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The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I made three points. The first has to do with the fact that legislation already exists to deal with the finding of such items; and we want to make sure that the two come together. Secondly, we are concerned about what happens on Church land. Therefore we want to talk about the issues, and I was laying down markers. Discussions are taking place. In

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the legislation as presently drafted we do not see what the details will be. We therefore want to ensure that they are included.

Lord Templeman: My Lords, I was not complaining about the remarks of the right reverend Prelate. I was simply saying that, even as the Bill stands, there is plenty of machinery. It will all come out in the code of practice.

So far as concerns dealing with Church land, it is land belonging to the Church, and the Church must keep out trespassers. If a trespasser turns up a chalice or any other such item I hope he will go to gaol and that the Church will be allowed to keep the item under the code of practice. If the trespasser or the sexton turns up 16 spoons, then if the Church wants to keep the spoons, I think it will be allowed to do so unless the British Museum says that the spoons have nothing to do with the Church but are of an antiquity beyond belief, possibly used by Stone Age man, and the museum wants them.

Whenever treasure is turned up, Clause 10 applies,

    "if treasure ... has vested in the Crown ... and ... is to be transferred to a museum".
The Crown is not interested in the treasure going anywhere but to a museum. It will ask the museum whether it wants it. Most people like the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, may have plenty of coins of that vintage and will say no; or will say yes only if they think that the treasure ought to be in a museum so everybody can look at it but not in private hands, or possibly in a church, where it will not be seen.

In that case, if the museum says that it wants the treasure, the Secretary of State must then determine under Clause 7 of the Bill whether a reward is to be paid. The practice is that a reward is always paid for property that is turned up and which is treasure. He then has to determine the market value of the treasure and the amount of the reward. If the museum says that it wants to keep an item of treasure because it is unique and it does not have such an item, the Secretary of State will put a value on it; he may, for instance, say to the museum that the market value is £1.5 million. Under his powers, he can direct that it is transferred to the museum but can say that he will make that direction only if the museum is prepared to pay £1.5 million as a reward.

The Bill carefully preserves the Crown from having any liability; such liability cannot be put on the taxpayer; and the museum cannot be forced to pay. In practice, the museum will be in a dilemma. If it wants the treasure, it must pay the reward. If it does not consent to pay the reward--which is the full market value; so the owner and the finder will not be deprived of anything--all that is done is, in effect, to give a first right of purchase to a museum, at full market value, if it considers that the objects are of national importance and therefore ought to be in a museum rather than in private hands. If the museum says that it either cannot afford the reward or it does not want the treasure, the Secretary of State will direct that it goes back to the noble Earl or to his employee who found it. Then the owner will be able to sell it, and may be able to get £1.5 million for it.

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This is not a question of confiscation. It is a right of first refusal for a museum. It is a serious matter. As the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, said, there are a good many treasures and portable antiquities which ought to stay in this country but which are being sold on the black market and are disappearing abroad. They ought to be revealed, because we can only know our history and culture if we find out where such items are and whether they are worth preserving. For my part, I would have thought it sufficient that the Secretary of State has power to say to whom the property should go, it being his duty to prepare a code of conduct, keep it under review and revise it when appropriate. To do that he must,

    "set out the principles and practice ... when considering to whom treasure should be offered ... where the Crown's title to treasure is disclaimed. The code may include guidance for those who search for or find treasure; and museums and others who exercise functions in relation to treasure".

As I have said, the whole object of the Bill is to see that a museum has an opportunity of acquiring valuable pieces of national importance--if they pay the full market value--and I would have thought that the provisions of the Bill as it now stands and the code of practice are sufficient.

The code of practice must be negotiated, and one of the parties with whom negotiations will take place is the Church. The fact that there is faculty legislation is not a worry. If one intended to keep the treasure or put it somewhere else, it is possible that a faculty would be needed; but if it is ordinary treasure then the provisions of the Bill will cover it. We do not need two Bills.

