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The paper first reported the concerns of the British Art Market Federation about clauses in the proposed Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Bill on the front page of Gazette No 1590 in May. The Bill was given new priority after concerns over the looting of artefacts in Iraq.

Whilst the trade and associations supported the anti-looting aims of the legislation, which had originally been tabled as a Private Member’s Bill, the fear was that poorly worded clauses might unwittingly blight legitimate trade.

Amendments proposed by East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton at the committee stage were rebuffed, but after consulting legal counsel, BAMF persuaded then Arts Minister Tessa Blackstone and the Bill’s proposer, Sheffield Hallam MP Richard Allan, that amendments were needed.

The first amendment concerned the first clause in the Bill which, as it stood, seemed to state that an offence would be committed if a person simply thought that the object they were dealing in was tainted even if it was not. New wording under the amendment removes any ambiguity and states clearly that the object dealt in must be tainted.

The second amendment concerned how an object could become tainted under the law. The Bill includes a clause that states that an object would become tainted if “in the circumstances in which the object is removed or excavated an offence is committed” by the person removing it. The fear here was that the clause was loosely worded enough to risk tainting objects through the committal of a separate and unrelated offence – such as a breach in health and safety regulations – during the legitimate removal of an object. The new wording again removes any ambiguity, stating that “the removal or excavation constitutes an offence”.


Mr Allan, himself, was due to put forward the amendments in Parliament as the Gazette went to press at the end of last week, and BAMF chairman Anthony Browne was confident that they would be adopted. He was pleased and grateful that the Minister and the committee considering the Bill, as well as its proposer, Mr Allan, had kept an open mind about the amendments and had proved sympathetic and understanding to the concerns of the trade.