The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairs: †Steve McCabe, Mark Pritchard
† Cameron, Dr Lisa (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP)
† Chalk, Alex (Cheltenham) (Con)
† Courts, Robert (Witney) (Con)
† Davies, Mims (Eastleigh) (Con)
† Debbonaire, Thangam (Bristol West) (Lab)
† Donelan, Michelle (Chippenham) (Con)
† Harrison, Trudy (Copeland) (Con)
† Hayman, Sue (Workington) (Lab)
† Hoare, Simon (North Dorset) (Con)
† Latham, Mrs Pauline (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)
† McCarthy, Kerry (Bristol East) (Lab)
† Pollard, Luke (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
† Rutley, David (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
† Smith, Henry (Crawley) (Con)
† Sobel, Alex (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)
† Turley, Anna (Redcar) (Lab/Co-op)
† Twist, Liz (Blaydon) (Lab)
Gail Poulton, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee
Cath Lawson, Chief Wildlife Adviser, Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)
Will Travers OBE, President, Born Free Foundation
David Cowdrey, Head of Policy and Campaigns, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
Alexander Rhodes, CEO, Stop Ivory
Charlie Mayhew MBE, Chief Executive, Tusk Trust
Public Bill Committee
Tuesday 12 June 2018
[Steve McCabe in the Chair]
Before we begin, I have a few preliminary announcements. Will people ensure that they switch electronic devices to silent? I remind Members that teas and coffees are not allowed during sittings.
We will first consider the programme motion on the amendment paper. We will then consider a motion to enable the reporting of written evidence for publication, and a motion to allow us to deliberate in private about our questions before the oral evidence session. I hope that we can take those motions formally, because we are a bit pressed for time.
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 12 June) meet—
(a) at 1.30 pm on Tuesday 12 June;
(b) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 14 June;
(c) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 19 June;
(d) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 21 June;
(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence on Tuesday 12 June in accordance with the following Table:
Time Witness Until no later than 10.25 am World Wildlife Fund; Born Free; International Fund for Animal Welfare Until no later than 11.25 am Stop Ivory; Tusk Trust Until no later than 2.15 pm National Wildlife Crime Unit; CITES Border Force team, Heathrow Until no later than 3.00 pm British Art Market Federation; British Antique Dealers’ Association; Philip Mould & Company; Music Industries Association; Musicians’ Union Until no later than 3.45 pm British Museum; Victoria and Albert Museum
Until no later than 10.25 am
World Wildlife Fund; Born Free; International Fund for Animal Welfare
Until no later than 11.25 am
Stop Ivory; Tusk Trust
Until no later than 2.15 pm
National Wildlife Crime Unit; CITES Border Force team, Heathrow
Until no later than 3.00 pm
British Art Market Federation; British Antique Dealers’ Association; Philip Mould & Company; Music Industries Association; Musicians’ Union
Until no later than 3.45 pm
British Museum; Victoria and Albert Museum
(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 13; Schedule 1; Clauses 14 to 19; Schedule 2; Clauses 20 to 42; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Thursday 21 June.—(David Rutley.)
I have been advised that the witness schedule on the Order Paper is incorrect. For the avoidance of doubt, the schedule in the order just agreed by the Committee is the correct one. We changed it slightly because of other events today, to ensure that the witnesses are dealt with appropriately.
The deadline for amendments to be considered at the first line-by-line sitting of the Committee was the rise of the House yesterday. The next deadline will be the rise of the House on Thursday for the Committee’s sitting a week today.
That subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(David Rutley.)
Copies of written evidence that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.
That at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(David Rutley.)
The Committee deliberated in private.
Examination of Witnesses
Cath Lawson, Will Travers and David Cowdrey gave evidence.
We will now hear evidence from the World Wide Fund for Nature, Born Free and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Before I call the first Member to ask a question, I remind Members that questions should be limited to matters within the scope of the Bill, and that we must stick to the timings of the programme motion. Could the witnesses introduce themselves for the record and to check the sound?
Cath Lawson: My name is Cath Lawson, I am the chief adviser on wildlife at WWF UK.
Will Travers: My name is Will Travers, I am the president of the Born Free Foundation.
David Cowdrey: My name is David Cowdrey, I am the head of policy and campaigns at the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Will Travers: That is an important question. Context is important; we all feel that it is important that whatever other considerations there are for non-elephant ivory-bearing species, they do not blow this legislation off course or delay it significantly. We all share the view that it would be a tragedy, to put it in informal terms, if we worked really hard to save elephants and other species were collateral damage in the process. But we need to consider a number of species.
We suggest that the Government commit to a rapid consultation after the Bill, to look at hippos, narwhal, hornbill—which are also facing extinction because their bills are a surrogate for ivory—walrus and not just CITES-listed species but non-CITES-listed species. We recognise that the trade—particularly the legal one—is entrepreneurial and will move to wherever there is an opportunity. Species such as warthog could come into the frame very rapidly as interest in ivory shifts from elephants, which are getting a huge amount of attention, to other ivory-bearing species.
In summary, we would like real attention to be paid to the issue, but we want to make sure that that does not in any way delay this process. That would be detrimental to what is under way.
Cath Lawson: We endorse that opinion. We are happy that the Bill as it stands, which allows for consideration of other ivory-bearing species at a later date, is sufficient. We would be comfortable with Will’s suggestion of expansion to non-CITES-listed species, too, but our concern would be that to include other non-ivory-bearing species at this point would cause delays to the Bill. With the illegal wildlife trade conference in October, we are keen that the Bill moves quickly through the legislative process.