Equally, on general principles I should like the Church to be under the same umbrella of jurisdiction as everybody else. If a sexton finds silver spoons in a place which may have been a church 100 years before, I do not see why the Church should be in any better or different position from the noble Earl who finds it on his farmland. Equally, if it is within the Church or in consecrated ground, or is what I would call ecclesiastical treasure, I have no doubt that the code of practice will provide that one simply keeps it, subject to notifying the British Museum that it exists so that it may consider whether or not it wants to look at it.

I have spoken for too long. I wish to make one more point. I support what the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, said regarding the problem of portable antiquities. It has been calculated that there are 30,000 metal detectors which turn up 400,000 buried articles every year. Some of them are absolute rubbish; a lot of them are not treasure within the definition of this Bill, but a great number of them are part of our cultural history. There should be some method whereby those fines can be reported and those which are the most value to our heritage should be preserved.

The Government's proposal is that there should be a voluntary code. That has found general acceptance. Everything needs a little money. To begin with there must be a voluntary code but it must have a little money and centralisation of funding. I shall press the Minister and I am sure that she will press on the Government that it would be a wise investment in our history to produce

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enough money to get a voluntary system working which will guard portable antiques which do not fall within the Bill. I hope that I have done something to allay the misgivings expressed in the course of this debate, and I hope that the Bill passes.

9.3 p.m.

Lord Renton: My Lords, it always increases one's confidence in legislation that one wants when one hears it approved by a noble and learned Lord. I am glad that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, said what he did.

Perhaps I too may try to set at rest the fears of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol. It is not unusual in our legislation to have laws overlapping. One could mention many cases but I shall mention just one. We have laws preventing cruelty to children and laws punishing people for assaults of one kind or another. One could go right through the statute book and find many examples of laws which overlap and to a limited extent have the same purpose. Therefore, although I agree with him that it may be better to clarify the matter in the way he suggested, I do not believe that in the meantime the cathedrals and churches need worry.

We have varied and valuable relics of life in England and Wales going back 3,000 years which are buried and form part of our heritage but which receive little or no protection under the law. Therefore I warmly support the Bill put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and thank him for his magnificent initiative two years ago and for continuing it this evening. Without that initiative we might not be providing the protection which is so greatly needed.

The common law of treasure trove in England and Wales is so limited and defective that it is surprising that it has lasted as long as it has. It originated through the need of King Richard I to raise money for the Crusades 800 years ago. It is amazing that that ancient and artificial law survived for so long. Those laws never applied in Scotland--I suppose partly because Scotland was not then part of the United Kingdom and did not become so for a long time. But we owe to a Scottish nobleman--the noble Earl, Lord Perth--the initiative for changing the law in England and Wales in the way proposed, which is long overdue. I am glad to see that he is supported by three life Peers of Scottish origin. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, will acknowledge that even the Welsh sometimes owe a duty to the Scots.

The noble Earl also paid tribute to Sir Anthony Grant MP. Grant is a Scottish name. I should like to endorse that. Sir Anthony is a very old friend of mine; indeed, he represents part of my old constituency of Huntingdonshire. Dr. Roger Bland has also been marvellous.

As the noble and learned Lord said, the Bill is now suitable without further amendment. Minor drafting amendments can be made to almost every Bill but we can do without them on this one. They are really not necessary. The only point I want to raise is one that has not been so far mentioned. Art theft in this country and in other countries runs into huge sums every year. It is

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a large international trade. Some of that trade consists of objects which will in future, I am glad to say, be protected by the Bill.

9.8 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, we on these Benches broadly support the Bill. It is admirably pragmatic and it is admirable in the way in which it balances both the private and public interest in an area which has been sadly neglected, as other noble Lords have said, not for many years but for many centuries.

Having said that, it is a Bill which is essentially pragmatic, it has an underlying principle, which is to enable finds of portable antiquities in this country to be examined and reported in a proper way. I do not think any fair-minded person could object to that, though in the other place there were those on, one might say, the liberal wing of the argument who felt that on balance it would be better to keep the status quo as the Bill would curtail the liberty of the individual, whether he was a landowner or an operator of a metal detector, to do what he wished. I do not happen to agree with that argument and I do not think that many noble Lords, if I judge their contributions rightly, would either.

