Clause 1 - Offence of dealing in tainted cultural objects

Part of Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 14th May 2003.

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Photo of Robert Key Robert Key Conservative, Salisbury 2:00 pm, 14th May 2003

I welcome the clause. I support it for two reasons. First it represents unfinished business. I was a founding Minister at the Department of National Heritage in 1992, so it certainly represents unfinished business for me. At the time, we were concerned about several issues. We were preoccupied with the wider art market, London being such an important international centre, and with a number of archaeological matters, notably metal detection. This will help to clarify the situation. Perhaps the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan), whom I congratulate on his Bill, will touch on that.

My second reason for supporting the clause so warmly is that I can hardly do otherwise as Member of Parliament for Salisbury, with Stonehenge, the world heritage site, and Old Sarum in my constituency. One never knows when something else is going to turn up, as in the classic case of the Amesbury archer, when a housing development revealed a remarkable bit of buried treasure.

I have consulted Andrew Lawson of Wessex Archaeology, Peter Saunders, curator of Salisbury museum, Roy Canham, the county archaeologist for Wiltshire and Paul Robinson, the curator of Devizes museum, the home of Wiltshire archaeology and natural history society, all of whom concur with the Bill. I intend to say as little as possible because it is so important for this legislation to reach the statute book. I warmly commend the Bill. We are all grateful to the Minister for expediting this important legislation.