David Cowdrey: Again, I endorse what WWF and Born Free just said. There should be flexibility in the Bill to include other species in future, but at this time the focus should be on delivering for elephant ivory, which the consultation was about and where a lot of the research was. That flexibility should enable the inclusion of further species should they be exploited and should there be a need to add them.
David Cowdrey: I totally agree with that. We have all worked so hard to get to this point to deliver one of the strongest ivory bans in the world. The initiative that has been taken by all parties and the cross-party support shown on Second Reading have been superb, and there is an opportunity to provide that protection. As we said, as long as there is that flexibility, and consideration for other species, which can be applied in future, and as long as further consultations can be held and we can have those discussions, I would agree totally with that.
Cath Lawson: Yes, WWF would be happy to engage in that consultation process, but for it to be separate to passing the Bill.
Will Travers: Just for the Committee’s interest and information, we are talking about huge volumes of trade in non-elephant ivory. I have four figures that might be helpful. From 2007 to 2016—just under a decade—78,000 hippos and hippo products were exported by CITES parties. Hong Kong imported 60 tonnes of hippo ivory between 2004 and 2014. Between 2007 and 2016—those dates again—7,000 narwhal products were exported and more than 172,000 walrus specimens were reported to have been exported on the CITES trade database. Those are not insignificant by any measure—they are enormously significant. With that kind of volume now, as we have just mentioned, the shift away from elephant ivory could put insupportable pressure on these other species, which is why we would like to see an accelerated process for that after this process has been undertaken. That is a very helpful suggestion.
Cath Lawson: From WWF’s point of view, I cannot comment on the legislative process but we would certainly want to see a consultation process around those species before inclusion in a Bill. That is why it needs to be a separate process.
Cath Lawson: Similar to the process we have gone through for the Ivory Bill, looking at the impact of UK trade on those species, and implications further down the line in terms of limiting that trade.
Will Travers: My understanding is that it is genuinely an alternative ivory that is used in decorative materials. It is used in inlays and in almost exactly the same way as elephant ivory is used except less so on the whole. Less so in a large carved tusk in the shape of little elephants, for example.
Cath Lawson: We certainly recognise the risk, and that is why we are comfortable with there being the option in the Bill as it currently stands for consideration. Our concern is about including them in the body of the Bill now and the delay that a consultation process on that would cause for the passing of the Bill.
David Cowdrey: For me, in relation to the legislation and its global impact, introducing one of the toughest ivory bans in the world will establish us firmly as a global leader. In Europe at the moment there are discussions about an ivory ban; on Second Reading there was a discussion about how our ban should act as a template for the European one. It gives us a good opportunity to push for a European ivory ban equal to, if not stronger than, the one we are introducing in the UK. Globally, that will have a massive impact on closing down those markets and the trade that is currently going from Europe to south-east Asia.
Concerning the United States and China, China is implementing its ivory ban very strongly at the moment and doing a very good job. It still has further to go; Hong Kong will be closing down in 2022, and we look forward to that because there is still trade going on legally there. The United States also has its ban, which is doing very well, but it has a federal law and state law, so it is much more complex to interpret. The UK could provide the template for the rest of the world.
Will Travers: I agree with everything that has just been said. I will point out that the UK does not have anybody whose livelihood depends on ivory, whereas in China there were individuals whose livelihoods depended on the ivory trade. China has taken that resolute decision, notwithstanding the fact that people’s livelihoods to a degree depended on it, to move out of it. That is important. It is complex in the US, as has been said, because of the federal and state situation, but the US has also taken resolute actions. The UK, having proclaimed that it would take action quite some time ago, is now in a position to reassert itself as a leader on this issue, not only on our own domestic front, but in the investment we make in supporting African countries in their efforts to tackle illegal trade. Just this morning, there was notification of another seizure by the Kenyan authorities in Mombasa.
It will be one of the toughest. It might not be the toughest—I believe that Taiwan, for example, has a full ban, which is coming in in very short order, with no exemptions and no compensation—but we will certainly be up there.
Cath Lawson: I very much endorse what has already been said and reiterate the point that with the October meeting of the illegal wildlife trade conference, the passing of this Bill would put the UK in an incredibly strong position to advocate to those countries that have yet to make commitments, particularly the neighbouring countries around China, where we risk seeing a knock-on effect of China’s ban.
Will Travers: As far as I am aware, they cover only elephant ivory.
David Cowdrey: For the October illegal wildlife trade conference we have a global stage. Senior politicians and Heads of State will come to the UK, and announcing that we have on the statute book an ivory ban that is one of the toughest in the world will be critical as part of that global leadership. As for acting as a deterrent, we know that closing down markets alone will not stop the illegal ivory trade—it is an illegal trade and we need good enforcement measures to go alongside it. We have opportunities with the illegal wildlife trade conference regarding our own law enforcement. The National Wildlife Crime Unit is funded only until 2020, and that funding must be renewed and become permanent if we are to show global leadership in acting as a deterrent and having the correct law enforcement. The CITES Border Force team is our frontline of defence at Heathrow, and they are conducting training all over the world. When staff leave or posts become vacant they must be renewed because we must maintain that capacity to act as a deterrent.
As organisations, we invest—as do the UK Government —in anti-poaching work on the ground. This is not just about closing down markets or legislation; this is about enforcement and feet on the ground doing that anti-poaching work. It is a mixture of measures, but with this Bill the UK can show that global leadership of taking the right steps in the right direction. We know that the Government are also investing in a lot of work overseas by having troops going to Malawi, training rangers, and other overseas investments.
