HL Deb 20 March 1997 vol 579 cc1154-5

7.48 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood) rose to move, That the draft code laid before the House on 13th March be approved [16th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I would also like to speak to the Treasure Act 1996 (Northern Ireland) Draft Code of Practice. These codes mark the final stage in the procedure needed before the Treasure Act can be implemented. At this point I would like to pay tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who has fought so long and hard to reform the archaic law of treasure trove. I should like to explain that when the Treasure Bill was being debated last year we gave a commitment that the Act would not come into force until these codes of practice had been approved by both Houses.

The codes have three main aims. They describe the requirements of the Act; they provide guidance to finders of treasure; and they set out the guidelines on the payment of rewards. A separate code has been prepared for Northern Ireland to take into account the different legislative regime that exists in the Province. The codes have been revised and improved after extensive public consultation. They were approved by another place on Tuesday after debate and I commend them to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft code laid before the House on 13th March be approved [16th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Inglewood.)

Lord Renton

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has asked me to apologise to your Lordships for his absence. He was greatly looking forward to being here and to expressing his thanks to those who have worked so hard to complete both codes of practice. He referred particularly to my noble friend Lord Inglewood and to Dr. Roger Bland of the British Museum. I think that we should all pay tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who has worked for seven years to get such provisions on to the statute book and to have the code of practice approved. This result is a great and patient achievement on his part.

The noble Earl asked me to make two other points. The first is that the Act and the code of practice combined will be of great value in bringing about a better understanding of our history through archaeology. Secondly, the noble Earl wished to point out that by regularly reporting their finds, metal detectorists have a great contribution to make. It is a contribution to our heritage that they are proud to make. We wish them well in doing so and we have good reason to believe that they will be conscientious.

This is a great moment in the fulfilment of a change in the law which has lasted for too many centuries. We can rejoice that the codes of practice are coming into force and we can be glad that in due course the whole of the Act will be implemented.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Renton succinctly encapsulated the raison d'être for what we are proposing in the combination of the Bill and the codes. I commend the draft code to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.