Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Facsimile of 1985 Code of Practice


  1.  In view of the worldwide concern expressed over the traffic in stolen antiques and works of art and the illegal export of such objects, the UK fine art and antiques trade wishes to codify its standard practice as follows:

  2.  Members of the UK fine art and antiques trade undertake, to the best of their ability, not to import, export or transfer the ownership of such objects where they have reasonable cause to believe:

    (a)  The seller has not established good title to the object under the laws of the UK, ie whether it has been stolen or otherwise illicitly handled or acquired;

    (b)  That an imported object has been acquired in or exported from its country of export in violation of that country's laws; and

    (c)  That an imported object was acquired dishonestly or illegally from an official excavation site or monument or originated from an illegal, clandestine or otherwise unofficial site.

  3.  Members also undertake not to exhibit, describe, attribute, appraise or retain any object with the intention to promote or fail to prevent its illicit transfer or export.

  4.  Where a member of the UK fine art and antiques trade comes into possession of an object that can be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt to have been illegally exported from its country of export and the country of export seeks its return within a reasonable period, that member, if legally free to do so, will take responsible steps to co-operate in the return of that object to the country of export. Where the code has been breached unintentionally, satisfactory reimbursement should be agreed between the parties.

  5.  Violations of this code of practice will be rigorously investigated.

  6.  This code which is intended to apply to all objects usually traded in the fine art and antiques market and to all persons active in that market has been subscribed by the following organisations:

    Christie Manson & Woods Ltd;
    Society of London Art Dealers;
    Messrs Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co;
    British Antique Dealers' Association;
    Society of Fine Art Auctioneers;
    Fine Art Trade Guild;
    Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers;
    British Association of Removers;
    Antiquarian Booksellers' Association;
    Antiquities Dealers' Association;
    Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

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