Cath Lawson: We very much endorse that. To ensure that the impact of the Bill is realised there must be sufficient effort to raise awareness of it, and sufficient support resource going to the implementation of enforcement. We must particularly seek long-term funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
Will Travers: Yes, I would agree with all that, and I want to show the Committee something that may help understanding. The question was about what the Bill’s impact on poaching will be, and it is hard to make a direct correlation. However, we can have a direct impact on other aspects that relate to poaching. I am holding a piece of ivory and it looks antique to me. It obviously looked antique to half a dozen ivory dealers who looked at it and said, “Yep, that is pre-1947. We would be happy to sell it”. We had it DNA tested, and it is from about 2000. It is a modern piece of ivory—well, the ivory is from 2000 but the carving was done later. This must have come from an elephant that was poached in the past 20 years. The Bill will help to deal with that, and that is a direct link to poaching. It is very important.
Investment in wildlife law enforcement in Africa is really important. It is about boots on the ground, but also about agencies that prosecute people. It is about legal systems and ensuring that deterrent sentences are indeed just that and are effective, and that people do not get off with a slap on the wrist. It is about ensuring that law enforcement officers are properly trained and can carry out their duties effectively. The African Elephant Coalition includes 30 countries with African elephants that have worked together, united, to try to deal with this issue across international borders. I am sure future speakers will talk about the countries of the Elephant Protection Initiative, which are coming together under a common agenda.
My final point is that we need to step up and think about investment in a slightly different way. In my view, there is a common linkage with our clear objectives in overseas development, which are to deal with poverty and to provide opportunity. Those are also based on healthy and secure environments, including wildlife environments. Many of the ecosystem services that the poorest people in Africa depend on come from protected areas. If we are not investing in the protected areas where elephants and other species live, we are not doing a great service either to the species we wish to protect or to the people who live literally downstream from those protected areas.
David Cowdrey: One of the points that has been mentioned is that the Bill is about not only law enforcement but deterrence. There is an opportunity here to introduce a set of sentencing guidance for courts in the United Kingdom, to provide that information to magistrates and judges when prosecuting cases. We need appropriate sentences to be given for the crimes at the end of the day. Having the Bill on its own and having law enforcement is one thing, but we need good sentencing guidance to ensure that appropriate sentences are given.
David Cowdrey: I attended the Partnership for Action against Wildlife Crime conference at Kew last week, and one of the questions I asked was about the growing issue of cyber-crime. Does the National Wildlife Crime Unit have sufficient resources to tackle the illegal wildlife trade online? Quite clearly that is something it would like additional resource for.
As Will said, these criminals are working in an environment where they can adapt and change very swiftly. The online market provides anonymity, as they can create false identities, so trying to prosecute them becomes much more difficult. Only yesterday we had the introduction of new guidelines on the control of trade in endangered species from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which was fantastic. They include a new crime if someone is advertising an endangered species on annexe A and does not have an article 10 certificate.
Steps are being taken, but we are always playing catch-up with these criminals. We need the resources to be able to prosecute them. That goes not only at the UK level but at international level, with Interpol and within the countries where these crimes are taking place on the ground with poaching.
Will Travers: One of the tools at our disposal is to make sure that the charges for the exemption certificates are sufficiently high. I know that it is meant to be a cost-recovery process, but they should be sufficiently high to make sure that the very limited number of exemption certificates that are applied for are not applied for in a frivolous way, so people are not applying for lots of exemption certificates, which would defeat the object. We need to come back to the core principles of what we are trying to do here and ensure that these exemptions are extremely limited. One way of doing that is to say that if you want an exemption certificate, it will cost—I will make up the figure—£1,000. I think people will think twice when they have to go through that process and fork out £1,000 but might not get the certificate at the end of the day. That is another mechanism that we should look at.
There has been some concern that the ban might lead to displacement to other countries, for example in the far east. You have addressed that to some extent in your comments. Can you reconfirm for the Committee that you believe that the ban will help and that the October conference could be an opportunity to start tackling concerns about displacement?
Cath Lawson: Yes, very much. We feel that we have had the opportunity to input into this process, and we are grateful for that—the consultation process has been very inclusive. If the Bill can be passed in time for the October conference, we can show that we have one of the world’s strongest pieces of legislation on ivory. We feel that it would put the UK in a strong position to work with other countries, particularly those neighbouring China: Laos, Thailand, Bhutan. There is certainly a risk of displacement from China to those sorts of countries, and this would help them move forward with their ivory legislation as well.
Will Travers: I totally agree. With regard to the voice, it was one of the biggest responses in the public consultation, showing the depth of public concern. It was generated not just by advocacy organisations such as those represented here and others; the public in general wanted to have their say. With regard to displacement, the fact that the Foreign Secretary is so invested in the issue—as was his predecessor—bodes well, because the FCO has a really important role to play in making sure that our position on this issue is well understood in the countries that were just mentioned. Although the Bill is about the domestic ivory trade, it is important that it does not become a domestic issue; it is an influencer far and wide, particularly in those countries that have yet to make their position as clear as they could.
David Cowdrey: I agree. We have been listened to and consulted well. The consultation run by the Ivory Bill team at DEFRA should be congratulated on doing a superb job. They have consulted far and wide, with a range of organisations, and constructed a carefully crafted Bill.
There is always a risk of displacement to other countries. The investment that is being made and the training that the UK can provide—not only through our armed forces but through our police services—is excellent. The Metropolitan police in the UK have developed an ivory fingerprinting kit, which is now being rolled out to over 18 countries globally. The British high commission in Mozambique has invited me back to do some training with rangers and ANAC, which is the national parks authority. That is a piece of frontline equipment that can help catch ivory poachers on the ground, and it will also be appearing at the IWT conference in October. Team GB have a huge amount to contribute to law enforcement on the ground, and can provide expertise, training and resources where displacement is happening. Those are good strategic opportunities for tackling some of these real hotspots around the world.