There are in the Bill a number of areas which are not entirely clear to the layman. I was fascinated by a remark by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, about the position of the Church as regards artefacts and antiquities which may be found. I was interested in his view that the position of the Church should in no way be different from the position of others such as the noble Earl, Lord Radnor. That is an interesting point. I hope that the noble Baroness the Minister will be able to throw some light on that.

The position today is different, with the increase in technology in metal detecting and other areas. I have to be careful here because when the noble Earl introduced his admirable Bill which fell by the wayside and which is replaced by this even improved Bill my remarks about metal detectors and those who use them resulted in my receiving not abusive letters but letters which criticised the implications of my contribution.

For the benefit of those who will be reading Hansard after this debate, on that occasion I was in no way criticising those who operate this technology in a legitimate and responsible way. I was referring to others: I shall use the word which seems to trip easily off the tongue--nighthawks--which I have heard mentioned in this debate. Being of a suspicious nature, in the society in which we live today, I imagine that nighthawks, if not outweighing in number the responsible ones, are a considerable force to be reckoned with; and not only native nighthawks but nighthawks from other countries who may come here attracted by the prospect of finds. Perhaps they read Hansard and think that there is an opportunity here for a great deal of lucrative work, especially when they realise that just under 500,000 finds are recorded each year and probably about one-third again of finds are not recorded. The position here is one which certainly demands legislation of some kind to replace that which has come through our common law and has been with us for some hundreds of years.

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Perhaps I may mention some of the points which I have picked up in the course of the debate which give me some anxiety. Clause 10 refers to the payment of rewards, which was also referred to by other noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Radnor. He is anxious about the whole question of rewards. I agree entirely with him that fundamental common sense tells one that the landowner should have the largest claim to the rewards. If one returns to the principle of the Bill, rewards are not the main matter. It is the proper finding and recording of our heritage, the time and the place and other factors which are of greater importance. We all like rewards. I recall recently speaking in a debate on tipping in restaurants. One of my noble friends on these Benches who had been a waiter said that there is nothing in this world that one likes better than a reward. That moved him to believe that to continue tipping in the way we do was better than to change in the manner proposed. Everyone wants a reward, but how it is paid and so forth will be dealt with under the code of practice.

As the matter is expressed in the Bill at the moment, to the lay person it is somewhat difficult and complicated to understand how it will all work. I am sure that the noble Baroness will enlighten us on that. A code of practice is often bandied about in your Lordships' House and one often wonders what it will contain and achieve. For example, will a code of practice tell us more about the procedures which coroners will follow? I do not believe that any noble Lord has mentioned that. I understand from the Bill that a person who fails to report a find within the statutory time limit will be subject to a fine or even a term of imprisonment. But how will a find be reported? Will there be a code or pattern of practice which is the same throughout the country? Will a person gravitate to Cambridgeshire or Devon because coroners in those parts of country are more lenient? A noble Lord mentioned that only a telephone call, a letter or some form was needed, but that is not clear from the Bill.

As regards penalties, it appears that, on the face of it, a fine of £5,000 is derisory. It is not derisory to someone who commits an offence either through negligence, ignorance or carelessness, but it is a derisory amount if the offence is committed with deep intent and careful planning. I shall be very interested to hear the noble Baroness explain why the fine has been set at that level.

Having said all that, these seem to be carping criticisms of the Bill. They are not criticisms really, they are simply areas of uncertainty from my own personal point of view. Obviously, I shall feel very much reassured not only after the noble Baroness has spoken, but after this admirable Bill in many respects has gone through all its stages in this House and has inevitably found its way on to the statute book.

I do not believe that there is anything further for me to say. It has been a very distinguished debate with very interesting and fascinating contributions made by people who are much better qualified to speak on the subject than I, as a mere hereditary Peer who, happily or unhappily, does not have a personal metal detector working for him. I was most interested to hear the noble Earl speak about his collaboration with a metal detector. I believe that that is all to the good. That was a perfect

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example of the way in which things should work, but I wonder whether they will work like that in general. It is a fascinating subject. The Bill obviously goes a long way towards making corrections in an area of the law which is in much need of reform. I wish the Bill speedy travel on to the statute book.

