I will, in a moment, call—hopefully in an atmosphere of calm and excited expectation of ministerial oratory—the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, upon whose every word I feel sure all Members present are hanging. They are in a state of some animation, but I know that they will wish to hear about the Ivory Bill and the reason it should be given a Second Reading as they listen to the Secretary of State.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I well understand why so many Members were in the House to hear the application for a debate under Standing Order No. 24 made by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy). I am sure that I speak for Members in all parts of the House in thanking her for giving us all an opportunity to discuss that important and urgent matter.
Nature, as we know, has the capacity to awe and to inspire, and there are few more awe-inspiring examples of nature than the African elephant. It is a remarkable, keystone species: an icon which, for many of us, sums up nature at its most impressive, transformational and powerful. It is an important species not just because of what it symbolises, and not just because of the economic impact of tourism on Africa, but because it is indeed a keystone species on which the health, the biodiversity and the resilience of Africa’s economy depends.
My right hon. Friend is making a fantastic start to his speech. It is estimated that some 20,000 African elephants are being poached every year, the equivalent of about 55 a day. Does that not mean that it is important for us to pass the Bill as soon as possible?
My hon. Friend has anticipated exactly the point that I wanted to make. It is critical that, in appreciating the importance of the African elephant, we also appreciate the scale of the threat that the species now faces. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: given that 20,000 African elephants are being slaughtered every year in a drive by poachers to secure their tusks for criminal gain, we face a remarkable onslaught against the species—an onslaught that is devastating communities and upending economies, and also poses an existential risk to the African elephant. Unless action is taken to interdict the poachers and reduce the demand for ivory, it is possible that, on our watch—on the watch of our generation—the African elephant will meet extinction. I think that, as was well said by my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Hague of Richmond, it would be impossible for any of us to face our children and grandchildren and say that we had the opportunity to take steps, legislative and otherwise, to safeguard this magnificent animal, and failed to act.
The Bill gives us in the United Kingdom an opportunity to play our part and to show leadership. We have been invited to show that leadership by the countries at the sharp end. More than 30 African nations have asked us, and others, to do what we can to stop the poaching, to end the trade in ivory, and to restore balance and health to their nations by supporting their efforts to ensure that the African elephant can survive in the future.
I should be delighted to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare).
I am grateful to the Secretary of State, whose Bill has my support. Will there be an opportunity, possibly in Committee, to consider including in its scope the Indian elephant, the rhinoceros and the narwhal whale?
I thank my hon. Friend for his support. There will be an opportunity in Committee to consider whether the scope of the Bill is absolutely as it should be. A number of Members have previously indicated their interest in extending its scope to other forms of ivory, such as narwhal horns, and there will indeed be an opportunity to debate precisely that matter in Committee.
I am also happy to give way to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin).
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for giving way, but I was going to ask him the same question and he has given exactly the answer I hoped he would give.
It is always a pleasure to be on the same page as my right hon. Friend. I am also happy to give way to the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh).
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I certainly welcome the introduction of this Bill, but would he care to comment on the actions of his friend President Trump, whose Administration in March lifted the US’s ban on importing body parts of elephants shot by trophy-hunters? Will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity now to condemn without reservation the reversal of that Obama-era regulation?
I absolutely will, because it is incumbent on all of us across the globe to take action. The specific request from African nations could not be clearer, so it is incumbent on us in the United Kingdom, countries in the far east—which often constitute the biggest market for ivory—and also countries like the United States, which has a distinguished global leadership role, to take action; it is incumbent on all of us to play our part as well.
I think there is an appreciation across the House of the importance of the elephant as a species. I mentioned earlier that it is a keystone species: if it were not for the elephant we would not have the means by which we maintain balance in the savannahs and grasslands of Africa. That is in the nature of the role the elephant plays, by the way in which it feeds and—without wanting to go into too much detail in the House—the way in which it excretes. It is important that we make sure that the elephant survives, because without it savannah and grassland would not survive, and without it we would not have species like zebra or like antelope, and without them we would not have the magnificent predators—the charismatic megafauna, the lions and others which feed on those creatures. So by removing the elephant we would not just see one of the most iconic, beautiful and awe-inspiring species with which we share this planet disappear; we would also unloose upon Africa a cascade effect of environmental degradation and damage that I think none of us could possibly countenance.
My right hon. Friend is making a very important point about the pyramid of biodiversity that is protected when one protects the megafauna at the top, but does he agree that conservation of the elephant is essentially a human interface that we have to get right, and that organisations such as the Northern Rangelands Trust in Kenya have been extraordinarily successful in making sure that local people see the value of wildlife? We can assist in that through our role as an international mediator, although we are not a range state.
My right hon. Friend, who played an immensely distinguished role as a Minister in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in leading on the defence of biodiversity and support for wildlife, is absolutely right. As well as acknowledging the role that elephants play as an iconic species in their own right and as a keystone species in guaranteeing biodiversity, the successful co-existence of elephants alongside man is a sign of an effective and functioning nation in Africa which is on the right path for the future. It has been so encouraging that enlightened leadership across African nations recognises the vital importance of ensuring that man and the elephant can live alongside one another in appropriate harmony.
It is also the case, of course, that there are forces within African nations that can see in the ivory trade an opportunity to make money, to feed organised crime and to support terrorist and other activity, and it is precisely because ivory poaching and the illegal wildlife trade sustain organised crime and subsidise terror that it is in the interests of all of us who not only want to protect nature and biodiversity, but want to see human societies and other states flourish, take action to stamp out this crime, and that is what this Bill seeks to do.
I welcome the Ivory Bill and the way in which the Secretary of State is putting forward the case for the elephant, but does he agree that one of the difficulties is that if we do things unilaterally they are unlikely to be as effective as if the whole world acts together? Therefore, if we look at the different measures that different parts of the world are taking, for instance the exemption for certain types of ivory from China or the different rules in different parts of Europe, we see that there is a real opportunity for a group like the G20 to harmonise the rules—which musical instruments are going to be exempted and so on—across the world.
Yes, I absolutely take my hon. Friend’s point. It is important that we co-operate, and one of the things this country will be doing is hosting the illegal wildlife trade summit in October. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already been working with other countries, including by visiting Argentina, as the leader of the G20, just two weeks ago, in order to ensure there is the maximum possible buy-in. I had the opportunity myself to talk to a variety of representatives of different nations at the United Nations just a couple of months ago in order to ensure there is that effective co-ordination.
However, there can sometimes be a tendency—I know my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) would not succumb to this—to say, “We need to wait for others to act before we act ourselves.” In so doing, we fail sometimes to act with the urgency, and to show the degree of leadership, that will encourage others to follow. It is absolutely right to acknowledge the leadership shown by the Chinese Government and others in seeking to close their markets to ivory, but this is an opportunity, in this place and at this time, for our generation to show leadership as well. And the leadership we want to show is to specifically ensure that we reduce demand for ivory in this country and globally.
I welcome this Bill and declare an interest as chair of the all-party group on Kenya. Does my right hon. Friend recognise that this is long overdue? In 1989, under the leadership of Dr Richard Leakey, President Moi burnt about 20 tonnes of tusks in order to draw the world’s attention to this pillage of the African elephant. It has gone on for far too long; the population in the Selous in Tanzania has gone down from 55,000 to 15,000 in a decade.
I thank my hon. Friend for his campaigning in this area; few people know more, or are more effective advocates on behalf of Africa and other developing nations, than my hon. Friend. He is absolutely right that African leaders have been showing leadership for a generation on this, and it is important that we do our bit now.
I want, too, to give a particular vote of thanks to those of my colleagues in this House and another place who have shown leadership on this issue. I have mentioned Lord Hague of Richmond; as Foreign Secretary he outlined the case for action, and indeed worked with the Duke of Cambridge in order to secure international support for action. It is also the case that my right hon. Friends the Members for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) and for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) when they were Secretaries of State in this Department laid the groundwork for the legislation we are now introducing. It is also the case that across this House, in every party, there have been campaigners who have consistently and relentlessly pressed the case for action and we would not be here without their endeavours. We also would not be in a position to introduce this legislation were it not for the fact that outstanding work has been done by a series of non-governmental organisations—WWF, Tusk Trust and others—and also, critically, without support from the public. When we launched a consultation on the need to take action, there were more than 70,000 responses. That is a clear indication of the extent to which the public want us to act, and the overwhelming majority of those responses were in favour of urgent action. We need urgent action because we know that the maintenance of a legal trade in ivory allows illegal activities to pass without effective countering.
The Secretary of State gave a long list of those he wants to praise for their involvement in this, but will he join me in praising the rangers who do the work on the ground trying to defend elephants, rhinos and other animals against poachers? It is estimated that over 100 rangers a year lose their lives in violence because of the work they do.
The hon. Lady makes an important point: the bravery and determination of those who do this work is outstanding. In countries such as Gabon individuals risk their lives to save elephants and safeguard the animals they love in a country to which they are deeply attached, and as it goes in Gabon it goes in many others countries as well.
The hon. Lady’s intervention also gives me an opportunity to thank our own armed services. As the Defence Secretary pointed out, only last week we dispatched more trained military personnel to support the work of rangers on the ground. That capacity of a country like ours to work together and use our expertise alongside the commitment of those from African nations will help us turn the tide and beat back the poachers.
With that, I am more than happy to give way to my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence.
Among the tens of thousands of people who responded to the consultation were my constituents, Susie Laan and Louise Ravula, who are part of a small but effective organisation called Two Million Tusks, representing the million elephants slaughtered in the past 100 years. They did some original research that showed that, in 72 auction houses covering 180 lots of ivory, 90% of the sales of those lots were unable to prove the provenance—in other words, the dating to pre-1947—of the ivory, which is a legal requirement for the sale of ivory at the moment. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that research proves that we need a pretty comprehensive ban if we cannot tell the date of the product being sold?
My right hon. Friend makes the next important point in the chain of argument for legislation. Yes, we have restrictions at the moment, but they do not work. The existence of the current legal market allows illegally obtained ivory to pass as legally acceptable ivory or worked ivory for sale. In effect, that means that criminal organisations and those who are driven by the significant profits to be made by selling ivory into markets where there is a demand can use the weakness of the existing provision to pass illegal material off as legal. That is why we need to act.
The need to act, to be more precise and to change the burden of expectation is critical in the minds of all those who responded to the consultation and of those African and other leaders who are pressing action on us. They want to ensure that we take steps to communicate to the world that ivory should not be sold, trafficked or displayed in a way that encourages anyone to think that African elephant ivory is a good of ostentation that someone could derive pleasure from demonstrating their wealth by acquiring. The whole point about the trade in elephant tusks is that it is abhorrent and involves unspeakable cruelty, and every possible step needs to be taken to stop it.
My right hon. Friend will perhaps know that there was a debate in Westminster Hall on the fur trade earlier this afternoon. During that debate, the point was made very clearly that one of the reasons that that vile trade should stop was that there was no need for it. Is that not also the case for ivory? There is no need for it.
My hon. Friend makes absolutely the right point. There is no need for it. This trade has been driven by a belief that, as a result of goods being worked or fashioned in ivory, they have a merit or a capacity to confer on their owner some sort of status. That is completely inappropriate. I sense that there is a recognition across the House that we need to send a message through this legislation and that, through its effective operation, we can end that trade.
Does the Secretary of State agree that it is important, particularly in the context of the online trade in ivory, to have strict enforcement provisions to ensure that we can follow up our good intentions with practical effects?
I absolutely agree. The Bill is designed to ensure that we have appropriate ways of guaranteeing effective enforcement, including appropriate penalties. There will be civil and criminal penalties, if the Bill is passed, and those who break the law will face fines of up to £250,000 and criminal sanctions as well. That is only right if the deterrent effect is to be sufficient to ensure that people are not tempted to engage in the perpetuation of this evil trade.
One critical point that was made during the consultation was that, while those in the antiques and art markets are determined to do everything they can to close down the loopholes and to end the illegal trade that has contributed to poaching in Africa, there is an acknowledgement worldwide that there need to be some exemptions. Those exemptions must reflect decisions that have been made by past generations on the use of ivory and the way in which it has been deployed for artistic or cultural reasons in order to produce certain specific artefacts at specific times that have a particular value.
During the consultation, we looked specifically at exemptions for portrait miniatures. These are tiny but, in historical and cultural terms, hugely significant examples of fine portrait work from the 17th and 18th centuries, and they are valuable not because they are painted on ivory but because they are examples of exquisite artistic endeavour. Similarly, we except that there may be a range of items, including furniture, that are of genuine aesthetic merit and of which ivory forms only a small component. We propose to exempt items with a de minimis content of ivory, which no one is buying and selling because of the ivory but of which the ivory is an integral part.
