We are consulting on proposals to introduce a total ban on UK ivory sales, which we hope will contribute to eliminating elephant poaching. We will, however, consult on certain narrowly defined and carefully targeted exemptions.
The decline in the elephant population, fuelled by poaching for ivory, shames this generation, so I welcome the Secretary of State’s swift and robust action to address the issue. How quickly will the recommendations be implemented so that we can ensure we are doing everything possible to protect this magnificent species?
The consultation closes on 29 December. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting how vital it is to ensure that as many people as possible contribute to the consultation so that we can move towards legislation as quickly as possible thereafter.
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair request. Of course I will do that.
I thank my hon. Friend, as I know that she has been campaigning with young people across Wealden to ensure that there is heightened awareness of the direct link between the ivory trade and illegal poaching. We are hosting the illegal wildlife trade conference next year, and we will ensure that we work with countries, particularly in east and south-east Asia, to close down this evil trade.
I met some Angolan MPs last week who were unaware of a recent report stating that Angola’s elephant population has fallen from 200,000 to 3,400. Is not it the case that the world simply is not doing enough to protect the African elephant, as well as other animals and environmental species? We have to do more to save the planet, and the African elephant is a start.
I completely agree. We lose 20,000 of these magnificent creatures every year. It is simply not good enough for the world to wash its hands and say that this is a responsibility of only developing nations. We have to act together globally to ensure that the threat to this magnificent animal is properly met.
As my right hon. Friend examines the answers to the welcome consultation, will he disregard the scare stories being put about by certain parts of the antiques industry that say that old and much-valued artefacts will be destroyed under his proposals? That is not the intention. The intention is much more important—it is to help an iconic species that is on the verge of the risk of extinction.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. His campaigning has been inspirational, and he is right to call out the one or two isolated voices who have attempted to generate scare stories about our consultation. Significant organisations across the cultural, antiques and art market sector have welcomed the nature of the consultation, and I am grateful for their constructive approach.
Will the Secretary of State take it as a representation from me that the 1947 cut-off date is too late, and that he should also look carefully at banning the sale of antique ivory? Such a cut-off date could lead to the import of ivory that is purported to be antique, but is actually new.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. There is no reference to a 1947 date in the consultation, as had been mooted at one stage. Our view—I think it is also his—is that it is much easier to have a total ban for enforcement purposes, because there are unscrupulous individuals who will attempt to claim that artefacts are antiques when, in fact, they are nothing of the kind.