9.19 p.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, those of your Lordships who are in the habit of rising betimes and getting here early in the morning may well have noticed that the annunciator at that time of the day frequently carries an often most interesting thought for the day which seems to originate from somewhere in our security service. Yesterday, for example, the message was a quotation from my master William Shakespeare's play, King Henry VI Part I, Act II, Scene 1, line 58:

    "Had your watch been good This sudden mischief never could have fall'n".
It was slightly misquoted and I have put it right, but nevertheless the idea was a good one and the point was made.

It seemed to me to be rather appropriate to the Second Reading of this Bill today as, if only we had been able to keep careful watch to facilitate the progress in another place of the original Bill of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, we might have settled the whole matter years ago. The House will wish, I am sure, to congratulate the noble Earl not only on his timely good sense, but on his persistence, his tenacity and his perseverance in seeing to it that his original proposals did not fall by the wayside, but marched resolutely onward and upward to the statute book where they unquestionably belong.

We on these Benches--I speak for both of us--take the view that the Bill was carefully and well debated at all its stages in another place. We agree with the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that any further amendment would be quite unnecessary and counter-productive. There is little left to say, except to reiterate the total support of the Opposition for what seems to us a thoroughly sensible, well drafted, constructive and helpful piece of legislation.

We realise that the Bill is not the last word on the subject. There is further work to be done to develop the Government's well-thought-out strategy on the matter of portable antiquities, but the Bill is an excellent start. I hope that when the noble Baroness the Minister replies to the debate she may be able to say something about the code of practice which I believe will augment the Bill. The code of practice, as we have all said, will be a very important matter in determining how effective the Bill will be in practice--and the glimpses that we have had of it from the debates at all stages in another place were just enough to tempt the palate, but not enough to satisfy the appetite.

We would welcome enlightenment on a few matters relating to the franchisees referred to in Clause 5 and elsewhere. For example, is it true that franchisees do not have to own the land to have treasure ownership rights? What exactly is the position of the landowner, the

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leaseholder, the tenant and the finder when franchisees lay claim to recovered treasure? Is the franchisee able to claim the treasure without compensating anyone? Is the franchisee able to dispose of treasure without any consideration for the national heritage? If the noble Baroness can in any way clarify these matters (either when she replies to this debate or subsequently by letter) I shall be grateful. Similarly, I hope that she may be able to offer the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol some "comfortable words", following the example of her noble friend Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, although I suspect that she will not be able completely to give him, "a happy issue out of all his afflictions".

Finally, perhaps I may applaud the proposals for a voluntary recording scheme to cover all archaeological objects which were set out in the DNH's discussion document on portable antiquities, which was a very welcome document. Clearly, the scheme is deliberately intended to complement the Treasure Bill, and it is distinctly reassuring that it has been welcomed by the antiquities trade, by archaeologists of all sorts and descriptions, and by the metal detectorists--and how good it is to see that the metal detectorists are now overwhelmingly in accord with the Government's proposals about treasure. Those of us who recall the confrontations and disputes so common a decade ago between metal detectorists and all museums--they were almost literally at daggers drawn--will be greatly relieved at the progress which has been made.

Obviously, the voluntary recording scheme will not be possible without some limited additional resources, and I must delicately remind the Minister, as have others, that as yet the Government have made no commitment to providing any additional funds for that purpose. Is it not very nice to find in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill that the whole thing can be done for a mere £10,000 and that,

    "The Bill makes no other calls on public funds"?

The noble Earl, Lord Perth, is a Scot. A Scot has been well described as a Yorkshireman without the Yorkshireman's capacity for spontaneous acts of unbridled generosity. He must therefore feel well content that he has achieved excellent value for money and has done Parliament, the nation and the heritage a good turn. Well may he say, in Othello's words,

    "I have done the state some service, and they know 't".