Another exemption that we propose to introduce is for musical instruments. In the past, pianos, bagpipes and other musical instruments including violins required a proportion of their overall composition be ivory. There are now replacements available, so we no longer need to use ivory in any of those instruments, but will continue to respect the needs of the musical sector to have access to—and to be able to sell and buy—historically significant musical instruments from the past.
Would the Secretary of State accept that his commentary ought to be slightly amended, because we do not all recognise that historic ivory should be kept? Some of us think that this is an excuse for a continuation of the trade and that it creates loopholes and opportunities for those who wish to poach to masquerade their products as historic ivory. In fact, a bit like collections of shrunken heads, certain things were done by past generations, but in today’s more enlightened world, we do not need to keep those things. Some of us would rather see all ivory banned.
The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point and he is absolutely right. This is one of the reasons that we are introducing this legislation. There are occasions on which people attempt to pass off as works of artistic or cultural significance items that do not have that significance. They attempt to exploit a loophole and create an excuse or an opportunity to carry on this wicked trade. That is why the exemptions are so tightly drawn, and it is also where the onus is on any individual who wishes to sell an item to prove that it meets the stringent criteria. That switch changes the obligation and places it on the seller.
In the past, it was possible for someone to say—perhaps not genuinely—that they had no idea, and that they thought the item in question was artistically worked and of appropriate provenance and an appropriate age. They could say, “I had no idea. I am terribly sorry.” Those loopholes, excuses and opportunities will end with this legislation, because individuals will have to pay in order to demonstrate that the item they wish to sell meets one of the criteria. This will be a matter that we can debate in Committee, and of course we are now living in more enlightened times, but I believe that some items fashioned in ivory reflect the historical, cultural or artistic importance of a particular period or artistic movement and that we need to respect that, using a clearly high threshold.
I have mentioned that there will be exemptions for portrait miniatures, for musical instruments and for items such as furniture of which ivory forms only a small part. There is one other area. If an item is of truly outstanding historical or cultural significance, and if, for example, a museum wishes to ensure that an item of such significance can be bought and appropriately displayed, that will still be able to happen if the appropriate steps are recognised and met.
I fear that I may be talking myself on to the Bill Committee, but my right hon. Friend has just used the phrase “outstanding historical”. Clause 2, which—I hope he will accept that I make these remarks in good faith—needs some further work and clarity, refers to “outstanding artistic etc value” and puts a huge amount of weight on the Secretary of State in appointing advisers and issuing guidance. The country would breathe easy with my right hon. Friend taking those decisions, but “outstanding artistic” is a broad definition that means all things to all men—beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Will my right hon. Friend commit to thinking in Committee about how the wording can be clarified to give certainty to those with an interest in this area?
I absolutely take that point on board. We want to ensure that individuals with sufficient expertise from organisations such as the Victoria and Albert Museum are in a position to provide a guarantee of the provenance and significance of the work. It is in no way our intention simply to say that something should be exempt either because of its apparent antiquity or because someone happens to consider it to be of aesthetic merit; we want to ensure that an academically rigorous process is undertaken to ensure that an item’s provenance can be guaranteed and that its aesthetic merit and its dating can be put beyond doubt.
Will the Secretary of State comment on the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which is key to tackling the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife body parts? It is funded by DEFRA and the Home Office to the tune of £136,000 each a year—a paltry £272,000 a year in total. Will the unit’s funding be increased given the potential for free trade deals—if and when Brexit happens—and the danger that the UK could become a back door for body parts from third countries under the guise of free trade?
It is no part of this Government’s intention—I hope that this will be the same for any future Government—to use any trade deals to erode or undermine appropriate protections for animal welfare and environmental standards. I cannot see how any Government would want to weaken the protections that we intend to place on the statute book through this legislation to end this abhorrent trade.
The hon. Lady rightly pays tribute to the work of the NWCU, and in the run-up to the illegal wildlife trade summit this October we will be looking not just to ensure that we can continue to staff and support the officers who work in this field adequately, but to ensure that we go even further. As several Members have already acknowledged, this legislation, important as it will be, is not enough in itself to ensure that we can effectively counter the poachers and to ensure that the precipitous decline in elephant numbers is at last halted and reversed. The global leadership that I hope other nations will join us in showing at the October summit is critical to maintaining momentum in dealing with this trade. The commitment of not just our armed services, but the rangers referred to by the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) and others is also critical. It is also important that we continue generously and effectively to fund international development work in African nations to ensure that people can move towards a sustainable economic future so that the temptation that some may have to connive with or work alongside poachers is removed as well.
In contemplating our ambition to ensure that the African elephant survives and that Africa flourishes, it is critical to recognise that the legislation is not enough on its own. However, without this legislation, we will fail to provide the required leadership on the global stage, we will fail to play our part in ensuring that we close down this wicked trade, and we will fail to acknowledge that the United Kingdom has had its position as a global hub for trade and a centre of excellence in the arts and antiques market used and abused in the past by those who want to continue criminal activity. The responsibility to legislate, with appropriate considerations for exemptions and enforcement but at pace and with determination, falls on this House at this time, which is why I commend this Bill to the House.
This action to tackle the international trade in ivory is welcome, if not long overdue. As I have already confirmed to the Secretary of State, the Opposition will not oppose this Bill, but we will seek to improve it in Committee. Labour’s 2017 manifesto pledged an outright ban on the ivory trade, which was reaffirmed in our recently published animal welfare plan. There now exists widespread cross-party recognition that a comprehensive ban on the sale of ivory is needed. As we have heard, despite a ban on the sale of new ivory having been in place for over 40 years, the decline in elephant populations demonstrates that the ban has simply not stopped the illegal trade.
The illegal wildlife trade has grown rapidly in recent years, and is now estimated to be the fourth largest transnational illegal trade, worth around £15 billion a year. The illegal wildlife trade drives corruption and has also been linked to other forms of organised crime, such as arms trading, human trafficking and drugs. It is shocking that the number of elephants in the wild has declined by almost a third in the past decade, with about 20,000 a year being slaughtered—an average of around 55 a day.
While Britain is not a country of highest concern in our contribution to the global illegal ivory trade, there is evidence that the UK legal ivory trade is being used to launder illegal ivory, which is then legally and illegally shipped to Asian countries. While ivory sales have declined since 2004, a 2016 survey by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, found that the UK was still a net exporter of ivory, and there was also some discrepancy in the numbers. The UK reported that only 17 raw tusks were exported to other countries, but importing countries reported that 109 tusks had arrived from the UK. TRAFFIC also found that UK ivory traders were often unclear about the laws around the legal ivory trade.
Our priority must be to protect elephants and all the other endangered species, as mentioned by the hon. Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), that are hunted for their ivory in Africa and Asia. We have all seen pictures of devastated elephant carcases left strewn around, often with a young calf left by its mother’s body, mourning her loss. Such pitiful scenes remind us just what is at stake and why this Bill is so vital. We must send a clear message at home and internationally that the only ivory that we will value is on a live elephant in the wild. A more comprehensive ban on ivory, building on China’s decision at the end of 2017 to close its domestic ivory market, is a step towards giving the UK greater credibility in seeking to persuade other countries in Asia with a history of ivory trade—Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Laos and Myanmar—to commit to closing their domestic ivory markets. I will be grateful if the Secretary of State can confirm today what action he is taking in that regard.
As well as the wide support for the ban from charities and politicians, the public also feel passionately about this ban. The Secretary of State mentioned that there were more than 70,000 responses to the Government’s consultation, making it one of the largest consultation responses ever seen by DEFRA. There is now broad consensus that the legal domestic ivory markets contribute to illegal poaching in two main ways: by fuelling the demand for ivory and by providing a hiding place for illegal modern ivory to be laundered through the legal market. However, despite the broad consensus in favour of a ban on ivory sales, there is also agreement, including from the WWF, that we need the exemptions that the Secretary of State outlined.
There will be an opportunity to debate some of the finer points of the Bill in Committee, but today I will touch on some key questions. We have heard about enforcement, and it is important that the Bill is properly enforced through adequate resourcing. It must be clear that there will be oversight and penalties, including imprisonment as well as heavy fines.
In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist), the Secretary of State said that he would look to strengthen and resource specialised enforcement to combat illegal ivory dealing, particularly on the internet, and I would be grateful if he could elaborate further on exactly how he sees that being funded and resourced.
We also need further clarity on several of the definitions in the Bill’s list of exemptions. We have already heard about how we need clarity on what “museum quality” means in respect to musical instruments, art and portrait miniatures. There will undoubtedly be further questions on the de minimis rule, as well as on how we will close any loopholes through which the system can potentially be abused, such as by using the proposed replacement certificates.
Can the Secretary of State clarify whether he plans to issue any new sentencing guidance along with this new legislation? It is important that the judiciary have the right level of information and training to issue the appropriate sentences, which will then act as an effective deterrent.
The need for international co-operation on ending the ivory trade cannot be overstated, and the Secretary of State has talked about some of that work. The Opposition look forward to hearing more detail on the Government’s specific role and on the action they will be taking.
As the leader of the Labour party has offered the Elgin marbles back to Greece, will my hon. Friend give a commitment that, if the countries from which any ivory in a British museum was originally extracted would like that ivory back—even if the purpose is to destroy such ivory—the next Labour Government will give back those ivory objects?
I thank my hon. Friend for his interesting contribution. I am more than happy to discuss that with the Leader of the Opposition.
Labour has always been the party of animal welfare, from banning foxhunting and fur farms in the UK to introducing our landmark Animal Welfare Act 2006. Our 50-point animal welfare plan, unveiled earlier this year, offers a comprehensive and ambitious set of proposals for advancing animal welfare standards, based on the latest science and understanding. Animal welfare policy must be taken seriously, must be comprehensive and must never be based on just a campaign of the month. As hon. Members will know, the Conservative party made promises to ban the ivory trade in its 2010 and 2015 manifestos. After it failed to act, the pledge was then quietly dropped from its 2017 manifesto. I am proud that Labour’s last manifesto called for a ban on ivory sales, and I am pleased that the Government have finally chosen to follow suit.
I very much welcome the Bill. Does my hon. Friend share my surprise that the Government have managed to introduce this 40-page Bill in a very busy parliamentary timetable but still have not found time to finalise legislation to ban wild animals in circuses? This week we have seen Slovakia become the latest country to introduce such a ban. The Wild Animals in Circuses Bill has been through prelegislative scrutiny, and it has been kicking around for years. It is a very short Bill. Why cannot we do it now?
I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend. I would be pleased if the Secretary of State could announce when the Government will be banning wild animals in circuses. I am a sponsor of the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill, promoted by the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison), and it would be extremely helpful if the Secretary of State could bring it forward.
I reiterate my assurance that Labour will support the Ivory Bill on Second Reading, and I hope that both the Government and the House will give careful consideration to how we can strengthen the Bill both in Committee and at subsequent stages.
It is a great pleasure to follow the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman), who has stated the Opposition’s support for the Bill. My hearty congratulations go to the real Secretary of State for introducing it.
We lose an elephant every 25 minutes, which is 20,000 elephants a year—we should all remember that incredibly simple fact. During this debate we have already lost two elephants. It is estimated that 100 years ago there was an elephant population of about 10 million, and the decline has accelerated. The great elephant census, published in August 2016, found that only 352,000 savanna elephants were left across the 18 countries surveyed—a 70% crash in numbers since 1979, when the total population stood at 1.3 million.
Encouraged by my then junior Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), and Charlie Mayhew, the chief executive of Tusk, I went to Lewa when I was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Lewa is a brilliant example of how local landowners have created conservancies where the management of wildlife is jointly organised by local communities. The rangers, whom the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) mentioned, are all working together, and the local community sees real value in the wildlife. As a result, poaching has been reduced in Kenya in the past couple of years. Lewa is a brilliant example of how, if a local community can see the value of wildlife, it will participate in its long-term regeneration.
A couple of years ago I went to the Kruger national park in South Africa. Whereas in Kenya there was a chronic lack of equipment, in South Africa there was a major general with 35 years’ experience in the South African army who had aeroplanes, helicopters and 700 brilliantly equipped rangers, but they lost four rhinos the weekend I was there. The poachers in the Kruger will move on to the wonderful, huge elephants once they have gone through the rhinos, and the reason is money. Northern Mozambique is miserably poor, and if a person can get one rhino horn out of the Kruger it will keep their community going and they will be a folk hero in their little town.