Will an ivory ban help? Yes it will. This is a really good piece of legislation that will provide that global leadership and that position. The opportunities you have within the European Union to get a strong ivory ban in Europe and use this as a template are critical. Every available opportunity should be used to push this across Europe via colleagues, so that we can roll out this ivory ban and get a global ban. This is what we really need in order to start tackling the trade. You have a great opportunity and I wish you well.
David Cowdrey: Additional measures have just been introduced in the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations. Anybody offering an annexe A specimen will need to display their article 10 certificate. That is a new requirement that we welcome. Enforcement is an issue. There has just been a major conference with Interpol in Lyon with law enforcement agencies from across Europe and the world, which was co-partnered with IFAW. It was looking at how we can tackle cyber-crime and where it is moving—again, it is the impact of Facebook closed groups, which are very difficult to penetrate, and also the dark web. An awful lot of further work and investigation is needed by global enforcement agencies, but also by our own enforcement agencies. We have to remember that this is a criminal activity, undertaken by organised criminal gangs using the same routes they use for other commodities, such as guns, people and drugs. It is the fourth largest illegal activity in the world. It is undermining communities and Governments and therefore needs to be a priority. Tackling this in any way we can, and especially online, is going to be critical.
As Will said earlier, these are criminal groups that will adapt and change at the flick of a switch. When one market closes, another one will open. They will use technology to the fore. Now, with our tenBoma scheme in Kenya, we are creating a network to defeat a network, which is critical. We are using the same intelligence software used to tackle poachers before they shoot the elephant, so we can anticipate where they are going to be and make sure the resources from the enforcement agencies are deployed. Enforcement online and on the ground, and using technology, is vital if we are to defeat the poachers.
Cath Lawson: We certainly agree that the online trade is very much a concern, but we feel that the Bill as it stands, and the exemption for what is specified—with some tweaks that I hope we will have an opportunity to talk about later—is pragmatic and sufficient to not pose a significant risk.
David Cowdrey: Yes, I agree. With 20,000 elephants being killed every single year—around 55 elephants a day—this is poaching at an incredibly high, industrialised level. We saw in a three-year period between 2010 and 2012 approximately 100,000 elephants being poached. This is genocide for elephants on a vast scale. It is industrialised poaching to go to the markets. Something absolutely critical on enforcement is therefore needed. We need to acknowledge the scale of what is going on and the legislation needs to deal with elephant poaching urgently. Over the past two years, the work that the Government has done in preparing the Bill—gathering evidence about ivory markets and ivory poaching, and listening to people—has been absolutely critical in developing what we have in front of us today. So yes, we agree.
Cath Lawson: The urgency is because of the detrimental impact on elephants, but also because of the leverage value that the October conference offers. Having the legislation in place by then means we can maximise that leverage value.
Will Travers: I agree with both colleagues. I do not want to bombard the Committee with statistics, but one that always sticks in my mind is that Tanzania was regarded, for many years, as an elephant stronghold—it had the second largest elephant population on the continent. Yet between 2009 and 2014—in five short years—its elephant population fell from more than 100,000 to just over 40,000. That is 1,000 elephants poached every month for 60 months. That just gives you a sense of how once it reaches that kind of critical mass, once law enforcement has broken down to the level that the poachers are winning, the situation can go from hero to zero extremely quickly.
Cath Lawson: That is my understanding, yes.
Will Travers: I am not at all technical on this, and you know it far better than I do, but it seems to me that if we can get this through, with the provision that the Secretary of State can look at other non-ivory-bearing species and bring forward whatever measures he or she wishes in short order, then the consultation may be very short and serve only to verify the situation, rather than to do a long exploratory digging into it—in other words, just to verify the kinds of figures I gave you earlier. The Secretary of State can then come forward with secondary measures, which will hopefully address the issue very quickly. I hope that would be the sort of commitment we could count on.
Yes, clause 35(2) would clearly allow the Secretary of State to bring forward delegated legislation. Can I focus on one other thing you said? That is to include ivory from an animal or species not, for the time being, covered by that subsection. You mentioned non-ivory-bearing species. Did you mean non-elephant?
Will Travers: I am sorry; I meant non-elephant ivory. I have mentioned warthog. At the risk of upsetting people who are concerned about a very small amount of Aboriginal use of walrus, that is really important, but so is mammoth ivory. We should at least be aware of the volume of mammoth ivory in trade. Recall that this is in trade. I have the import figures for the United States. They keep a close record of all mammoth ivory in trade, and I will just give you three years. This is only mammoth ivory carvings—there are lots of different categories— but in 2013 there were 5,049 mammoth ivory carvings and 773 tusks. In 2014 there were 19,335 carvings and 338 tusks. In 2015 there were 7,822 ivory carvings and 120 tusks. That is a not inconsiderable amount of trade in an ivory product that, in marketplaces in the far east, is definitely a surrogate for modern elephant ivory.
David Cowdrey: Those are all excellent points. The Bill will clearly close down markets in the UK. The more markets we close down, the more we deprive people of money and income. The price of raw ivory that was publicly for sale was $2,200 per kilo. After China introduced its ban, it went down to $1,100 and then down to $600. It is now about $450. There has been a massive devaluation in the price of raw ivory, making it a less viable option. Such things are incredibly useful.
With regard to help for communities, on Second Reading there was an interesting discussion in which Members talked about how some of the Department for International Development’s budget might be used. We have to consider a holistic approach. The communities are not isolated from poaching, and the impact of poaching on communities is not isolated from the illegal wildlife trade; they are joined up and hand in hand. There are good opportunities that exist with our overseas development budget to take a more integrated approach to delivering holistic aid and support and anti-poaching measures, to help build communities and tackle corruption.
