The Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offnces) Bill passed through the remaining stages in the Commons on Friday and now goes to the House of Lords for their scrutiny, probably in the Autumn. A number of amendments were considered, but only one (put forward to achieve greater precision by Richard Allan whose Private Members Bill this is) was passed. The record of the debate can be found online starting from:

The Bill and Explanatory Notes can be found at:

In relation to the scope of the Bill - and what it might mean for people trading antiquities on auction sites - it should be recognised that the draft legislation has been quite tightly framed in relation to what 'tainted' means, and as a consequence so have the circumstances in which someone would be committing an offence. So, if the Bill becomes law it will not make a criminal offence of all dealing in antiquities, but only those which under its terms can be defined as 'tainted'. 

Under the terms of the Bill  (and paraphrasing a little here) an object is only 'tainted' if:

"after the commencement of [the] Act-
(a) a person removes the object [from a building, structure or monument of historical, architectural or archaeological interest, where the object has at any time formed part of the building, structure or monument] .... or he excavates the object, and
(b) in the circumstances in which the object is removed or excavated an offence is committed by him."

However the law will apply to 'tainted' objects from wherever they originate as:

"It is immaterial whether- 
(a) the removal or excavation was done in the United Kingdom or elsewhere,
(b) the offence is committed under the law of a part of the United Kingdom or under the law of any other country or territory."

As far as domestic cases go, if an object was excavated from land without the owner's permission and then subsequently acquired, disposed of, imported or exported it, then that would constitute an offence under the Bill. It would be likewise for objects removed from a SAM without appropriate consent - but in which case the initial perpetrator could potentially be committing two criminal offences (under both AMAA 1979 and the new Bill), whilst anyone else in the chain of dispersal, who 'deals in' the object knowing or believing that object to be 'tainted', would be committing an offence under the Bill. There will be multifarious other permutations by which objects could become 'tainted', some of which no doubt will begin to emerge once cases come forward if the Bill becomes law. 

Overall the main target of the bill is to provide sufficient incentive for heightened levels of due dilligence for those dealing in antiquities (the maximum penalty for serious offences would be 7 years in prison and/or a fine). However, the Bill is not the only weapon we would want to have in the armoury, and other complementary measures and initiatives recommended by the government's Illicit Trade Advisory Panel could greatly assist. 

As for export controls, others have already pointed out on this list that, foregoing all of the above, it is already an offence to export certain kinds of cultural property from the UK without a licence. DCMS guidance on this issue can be found at the preposterously bonkers web address of:

A word of warning though, the UK system of export control - which itself is part situated within a European framework - is certainly not without its own special complexities!
Alex Hunt
Research and Conservation Officer,
Council for British Archaeology, 
Bowes Morrell House,
111 Walmgate, 
Tel: 01904 671417
Fax: 01904 671384

** 19th & 20th July are National Archaeology 
Days 2003. Find out what's on at: **

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Cumberpatch [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 07 July 2003 10:49
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: metal detectors selling on ebay

John Clark writes: ... just because it's undesirable doesn't make it
illegal.  Until we get some proper portable antiquities legislation in this
country, that is

    Will these items be covered by the Dealing in Cultural Property
(Offences) Bill (assuming that it becomes law)?  I haven't actually seen the
text, so I'm not sure, but I would certainly hope that they would be.  If
so, good grounds upon which to write to one's MP urging them to support the

Chris Cumberpatch