Wednesday, 2 July 2014

UK Perceived Government Inaction on Antiquities Trade

keep calm and do nothing
The UK is one of the hubs of the global antiquities market, both its legitimate but questionable side as well as the trade in illicit items looted at home and abroad. In response to concerns raised, the British government once said "we will do something about this". They commissioned a report and then promised to take action. The report (MINISTERIAL ADVISORY PANEL ON ILLICIT TRADE Chairman: Professor Norman Palmer) was published in 2000 and is the most up to date such document available to public policy makers. The antiquities market has changed a great deal since then. The promise made that concerns would be addressed was never kept. 
Tony Blair government (only in 2002 did the UK ratify the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. twenty years late)
Gordon Brown (no action)
David Cameron (?)
In that time many scandalous transactions have taken place on the London "art" market, some of the scandal involves the UK government itself (HMS Sussex, the Symes collection) while beneath the surface looters and smugglers continue to shunt vanloads of illicit artefacts through the UK. A pathetic "Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003" was passed and has only been used once to prosecute a young lady over something she said had been found in her garden,* it is a dead-letter law of no use to man nor beast. There is still no such law in Scotland. Metal detectorists rampage the countryside at will, removing millions of unrecorded archaeological items to ephemeral personal collections, most of which material never surfaces again.

There are two reports with recommendations on "Cultural Property: Return and Illicit Trade"

Culture, Media and Sport Committee special report 2000  
Culture, Media and Sport Committee special report 2003
A decade on, how many of those recommendations have been actioned? What has been happening since?

* Do please note that the PAS press release boasting about this 'success' has disappeared.

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