The support with efforts through the DEFRA challenge fund grant, through DFID and the FCO’s interaction with other communities is also important. It needs to go hand in glove. This is a complex situation that you cannot just wave a wand or a Bill at. It is all part of a jigsaw that really helps, but our overseas aid is another part that we could potentially re-examine and look at, to provide better integrated aid.
Cath Lawson: The WWF would very much endorse that position. I do not think we need additions to the Bill, but we are supportive of wider conversations about looking at overseas aid for ecosystem-based funding, and looking at bigger-picture landscape approaches to some of the critical habitats where the illegal wildlife trade impacts on the survival of certain species.
Will Travers: I endorse everything that has just been said, and I totally understand that when it comes to spending the £13 billion or so a year in our DFID budget, in most cases we must be risk averse. However, for this sort of issue—I used this term before when I talked about it with Justine Greening three years ago—we need a sort of adventure capital fund. We need a modest amount of money with which we try innovative, new things on the ground or with partners, and try to deliver something that will change the game on the ground and speak to all the issues that have been raised, such as secure ecosystems, secure livelihoods, alternative livelihoods and food security at landscape level. Sitting right in the middle of that can be conservation. If the brief is whether we can make conservation work for communities and people, I think the answer is yes, but it needs not insignificant—although not huge—pump-priming to really get it going. That is where DFID, which is a completely different entity from the one we are talking about right now, could have a major role.
David Cowdrey: I agree about some of the technical developments and initiatives that the UK can take. I mentioned fingerprinting earlier, and across Africa most countries do not even have an electronic fingerprinting database. When we are dealing with international criminal syndicates and gangs, countries are not capturing the information, and they do not have the capability to share it with neighbouring countries. These are transnational crimes. We must consider how we can develop these countries in a way that provides practical enforcement and really helps them to develop.
We can help to defeat these international criminal syndicates, and simple investments that can be done through development grants or a challenge fund are really important. A national fingerprinting database for a country could cost as little as £60,000. Look at that as an investment and a way to help tackle corruption and crime, including not just wildlife crime but crime and terrorism. That has a massive impact across the world. In tackling the illegal wildlife trade, we must consider some of those simple enforcement measures that can make a game-changing difference on the ground for those countries.
Cath Lawson: It is certainly something that we would be comfortable with. I mentioned an amendment earlier. At the moment the Bill includes CITES-listed species, but mammoth, as an extinct species, are not a CITES-listed species and never will be. One option would be to remove that caveat in the existing legislation, but that could be part of a later consultation process.
Cath Lawson: During the consultation process, we did not advocate for additional species to be added. Our advice in the consultation response was to focus on elephant ivory.
Will Travers: We did comment on other species, and we did advocate that there should be consideration, which is what I believe clause 35 refers to. The definition of ivory in the Bill is ivory from elephant species. I understand why it is important to make sure there is consideration of other species, for which there has been no full consultation. We want to understand what is going on with hippo ivory, with narwhal ivory, with walrus ivory, with warthog ivory—non-CITES listed—and with extinct, non-CITES-listed mammoth ivory. There may be—I am just trying to think of the right way of expressing this—specific exemptions that would have been considered for inclusion specific to, for example, mammoth ivory that we would be discussing now had that been part of the overall process to start with.
David Cowdrey: The built-in flexibility under clause 35(3), and the opportunity for the Secretary of State to add, means you would not need to go through a consultation process. If we were informing the Secretary of State of a shift that has taken place in conservation terms with species that are coming under threat, there should be an ability to provide that evidence for action to be taken swiftly to add those species immediately within the Bill. That flexibility currently exists under clause 35(3).
In relation to the speed of the Bill, I hand it back to you as hon. Members. That is in your remit—your court. As an NGO, we would like to see this Bill completed and into legislation by October, prior to the IWT conference, so we can have a global stage to announce this fantastic piece of legislation. So I hand the ball back to you.
The other thing, very briefly, is whether you have had a look at the enforcement regulations, as set out in later clauses of the Bill. Do you think they are about right, too lenient or top-heavy?
May I ask you to be quite brief with your answers? I might be able to squeeze in one more question if we are quite rapid.
Cath Lawson: On the point about the definition of ivory, I am not certain whether mammoth would be included. One of the points we would be keen to raise is that there should be a very clear definition of ivory within the Bill. At the moment, it is referenced in a number of places, and one clear definition would be useful.
In terms of enforcement, we feel it is appropriate, but as mentioned previously there is a need for sufficient resourcing to ensure enforcement is carried out in full.
David Cowdrey: On definitions, I would look at other ones within the Bill. There is one in the explanatory notes, where it currently talks about “outstandingly valuable” and outstandingly high artistic and cultural value. When the document was originally published, and the Bill was announced on 3 April, it referred to
“the rarest and most important items of their type”.
It seems to me that there has been a change in some of the wording that was announced by the Government in terms of what has appeared in the Bill. We would strongly advocate that, when it comes to definitions, the words
“the rarest and most important items of their type”
are reinstated in the Bill to make sure that, if an exemption is given, it is only for these extraordinary items, rather than creating something which allows trade in something which is just of outstandingly high value, rather than
“the rarest and most important”.
We believe there should be tighter control under the definition of the Bill.
Cath Lawson: That is something WWF would also endorse. Similarly, around the portrait miniatures, we feel very much that, within the body of the Bill, there should be a definition of what constitutes a portrait miniature—a specification of a size and the fact that it is painted on ivory.
