Treasure Act Review – Progress update

As recently announced by Lord Parkinson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for Arts), we would like to make you aware that a new classification of treasure will soon be added to Treasure Act (1996).

It will extend the current definition of treasure to include items that are over 200 years old and ‘significant’. This new significance classification will allow important items that don’t meet the existing criteria to be claimed by the Crown under existing treasure law.

The aim of the Treasure Act (1996) is to preserve important finds for public access, yet over the years it has become apparent that a number of significant finds have not met the current definition of treasure. The most obvious examples include the Ryedale Hoard and the Crosby Garrett Roman helmet, although lots more examples exist. The new classification intends to ensure these important items are preserved for the nation in public ownership.

The new classification and the updated Code of Practice (the detailed document intended to provide guidance for all those concerned with treasure) will require parliamentary approval before they become law. This will be done by introducing a designation order. This is not a new law but a change to the existing Treasure Act and will require agreement by both Houses of Parliament. We expect this to happen soon.

The NCMD have been consulted during the process of developing the new significance definition. We’d hoped you, our members, could have had a greater input to the process too but sadly our offers to facilitate this were not taken up.

However, we hope our input to the early stages of the process, and feedback on the final documentation will result in a classification that walks the fine balance between being broad enough to ensure important finds are protected for the nation but without it being so loose that hundreds more finds burden the already over stretched treasure system. To this end we have been repeatedly assured that the bar will be set high for any item to be considered significant.

This update is to let you know we are working hard to ensure the interests of the detecting community are being considered in the proposed changes. A briefing document is being prepared so you will understand what the changes will mean for you. We will make it available as soon as Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) publish the new classification.

We know you will have questions. Sadly we can’t tell you any more information at this stage as we are bound by a confidentiality agreement , plus the fine detail of the proposed significant treasure definition has not yet been finalised.

As soon as we have an update we will let you know.