I have seen two contrasting sides to this issue. There is a big demand for this product, mainly from the far east, and the obvious answer is to grow more. I have thought about this, and that answer is simply not practical. We will never produce enough elephants or rhinos to satisfy the colossal demand. The only answer is to do what this Bill does, which is to sever the demand.
I returned from my trips and met the then Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend Lord Hague of Richmond, and we sat down and organised what became the largest world wildlife conference anywhere. We had great help from my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), the then Secretary of State for International Development, who has sadly left the Chamber. She completely got my point about conservancies and bringing in the local communities.
Over 40 countries participated at the conference. Sadly I could not participate because I had an emergency eye operation, but the conclusion of the conference was exactly what we wanted: recognition that the illegal wildlife trade and the poaching that feeds it have, in some places, reached unprecedented levels. In response to the crisis, the London conference
“aimed to reverse recent trends of increasing illegal wildlife trade through measures to eradicate the market…ensure effective legal frameworks and deterrents, strengthen enforcement, and support sustainable livelihoods and economic development.”
Also from the conference came the Elephant Protection Initiative, set up by five African countries, and only today I got an email with the latest update—that 18 African countries have now participated in the initiative.
That was all good, and we were world leaders at the time. Other countries then got ahead of us. President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced that they would introduce complete bans, and America did so in June 2016, with pretty tough exemptions. China, I think remarkably—this is a real credit to the Chinese Government—took decisions that have closed down whole factories. At the time, a Chinese Minister told me that 34 designated factories would shut and that China intended to shut down its whole ivory trade and manufacturing process by the end of 2017. In 2016 the French also brought in a near complete ban, with tight provisions on trade. We made the right announcements, but we did not actually take action. Meanwhile, those bans have had a significant impact on the value of ivory. It was about $2,000 a kilogram, and it is now about $700 a kilogram.
Our party promised a complete ban in our 2010 manifesto and, in effect, a ban in our 2015 manifesto. Lord Hague and I had not given up at that point, and we worked with non-governmental organisations such as Stop Ivory, Tusk and the Born Free Foundation. I also held meetings with representatives of the antiques trade; the chairman of the British Art Market Federation, Anthony Browne; the chief executive officer of the Association of Art & Antiques dealers, Rebecca Davies; and the secretary-general of the British Antique Dealers’ Association, Mark Dodgson. We came up with a text that they would have been happy to put in our manifesto, which reads as follows:
“As hosts of the 2014 London Conference and the upcoming 2018 London Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, we will continue to lead the world in stopping the trade in illegal wildlife products, which is responsible for the poaching that kills thousands of elephants, rhinos, tigers and other species, negatively impacting livelihoods and security. In response to overwhelming international opinion, expressed at both the CITES and IUCN meetings held in 2016, we will proceed with our commitment to introduce tighter legislation to close the domestic ivory market with appropriate exemptions covering objects of artistic, cultural and historical significance. We will further commit to support the range states of species impacted by illegal wildlife trade, in particular for elephants, rhinos and tigers and will continue to oppose any call for resumption in trade of products from these species.”
When we see the number of people who have signed the petition and who have reacted, we see that had that been in our manifesto, the result of the election a year ago might have been different. It is a great pity that that was omitted from our manifesto. I really believe that what the Secretary of State has brought forward today does honour that jointly agreed statement, and it should encourage a speedy passage for this Bill.
Let me give a crude summary of where I think the antiques trade is at the moment. I think it admits that the Bill, as drafted, is tighter than it would like, but it can live with it. Anthony Browne has written to me, saying:
“Our primary concern now is that the Government’s exemptions should not be made more restrictive by amendment during the bill’s passage through Parliament.”
That is a very helpful statement from the antiques trade. As was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), who has sadly now left his seat, the Two Million Tusks report discovered that only 1.49% of lots for sale in auction houses contained ivory. Given that the total antiques market is worth about £9.2 billion, we see that we are talking about a round of drinks and the trade can probably manage without that business, although this should not be tightened up further.
I am fully aware that other Members are keen to speak, but I wish briefly to mention a few amendments that the Secretary of State might like to consider in Committee. It is obvious that exports, especially those to the world’s largest illegal ivory markets, are our most direct contribution to the global trade in poached ivory. An approximate analysis of the impact of the ban as proposed in the Bill is that about 25% of currently traded ivory items will fall under the exemptions. The UK exported about 35,000 ivory items to Asia from 2010 to 2015, which means that even with the exemptions in place, exports would still have totalled more than 8,000 items. That would mean the UK would still have been among the highest exporters of antique ivory in the world, even on the basis of the proposed ban.
The overriding concern is that the sale of such important items to markets in Asia fuels ivory’s desirability in the minds of consumers. Most people will of course not be able to afford to buy the rarest and most important items that this exemption is to cover, but seeing those pieces being acquired by people in their country will reinforce ivory as a luxury commodity that people wish to own, fuelling desire for items that are affordable, many of which are likely to be fakes from newly poached ivory. The exemptions in the Bill must therefore be incredibly rigorously defined and enforced.
As a start, I wonder whether the Secretary of State would consider having an annual register of how many items exemptions have been issued for under the historical, artistic and cultural definition each year, with a full description and pictures of each item. Such an annual register would be publicly available, and it would demonstrate the commitment that this exemption is for the rarest and most important items only and would allow public scrutiny.
Let me make a few brief suggestions as to how to improve the Bill. Clause 3(1) would be greatly improved if it were to specify documentary evidence to support the application and establish the legality of the ivory item, including age and provenance, as well as proof of identity and the owner’s address. Documentation will not always be available, but the lack of documentation would be a factor in the assessment. This applies in particular to online sales and exports. I would be very grateful if the Minister could provide a little more detail on how he thinks these regulations will apply to online sales, where we know flagrant cheating takes place. The declaration provided for in clause 3(1)(d) should include confirmation that the dealing complies with the convention on international trade in endangered species, or CITES, and the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations, or COTES.
The exemption certificate specified in clause 4(1) should also include the name of the owner, given the reference to an exemption certificate being issued to a “different person”. In general, a new owner of an item subject to an exemption certificate should be required to register their ownership, whether on a prohibited dealing or not, so that a record of ownership is maintained. That will help the register. On clause 4(5), more safeguards are needed on issuing replacement certificates. An item could have several replacement certificates, which could be used to sell items illegally. Under clause 4(5)(b), how could someone legally acquire an item but not obtain the certificate? Careful attention to the numbering system might resolve that issue. On clause 6, we need a clarification of what a “portrait miniature” is—we need a definition.
Importantly, on clause 9(5), the exemption does not apply to items that consist “only of unworked ivory” and therefore excludes tusks. I understand that that is the opposite of what was intended. This is the only reference in the Bill to unworked ivory, and specifying it in this provision calls into question what is meant in the rest of the Bill. Those words should therefore be removed.
The defence of ignorance in clause 12 is a real concern, particularly as it is well known that that the illegal trade is fuelled by unscrupulous traders marketing ivory as a bone or as ivory sourced from other species, such as a mammoth. There should therefore be a basic sanction based on strict liability.
The Secretary of State should also be able to include other ivory-bearing species not listed in the CITES appendices in clause 35(3). As the Born Free Foundation has indicated, there has been an increase in the purchasing of hippo and other non-elephant ivory in the UK to replace elephant ivory in the internal trade. The BFF infers that the legal and illegal trades are targeting these other species, as the Government’s focus is on elephant ivory. Given that the total number of hippo in Africa is only about 25% of the figure for the elephant population, a ban must be careful to ensure that it does not unintentionally place these species under yet more pressure. It would therefore be sensible to specify hippos in the Bill now, rather than to have the delay of putting through a statutory instrument later.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about extending this provision to other species. Subspecies of hippo, warthogs, walruses and whales are all in the CITES appendix of endangered species, so the approach being taken does not seem to make sense. We know that this will be the only time we have an Ivory Bill before this House for many years to come, so if we are going to try to protect those species, it makes sense for us to do it now, in this Bill.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her support and I totally agree: if we have the option to put this in, which the clause gives us, we should just get it in the Bill. We know that there will quickly be a diversion to hippos if we do not provide for that.
I am fully aware that others want to speak, so I come to my last point, which is about enforcement. I had interesting negotiations with our current Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary about funding the national wildlife crime unit, and I am pleased to say that that funding is to run until 2020. We would like a strong, firm reassurance from the Minister that this legislation will need enforcing and will need the right level of expertise. The wildlife unit is absolutely brilliant; it is located just south of the river, in a strange suburb where there is a large, redundant Russian tank. For those who cannot find it, I should say that it is painted in party colours. I recommend going to see the NWCU, however, as it does fine work. We need clarity that it will be beefed up and properly resourced for the future. On the same grounds, the CITES Border Force team at Heathrow needs sufficient levels of manpower and resources, as they will be our front line of defence against illegal imports and organised criminal activity coming into the UK.
The London illegal wildlife trade conference is back on 10 and 11 October. With this Bill, we have a wonderful opportunity to regain our leadership on this issue. How quickly can the Secretary of State get this Bill, which we all support, through its parliamentary process and on the statute book? I will support the Bill this evening.
The Scottish National party welcomes the fact that today robust measures to help to protect elephant populations for future generations are one step closer to becoming law and being realised. Today is a good day in Parliament, for this is the right thing to do and we are getting on with achieving it together.
I am pleased that work on the Bill has included widespread consultation with experts, including the environmental groups and charities that see the desperate plight of the decline in elephant populations and the carnage of poaching. They have worked so very hard, and I pay tribute to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Stop Ivory, the Born Free Foundation and Tusk, to name just a few. The general public overwhelmingly support a ban on ivory, guiding Parliament, as they always do. We must be mindful that we are simply the representatives of the people’s voice. With the 70,000 responses to the consultation, the people have spoken, and we must listen.
Musicians and representatives of the antiques trade have contributed to the process, stating that the preservation of ancient ivory is important, but fundamentally ivory belongs to elephants and rhinos—to nature, not to mankind.
In respect of the stacks of ivory that the Scottish Government have in their museums, will they be prepared to destroy those horrendous objects or to offer them back to the countries from which they were originally poached?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I am well aware that he is keen to destroy our ancient bagpipes, or perhaps to send them back to Scotland, where they belong. [Laughter.] That is certainly an issue for the Scottish Government and they will take it forward.
The cross-party support for the Bill is absolutely astronomical. People often ask whether we spend all day in this Parliament arguing just for the sake of it. I have to remind them that some of the very best work, which is often not reported on—the majority of our best work—is completed with cross-party agreement. The Bill is a perfect example of that. It forms part of our party’s manifesto commitments and also my personal pledge to my local constituency in 2017.
I wish to touch briefly on several issues that will require further consideration in Committee. The wording “rarest and most important” appears to have been altered to “rarity”. There is concern that the test may have been toned down. We hope that the wording will remain as strong as possible. Guidance is required alongside the Bill to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place for its implementation. An annually published register would assist, to determine how many items have been issued each year with exemptions and to ensure the veracity of this crucial legislation moving forward. Safeguards are needed for the issuing of exemption certificates, as they could be replicated to sell illegal items.
Also, we need assurances that the assessor will be employed by the institution doing the assessment rather than appointed, so that they have no conflict of interest in commercial trade. A definition of portrait miniatures is needed. New legislation must be enforceable, and it is important that there is permanent funding for the national wildlife crime unit so that that can be in absolutely no doubt. Finally, sentencing guidance will need to be timeous to ensure that those who seek to ignore this critical legislation and who engage in such atrocities against nature are punished severely from the get-go.
When I was in Kenya with the International Development Committee, I had the privilege of visiting Nairobi national park and the Sheldrick elephant orphanage, where I spent time with the valiant rangers who protect baby elephants whose mothers have been killed. They were tiny little elephants that came up to my waist—and unfortunately I have quite short legs, so the House can imagine how tiny those little elephants were. They needed nurture to survive, but had been taken from their mothers and their natural environment, ravaged by the greed and destruction of mankind. I pay tribute to those involved in the vital work to rehabilitate those elephants and get them back into the wild.
The SNP will support the Bill in Committee and subsequent stages. Today, we turn a corner, working together for a future in which elephants survive and continue to stride proudly across the savannahs of our natural world, for future generations.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who made the point that the Bill has cross-party support. I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has taken the bull by the horns—perhaps that is the wrong analogy to use in this instance—and very much taken on board the ban on ivory sales. He is driving it forward in his characteristically forceful way. I urge him to go even further, because it is the international ivory trade that matters. It is great that the Chinese are introducing a ban, but we need many Asian countries to stop buying ivory, because if there is no value in ivory, people will not risk their lives to deliver it around the world. We are setting a great example.