Will Travers: Briefly on the enforcement issue, I think the provisions are okay, but it depends how frequently they are applied at the most severe level. Our judicial system should be encouraged to take the strongest possible measures provided for under the Bill—hopefully, the Act—in order to serve as a deterrent.
David Cowdrey: On the enforcement measures for portrait miniatures, having a size definition would be really important. One that has been put forward is something having a height of less than eight inches and a width of less than six inches. I believe you are speaking to a representative from Philip Mould later today. Getting that definition of a portrait miniature, which they have been working on with the Victoria and Albert Museum, is really important to help with enforcement, because if you have not got some widths, dimensions and a description, how can you enforce the legislation? Having that clarity of enforcement is really important.
Luke, this might have to be the last question.
David Cowdrey: Absolutely. It is absolutely critical, where you have an exemption—especially for these items where I am challenging the definition and it should be “the rarest and most important”—that we should be publicly accountable for what is being listed. We have been told that this is only for exceptional items—we are anticipating 75 to 150 a year. Having a public register and seeing what has been sold for what amount is critical. Having that posted as an annual report on the website, publicly available to everybody, gives scrutiny to the legislation and to the processes involved, so I would fully endorse that.
Will Travers: I couldn’t have put it better.
Will Travers: No, it is traded as if it is ivory. It is an ivory surrogate, whereas rhino horn is not traded as an ivory surrogate— it is traded as rhino horn.
Will Travers: It is not dentine. It is not made of the same material, but it is traded as if it is ivory. It is regarded by consumers and treated as if it is an ivory product, although it is not technically an ivory product.
Will Travers: It should do. Of course, because it is appendix 1 on CITES, there should be no legal trade anyway. It should all be illegal trade. I guess one could argue that there might be some historical antique going back to whenever, but that should be covered.
I am afraid that brings us to the end of the allotted time. I thank the witnesses for their evidence.
Examination of Witnesses
Alexander Rhodes and Charlie Mayhew gave evidence.
We will now hear oral evidence from Stop Ivory and the Tusk Trust. We have until 11.25 am for this panel. May I ask the witnesses to introduce themselves for the record?
Charlie Mayhew: My name is Charlie Mayhew. I am the chief executive of Tusk Trust.
Alexander Rhodes: My name is Alexander Rhodes. I am from Stop Ivory.
Charlie Mayhew: The short answer is yes. There must be a concern that the criminal syndicates that operate in this space might well be inclined to move to trade greater figures in hippo, mammoth, walrus and other ivory-carrying species. There certainly is that concern.
Alexander Rhodes: Of course, there is the risk that that will be a result of tightening controls on elephant ivory in this way. I feel strongly, however, that sending a clear message, as this does, on elephant ivory is critical at this time. Our colleagues have given the numbers beforehand. Particularly looking at the conference in October, the focus on elephants is very important. We are talking about trying to achieve a decrease in the killing of elephants by stopping ivory being traded. We must continue to focus strongly on the elephant ivory.
Alexander Rhodes: Without a shadow of a doubt.
Charlie Mayhew: Absolutely. The public, in whichever part of the world, who ultimately buy ivory do not necessarily differentiate where that ivory has emanated from. We have an opportunity here, in introducing this legislation, which as people have previously said is one of the toughest bans in the world, to send a message that ivory should now be socially unacceptable. If we can try to use this legislation, particularly with the upcoming illegal wildlife trade conference and attendees coming from all over the world, the rest of the world should follow suit.
Alexander Rhodes: Yes. Perhaps as a bit of context around that, it is interesting to note that the crisis that was recognised just before the last London conference came about because of the professionalisation of poaching. Illegal organised crime stepped in and added elephant ivory to its inventory because there was no legal international trade and there was an opportunity. That took place in circumstances where, internationally, there was confusion, and there was no common position on whether elephant ivory should or should not be traded—that rift had been in place since 1989.
Over the four years since the London conference, strong consensus has been built internationally that the ivory market should be closed. Importantly, that has taken the form of two international resolutions, one at CITES and one at the IUCN, that domestic markets for ivory—that is what we are talking about—should close, as should some of the other leading markets for elephant ivory, such as those in China and the US, and we are looking forward, beyond there, into Europe. That certainty about the illegality of ivory has significantly changed in the price of ivory.
When we started looking at this issue at the time of the first London conference, many people said that closing markets for ivory was a stupid thing to do, because all it would do is drive up the price. They said that destroying stockpiles of ivory, or locking them up so that they could not be traded into the market, was a stupid thing to do, because it would just drive up the price, and that the more scarce you make things, the higher the price becomes. Interestingly, David mentioned prices earlier, and the change that we have seen during this period, and the effect of the measure, has been that, in China, the price of a kilo of ivory between the time of the last London conference and now has gone from $2,500 to $450. In some African countries there has been a similar collapse in the price of ivory paid to gunmen. That wider context goes to the point about clarity on the legality, or illegality, of ivory.
I tend to agree with what Charlie said, which is that if you say, “Ivory is banned”—this is called the Ivory Bill, and the basis on which it was built was a commitment to close ivory market—that is pretty clear, and it falls within the international consensus that has been built on elephant ivory. My personal view is that, yes, it would make great sense to expand the Bill to cover mammoth ivory and other types of ivory for species that are threatened as a result of this trade. Such a measure would disincentivise people from going and killing those animals, whether they are doing it cynically for their own profit or because it is the only choice they have on the table—that is possibly something else we may discuss.
The real question in my mind, however, is whether, if we start trying to expand the Bill now, we will lose the effect that we can get, and the UK’s role in that momentum, which is already making a massive change. I return to what David said, which is that this is perhaps more your area of expertise than ours, but I think that is the balance to strike.
