the Commission considered it most carefully. The college was required to make out a case on legal grounds which would justify our drawing up a scheme giving the Commissioners' consent for the sale to go ahead. That case was that the expense of refurbishing and maintaining the Founder's building (a Grade I listed building of unique architectural merit) was such a drain on the college's resources that the very safety of the picture collection might be put at risk.

It is not true that no expert evidence was received. The evidence was that the three paintings are not of a piece with the remainder of the collection.

The matter was referred to the full Board of Charity Commissioners on no fewer than three occasions, and considered carefully each time.

Objectors to the scheme had two routes of appeal to the courts, either against the scheme itself or on the grounds of a breach of natural justice, but neither has been pursued. The Attorney-General, who has a separate right of appeal, has authorised me to say that he has also considered the matter with care and has decided not to appeal.

Yours faithfully,

RICHARD FRIES

Chief Charity Commissioner

Charity Commission

London, SW1

25 September

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