9.26 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to welcome the Bill. I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Perth. I believe that all noble Lords here this evening will agree that it is due largely to the tireless efforts of the noble Earl that the measure has got as far as it has. Our heritage does indeed have a tireless champion. I know how disappointed he was when his earlier Bill failed to make progress in another place two years ago. I hope that the fact that we are here tonight discussing a Bill which has successfully passed through the other place will be compensation for his earlier disappointment. At that time the noble Earl was greatly assisted by my noble friends Lord Renton and Lord Renfrew, as has

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happened again this evening. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Renfrew for his masterly speech which, luckily for me, covered many of your Lordships' questions. Having listened to my noble friend Lord Stewartby and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, I realise that I speak to a very educated audience.

I congratulate my honourable friend the Member for Cambridgeshire South-West who successfully piloted the Bill through another place. It was the first time that a Bill to reform treasure trove had been debated in another place, and we did not know exactly what reception it would receive there. The fact that it passed through all its stages in the other place with support from all Members who took part in the debates was due in large part to the tact and skill of my honourable friend.

I am happy to repeat that the Government welcome the Bill which they regard as a much needed piece of legislation. I am encouraged that all noble Lords who have spoken have also indicated their support for it. I am not surprised. I recall that when the noble Earl introduced his earlier Bill, that, too, received a very warm welcome in this House. I was also encouraged to note that the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, who at that time spoke for the Opposition, welcomed the Bill, as did the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, who spoke for the Liberal Democrats. This evening the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, were equally felicitous.

I should like to deal with some points raised by your Lordships. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol referred to the concerns of the Church of England that the Bill might have the effect of depriving the Church of its property. It is important to remember that Clause 4 specifically states that the rights of prior owners and their heirs are protected. Therefore, any objects which can be shown to belong to the Church will not be covered by the Bill. I also reassure the House that the Church will be consulted on the code of practice to be drawn up under the Bill. I think of St. Cuthbert's treasures in Durham Cathedral. I can reassure the right reverend Prelate that the future of such relics remains secure.

The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, asked about fines. The best I can do is to quote the proceedings of the House of Commons Standing Committee during the course of which my honourable friend said:

    "The fine is set according to the standard scale which is regularly increased as the need arises. We considered carefully whether the maximum penalty would be sufficient, and on balance we believe it is best to leave things as they are. One consideration is that if the penalty were to be increased significantly it might no longer be a summary offence and would become an indictable offence, with all the attendant complications of going to the High Court. In the circumstances it is proper to leave such matters to the jurisdiction of the magistrates' court. The fine can be increased as time goes on according to inflation".

I should like to discuss how the Bill will affect two interest groups: metal detectorists and landowners. The Bill places no restrictions on the use of metal detectors and we have repeatedly stressed that any detectorist behaving in a law-abiding manner will have nothing to

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fear. My honourable friend the Minister of State in another place gave the following assurance when speaking in the Second Reading debate on 8th March:

    "Neither the Government nor the European Union has any plans to ban or otherwise restrict responsible metal detecting ... The Government willingly acknowledge that, in recent years, metal detectorists have discovered many objects of great importance for the nation's heritage".--[Official Report, Commons, 8/3/96; col. 584.]

My department, as noble Lords will be aware, has had several meetings with the National Council for Metal Detecting. I believe that these have been very useful to both sides in understanding each other's position and five amendments have been made to the Bill as a result. That amounts to a significant package, without weakening the Bill's archaeological impact.

I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Stewartby for his support regarding coroners. I should like to take up the point made by my noble friend Lord Radnor who was worried about the requirement in Clause 8 that finders should report their finds within 14 days. I can reassure my noble friend that guidance on how finds should be reported will appear in the code of practice but we shall want to make it as simple as possible. He asked how easy it is for finders to determine the metal content of their finds and who stands the expense of deciding whether an object is treasure. The answer to his first query is that minimum precious metal content was raised from 5 per cent. to 10 per cent. during the Bill's passage through the other place. It should normally be visible to the finder if an object contains that much gold or silver, but our advice is likely to be, "If in doubt, report it."