Alexander Rhodes: I am not.
Charlie Mayhew: I am certainly not an expert in parliamentary process and the legalities of this, but if there was a way of extending the reach of the Bill to include those species without delaying the process, and without there being a threat of judicial challenge from any area, then we would all love to see that happen. Perhaps the issue really is where that challenge would come from if you were to extend the Bill to the other species. Representatives from the antiques trade will be coming in later today, and although I am not an expert in the area of antiques, I am not sure that they would object to hippo or walrus being included, because I suspect that their interest is in antique elephant ivory. I might be wrong on that, but it would be worth investigating. The point here is that we do not want to see anything that delays the progress of the Bill. The international momentum on the issue is very real, and we do not want to do anything to slow the process down, not least because we are losing 55 elephants a day to this illegal activity.
Charlie Mayhew: Yes, I think that is broadly right. It is quite clear that the Secretary of State and, indeed, the Foreign Secretary, who has taken a very keen interest in the issue, are anxious to have the Bill on the statute book—or very close to being there—when they host the international leaders here for the conference. Otherwise, we would find ourselves in a potentially embarrassing situation in which China will have stolen a march on us—thankfully, actually. It would put us in a rather weak position as the host of the conference if we say that we have not got our own house in order prior to the conference.
That is the balancing act here. As I have said, I do not know whether legally you have to have a consultation period in order to expand the remit of the Bill, but after listening to what has been said, that might or might not be the case. As I said earlier, where would the challenge come from if you were to expand it? We need to find that out.
Alexander Rhodes: I agree with that position. However one expanded it, it is important to leave clause 35(3) in, in order to be able to add further species over time, if necessary, even if the initial list was expanded in the Bill itself.
“an animal or species not for the time being covered by that subsection only if the animal or species is currently listed in an Appendix to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.”
Would you prefer to see that caveat deleted, given that there may very well be some species that we may wish to take out but because they are large in number—a warthog has been cited—are therefore not covered by CITES?
Alexander Rhodes: Yes—I think the words from “only” onwards.
You talked a lot about the October conference and just how important that is for the overall global effort against this activity. How powerful would it be for the UK to have introduced by that point a ban not only on elephant ivory trade but on other ivory trade? If banning elephant ivory is going to be such a big moment, would it not be an even bigger and better moment—an even larger cause of celebration—if we were also able to show in October that we have banned the trade in hippo, walrus and whale ivory?
Charlie Mayhew: Without a doubt it would send a very clear message to the world. It would also continue to show the UK in the lead on the issue; the UK was in the lead back in 2014, when it first instigated that conference. It would really help to focus minds at the conference on the need to put in place enforcement right across the world.
In addition, we hope to see at the conference further efforts to improve enforcement on the ground—we heard a little about that earlier this morning—and investment in tackling poaching. Since 2014 there has been considerable success in places such as Kenya, where poaching is probably down by about 80%, because they invested heavily in tackling the issue on the ground. It can be done, if there is the international will to get behind it and invest in the work.
Charlie Mayhew: Potentially. It must have an influence when other countries see what we have done. Hopefully it would also influence our European colleagues, which is the next big prize for us. We want to see a similarly strong ban put in place across Europe.
Alexander Rhodes: My short answer to your first and second questions is yes, I think so. The second point I wanted to make about the impact of the London conference is just to re-emphasise the importance of closing the domestic market here in the UK for elephant ivory. The elephant protection initiative, which Will mentioned, was launched by five African leaders at the first London conference. We fostered and supported that initiative. The Government then supported the birth of that African-led initiative with funding through the challenge fund.
The elephant protection initiative is in two parts. The first part is to deal with the product, close domestic markets and put ivory stockpiles that have accumulated over time beyond economic use. The second part is then to deal with the animal. The proposal to deal with the animal is to implement the African elephant action plan. That is a plan agreed between all African states that have elephants. It addresses all the issues to do with the management of elephants alongside people. It deals with law enforcement and protected areas on one side, and human-elephant conflict and sustainable livelihoods on the other.
One of the great things that has happened since the first conference, and as we begin to look to the second conference, is the building of this international consensus to close domestic elephant ivory markets, as well as the collapse in ivory prices that we have seen alongside that. What that does in practice is relieve the pressure slightly on countries that have elephants and are trying to manage those elephants. It allows them then to focus more on some of the other issues, as well as dealing with illegal poaching and the interference of criminal gangs. It also allows them to focus on problem management, sustainable livelihoods and so on. Those things are obviously something that we would all come in behind on.
As we look to this next conference in October, the elephant protection initiative will form part of it. It is now 18 African countries strong, having started with five at the first London conference and having been supported by the British Government the whole way through. The focus at the conference will not only be on celebrating the push to close domestic markets, but very much on raising funding and applying funding under common national plans under the African elephant action plan. That is development funding as much as anything. Focusing on that as much as on what we were talking about earlier with elephant ivory more broadly will be critical in demonstrating the success of closing domestic markets in terms of the survival of the species.
Charlie Mayhew: I do not have that information, but I anticipate that that figure would be across most ivory, and you would see something similar reflected.
Charlie Mayhew: To the lay person, it is very difficult. If you walk into a market in Portobello Road or in Hong Kong, it is virtually impossible to tell the difference. It is certainly impossible to tell the age of it, as Will demonstrated with the piece he had.
Charlie Mayhew: Absolutely. That happens regularly. In fact, you only have to go to online markets to see people trying to pass off ivory described as “ivory-coloured bone” to get around the legislation. That is one of our big concerns, with regard to the Bill hopefully having a real impact in closing down online sales. That really needs to be looked at.
