In a comment to a previous post we hear from Mo who has been in touch with Ed Vaisey and the reply she got:
"As you may know, the existing definition of Treasure was drawn up after consultation and approved by Parliament during the passage of the Treasure Act 1996 (the Act) and the Treasure (Designation) Order 2002, which amended the Act. The Government would only seek to introduce further amendments if there was agreement of the need for this amongst those with the relevant expertise, following a public consultation. Any amending legislation would need to be approved by Parliament. At the time of the previous consultation, extending the definition of treasure to cover all items of archaeological significance was considered but not recommended as it would have been unmanageable with the staffing levels at relevant national and local museums at the time. However, in the next year or so, we will be revising The Treasure Act Code of Practice and looking at the definition of Treasure contained in the Act. We will be conducting a public consultation on this, which will be posted on the DCMS website. You are welcome to feed in your comments into the review when this takes place".Well, the reply is basically "buzz off and don't tell me your opinion till you are asked". The assurances are typical meaningless political mumbo-jumbo. The Code of Practice is actually not worth the paper its printed on to judge from the way it is ignored by both sides when things are not promptly reported and simply hoiked out of the ground and presented to somebody (usually the PAS FLO which is not what the Act says should happen) in a box. So it seems to me amending the Code with have no real effect on what happens out there in the fields.
And they "will look at" the definition of Treasure and have a public consultation. Well, we've seen that before, haven't we? A few archaeological bodies will tactfully suggest that "if it would not be too much trouble" that "maybe it would be nice" to please consider just a few minor alterations, but really not enough to upset those jolly nice responsible metal detectorists out there engaged in their heritage heroism... The PAS itself will be in a cleft stick, should it raise a voice in support of changes, it will be faced (as it frequently is in such situations) by a walk-out of "responsible detectorists' who ill desist from responsibly reporting their finds. And every metal detectorist in the country will be getting their friends and relations to bombard the public consultation with objections to any change in the "already stringent" laws. The antiquities dealers trade organizations will be lobbying the government, reminding them of the contribution of the antiquities trade to the job market and trade balance - and also that the European Union was set up to foster free trade of commodities. The ACCG will send a letter or two, it may encourage its members to also send objections to the public consultation. Yes, we've seen it all before. Faced with the shouting opposition, British politicians will shrink from the task of doing anything except adding maybe a few half-hearted words to the existing act (like "and shiny Roman cavalry helmets" maybe?). The looting (in all but name) of Britain's archaeological record will go on.
Pessimist that I am, I think nothing much will change, unless "we the people" do something than merely set back and let the shouting collectors and the dealers get their way. What support would there be for a real grassroots campaign to get something moving? Now, actually that should be led, shouldn't it, by that Portable Antiquities lot but having watched them over the past decade or more I am convinced there's no point in waiting for them to take the initiative. The CBA? Unlikely. What this needs is a real political campaign, getting the newspapers not just "mentioning" it, but writing about it. Get it on the TV, in the Daily Mail, get people wearing "Legislate to Protect History" tee shirts, street canvassing, publicity stunts, that sort of thing.
Photo: the Crosby Garrett "LOST SOMETHING?/ Legislate to Protect History" teeshirt available in many sizes and colours, available from ...? (the legend 'Legislate to Protect Archaeology' and a link to the website is on the back).