I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) who did a lot of very good work when he was Secretary of State. In his characteristic way, he was a hands-on Secretary of State and went right to the heart of Africa to see what was happening.
As we sit in the House today, we do not realise the dangers faced by the rangers. As the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) said, they risk their lives, day in, day out, to try to protect elephants. In many African states, the political and military situation is difficult, and in many places wars are going on, so there is added danger for rangers trying to protect elephants. Through everything that we do, including international aid, we need to try to make sure that we can deliver a better life for so many people in Africa so that they do not go out poaching and can find other ways to make a living. That way, the rangers will not have to risk their lives, day in, day out, to try to protect elephants.
We cannot keep losing more than 20,000 elephants a year. They will be extinct, if not in our generation, certainly in the next. We cannot allow that to happen, so this ban on the sale of ivory in this country is a good step in the right direction. I know that those in the antiques trade are worried, but the problem is that it has been so difficult to identify what is antique ivory and what is not, so a ban on the sale of virtually all kinds of ivory is the best way forward. If we can stamp out the demand, we will drive down the value, which will save many elephants throughout Africa.
I very much welcome what the Secretary of State is doing and know that he will raise this issue internationally and in all his discussions around the world. We do not want to see America rolling back its position and allowing more ivory into America, because that would increase the demand. With the market in China now drying up, we really have the chance to save many more elephants in Africa.
When the ban on the sale of ivory is introduced, will the Secretary of State make sure that it is vigorously enforced? It is no good introducing legislation unless we can enforce it vigorously. Can we also make sure that the penalties for those who wilfully ignore the ban are proper deterrents? Again, it is no good introducing legislation if there are no real teeth to make sure that people adhere to it. We want to be certain that we are not going to trade ivory in this country.
We can bring about a huge reduction in the number of elephants that are slaughtered throughout the continent of Africa. Earlier, Members questioned whether we needed to protect the Indian elephant. Indeed, there are also other species of animals with ivory that we may need to protect as we go forward. If anybody can get a measure through this House quickly, I believe that it is you, Secretary of State. With the support of the shadow Secretary of State and of Parliament, I believe that we can do this. There are times when Parliament robustly debates matters. There are times, dare I say it, that Prime Minister’s questions resembles something of a bear garden. However, there are times such this when we can all unite. This Bill is long overdue. Many of us have been campaigning in this House for a ban. I very much welcome what you are doing, Secretary of State, and I am sure that it will have complete cross-party support tonight. I urge you to work even faster—
Order. I just cannot let the hon. Gentleman get away with this. It was alright the first time. Then I tried not to listen the second time. But then he referred to the Secretary of State as “you” for the third time. I simply would not be carrying out my duty if I did not stop him and ask him to please address the Chamber through the Chair. Just call the Secretary of State “he” or “Secretary of State”, or “the right hon. Gentleman”, or something other than “you”—please.
I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. I did not intend to offend anybody. I will just say to the Secretary of State that you will—[Interruption.] The Secretary of State will get on with the job and deliver this Bill as fast as possible, with the help of cross-party support.
Let me add my congratulations, too. As I told a group of constituents in this very Chamber this morning, my role as a Back-Bench MP is to highlight the idiocy of the Front-Bench spokesperson who should be immediately sacked for failing to listen to the wisdom that I offer, or immediately promoted to greater things for their infinite wisdom. I offer the Secretary of State the opportunity not to have his career spiked by suggesting that he listens to me on this question of museums and artefacts.
I offer the Labour Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), my willingness to sit on the Bill Committee in order to ensure that the detail of the Bill is sufficiently clear to meet the purposes and the wishes of the House. I am sure that the shadow Front-Bench team will be delighted to have me in some Committee Room for a period of time on such important matters. None the less, I volunteer to do it, and I look forward to receiving the call.
As well as congratulating the Secretary of State on bringing forward, very appropriately, this piece of legislation, I also must congratulate two women Members of Parliament who have campaigned on this matter very assiduously over very, very many years. I am now desperately trying to remember their exact constituencies. I am talking about my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) and the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham). They have both worked assiduously, and both have challenged their own parties to ensure that progress is made on this matter. That is not always the easiest thing to do. I pay tribute to them. Their role has been important.
Of course, one can have quibbles, and that is what Bill Committees are for—or Committees of the whole House if one does not have the opportunity to serve one’s country in that way—in order to strengthen and improve any Bill. There are some small issues to deal with. However, with due respect, I shall not give my own Front-Bench team such an easy time by merely referring to our party leader when it comes to discussions on our policy. We are a very democratic and open party and autonomy is given to the Front Bench. Therefore, in the Bill Committee, I am anticipating that my party will look at the question—let us call it the Elgin question—of what happens to artefacts. I am not just referring to the Scottish Government; there are local authorities across the country that could be doing things as well. I am not saying this to add humour to the debate. The situation with the elephant species and our responsibility to the planet has reached a critical point. That has been cited by all the experts, and, of course, the most famous of all of those in this country is David Attenborough. I seem to recall him saying that we are at the last 1% of time in terms of the population of these great species.
Frankly, if we cannot deliver on this, we do not deserve to be parliamentarians. We have a moment and a chance to do something, and we must take that chance not just with a piece of legislation, but with what goes beyond it. This matter needs to be addressed, along with two others. The first of those others is cyber-crime. The Government are currently investing lots of resource in cyber-crime—and correctly so. Cyber-crime involving the trade in endangered species, not least in ivory, is phenomenal. I pay tribute to the work that e-Bay has done to ban ivory from its sales. There are also many other ways in which the internet is being used for trade. I think that we could be wiser and sharper. At the conference in October, trade must be a vital part of the agenda, because, by definition, international co-operation can be the only effective way of dealing with such cyber-crime. We can lead the way as well by tweaking our legislation and by improving our resource.
The other matter that I wish to address is in relation to our international development work. The Batwe, the forest dwellers, are, without question, the poorest people on the planet, and yet, as the custodians of the forest for millennia, they are a perfect group of people for protecting the forest elephants in particular. The small numbers of the Batwe who remain are vastly unemployed and live in the most pitiful of conditions in countries on the edge of the forest in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Uganda. There is an opportunity to do something that would be both humanitarian and effective. With the Bishop of Durham and other parliamentarians, I have had the honour and privilege of visiting the forest with an income and making a critical contribution to protecting such people and to renewing their traditional way of life. The two things come together very smartly, but straightforwardly. There is also an opportunity to experiment modestly, but urgently, to see whether that works. It would be significant if there were a country willing to accept our assistance.
My next point has been mentioned by the Secretary of State: the use of the British Army in ranger training. I have actually just approached the Royal College of Defence Studies and suggested co-operating on writing a paper on this. Such training has been done successfully in Malawi and in Gabon, but we also have a vested interest. We could give the Parachute Regiment, for instance, a training opportunity in an area of danger. For example, they could use drone technology in training rangers—whether military, civilian or a combination—in countries that want to do that. That is a huge training opportunity in these less conflictual times.
It is far better to carry out such training in large countries such as Tanzania, Botswana or Zambia, or wherever there is a country that wishes to receive such training. We win in a very significant way by training our military. Where else? We do drone training on Ascension Island because we cannot find anywhere big enough in this country to do it. Yet, that technology would clearly be transformational if it were given to rangers who were trained to use it.
I had the privilege of opening and assisting at the US embassy’s annual technology challenge, which addresses the issue of dealing with wildlife crime through technology. The event takes place annually in London, and allows entrepreneurs from the IT sector here to develop products to assist in countering wildlife crime using the most advanced technology. It is a brilliant initiative by the Americans. There is a combination of factors, and we can use our skills there. We can facilitate the development of those skills in countries that want them and that can quite clearly see the economic benefit of doing so in terms of direct jobs and the tourism potential. Far more importantly, this is about national identity and national pride. This is about indigenous species in countries in both Asia and Africa that are in danger of being wiped out, so it seems that these measures would be an easy win.
We could put in considerable resource compared with what was there before—in fact it would actually be minuscule in terms of what we are doing anyway, because we already have to train our own people. We have that training ability and we have the ability to pass it on. And I would go further. Some of the best ranger trainers and counter-poacher rangers in Africa are ex-British military and this would be a great opportunity for those who have served our country to develop skills, particularly if they pass them on.
I recommend those policies to the Labour Front Bench as well. With that, let me recongratulate the Government on their brilliance and look forward to assisting them in realising their goal.
I am afraid that I have to implement a time limit of eight minutes.
It is a great honour to follow the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) and I strongly endorse much of what he said. This Bill is pure good news, which is a very rare thing in Parliament, from my short experience. I thank the Secretary of State for being true to his word and actually delivering the Bill, having promised that he would do so.
The situation today is desperate. As we have heard, every 25 minutes, an elephant is killed for its tusks. That is 20,000 elephants a year. There has been a 90% collapse in the elephant population in the last century. Notwithstanding the leadership that this country has undoubtedly shown in recent years, the UK has historically been a very big part of the problem. According to TRAFFIC, it is estimated that the amount of ivory equivalent to that from more than 1 million elephants was transported from Africa to the UK between 1860 and 1920. As we have heard, we are still significant exporters of ivory today.
We are on the brink of losing forever the world’s most iconic species—a sentient, highly intelligent animal. And we are not doing it for any justifiable or noble reason; we are doing it so that a few people can have trinkets. It is a brutal, barbaric business that directly funds some of the most abhorrent organisations on the planet today. In the case of al-Shabaab, the organisation responsible for the appalling events in the shopping mall in Nairobi six years ago, it is estimated that 40% of its funding comes from the ivory trade. We know that, where poaching happens, it enriches the worst possible people, but it also destabilises and impoverishes whole communities.
We also know that bans work. In 1989, we had a worldwide ban approved by CITES and immediately poaching levels fell dramatically—as did, by the way, the price and the value of ivory. Tragically, 10 years later, after suspicious levels of lobbying, so-called one-off sales were allowed, and the market was flooded with legal ivory, in turn making it easier for traders to launder illegal ivory. That is exactly why the Bill that we are passing today—I very much hope we are passing it—is so important. If it is passed, we will have introduced one of the toughest ivory bans in the world.
That is fantastic news but, at the risk of sounding churlish, I want to make a few minor suggestions. First, I very much hope that the Bill is passed—I am speaking more quickly as the great Secretary of State departs the Chamber; I hope that he catches this point—before the illegal wildlife trade conference in October, because otherwise we will lack the authority that we are going to need in order to be able to ask other countries to do their bit, and we are going to need to ask a lot of other countries to do a great deal.
Secondly, the ban will be meaningful only if it is properly enforced, so we need to provide a long-term settlement for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, as well as resources for the CITES border force team. Thirdly, as we have heard, the Bill currently applies only to elephant ivory. The risk is that we will be displacing demand from elephants to other ivory-bearing species such as killer whales, sperm whales, walruses, hippos and narwhals, all of which are under varying levels of threat. There are only 100,000 hippos in the world today. That is staggeringly depressing. I hope that the Government will look again at including a wider range of species in the Bill.
In October, we have the IWT conference, following the first one four years ago. It is right that we should celebrate some of the good news. It is fantastic that China is closing down its state-owned carveries and banned all domestic ivory trade at the end of last year. The US has introduced a near-total ban. Hong Kong is promising to do the same. However, we must also acknowledge that the problem is growing, not shrinking, despite everything we have heard and seen over the past few years. The conference is an opportunity for us to exhibit real ambition. We need to use every lever at our disposal to encourage other countries, including the members of the European Union, to introduce their own ivory bans as a matter of urgency.
We need to tackle online crime. We heard a bit about this from the hon. Member for Bassetlaw. So much of the trade has shifted online. I recommend that colleagues read a recent report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare called “Disrupt: Wildlife Cybercrime”. It paints a very bleak picture, but it also gives reason to be cheerful. In March this year, 21 companies, including Google, eBay, Facebook, Instagram, Microsoft and Alibaba, joined forces with the WWF, IFAW and TRAFFIC to launch the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online. And it works: in just one year, eBay removed more than 25,000 listings from its site.
We need to expand the focus of the summit beyond ivory. In the past decade, more than 7,000 rhinos have been poached for their horns. Grey parrots are being hoovered out of the African continent at a totally unsustainable rate. Since 2000, l million pangolins have been caught and sold for meat and medicine. Fisheries are being desecrated by illegal fishing operations all around the world, plunging the communities that depend on them into desperate poverty. This is organised crime on a massive scale. That needs to be reflected in our approach.