In answer to my noble friend's second question, finders and landowners will not be liable for any expenses under the Bill. The cost of determining whether an object might be treasure will be borne by the body which is asked by the coroner to give an opinion--normally the relevant national museum, the British Museum or the National Museum of Wales.

I should now like to say a few words about how the Bill will affect landowners and the question of rewards. I hope I shall answer the queries of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. The Bill strikes a fair compromise between the interests of finders and landowners, which are not necessarily the same.

The current practice is that the Crown offers treasure troves to museums which must pay the finder a full reward if they wish to keep them; otherwise, the objects are returned to the finder. At present landowners are not eligible for rewards under any circumstances--not even if the finder has been trespassing, provided he has reported his find promptly. Rewards will still be payable when museums wish to acquire treasure. However, the Bill will make landowners and occupiers eligible for rewards for the first time. It also gives them the right to be informed of finds of treasure which have been reported from their land. For those reasons, among others, I understand that the Bill has the total support of the Country Landowners Association and the National Farmers Union.

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Detailed guidelines on how rewards are to be paid will be set out in the code of practice provided for in Clause 11. The code will be drawn up in consultation with interested parties; for example, bodies representing landowners, the Church of England, metal detectorists and museums. As a further safeguard, the code will have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament through the affirmative resolution procedure before the Bill can take effect. Obviously, it would be wrong for me to anticipate here what may come out of the consultations on the code of practice. However, I can remind the House of the statement that I made during the Committee stage of the noble Earl's Bill in this House two years ago. I said:

    "I cannot emphasise too strongly that our paramount objective is to encourage the reporting of finds. We clearly need to ensure that adequate incentives to finders are preserved under any new arrangements. At the same time we want to discourage wrong behaviour".--[Official Report, 23/3/94; col. 733.]
Those are the principles that will guide us.

In fact, we envisage that landowners and occupiers will be eligible for rewards under certain circumstances; for example, if the finder has clearly been trespassing. Thus, where there is clear evidence that the finder has been intentionally and knowingly trespassing for the purpose of searching for treasure we would not expect him to be eligible for a reward. But in the great majority of cases, where the finder has permission to be on the land, we expect that the department would comply with any arrangement made between the finder and the landowner over the division of any reward.

Equally, I think it important that we retain a certain amount of discretion in the payment of rewards. We know from experience that some cases that are not straightforward currently arise. There is a very real risk that a provision stating that under no circumstances are finders who are trespassers to be eligible for rewards would be a serious disincentive to the reporting of finds. It could drive many such finds onto the black market and possibly lead to their being exported without a licence, which would achieve nothing.

My noble friend Lord Radnor asked about museums not being obliged to purchase finds. Museums can choose whether or not to purchase finds. They must find the money from their own resources. I noted the remarks about the Lottery made by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. Certainly he would not expect me to answer on anything financial tonight. Any objects which the museums do not want or cannot pay for will be returned to the finders. It is as simple as that.

My noble friend Lord Radnor also asked about Clause 10(6) which provides that the payment of the reward is not enforceable against a museum or the Secretary of State. That confirms that rewards will be ex gratia, as is the case at present. However, I assure my noble friend that we expect to continue paying rewards whenever a find is acquired by a museum, as at present. If no museum acquires the find, then, as at present, we would expect to return it.

I sympathise with the anxiety of my noble friend Lord Radnor about the need to maintain the confidentiality of findspots. I can assure him that it is

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perfectly possible to keep the location of findspots confidential. All those concerned in dealing with such finds--archaeologists, museum curators and coroners--are increasingly aware of the dangers of releasing such information publicly. For example, often at treasure inquests coroners do not make public the place where treasure has been found. As a matter of course, the British Museum consults local interests as to how best to refer to the findspots of treasure troves. It would certainly be possible to include guidelines to that effect in the code of practice.

With his great knowledge, my noble friend Lord Renfrew set out many of the facts about portable antiquities. The Government see treasure trove reform, important though it is, as just one part of the problem. The great majority of archaeological objects that are found will still fall outside the scope of this Bill. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Templeman, said, a recent survey undertaken by the Council for British Archaeology has estimated that every year in England and Wales as many as 400,000 objects of archaeological interest are discovered.

