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Lord Howell: My Lords, is it not the case that all of these rules and regulations are effected by Ministers, not bureaucrats? Ministers take these decisions. Why have the British Government agreed to this ludicrous proposal?
Lord Lucas: My Lords, this is a Commission decision and has nothing to do with the British Government. We have argued strongly against it, but under European Union rules we have no option but to go along with it.
Lord Renton: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Treasure Bill, have consented to place their prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
First, I want once again to thank Sir Anthony Grant for his role in taking this Bill so skilfully through the other place. Without him, we should not be discussing the Bill here today. To most of the other supporters of the Bill, I gave thanks in Committee. There are two additions which I should like to make. One is that I give thanks for the continuous support of the British Museum and its officials, and, secondly, I thank the officials of the Department of National Heritage. They have all been of great assistance from early on in the Bill's introduction.
I recall that when I first met the Secretary of State for National Heritage, which was soon after she had assumed office, I said, "We want to get this Treasure Bill through, can we hope that you will support us?". The answer was that she was all for it and she has done her part.
It is now over 100 years since we first tried in this House, and perhaps in the other place, to reform treasure law. We are now close to success. No longer will the fate of treasure depend on whether, say, 1,000 years ago or more it was buried for the purpose of later retrieval, or buried as a votive offering, or just lost. Even more important is that under the Bill the finder must report his find to the authorities or suffer a penalty. Much of history will now be recorded, so that it can be built up piece by piece by the historians and archaeologists, rather like fitting together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
But the Bill on its own is not the complete answer to building the jigsaw puzzle. Recently, as many noble Lords will know, a document on portable antiquities was published. The consultation process on that document is now nearly at an end. Indeed, it closes on Friday. I understand that the Standing Conference on Portable Antiquities suggests that there should be a pilot scheme of voluntary reporting in several parts of the country for two years. I only hope that that will happen, because that is at least as significant for our history as is the Treasure Bill and the reporting of finds.
In Committee, I recall that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, whom I again have to thank for all her help from the very start of this venture, said that Ministers supported the Bill. I hope that we will have confirmation of that this afternoon.
I come now to the metal detectorists. They, in a sense, come into their own at this moment, because--I am now talking about portable antiquities--until now when they have made finds they are shown on their mantelpieces or they have special cases built to show them off and their skills and their luck. We are now asking them to
That will cost a little money, but that is for two years only, and after that my hope is that the people concerned will find it so worth while that they will go forward for longer. There is no question but that while it may cost a little money, its historical value will be incalculable. Many noble Lords who are involved in the whole subject of treasure will watch progress and, if necessary--I was going to say stick pins into Ministers to get it further on.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, first, I must thank the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for his kind remarks. I should like to take this opportunity to pay a warm tribute to him for his tireless efforts, without which we would not have a Bill today. I should also like to thank those members of the opposition parties who have supported the Bill all along. It is a rare and good occasion.
I must say a word about the Church of England. Noble Lords will recall that in the Second Reading debate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol signalled that the Church of England had a number of concerns as to how the Bill might affect the Church's own legal systems of control over its portable antiquities, notably the faculty jurisdiction and the Care of Cathedrals Measure. I can inform the House that we have had further discussions with the General Synod and have agreed that, in the event of the Bill receiving Royal Assent, we shall bring forward an order under Clause 2(2) of the Bill. Although the precise drafting of the order will be the subject of further discussion, we anticipate that it will exempt, first, objects found in association with human burials on consecrated ground; and, secondly, objects (except for treasure trove) covered by the Church of England's own legal system of controls. It is intended that all the items will be dealt with under the ecclesiastical law in a manner which is analogous to that proposed under the Bill. It is important to note that we have agreed to do that solely on the basis that the Church of England is in a unique position in having its own legal regime applying to movable articles that belong to it, and the purpose of the order is essentially to provide a clarification of the law in so far as it applies to such objects.
The successful passage of this Bill is indeed an historic occasion, representing as it will the first piece of legislation on portable antiquities ever to have been introduced in England and Wales. It is, we believe, a
I should just like to finish by noting that the department's discussion document on portable antiquities has received a wide welcome. Byron said of his mother-in-law that she had lost the art of conversation, but not, alas, the power of speech. Your Lordships may be thinking the same of me now.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I compliment the noble Earl, Lord Perth, on his successful efforts in piloting this measure through your Lordships' House. I wonder whether I might draw the attention of the usual channels to a significant English event that will be taking place this evening, and point out that initial perusal of today's Order Paper suggested that business might be complete before the start of that event. But it seems that now business will not be complete. It may be useful for the usual channels to consider adjourning the House during pleasure so that all Members of your Lordships' House and the staff of your Lordships' House would be in a position to watch the England match tonight.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 10th June be approved [23rd Report from the Joint Committee].
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, on 17th July 1995, Tunisia became the first Mediterranean country to sign a new Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement with the European Union as part of the EU's overall aim to develop relations with the region.
The agreement aims to intensify political and economic links between the European Union and Tunisia. That is to be achieved in a number of ways: through regular political contacts, including annual ministerial meetings; through increased reciprocal trade in agricultural products; through the progressive establishment of a free trade area in accordance with WTO rules; and through expanded economic, cultural and social ties.
The gradual opening of the Tunisian market will make Tunisia an even more attractive place for inward investment. It will provide new opportunities for European Union business. British companies can and, I hope, will play a full part in that process. But it will also make a substantial and practical contribution to the greater economic prosperity of Tunisia. That will lead in time to greater political stability and security, not only in Tunisia but in the rest of the Mediterranean region as a whole. That is in everyone's interest.
The Tunisian agreement is the first step towards a full Euro-Med partnership. I ask the House to support that important objective by giving its approval to the principles behind the agreement. I commend the order to the House. I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 10th June be approved [23rd report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Chalker of Wallasey).
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