Finally—again, I echo some of the remarks by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw—we need to see a much greater emphasis on this and a greater level of commitment to it from the Department for International Development. It is extraordinary that just 0.4% of our vast official development assistance budget goes towards nature, let alone tackling the illegal wildlife trade. We may be part of a small club of nations honouring our commitment to meeting the UN target on overseas aid, but we are miles behind countries such as Germany, the USA and others when it comes to funding restoration of ecosystems, tackling wildlife crime and protecting the environment. There is a link between poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability—that is well established and unarguable. That must now finally be reflected in the work of DFID, not least so that the public, many of whom are very sceptical about its very existence, can buy into it and understand what it does. It is time for DFID to wake up.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
I was just finishing, but I will take an intervention.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend; I have ruined his peroration. Does he agree that there would be a great deal more buy-in from the public if the Department for International Development were renamed the Department for International Development and Conservation, so that people could understand that that was a key part of its mission?
I totally agree with the thought behind my hon. Friend’s question. Whether that should be the Department’s name, I do not know, but I agree with where he is coming from.
There is a clear link. One only has to look at Somalia. There is a direct link between the collapse of the fisheries off the coast of Somalia—the moment when it was declared a dead zone by the United Nations—and the rise in piracy. There were tens of thousands of families with boats and children to feed, and knowledge of the seas but no fish to catch. What did they do? They became pirates. The same is now beginning to happen around Senegal as a consequence of illegal activities by vessels from all around the world. When we destroy ecosystems, we plunge the poorest people—the people who most depend on the free services that nature provides—into hideous poverty. It is the most destabilising thing we can do, and DFID has not yet exhibited any understanding whatsoever of that well-known and well-understood phenomenon. It is time for DFID to wake up.
It is always a pleasure to speak in debates on these issues. First, I want to state that I fully support the Bill and congratulate the Government and the Department on the way they have constructed it. They have put a lot of effort into ensuring that there are the necessary exemptions for ivory in musical instruments and antique ivory.
I am a country sports enthusiast and I enjoy all country sports. However, uppermost in my mind is that any country sport can only be done hand in hand with common sense and conservation, and I have practised that over the years in pursuing country sports. We must put money into the land to take from the land. We must encourage the growth of flocks and habitats for those flocks, to enable us to shoot and ensure that the environment can handle it. That must be the case if country sports and shooting are to continue. This debate has shown clearly that that has not been the case historically in the ivory trade, which is why the present position is so precarious.
As the World Wildlife Fund outlined in its briefing paper for the debate, we are in the midst of a global poaching crisis that threatens decades of conservation success and the future of many species. The illegal wildlife trade has grown rapidly in recent years and is now estimated to be the fourth largest transnational illegal trade, worth more than £15 billion per year. There are many iconic animals across the world, but this debate is about elephants, which are probably the greatest animal in my opinion; others may disagree. We have to retain their numbers and their habitat. As the WWF says, the illegal wildlife trade drives corruption, impacts the rule of law, threatens sustainable development and has been linked to other forms of organised crime such as arms, drugs and human trafficking. The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) made the point that people turn to other methods of securing income, and illegal trade is the upshot of that.
There are approximately 415,000 African elephants. In the last decade, their number fell by about 111,000, mainly due to poaching, and around 20,000 African elephants are estimated to be killed by poachers annually. In the time that we have been having this debate, between three and four elephants have died across the world at the hands of poachers, and before the debate is over, that number will have doubled and perhaps trebled. That is an indication of what is happening. Some 55 of these grand, beautiful animals are killed a day. It is not only an adult elephant that is being killed; they are leaving a baby elephant to its own devices, and it often ends up dying as well. The gestation period of an elephant is 18 months. That gives us an idea of how long it takes to try to claw back what has been lost. That is something we cannot ignore.
It is clear that steps must be taken, and taken quickly, to align us with other nations in the attempt to cease this trade. I went to Kenya with the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, and we had a chance to see the big five. I remember getting up close and seeing the beauty and brilliance of the elephants and being struck by the intelligence in their eyes. It is such a pity that those who poach them do not share their level of intelligence to understand that they are not only needlessly taking life, but will no longer be able to profit from it. It is clear that, while we carry out the normal protocol of check, double-check and triple-check of new legislation, we must seek to do that as quickly as possible to bring us up to international standards.
I watched a wildlife programme on TV last night, which showed a new way to try to alert people to what poachers are doing. People are putting collars on zebras and other animals. Whenever they see the animals running—they could be running from a lion, but in many cases they are running from poachers in the area—they are able to pinpoint where they are. This is another way of trying to address the issue. We must do everything we can to deal with it.
I have been contacted by auction houses—I have one on the boundary of my constituency—regarding the limited exemptions for antique ivory. The Secretary of State addressed this in introducing this debate and responding to interventions. I have been assured that auction houses and their trading partners are not averse to the legislation, as it stands; that is what they are telling me. They can well see the need to play our part on this horrendous trade, but there is certainly a little fear that any tweaking carried out may adversely affect their ability to sell genuine antiques that are historically and culturally important.
I commend the Government for the exemptions, in the provisions, for bagpipes, violins and pianos. I think that they have made sure that the trade in antiquities is allowed to continue. Pre-1975 musical instruments are also covered by the Bill. There is a real need for balance and to ensure that there is a clear distinction between the modern ivory trade and that in historic or antique ivory. I am given to understand that a strict number of things to be done while selling antique ivory has been suggested. That is right and proper. However, it is also so important that we do not stifle the legal trade in antique ivory while trying to eradicate the modern illegal ivory trade. There are businesses that rely on this antique trade. They must not be prevented by any changes in the Bill from selling items that are culturally and historically important.
I welcome the fact that the words “enter and search premises” will apply across all the regions of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Indeed, there are further steps that we can take over the cyber-sale of animals and their products. I believe this Bill must be the first of many conversations about how we can conserve and preserve for future generations.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare has said:
“Over a six week period in 2017, with a focus on France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom, IFAW’s team of experts and researchers uncovered that thousands of live endangered and threatened animals and animal products were offered for sale online.”
I ask the Minister what we are doing to address the issue of online sales. Many of us understand that, when people can buy ivory online or show ivory for sale online, we need to do something about it and cannot ignore it.
IFAW has identified 5,381 advertisements spread across 106 online marketplaces and social media platforms. It has catalogued 11,772 endangered and threatened specimens worth over £3 million. Again, that shows the magnitude of the problem. I commend the IFAW and other organisations and charities for all that they do. The way in which they highlight this issue, raise awareness and tell us all what is happening is good for us and the story we are telling the House today.
There is work to be done and I would like to see us in the House playing our part to conserve in a common-sense way. We can do our bit here. Let us do it through this Bill.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) said, this is good news. It is very rare to have good news that is supported by all parties in this House. I cannot say I disagree with anything that has been said by anybody on either side of the House, which is also pretty rare. I am delighted that the Bill has come before the House.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has shown huge leadership by pushing the Bill forward, and I think he will bring it in as swiftly as he possibly can. He is, of course, building on the work of other Secretaries of State before him, and particularly on the leadership of the right hon. William Hague—Lord Hague—and the former Prime Minister David Cameron, who said that we should leave this world a better place. I believe that by passing the Bill, we will do that.
Africa needs elephants more than it probably realises in many cases, because it needs the tourism they bring. Many people in the House have young children. I am fortunate enough to have five grandchildren, and I want them to see the elephants. My eldest granddaughter, who will be 14 next month, has seen elephants, but if the ban does not go through and other countries, such as China and America, do not support it in a more limited form, my youngest, who is only three, may not see those iconic creatures, which we all think are fantastic for every reason we can possibly imagine.
The saddest thing about elephant poaching is that it is the oldest elephants that are poached—because they have the biggest tusks, they are a target for the poachers. They are the wise ones of the herd, and they teach and explain to younger family members exactly how to behave. Unfortunately, we are getting some rather wild elephants that are delinquent because they have not had that training, so the sooner we can breed more elephants in the wild to keep the groups together and make those groups larger, the better. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, we need to keep the beautiful savannahs as they are.
Poachers kill many rangers, and I would like more Department for International Development money to be spent on training more rangers. The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) spoke about using alternative technologies, and that is something that DFID could explore. We could spend more time training people in African countries to understand how they can best beat the poachers, who are pretty clever and are ahead of the game. We need to beat them at it.
African elephants are important, but we need to look at other species with tusks that contain ivory, including rhinos and Indian elephants. We need to think hard about how we can include those species, but I do not want to water down the Bill. I want it to be specific, because it is important, but perhaps the Secretary of State will look at how he could include other species later, particularly to save the rhinos, which are on the verge of extinction.
There are many other things that we could do to help the world, including the rainforests. Tigers are endangered, as are gorillas, giraffes and many more animals. We need to save them from extinction because, as I have said, I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be able to go and see those different species. It is important for all of us to give future generations that opportunity.
There are a couple more points that I want to mention, but I do not want to take too much time, because this debate is fairly short. It would be useful if DEFRA published a register showing how many exemptions have been issued under the historical, artistic and cultural definition every year, so that a picture could be built up of all the relevant artefacts, which would be verified by people who know what they are doing, such as the V&A and other museums. That register ought to be publicly available, and it would demonstrate a commitment that the exemption is for the rarest and most important items only, not just any old ivory artefact.
Several Members have mentioned the National Wildlife Crime Unit. I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to announce permanent funding for the unit, as its existing funding expires in 2020. That should be part of the UK commitment to enforcement. I also hope that the Border Force CITES team at Heathrow will have sufficient manpower and resources, as it will be the frontline of our defence against illegal imports coming into the UK and organised criminal activity.
Finally, I would like to discuss Hong Kong. Although the Chinese support the ivory ban and, I am pleased to say, were ahead of us, I am told that in Hong Kong—I have a nephew out there—ivory continues to be passed off as mammoth tusks. It is perfectly legal to trade mammoth tasks, so will the Secretary of State work with Chinese leaders to try to shut down that market? Perhaps he could include a ban on mammoth ivory to close that loophole. People can test the difference between mammoth and elephant tusks, but what border agent or police officer would know about that? They would not challenge it, so we have to be firm and make sure that we close as many loopholes as possible to save these iconic animals that we all want future generations to see. However, I continue to congratulate the Secretary of State on moving fast; I would like to see him do more and move faster.
I am delighted to rise in support of the Bill. Although our constituents usually see the theatre of questions to the Prime Minister, it is on occasions like this, when we all work together, that the House is strongest. Today is a great example of that. We often work collegially across the House in Committees and all-party groups to achieve good, positive steps like this.
As someone who founded the all-party group on endangered species, along with many Members who are here and elsewhere, I am pleased that the Government have taken this decisive action and that the group has been able to support the Government’s work in this area. Even when some thought it might be just a little too difficult, we held their feet to the fire. I therefore welcome the action that is proposed by my right hon. Friend and parliamentary near neighbour the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The all-party group is now ably led by my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Rachel Maclean). We work alongside like-minded Members with the stated aim of ensuring
“that the plight of endangered species is on the political agenda of government”,
and we will not be going anywhere.
Elephants—those strong, smart, gentle, beautiful animals—are most definitely, and sadly, in the endangered category. As has been said, according to the WWF, the number of African elephants has fallen from between 3 million and 5 million to 415,000, while the number of Asian elephants has halved over the past three generations. It has also been said already—although it is such a shocking figure that it should be said over and over until something is done about it—that 20,000 elephants are slaughtered every year to fuel the global demand for ivory. It is absolutely horrifying but, in the midst of the horror, we have a glimmer of good news today, as this issue is now firmly on the Government’s political agenda—indeed, it is on their legislative agenda too, as the Bill proves. That the Government recognise the need to protect animals and that the Bill will help to close ivory markets and reduce both the price of ivory and the incentive to poach is good news.
I was, of course, first elected to this place in 2015, and the Conservative manifesto on which I stood promised that we would tackle the international wildlife trade and press for a total ban on ivory sales. I am pleased to be able to help deliver on that promise today.
The Bill builds on the proactive and global action that the Government have taken. We held the first international conference on the illegal wildlife trade in London in 2014 and we will soon host the fourth, having supported Vietnam and Botswana in hosting two more. As an aside, and as my hon. Friends the Members for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) and for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) said, the UK spends 0.7% of its GNI on aid, and I believe that wildlife protection would be a worthy use of our aid budget. I therefore urge Ministers to expand that spending.
The UK has successfully lobbied for the EU-wide adoption of a ban on raw ivory, and the UK Border Force successfully targeted ivory sent through postal systems with the WWF-sponsored wildlife crime operation of the year for 2016, Operation Quiver.
