Lords reject EC plan for treasure searches

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

EUROPEAN Commission proposals to give police the power to search premises for national treasures brought into Britain illegally were criticised today by a House of Lords select committee.

Members of the European Communities committee said the plan could give 'almost unprecedented' powers of entry and search to places such as museums, auction houses and stately homes to enforce the laws of another EC state.

'Powers of entry and search are normally granted under UK law only where there is a reasonable suspicion that an offence under UK law has been committed,' the report said.

EC countries are concerned that it will become simpler to smuggle cultural objects from one member state to another after this year's elimination of border controls on the movement of goods.

The commission is proposing a directive to protect national treasures which would allow states to recover objects proved to have been removed in breach of export rules, with compensation for innocent purchasers.

The Lords report suggests entry and search powers should be dependent on a court order.