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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, does the Minister accept that most Members of the House are probably extremely glad to hear that, at least on this issue and despite having issued the booklet, the Government are leaving something totally to local authorities?
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, have the Government commissioned the research that was called for by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents into the distracting effect of signs, especially at road junctions, given that in 2001 alone, there were 3,247 fatalities not on the motorway and that only about 6 per cent of road deaths occur on motorways, where distractions are regulated to be at a minimum?
Lord Jopling: My Lords, does the Minister agree that legislation to control fly-posting would in general be uncontentious. Although noting that he says that the Government are short of time, would he consider that to be a suitable subject for a government handout Bill in another place for those Members who have been lucky in the draw for Private Members' Bills?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I thought that Members of the other place balloted for Bills, introduced 10-Minute Bills and were not spoon-fed by the Government. I have seen the words "handout Bill" on documents for suitable legislation that would be ideal for Back-Benchers. I do not know about that.
London boroughs have more enforcement powers than other local authorities. I do not know; it is not the Government's job to know how local authorities operate and whether they prosecute and take action. There is a case for a purge; nevertheless, there is a case for legislative strengthening of what we do. However, while the House is occupied with other very important matters, such as the subject we debated yesterday, we do not have room for fly-posting.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, surely the reason that people fly-post is that others want to read the information on their posters; otherwise, nobody would do it. Why do we not provide spaces where information can be posted legally, so that people can continue to benefit from fly-posting without the clutter?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, there is plenty of opportunity. Most streets are littered with billboards and advertising blocksyou go commercial and buy the space. Why should you steal someone's space or create danger by defacing lampposts, traffic signs and other street furniture at no cost, causing an environmental nuisance, creating a real problem and probably damaging property, leaving ratepayers to paint and clean such places even faster, and putting a burden on the taxpayer, when you can perfectly well buy advertising space?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): My Lords, at present, the Government have no powers to protect historic battlefields. We have commissioned a review designed to bring together listing, scheduling of ancient monuments and other regimes, such as the register of historic battlefields, into a unified system. The protection status for those historic sites will form part of the review. Public consultation on the proposals runs until 31st October, and we shall then publish our responses in a White Paper.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging and very positive reply. I am pleased that the consultation period is nearly over. I accept that metal detecting is generally a harmless and pleasurable activity that can sometimes be of great assistance to historians. However, does the Minister appreciate that the archaeological evidence of a battlefield generally consists of the artefacts lost during the conflict, and that if they are picked up in an uncontrolled way, such as happened, for example, at the metal detectorists' rally on Marston Moor battlefield last weekend, the archaeological integrity of those battlefields will be lost for ever? Can I impress on the Minister the importance of ensuring that battlefield sites are listed in the same way as other archaeological sites, and are not just treated as parts of historic landscape?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree entirely that metal detecting, unless done in accordance with proper standards and a proper code of practice, can be very damaging. We knew about the rally at Marston Moor. Liaison officers from the Portable Antiquities Scheme attended and assembled a mile and a half from the centre of the battlefield. I do not know whether that shows ignorance or good judgment. In the end, we recorded all the important objects found. Only nine objects related to the battle itself.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that, although liaison officers from the Portable Antiquities Scheme were at the Marston Moor rally, they are not often invited to metal detectorists' rallies, which is a problem? Perhaps they could strengthen their hand if they looked further at battle sites. Furthermore, does the Minister not agree that, as the
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I agree with all that the noble Lord says. It is why we have a review that includes historic battlefield sites as part of the general subject of listing and scheduling. At present, it is entirely unsatisfactory that we can do nothing about battlefields, metal detectorists or anybody else, if they operate with the permission of the landowner and avoid scheduled sites. I hope that the noble Lord's parliamentary group will see fit to make appropriate representations to our consultation. It would be very welcome.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the late Lord Perth's Treasure Bill, which eventually became a government Bill, have no bearing? What is found today may be just a question of yesteryear, but it could be the treasure of future generations.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it does have a bearing. It is very helpful that we have the Treasure Act 1996. The definitions of what the Act covers are very difficult to understand. Coinsthat is to say, two or moremust be from the same find and at least 300 years old. However, if the coins are less than 10 per cent gold or silver, there must be at least 10 of them. It is even more complicated for objects other than coins. We value the Treasure Act. In so far as it is helpful in our review, it will be taken into account.
Lord Luke: My Lords, we welcome the Government's initiative in bringing together these matters, and the forthcoming publication of a White Paper. On the other hand, does the Minister not accept that valuable work has been done by metal detector clubs, particularly in helping to delineate the boundaries of some sites, especially, in many cases, battlefields where documentation is extremely sparse? Does he not think that a sensible compromise could, and should, be reached that would benefit archaeology and provide scope for metal detecting enthusiasts to enjoy their activity?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Luke, will agree that I was careful not to condemn all metal detecting. Clearly, metal detecting carried out properly under an acceptable code of standards can contribute to knowledgeit can find things that nobody else can find. It is important that we have a proper definition of scheduled or listed sites, which should be the same for all purposes. It is important that, when we have done that, metal detectorists should work in an acceptable and agreed way. That is not to condemn all metal detecting.
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