We have worked constructively with China to jointly develop and implement law enforcement measures to tackle illegal trade, in stark contrast, I am genuinely sad to say, to past Governments. In 2008, the then Government gave the go-ahead for China to become a licensed trading partner for 108 tonnes of ivory. On my last visit to China, I made the point that it needed to stop the ivory trade. The change in its approach from then to now is remarkable and laudable. I hope that it will go further in the years ahead not only to enforce its law more strongly across the whole of that vast country, but to widen its scope so that other species, such as tigers, get greater protection too.
These are great first steps—they are great steps, but they are just great first steps. As always, we must do more, and for many good reasons. As my hon. Friends the Members for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) and for Richmond Park mentioned, the scope of the Bill should be wider. Clause 35 is unnecessarily narrow in referring to the meaning of ivory as only coming from
“the tusk or tooth of an elephant.”
The explanatory notes cite many other species that would be eligible for regulations to be laid at a future date, but why wait? Why wait for there to be an issue that affects other animals adversely when we can act today? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State talked about our goal in providing leadership to the world on this important issue. I say to him and to the Minister that we should deliver that leadership not just for elephants but in pursuit of our goal of protecting animals more widely from what is a wholly unnecessary activity.
My hon. Friend was kind enough to mention the all-party group. He set up the group, kicking off excellent work on this issue. He talks about how the Bill could go further. Does he agree with both me and the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s submission to the debate that we need detailed guidance on what items of artistic and cultural merit should be exempted from the Bill? It is very important that we get the guidance right, so that things do not slip through and contribute to poaching.
I thank my hon. Friend for her kind words, and I urge her to go further in her leadership of the group to deliver what she sets out. She is right that we must be very clear about what we are seeking to achieve. We do not want to create loopholes for those who would seek to perpetuate such crimes against elephants and other animals. We must not allow those loopholes to exist, and we must not create new ones that they would wish to exploit. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) set out, there is a potential loophole in the case of species that are alive and well today but perhaps lower in number than we might like, and in the classification of ivory from mammoths. We could be creating an unnecessary loophole instead of closing it right now. Indeed, I believe we should do that. Unless we are to carbon date every piece of ivory coming through customs checks, we might find that those who commit these crimes will continue to do so.
Britain is very proudly a nation of animal lovers. Animals have a very special place in British society and in the hearts of the generous British people, with a quarter of annual charitable donations going to animal welfare causes. It should therefore come as no surprise that the Bill has wide support from beyond the predictable non-government organisations, which are to be lauded for their efforts in this area. It is so important that the public are on the side of this initiative. Out of 77,000 respondents, 88% supported a ban. The British public want this. Members have called for this. Animals deserve this. Let us get on and do it.
I am delighted to be able to speak on this important Bill, following on from my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena), and to continue to highlight just how Britain is taking the lead across the world in protecting the special and diverse wildlife across our planet. From oceans to the illegal wildlife trade, the Government are showing the environmental leadership that other countries across the globe can emulate and learn from.
There are, sadly, so many species of wildlife across the earth that need our protection from all manner of viruses, diseases, human poaching and destruction of habitat. The poaching and hunting of elephants for ivory is decimating elephant numbers, maiming and killing those sentient animals in the most cruel fashion, and fuelling serious and organised crime which has led to corruption in many of the states where elephants are poached.
The forests of central Africa are the hardest place to study or protect elephants, but it seems they are the first to be hit by poachers. Over the last decade, their number has declined by almost a third. I will not repeat the many statistics already shared with the House, but as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire just said, the statistic that 20,000 elephants are being lost every year should shock every person listening to or reading this debate.
The demand for ivory in the far east has been the primary driver of the renewal of killing over the last two decades. In the last four years, the wholesale price of raw ivory in China has tripled and reached a $2,100 a kilo. It is unacceptable for nations to stand by as elephants are killed in their hordes for their ivory. I am proud that, in order to protect elephants for future generations, we are introducing one of the world’s toughest bans on ivory sales. The maximum available penalty for breaching the ban of an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail seems appropriate, but we must ensure effective enforcement. This tough action will send a message to poachers and countries across the world that Britain is not prepared to stand by while the poaching continues unabated.
While I fully support the Bill and protecting the African elephant, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) about extending its provisions to Asian elephants, the rhino and the narwhal. It is important to consider that when we get into Committee. This is a one-off opportunity to highlight those particular mammals.
I want to raise an issue regarding the exemptions in the Bill. It is good news that there will be exemptions for musical instruments created before 1975 and items with less than 10% ivory content created before 1947—two years when steps were taken towards reducing the ivory trade—as well as those rare items and portrait miniatures that are at least 100 years old. Sales to and between museums will also be allowed, which, thanks to the Bill’s registration process, will help us to catalogue these historic items, which are part of the world’s artistic heritage.
The WWF has been clear that it does not believe that the exemptions will have a negative impact on the poaching of elephants or the illegal ivory trade. I also note that the exemptions in the USA, which are more relaxed than those in the Bill, have already resulted in a significant decline in the ivory trade across the pond. Given all that, as well as the Chinese ivory ban, which came into effect a few months ago, and the consequent fall in the ivory price, we can have every hope that the Bill will contribute to a reduction in the poaching of our wonderful elephant.
With this in mind, I would ask the Minister to consider one further narrow exemption that I as a Northumbrian MP believe is important for our musical heritage and which should be included in the scope of the exemptions for older musical instruments. In the north of our great country, the pipes—bagpipes and Northumbrian—have been a military and cultural part of our heritage for centuries, and pipers have a particularly long history in Northumberland. The Northumbrian pipes are a physically smaller and perhaps less terrifying musical instrument than their bigger cousin north of the Tweed.
The Northumbrian Pipers’ Society is extremely concerned, as am I, that this excellent Bill will inadvertently risk doing severe damage to our piping tradition and therefore to our regional musical heritage. The retrospective nature of the proposals on musical instruments containing ivory, which will make it unlawful to sell or hire instruments made with any ivory in them after 1975, even though they were made perfectly legally and were exclusively made using antique or CITES-licensed ivory, will, according to some estimates by key pipe makers and figures in the tradition, result in at least 500 to 600 sets ceasing to be marketable.
I must declare an interest: my daughter is a Northumbrian piper and owns a set of pipes that contains ivory. I do not know when it was made, and we do not intend to sell it, since we hope to perpetuate this musical Northumbrian tradition by passing them down the generations, but this is no less of an issue for all that. We bought them from a family whose grandfather had died and none of whose children had learned to play. We have been the happy recipients of a musical instrument and a county tradition.
Most of our Northumbrian pipe makers are retiring, including the amazing David Burleigh from the village of Longframlington in my constituency, and the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society relies heavily on second-hand sets to fill the gap and be sold on to those of the next generation, such as my daughter, to continue this ancient musical tradition. It would be a huge error to inadvertently suffocate one of our country’s finest musical traditions—it is the only instrument indigenous to England that has an unbroken history of performance—by missing a small exemption to this Bill, which I do not believe would have a negative effect on the poaching of elephants since we are talking about pipes made by recycling old or ancient ivory.
I think it fair to say that extending the exemption to cover all sets of Northumbrian pipes made before and during the Bill’s passage would not in any way encourage poaching or feed the illegal trade in ivory, given that the ivory concerned comprises very small pieces that could not realistically be reworked for sale in any other form. I should be delighted to meet the Secretary of State to discuss the matter in more detail, and to find a way of protecting the great tradition of those instruments and the heritage of Northumberland.
Apart from that one issue, which I call on the Government to consider further, I am delighted to support the Bill and to ensure that the UK leads the world in tackling the scourge of the illegal wildlife trade. I want the children of the future to watch “The Jungle Book”, which is my favourite film—[Laughter.] Confessions, Madam Deputy Speaker! I want those children to see the wonderful herd of elephants on Jungle Patrol, and to know that they are seeing a representation of a living, thriving animal community, not an extinct species.
Order. I am afraid that I must reduce the speaking time limit to five minutes.
I congratulate all the animal organisations that have encouraged the Government to introduce the Bill, and I completely agree with what my hon. Friends the Members for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) and for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) said. However, there are three people I wish to single out. The first is Mr Attenborough, whose wonderful films and programmes have transformed people’s perceptions and views of animals, not just throughout our country but throughout the world. If only I had a voice like Mr Attenborough’s, Madam Deputy Speaker, wouldn’t I be worth a lot of money?
I also wish to congratulate a lady called Lorraine Platt. I do not wish to upset a number of my colleagues—I do not think that there are any farmers in the Chamber at the moment—but I have been here for quite a while, and there was a time when it seemed that if an animal walked or moved a bit quickly, one might be encouraged to shoot or snare it. Lorraine Platt has transformed my party’s perception of the way in which we treat animals, and I salute her for that.
Finally, I congratulate the Secretary of State. We heard from my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson), but this is a moment for celebration—and here I come to the remarks made by the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman). Looking around the Chamber, I think that I have been a Member of Parliament for longer than anyone else who is present, and I have a good memory of how we have dealt with animal welfare measures in the past. We have not always been brilliant on the issue. In fact, it was David Mellor, when he was a Minister, who amended a raft of legislation—I happened to be a member of the Committee considering the Bill in question—but the hon. Lady mentioned the Labour party. It is absolutely true that when Tony Blair took office, animal welfare organisations were very enthusiastic about the way in which the party would develop, and huge amounts of money were given to it.
I salute what I see as a major victory on foxhunting. Indeed, I can tell my colleagues that I was one of the only five Conservatives who used to vote in favour of banning it. How that has changed in 2018. Colleagues saw that when our Prime Minister made an off-the-cuff remark about a free vote on bringing back foxhunting, it went down like a lead balloon. However, let me say gently to the hon. Lady that by the time Tony Blair left office, at a time when I had strong contacts with many animal welfare organisations, I felt that there was some disappointment, so I salute what the Secretary of State is doing. I cannot keep up with it. Each week, each month, all the things we have been asking for for such a long time are happening. The House will be united in encouraging him.
Elephants are wonderful animals. I have kept most kinds of animal, but I have never owned an elephant. We have not had room for one—although, according to my wife, I sound like a herd of elephants when I go up and down the stairs. It is impossible to imagine a world without elephants: that is unthinkable. We need only see the television programmes in which an elephant dies and all the others gather round it. They are absolutely wonderful animals, and what has been happening is barbaric.
I recently met Mr Duncan McNair, founder of Save the Asian Elephants, a remarkable association, and I gently say to the House that we must discourage our constituents from going on safaris where they ride on elephants. They should learn in detail how these elephants are restrained; it is quite wicked.
I was in Strasbourg last week. It was the first time I have ever been there, and it was wonderful. I addressed the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, and it is going to follow our lead in this regard.
I do not judge a society just on how it treats human beings; I judge it also on how it treats animals. This is a great day for the House of Commons and a great day in terms of progress in animal welfare.
It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate. I want to underscore some of the points already made and develop a further point that I canvassed briefly with my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith).
The first reason why this Bill is so important is the context. Elephants are in decline by 8% per annum according to the 2016 great elephant census, and we have heard today some other startling statistics: 55 elephants killed per day, 20,000 per annum, and an elephant dying every 25 minutes or so. There is legislation in place, but it is inadequate: in 1990 ivory was banned under the convention on international trade in endangered species, but that of course covered only post-1990 ivory. The message is therefore unclear and inconsistent, and this excellent Bill will help to bring clarity and consistency. As others have indicated, it also closes off that loophole that exists and the scope to launder illegal ivory as legal ivory.
In due course, after the Committee stage and when this Bill is enacted, the message will go out that the UK ivory market is closed to all items containing ivory, apart from a few very narrow exceptions. That is fantastic, and it also means that the UK will take on a role of global leadership and will be very well placed come the October meeting on the illegal wildlife trade.
There is also a point that I want to develop which will add to this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park made the point powerfully that the British people want to ensure that when we play our important role in the world in this area we can bring real ammunition to the fight. However, we should look at the budget we allocate to this important priority for the British people. When we look at the language used in how we go about deploying that financial firepower, we see that it is very narrowly focused. I am referring to the fact that every year the UK spends 0.7% of our gross national income on international development. We have the Department for International Development, but it is very narrowly focused, because its sole goal, as indicated by the House of Commons International Development Committee report, is ending poverty. That is because in 1970 the UN target was set and at that point the UN General Assembly said the money must be spent on overseas development assistance. So the money must be spent on development assistance, and the Act which enacted the 0.7% requirement was called the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015 and the Department is called the Department for International Development. What I would like to see—and what I sense that my constituents in Cheltenham would like to see—is for that Department to become the Department for International Development and Conservation, because at the moment the sole focus on poverty is a difficult pill to swallow. I have poverty in my constituency—there are areas of entrenched poverty—and it is therefore a difficult sell to say that £14 billion must be dedicated exclusively to that fight.
