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Illegal Wildlife Trade

Volume 634: debated on Tuesday 9 January 2018

Tackling the illegal wildlife trade is a massive priority for this Government. To that end, we will host a high-level conference in London this October to drive further progress. I can assure the House that the Government raise the issue of illegal wildlife trade consistently at all levels with our friends and partners around the world.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his answer. Can he say a little bit more about what actions he has taken globally to ensure that the appalling ivory trade is reduced, and whether he thinks that national bans play an important part in that?

I am grateful for that question, because the UK Government have been a leader for many years now in calling for an end to the illegal trade in ivory, which not only does so much damage to the elephant population but encourages criminality of all kinds across the African continent. I am proud to say that this Government are currently consulting, as my hon. Friend will know, on an all-out ivory ban. The results of that consultation will be announced shortly, and I hope to have good news for the House.

I commend my right hon. Friend for all his work in this area, but may I draw his attention to a shocking investigation in the Mail on Sunday, which highlighted the continuing illegal trade in tigers in Laos? Does he agree that those findings deserve urgent attention to ensure that this magnificent species can continue to enjoy a safe future?

I indeed commend the excellent journalism of that publication—at least in this respect—in highlighting what is taking place in respect of tiger farming in Laos, which is an abominable trade that all right-thinking people across the House would condemn. The UK Government not only call on the Government of Laos to stop this appalling trade, but stand ready to give any support and help that we can to the Laotians.

You, Mr Speaker, may be as interested as I am in the oceanic environment. I want to talk about whales, because 30,000 have been killed since the introduction of the international whaling ban, and nations such as Japan, Norway and Denmark take a very controversial view on participating in whaling. What can the Secretary of State’s Department do to make whaling history?

I congratulate my hon. Friend, an eponymous Member, on that important question on what we are doing to protect whales—although they are, of course, mammals rather than fish, as he knows. The UK has been in the lead over many decades in calling for an end to illegal whaling. We condone whaling only when it is clearly and demonstrably necessary for subsistence.

Reports from the UN and others have shown links between not just the illegal wildlife trade but the illegal timber trade and the financing of terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Is that on the Minister’s radar, and what will he be doing to ensure that the links between terrorism and those trades are broken?

The hon. Lady asks an excellent question, because, of course, the illegal wildlife trade is intimately connected not just with the illegal timber trade, but with drug running, gun trafficking and the trafficking in human beings, so if we tackle the illegal wildlife trade, we drive down those phenomena as well.

The illegal trade in ivory is estimated to be worth about $20 billion per annum, and yet the Government have so cut the Border Force that they are now looking at recruiting volunteers to fill the gap. What confidence can the House have that this illegal trade will be tackled if the Government are not prepared to put the resources into the Border Force?

I have every confidence in our Border Force and its ability to police the traffic of illegal items such as ivory. It should be evident, I hope, to everybody coming from another country with such an illegal item in their possession that they face the risk not only of prosecution, but of jail.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, rhino poaching in South Africa increased by 7,700% between 2007 and 2013. People in Broomhouse want to know what support the Secretary of State has offered his South African counterpart to help global campaigning to end this trade once and for all.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the Minister for Africa has raised that very matter with the South African Government only recently.