House of Lords debate on the Treasure Act (1996)

Published: 11 years ago Author:

House of Lords logo from WikimediaThis morning in the House of Lords, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn tabled the question:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will review the definition of "treasure" in the Treasure Act 1996 in the light of the sale at auction of the Roman parade helmet recently found in Cumbria for £2 million.

This debate has several pertinent points that were raised during the discussion and the following exchange refers to the future of the Scheme:

Lord Allan of Hallam: My Lords, my noble friend will be aware of the valuable work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme in recording important archaeological information about finds under the Treasure Act, such as with this helmet. Can she give the House any assurances about the future funding and management of the Portable Antiquities Scheme?

Baroness Rawlings: The Portable Antiquities Scheme is very important and I thank the noble Lord for that question. I appreciate that there is concern over the future of the scheme in the light of the announcement that the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, which currently provides most of the scheme's funding, will be wound up by April 2012. I am pleased to confirm that the scheme will continue. Discussions are taking place about the best way for it to be managed and funded.

The Minister (Baroness Rawlings) made a commitment to introduce the amendments to the Treasure Act in the Coroners and Justice Act in answer to Lord Howarth (apart from the amendment to introduce a coroner for Treasure, which they are still considering). She said: "Measures included in the Coroners and Justice Act to improve the treasure system will be implemented." The Government's previous position was that they were considering these amendments, so this is new.

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, can the Minister offer any comfort to archaeologists, faced as they are with cuts to funding for museums, universities, English Heritage and local authority archaeological departments and, indeed, the collapse of archaeological businesses that are dependent for their funding on developers? Do the Government have any policies to support archaeology?

Baroness Rawlings: The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, is very much involved with this subject and I understand his concern about the cuts, which will be across the board and which we all know about. Measures included in the Coroners and Justice Act to improve the treasure system will be implemented. Ministers are still considering the feasibility of a coroner for treasure. DCMS and the Ministry of Justice are working together to assess the extent to which measures on treasure may be implemented within current financial constraints.

The most significant amendments are (a) widening the obligation to report Treasure to anyone who comes into possession of it and (b) giving the Secretary of State the power to designate officers to whom Treasure is reported.

You can read the full transcript at

Contact: Daniel Pett 0207 323 8618


There are 2 comments on this story.

  • John Stokes wrote @ 10:30:35 on the 18th November 2010.

    As a metal detectorist who has only ever found one item which needed to go through the process, I do feel that farmers/landowners need to be made more aware of what constitutes Treasure under the provisions of the 1996 Act, in order that they not be paniced when a person who is on their land , with proper permission, finds an item which then by definition is required to go through the process.

    With regard to the item found by myself, when I informed the landowner of what was required, he instantly became concerned that his field would be shut down, due to the need for archeologists to excavate the land, thereby preventing him from carrying on his business of farming the land. It took several telephone calls, from myself, and the FLO to convince him that, under circumstances such as this particular event, his land was safe.

  • John Howland wrote @ 16:14:39 on the 28th December 2010.

    The proposed amendments mean coin collectors with current legal title to the coins in their collections, could see them redefined as "treasure", and will be forced to prove their innocence when accused of contravening the Treasure Act. That such a thing is even considered by the noble Lords, is appalling and probably in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights, S6:2.

    Coin collectors will have little protection from malicious accusations by politically motivated individuals and/or organisations in the heritage industry with an axe to grind, and who by virtue of these amendments, are slowly advancing their campaign to nationalize all antiquities.

    I am boycotting any voluntary reporting connected with the PAS and will only comply with what the law demands, and will continue to do so until these draconian measures are dropped and fairness prevails.

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