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Illegal Wildlife Trade

Volume 627: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2017

I wish to begin by congratulating Iraq’s security forces on liberating Mosul from the pitiless grasp of Daesh. The flag of Iraq flies once more in the country’s second city and I pay tribute to the pilots of the RAF who played a vital role in supporting this operation, delivering more airstrikes than anyone else apart from the United States. The House can take pride in what they have done.

On the illegal wildlife trade, we can be pleased with the agreement that the Prime Minister helped to secure at the G20 summit in Hamburg. It is about cracking down not only on the trade in charismatic megafauna, but on those who engage in gunrunning, people trafficking and much other human misery, as well as illegal wildlife trafficking. We can be proud of what we are doing.

I applaud the efforts the Government are making in this area. I am also pleased that the UK will host the illegal wildlife trade conference in 2018. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm how much money the Department has committed to tackling the illegal wildlife trade and how effectively the money is being spent?

I can confirm that we are increasing our contribution to £26 million—another £13 million to tackle the illegal wildlife trade. I have myself seen what UK-financed projects are doing in Kenya to crack down on this vile trade.

I say to the Foreign Secretary that we simply have to give this subject a much higher priority than we do—not only our Government, but across the world. Every week or month we see programmes on our televisions—55 African elephants are poached every day. He has to make this a priority. It is not good enough for us to look at our television screens and feel sorry about it—we have to have a far greater commitment to do something about it.

I completely share the hon. Gentleman’s zeal and passion. The UK has in fact been in the lead on this for several years now, and we will continue to push the agenda, not just at the G20, as the Prime Minister did, but at the IWT summit that we will host in October 2018 in London.

Will my right hon. Friend talk a little about his strategy on this issue, because the link between the illegal wildlife trade, smuggling, people trafficking, and lawlessness and violence in many countries is extremely real? Addressing the illegal wildlife trade may seem esoteric, but it is not: it is about the stability of many nations that are firm partners of the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend is right: this is far from esoteric. It not only touches the hearts of millions of people in our country—as the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) said—but helps to cause increased human misery. The same people are involved in trade in drugs, arms and people, worth up to £13 billion a year, and we are playing a major part in frustrating that trade.

There is increasing evidence that the UK’s legal ivory market has been used as cover for illegal trade. What discussions will the Foreign Secretary have with colleagues about an all-out ban on the ivory trade, as previously committed to?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have a commitment to an all-out ban on the sale of ivory in this country, and that is what we intend to pursue.