To put this in context, our entire prisons budget is about £4 billion, yet we will be spending £14 billion on tackling poverty. This wonderful Bill, which has enjoyed cross-party support, presents a great opportunity; it can be the springboard for us to do something bolder and more radical. There should be greater fluidity in terms of how we spend this money. Before anyone says that we cannot do that because the OECD says that it must be limited to international development, let me remind the House—lest we forget—that because the United Kingdom is an international aid superpower, we were able to leverage that power to achieve some flexibility in February 2016. We are now allowed to use the money in that budget to pay for peace and security-related costs, so why can we not go one step further? Why can we not use the excellent opportunity presented by the Ivory Bill to go further and to direct that money towards conservation? Let the moment start here. The Department for International Development should in due course become the Department for International Development and Conservation.
I rise to speak in support of this important measure. Indeed, I applaud the first five words of the Bill. Someone said earlier that it was a short Bill, but I do not find it particularly short. However, clause 1(1) is short enough. It states:
“Dealing in ivory is prohibited.”
That is a measure that I believe commands the support of both sides of the House. I stand here in the full knowledge that my constituents, from the very young to the most senior, feel passionately about protecting and preserving the elephant, which is sadly now under critical threat. I also want to speak on behalf of my grandchildren, and of their children yet unborn. I do not want to be part of a generation of humanity that stood by and allowed avarice and cruelty to destroy one of the most extraordinary creatures ever to grace this planet. It is unimaginable to me that the generations yet to come might never see an elephant in its natural environment.
If we do not take the lead on this matter, who will? I for one am proud that we are taking the lead, and the Bill shows that the United Kingdom is once again leading the world in animal welfare. By implementing one of the toughest ivory bans worldwide, this Parliament is sending the world the clear message that we are aware of the dangers facing the elephant population and that we are prepared to do something about it. The worldwide ivory trade has had a massively negative impact on elephants. The statistics have been rehearsed many times during the debate, and they are terrible. The WWF estimates that the current elephant population is barely a tenth of what it was in the early 20th century, and even now 55 elephants are killed for their tusks every day.
However, the ivory trade does more than kill elephants. A ground-breaking study by Dr Katharine Abernethy of Stirling University—where else?—found that routes forged by ivory smugglers enabled trade in other critically endangered species. The demand for ivory creates smuggling routes across forest borders, and those routes are then used by traffickers moving other animals, such as the pangolin. Pangolins are scaly, ant-eating mammals. Their meat is considered a delicacy and their scales are deemed by some to have magical medicinal properties. The pangolin is considered to be one of the most trafficked animals in the world today; it is probably the most trafficked animal that most people have never heard of. The WWF classifies the African elephant as “vulnerable”, but it classifies two of the pangolin species as “critically endangered”, the most serious classification, meaning that those species are at serious risk of extinction.
I therefore welcome the Bill on many different levels, and I hope that it sends a clear signal that the UK intends to bring down the ivory trade and the other criminal smuggling routes it enables. However, my attention has been drawn to certain aspects of the Bill. I believe that some of the definitions will need to be looked at closely in Committee, and either expanded or tightened. For example, clause 6 deals with pre-1918 portrait miniatures, but I believe that the definition of a portrait miniature needs to be looked at. Clause 7 deals with pre-1947 items with low ivory content, providing for an exemption if
“the volume of ivory in the item is less than 10% of the total volume of the material of which the item is made”.
It has been brought to my attention that that measure could have unintended consequences, because the Bill in its current form would inhibit the sale of small antique items consisting entirely of ivory made before 1947. We need to look at these definitions and their consequences, and we need to be determined about what we want this legislation to do.
I am pleased that clause 8 mentions pre-1975 musical instruments, because I am a piper, owning a priceless set of bagpipes with ivory mounts that my father got me—long before 1975, I hasten to add. Those mounts do make me sad, but it is a precious instrument and it makes a glorious sound, symbolising so much for my countrymen. I hope that the House will remain united as the Bill moves through Parliament and that we stamp out the ivory trade, because we must.
I beg some indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, because the start of my speech may seem slightly unrelated to the topic we are discussing. As a football fan, I am a frequent visitor to countries around the world. I do not know much about football, but I love to see it being played internationally, so in 2010 I found myself in South Africa for that great tournament. Who could forget some of those incredible games? We saw Portugal take on the mighty North Korea and defeat them 7-0, and the final saw Spain win their first World cup, defeating the Dutch 1-0 in extra time with Iniesta scoring the goal. However, what was most memorable about my trip to South Africa was the incredible countryside.
I took the 200 km “Garden Route” trip from Cape Town along the coast, through the wine regions, and on to the Tsitsikamma national park and over the suspension bridge that crosses the Storms river—breath-taking scenery and amazing countryside—and I then headed north to Kruger. I was travelling with some friends, and I like to go to bed early, so I left them at the bar, drinking heavily. About an hour later, my good friend Tony awoke me with a tap and said, “You need to get up and see this.” We opened the door of our chalet and immediately outside was a huge elephant within touching distance eating from the trees. It was incredible to see a magnificent animal like that in a semi-natural habitat, although I appreciate that eating next to a chalet is not completely natural for an elephant. I have two children, one of whom is currently touring the world. She has spent five months in Australia, and I hope that she will one day have the opportunity to see such magnificent elephants in their natural habitat. The work we are doing this evening could lead to that being a more likely possibility—indeed, a probability—in the future.
It is important to remember that we are a long way from South Africa, but the work of the British Government takes us to these places around the world. If I remember correctly, Cyril Ramaphosa became the South African President in February this year, and he met the Prime Minister in April to talk about the work that the British Government can do with South Africa in the future. I understand that we have committed approximately £50 million over the next four years to work with the South African Government to create employment and help the country to overcome barriers that will allow other countries, including the UK—this will be particularly important post Brexit—to work and trade with South Africa and other African nations. If they lose out on the income from trading in ivory, it is important that that is replaced somehow.
There is an interesting supply-and-demand argument around the money in the ivory trade. In 2016, approximately 100 tonnes of ivory was publicly destroyed to say to the smugglers, “We are destroying this stuff; it has no place being traded.” However, it is understandable that poor countries such as Zimbabwe, which tried to sell 70 tonnes for approximately $35 million, feel that they need the income. I believe it is a duty incumbent on us to help support Zimbabwe industrially in order to make sure it can replace that trade.
I conclude with the words of Charlie Mayhew, the chief executive officer and founder of Tusk:
“We believe that an unambiguous message should be communicated to the world that elephants are globally protected and that buying ivory is no longer socially acceptable.”
It is an enormous pleasure to speak in this debate, and it is also a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes), who has this evening demonstrated the real mix of wit and insight that the House has come to expect from him.
It is a real honour to speak in this debate, which shows the House at its best as we come together to make law at a time when we can feel the era changing. Not so long ago a person who wished to indicate that they were civilised and that they had travelled the world would do so by bringing something back, and that something would be a part of an animal they had killed to demonstrate that they had been to those places and seen those exotic animals.
Times change, and social attitudes clearly change. It is now no longer acceptable for fashion to be facilitated by cruelty, and that is the law we are discussing tonight. We realise, as we have heard a number of times this evening, that the scale of elephant killing is gigantic. We have lost five or six elephants since the start of this debate. The statistic is that we lose 20,000 elephants a year or one elephant every 25 minutes, which is extraordinary, but those dry statistics just do not do justice to the issue.
Anybody who has been to see elephants—ideally in their natural environment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North has, but even in captivity where they are being bred or researched for conservation reasons—will realise the extraordinary beauty, sensitivity and intelligence of these animals. Elephants seem almost human, and anybody who has seen footage in a wildlife documentary of parent elephants mourning a dead baby elephant, or mourning one of their own group, will realise quite how important it is that we protect them.
It is important that we have a functioning ecosystem. It is not just elephants, because all the other animals that live on the African plains depend on elephants keeping the ecosystem healthy. Of course it is far more important than that. It is important for the animals, it is important for our environment but it is also important for the people, because we now accept in this House and across the country that we should be protecting, not plundering, developing countries. If developing countries have a resource such as eco-tourism, we realise that we should be helping them—not exploiting them but protecting and helping them to profit from eco-tourism.
I agree entirely with every hon. Member who has said today that they are standing up on behalf not just of current generations but of their children. I have a two-year-old toddler, and I would like him to be able to go to Africa or to other countries around the world to see elephants in their natural environment. It is crucial that we do this.
The human impact is so important because it goes further than simply helping people. As with the illegal drug trade, the organised crime ramifications of wildlife crime are enormous. We have heard from a number of Members on both sides of the House that 100 rangers are killed by poachers each year as they try to protect elephants. We simply have to ensure that we stop the demand, and we can do that with the Bill.
I have sympathy for those who require exemptions for various reasons—for example, for cultural reasons—and I am grateful to the Government for thinking about those reasons and for introducing defined, narrow, clearly interpreted and well thought through exceptions, which I also support.
At present, unfortunately, the current regime simply is not working. I ask the Government to consider some of the definitions in clause 35, which other Members have raised. My constituency contains Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, and I may be unique in being a Member of Parliament who has bottle-fed a baby rhino, which I was greatly honoured to do at that park. I am of course aware that rhinos could be affected and so it is strange that the explanatory notes state that the
“delegated power could…be applied if the restrictions under this Bill inadvertently lead to the displacement of the ivory trade from elephant ivory to another form of ivory.”
That is likely to happen and we ought to deal with it now.
In the last few seconds available, let me say that I am grateful to those from all over West Oxfordshire who have written to me to express their support for the Bill. They are on the right side of history and so are the Government.
It is a pleasure to be the last person to speak. I shall be looking to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), whose yawning ratio has increased, to see when I should sit back in my place.
I absolutely support this Bill, for all the reasons as everybody else. Therefore, I will not rehearse those arguments and will instead focus on two matters, the first being the definition of ivory. I note the points that have been made about how that can be extended. The explanatory notes say that under clause 35 the definition can indeed be extended to cover beyond elephants. However, that would happen only if the Government took the view that there had been a shift towards trade in other ivory—they would perhaps then extend this. It would be a bit more up front to put that extension in place immediately and I cannot understand why this is limited just to the elephant tusk.
The second point I want to make is about the exemptions. In the event that we are to have exemptions, and we see the Bill contains some limited ones, surely it makes sense for the Bill Committee to get those absolutely right. Notwithstanding the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts), my concern is that I do not find those exemptions particularly tight. There is a series of exemptions. For example, clause 2 refers to pre-1918 rare items and those with artistic, cultural or historical significance. We all have a view on what such things could be and it will be incredibly difficult to differentiate objectively. The Bill also mentions other time limits; there are references to 1975.
I find the exemptions somewhat random, so my idea to throw into the pot is that we have just one pre-defined list—a “now or never” registration, using pre-1947 as the date. People would not be able to add to the list and anything that has not been registered would just get destroyed. That should include museums. Thereafter, we would have the pre-defined set of items in place, we would have certainty and this could not be gamed. We would therefore just have one criterion. That registration process would be paid for, and any excess amounts banked by the Government should be spent on prohibition work in the field in the countries where this exists. If anything in the list is transferred, there should be a 20% tax, which would also go to those causes.
Those are my ideas to throw into the pot. A lot more could be done in Committee to get these exemptions narrowed and standardised, and to give better legal certainty that this will work.
We have had an excellent debate this evening, and I thank Members from across the House for their contributions. To reiterate what my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State said in her opening speech, the Labour party welcomes this Bill and we will be supporting it this evening. Of course we will, however, be seeking to play a role in testing and tightening it in Committee, particularly on its exemptions.
We have heard some well researched and articulated speeches and interventions, and I shall mention just a few. My hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) and the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), among others, made an important point about online sales. There must not be an online market for such items, and I would be keen to explore every opportunity to close loopholes for the sale and trade of ivory as this Bill progresses. My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, and others made an important point about the funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. It is an important part of resourcing the enforcement efforts required to really enact this legislation in the way that we envisage, and I look to the Government to reassure us further on that point and commit to funding the unit beyond 2020.
The right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) made a passionate speech based on his experience in this policy area and rightly paid tribute to the bold action taken by the Chinese Government. He also reflected on the difficult and insatiable relationship between supply and demand that will persist unless we step in and sever it.
