The government is pressing the art loss recovery industry to introduce a new national database to track stolen art and antiques.
But although the database has the support of the two main art recovery databases, the Art Loss Register (ALR) and the Invaluable Trace Group, they are concerned about who will foot the bill.
A home office working party, chaired by senior civil servant Rod Van Tiemann, has been examining the feasibility of a national database for stolen or illegally removed “cultural property”.
It is due to produce a joint report for the home office and department of culture in the next few months.
A home office spokesman said the proposed database would pool information from auction houses, the ALR and Invaluable Trace Group and be used by police to check the ownership of stolen artefacts.
He added that the public would also have limited access to the database.
Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the ALR, said: “A more efficient system will reduce the time it takes for items to be logged on the database and speed up their recovery.
“But it will have to be paid for by either the police or the art owners, because we cannot provide the service free of charge.”
Dick Ellis, managing director of Invaluable Trace Group, which has 100,000 items registered on its database, agrees cost is a factor.
However, he believes that the government may ignore this and select a system which best meets police re-quirements.
Deciding on a single pricing scheme could be problematic.
The ALR is funded by the insurance industry and charges a recovery fee based on the item's value, while Invaluable Trace Group charges only a registration fee.
Lloyd's underwriter Charlie Williams, who insures art and antiques for Nissan syndicate 2323, supports the idea of a national database to recover lost art.
He said: “I agree that there should be a national database to assist the police and insurance industry to recover missing items.”