It is important to distinguish between the public acquisition of finds and the recording of them. Treasure trove provides for national and local museums to have in effect the right of first refusal to certain finds. On the subject of recording, there is widespread agreement that the reporting of finds, so that they can be properly recorded, is of key importance--more important than public acquisition. But the noble Earl's Bill will make only limited adjustments to the classes of objects that are legally required to be reported and there would continue to be no legal requirement to report many other important categories of find.

For this reason we have published a discussion document on portable antiquities which seeks views on possible measures to improve the recording of all archaeological objects, not just those covered by the law of treasure trove or this Bill, in the belief that current arrangements are, except in one or two areas, not working well. The Government accept that there is an urgent need for action to record these objects as they are irreplaceable and of great importance for the nation's heritage. The portable antiquities document looks at the relative merits of voluntary and compulsory systems for the recording of finds. Under a voluntary system, the Government would draw up, in consultation with representatives of museums and archaeological organisations and also of metal detectorists, a voluntary scheme for the recording of archaeological objects found in England and Wales. One of the advantages of such an approach is that it would not require primary legislation and thus, providing general agreement for it can be obtained, it could be introduced with the minimum of delay. The document states that the Government's provisional view is that a voluntary scheme offers the best solution.

Last year the Council for British Archaeology established a standing conference on portable antiquities, bringing together all the leading archaeological and museums bodies in order to reach a consensus on these issues. I understand that my noble friend Lord Renfrew played a leading role in this

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process. The standing conference met again on 1st May and I have been encouraged to learn that it unanimously welcomed the proposals for a voluntary scheme.

I think we should recognise that this new approach means that the archaeological world has moved substantially in favour of a spirit of co-operation with metal detectorists and away from earlier bad relations. I like to think that my department has helped to move that process along. I know how hard officials have worked on the issue. I understand that antiquities dealers also welcome a voluntary approach.

Lastly, I know from discussions that officials from my department have had with metal detectorists that they would also participate in a voluntary scheme; so I believe there is every likelihood that a voluntary scheme will win general support.

This Bill is a classic example of the art of the possible. We see it as a modest measure to extend the protection currently afforded to certain finds of gold and silver coins and objects to a slightly wider range of archaeological finds and to iron out some of the anomalies of this medieval law. The main aim of the Bill, therefore, is to clarify exactly what type of find should be reported. At present, this is very unclear and is the cause of much confusion.

The Government feel that the most encouraging sign for the future lies in the fact that there is so much co-operation generally. Taken together, the Bill and the proposals in our discussion document on portable antiquities represent the best chance yet to secure improvements in the current arrangements for the acquisition and recording of portable antiquities which we recognise are less than ideal.

9.45 p.m.

The Earl of Perth: My Lords, it is very late but I should like, first, to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, for her response. If I may say so, the noble Baroness has done it again: she has summed up the whole debate in under 20 minutes. What a great achievement!

Remembering the time factor, I want, nevertheless, to thank all speakers who have taken part, although I shall not mention any of them by name. I am vastly excited by the general support that has been expressed, especially from the Labour and Liberal Benches. We can go forward, confident that we have a real chance to see the Bill reach the statute book.

I am also pleased that those with worries on the matter like the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol had the opportunity to air them. I say that because two things have happened. First, we have heard many of the answers to those anxieties, and, secondly, they can either be removed by further discussion or taken care of in the code of practice.

Along with all the details of the Bill, we have also covered a great deal of the ground on portable antiquities. It is most important that that should be done on a voluntary basis. It is a case of the two going along with one following the other very quickly, if not simultaneously hand in hand. One speaker used the

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word "pragmatic" in relation to the Bill, and I also heard it said that the Bill represents the art of the possible. I believe that those two descriptions fit it admirably. It is not a great sweeping undertaking or happening, but it will accomplish much of what we want for the history and safeguarding of the treasures of England and Wales.

I shall conclude my final speech by asking the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

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