The hon. Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes) made a characteristically interesting speech that I thoroughly enjoyed. He made a serious point about the economic impact on certain countries of banning the ivory trade and what we might need to consider by way of support as we move through the transition.
It is worth reflecting on the public’s role in the progress that has led to the Bill before us and thanking them for their contributions. I am mindful that the last time the House debated this issue was in a Westminster Hall debate on an e-petition calling on the Government to shut down the domestic ivory trade, which secured more than 100,000 signatures. Further to that, as the Secretary of State mentioned, after the Government opened their consultation on the proposals at the end of last year, a staggering 70,000 people and organisations responded. More than 80% of responses were in favour of measures to ban ivory sales in the UK; that has no doubt assisted in the shaping of the Bill.
I think, based on the contributions we have heard, that we all share a great sadness that the illegal wildlife trade has grown rapidly in recent years. It is absolutely right that we take robust domestic action to tackle it head on, while demonstrating leadership on this issue to the rest of the world. Despite the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, to which 183 states are party, and the introduction of an international ivory ban in 1989, we have still witnessed a worrying upward trend in illegal killings since the mid-2000s. As we have heard, recent estimates of African savanna elephant populations indicated a 30% decline in numbers between 2007 and 2014. That is 144,000 fewer elephants.
The examples of decisive action taken by the US and China have already had a positive impact, so we welcome this domestic action, which we hope will help to turn around the situation. One issue that we wish to explore further in Committee is the possibility of displacement and unintended consequences, for which we will have to be ready. There have been suggestions that the Chinese Government’s interventions on ivory may have brought about an increase in trade in neighbouring states in which controls are more relaxed. I was interested to hear the point made by the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) about mammoth tusks, which proves that workarounds will be found by unscrupulous poachers if there is scope for them to find them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), the hon. Members for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) and for Mid Derbyshire, the right hon. Member for North Shropshire and several others made the point that clause 35 sets out the meaning of ivory as being
“ivory from the tusk or tooth of an elephant.”
Both the Bill and the explanatory notes reflect on the possibility of a clampdown on elephant ivory resulting in an increased threat to other animals—such as hippopotamuses or a variety of marine animals—but neither offers a comprehensive framework for responding to that threat. Sadly, we can envisage that unintended consequence becoming a reality if we are not prepared for it.
Labour has long been the party of animal welfare, from banning foxhunting and fur farms in the UK to the introduction of the landmark Animal Welfare Act 2006, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) for acknowledging that. In an insightful speech, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), said that nobody could get legislation through quickly like the Secretary of State. That having been said, we welcome the opportunity to congratulate the Secretary of State and his team on finally bringing some legislation to the Chamber. For all his bold announcements, we are reassured that he is finally translating the words and consultations into action and law change, as this is the first piece of primary legislation that we have seen from him since his appointment to the role.
Earlier, the hon. Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) made the point that, if the Government can implement a comprehensive ban on ivory, they could also look into a comprehensive ban on fur, as debated in Westminster Hall today. Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East, they could also look into banning the use of animals in circuses. We look forward to seeing legislation on both those issues in the not-too-distant future. Again, we welcome the legislation before us and look forward to revisiting the detail in Committee.
I wish to thank Members from all parties for their contributions to this really important debate. I am encouraged by the strong consensus in the Chamber that the Bill is essential in the fight against the poaching of elephants for their ivory. I am grateful to Members on both sides of the House for that clear cross-party support. There were some excellent speeches from the hon. Members for Workington (Sue Hayman), for Halifax (Holly Lynch) and for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who showed that important cross-party consensus on the fact that action must be taken.
Restrictions on commercial activities in ivory and other products from endangered species were first introduced when the United Kingdom became party to the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora, CITES, in 1975. The EU wildlife trade regulations introduced in 1997 implement CITES in a stricter manner than is required by the convention. The Bill now builds on those existing regulations to underline the fact the United Kingdom does not accept that ivory should be seen ever as a desirable commodity or, even worse, as a status symbol.
The Government have introduced this Bill quickly—only six weeks after we published our consultation response. We recognise the need to act quickly, which has been highlighted by many Members throughout the House—I am very grateful for that. I am hopeful that Members from across the House will work together to ensure the swift passage of the Bill through Parliament in the weeks ahead.
Before I respond to individual points raised by Members, I should like to pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey). Indeed, this Bill bears the hallmarks of her committed campaigning and energy, which make her such a popular figure in the House. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that you and Members from across the House will join me in wishing her a speedy recovery. I will do everything that I can, to the best of my endeavours, to provide cover for her from the substitutes’ bench until she returns safe and well to join us in this place.
We should also recognise, as many Members have, the incredible efforts of the 70,000 individuals and organisations that took the time to respond to the consultation that was launched last October. It is particularly encouraging that some 88% of respondents supported the ban on the sale of ivory. I thank the environmental bodies represented in those responses, and those from the antiques trade, the music sector and others, for their constructive engagement and support. I have been particularly heartened to see the endorsement of our approach from conservation organisations such as the WWF, the Tusk Trust, the Zoological Society of London, the Born Free Foundation and Stop Ivory, among others. It is most welcome and sincerely much appreciated.
That engagement and the level of support for our proposals has convinced us that it is right that the Bill sets out a strong ban to protect elephants in the wild from poaching, with only a very limited number of exemptions for ivory items that would not contribute either directly or indirectly to poaching. We believe that approach is both proportionate and, of course, robust, as it should be.
When I saw elephants in the wild during a very memorable visit to Tanzania in 1988, the African elephant population was estimated to be 600,000.
I have been listening very carefully to what my hon. Friend is saying. When it comes to the Committee stage of the Bill, will he look very carefully at what colleagues on both sides of the House have said and extend the ban to include, for instance, rhino horns?
We have already taken very strong action to combat the illegal trade in rhino horn. Other Members have also talked about the need to extend that to other ivory-bearing species—I will come on to that later if I can. Under clause 35, the Secretary of State does have powers to extend that ban if there is sufficient displacement. That is a delegated power and we will obviously take it very seriously. We can debate that more in Committee.
As I was saying, figures for the elephant population have moved from 600,000 when I visited Tanzania to just 415,000. That is a depressing decline of more than 30%. As many Members have said, we need to ensure that future generations will be able to see these splendid and iconic creatures in their natural habitats and not in captivity. We want future generations to be able to benefit from that.
We are taking positive steps that will lead the way in the global fight against elephants heading towards extinction. The Bill achieves that by banning commercial activities in ivory, which we define as buying, selling or hiring ivory; offering to buy, sell or hire ivory; and keeping ivory for sale. In so doing, we will put a responsibility on both the buyer and the seller, and capture the actions taken by the middlemen who facilitate or support the trade—for example, those advertising ivory illegally. Many hon. Members have mentioned their concerns about online trade, which the Bill seeks to tackle absolutely. However, it should be noted that the ban will not prohibit owning, inheriting, donating or bequeathing ivory that is currently permitted. That will extend to Northumbrian pipes, which my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan) will be pleased to hear.
The Bill sets out five limited and targeted exemptions to the ban, including a de minimis exemption for items with low ivory content; musical instruments; portrait miniatures; sales to and between accredited museums; and items assessed as being the rarest and most important examples of their type. Those strictly defined exemptions were informed by the consultation and by fully examining global best practice. They have been carefully designed to cover items that, when sold, do not directly or indirectly fuel the poaching of elephants. A certification process is applied to the exemption for the rarest and most important items, while a self-registration process applies to the other four categories.
Finally, the Bill provides for the offences, sanctions and powers necessary for the enforcement of the ban. A mixed regime of criminal and civil sanctions has been applied, recognising that offences are likely to range in severity. Enforcement agencies are empowered by the Bill to ensure that those acting in breach of the ban will face the appropriate punishment. We remain committed to setting a high bar internationally on sanctions for illegal wildlife trade activities. As such, the maximum criminal sanction of five years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine will be applied. That is in line with existing sanctions under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997. Those penalties rightly reflect the serious nature of the ban. The powers to enforce the ban will be conferred upon the regulatory body, the police and customs officials. Those powers are derived from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
Let me move on to some of the issues that hon. Members have raised in this consensual and important debate. It is great to have the support that we have seen from across the House, including from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Mrs Latham) and the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). We heard from Northern Ireland with the contribution of the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), and from my hon. Friends the Members for Southend West (Sir David Amess), for Newbury (Richard Benyon) and for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes), with characteristic flair and commitment.
My right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) raised a number of important points. I praise his commitment to this vital work and the contribution he made when he was Secretary of State. He raised concerns about the rarest and most important items. I reassure him that clause 3 is very much a framework, not a comprehensive list; further information will be given in guidance. He and the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow also suggested an annual register of the rarest and most important exempted items. We will happily look at how that data can be published, including by using the new IT system that will be developed to facilitate this task.
Members were concerned about online sales. The Bill captures and fully addresses that issue. As I said before, it will be an offence to facilitate a sale. Some Members mentioned how important it is to look at other ivory-bearing species. They included my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), who has made huge contributions on this subject, and my hon. Friends the Members for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena), for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) and for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman)—my hon. Friend came up at the rear of the debate, but made an important contribution. Clause 35 will provide that opportunity. I would also like to reassure some colleagues, who have wondered whether the Bill covers Asian elephants, that it categorically covers both African and Asian elephants.
The hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) raised what he called the Elgin question. I can tell my hon. Friend—he knows why I call him that—that it should be called the Bassetlaw question, without a doubt. I will make sure that I get back to him in writing to address the question of whether ivory should be returned to a museum in a country of origin.
The hon. Member for Workington asked about funding for enforcement. The Office of Product Safety and Standards has now been confirmed as the regulator. It will have a vital role in working with the police and customs officials to tackle this very significant crime. We can talk more about that role in Committee, as I hope she agrees. The work carried out by the National Wildlife Crime Unit is also absolutely critical. She asked about funding for that work. I assure her that we are looking at that vital issue ahead of the IWT conference, and I am sure that the Secretary of State will be working on it with the Home Secretary.
I should declare an interest in relation to a visit I made to Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, much conservation work is done with Asian elephants. Currently, however, Sri Lanka is not eligible for aid funding. In line with what my hon. Friends the Members for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), among others, have said, will the Minister agree to look at how more aid funding could be allocated to supporting conservation efforts?
That is an important point. I am sure that the Secretary of State has been looking at it over recent months, and I will be happy to raise it as well and to meet my hon. Friend to discuss it more fully.
The Minister touched on the conference in October. As there is tremendous, overwhelming and, I think, unanimous support for the Bill, how quickly does he think he and his colleagues can get it through the Commons, through the other place, and on to the statute book?
That is a vital question. I have looked at my boss, the Secretary of State, and his look said it all: it will be at pace. I am sure that there will be the same commitment when we work with Members from across the House. This activity needs to be stopped, and it needs to be stopped very speedily. We will be playing our part in Parliament to make sure that that happens.
The hon. Member for Workington asked what actions are being taken to lobby other countries. Clearly, the IWT conference will be a chance to take that work forward. The Secretary of State and the Foreign Secretary are working very hard to make sure that this work is taken forward with other states around the world.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend West confirmed his passion for protecting elephants, but it is also important to note that he confirmed that he is a national treasure himself—one that should definitely be preserved.
It has been a real honour to have been able to participate in this debate and to help take forward this vital legislation on behalf of the Government, but also on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal. We do wish her a very speedy return to this House.
We want these proposals to be passed through the House speedily, but also to be implemented speedily to tackle the heinous crime of poaching. I am grateful to Members on both sides of the House for the support that they have shown for this Bill. I urge them to continue to demonstrate their support as the Bill makes progress through Parliament—hopefully very speedy progress, because that is what it definitely deserves. I know that through, the media others will be watching what we are doing in this House. With the illegal wildlife trade conference in October, global leaders will be arriving in London. They will be able to look at what we are doing, and we will be able to demonstrate to others that we mean what we say on ending the trade in ivory. We hope that other nations will follow our lead by helping to close down their own domestic markets, and that this Bill will inspire them to do so. I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Ivory Bill (Programme)
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),
That the following provisions shall apply to the Ivory Bill:
(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.
Proceedings in Public Bill Committee
(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 21 June 2018.
(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Consideration and up to and including Third Reading
(4) Proceedings on Consideration and any proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.
(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and up to and including Third Reading.
(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.—(Rebecca Harris.)
Question agreed to.
Ivory Bill (Money)
Queen’s recommendation signified.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),
That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Ivory Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred by the Secretary of State under or by virtue of the Act.—(Rebecca Harris.)
Question agreed to.