The other point I raised earlier, which has not been so fully examined with this panel, was displacement, and what more you think we could do to stop it as the focus on ivory moves to the far east—whether the October conference will help, or whether anything else could be done.
Charlie Mayhew: First, I echo the comments of the previous representative of the NGOs. I think that DEFRA and the British Government have been extremely good at consulting with us all. We certainly feel that we have been very involved—as involved as we could be expected to be. That has been fantastic.
The 2014 conference saw the launch of the British Government’s illegal wildlife trade challenge fund. Tusk has been a beneficiary and has managed two very major grants under that programme that have had a significant impact on the ground. I urge the Government to continue to support that funding—if possible, to expand that funding. Only yesterday I had a report of a poaching syndicate that had been arrested as a result of some of the training that we had implemented under that challenge fund grant. We have also been working with the Ministry of Defence on the deployment of soldiers out in Malawi, which has been hugely successful and very welcomed by that Government.
The British Government have a significant role to play in using our expertise in various areas to help those countries—not only in Africa but, as was said earlier, in helping to clamp down on the trade in the far east. We should continue to provide as much support and funding as we can to eradicate this illegal trade, not least because it is known that the trade has been exploited not only by criminal syndicates but by armed militias, rebels and terrorists. This goes much further than just being a criminal activity; it really impacts on the security of many of these countries.
Alexander Rhodes: I would like to add my thanks to the Government, and to DEFRA staff in particular. The consultation has been run extremely carefully and we certainly feel that we have been well consulted. It seems that everybody has had an opportunity to put things in, as I think the public response demonstrates. The electronic means by which people could engage were heavily used by the public, in order to be involved in the consultation, so thank you very much for that. I endorse what Charlie said.
Alexander Rhodes: Yes, I think so. There are a couple of parts of how the Bill works internally and we have put in submissions on that in writing.
What would you like to see?
Alexander Rhodes: First, it seems that the exemption certificates process needs to work hand in glove with the registration process. It would make sense, when one is looking at clause 10 on registration, for the Secretary of State to have to register an item under that clause if an application is made in the way envisaged in clause 10(1), and also on the issuance of an exemption certificate. That means that when an exemption certificate is issued, it is automatically put on to the register. Then I think the system ties up. Replacement certificates can be checked against the register much more closely because it is automatically part of the register in the first place. Everybody understands that things get lost from time to time, so I think it makes sense for there to be a provision for replacements, but if the exemption certificates automatically form part of the registration system, that will help.
Secondly, while accounting for data protection requirements, the register should be public, not least because if it is not, the Government are going to find themselves swamped with freedom of information requests, which we all know take up valuable time, money and resources. I actually wonder whether in the implementation, the technology may become more streamlined and efficient for the Government Departments that have to operate it. There was a question in the previous session about whether there were enough resources. Patently, one reason why the current system does not work is that the Government resources are too limited to operate it fully. If there was an electronic register and it was publicly available, that would help.
I will make one final point on this. As I said, these points are supplementary to the ones we have submitted in writing. There is some wording, if I can find it, that seems to envisage—if you have it, Charlie, maybe you will take the point?
Charlie Mayhew: In clause 4(5), we feel that more safeguards are needed for replacement certificates. As it stands, an item could have several replacement certificates, which could be used to sell similar items illegally. We are concerned that under clause 4(5)(b), someone could legally acquire an item but not obtain the certificate. A buyer should not be able to buy an item relying solely on the seller’s assurance that the item had a certificate but they do not have it any more. We suggest, as a minimum, the deletion of clause 4(5)(b), to avoid suggesting that dealing can take place without a certificate.
Charlie Mayhew: If anyone had suggested back in 2014 that China would implement a ban there would have been disbelief around the table. The fact that they have gone to the extent of doing what they have done must be recognised and applauded. A great deal of credit goes to the Duke of Cambridge for the work he did on his visit to China and the conversations he had with President Xi on this subject. In that sense, the UK had significant influence in bringing about China’s ban.
We know that China is watching what the UK is doing; there has been plenty of evidence of that. By going ahead with the legislation we are proposing, we are at least backing up and endorsing China, which is the world’s biggest market for ivory. As was said earlier, we want to do everything we can to help China influence its neighbours; there is already evidence of the market displacing to some countries on China’s borders. It is good news that, although Hong Kong is working to a slightly longer timeline, it has indicated that it will impose a ban. Taiwan has done so as well, which is good. We need the other countries in the Asian bloc to follow suit; the UK taking this position now can only help to encourage that.
Alexander Rhodes: In terms of process, at a sub-governmental level we operate on the international stage in the same forums that Governments do at a governmental level—particularly, in this circumstance, through the CITES convention and IUCN. In terms of building international consensus, two international resolutions under the two international agreements stating that domestic ivory markets should be closed have been really important. The NGO community has been working closely, both together and with Governments, to try to build on and achieve those agreements, but ultimately, they are agreements between Governments.
As we look forward, although the market may close in China, there is real concern about some of its neighbouring countries. Those neighbouring countries need to come on board—first they need to agree that the domestic market should close, and secondly they need to do something about it. The UK Government will be in a much stronger position at the next CITES standing committee, and the run-up to it, if we stand shoulder to shoulder with other countries and tell them that that is what we think they should do, having ourselves passed this Bill .
Charlie Mayhew: This is not my area of expertise, but some of our statistics suggest that through the auction houses, 91% of ivory lots sell for £400 or less. That market in trinkets and small stuff is the sort of thing you see all the time on the internet, and often the descriptions will not say “ivory”—or if they do they will say that the ivory is pre-1947. You have to do a test on ivory at quite considerable cost if you really want to know whether it is pre-1947. There is undoubtedly a big online market, and it should be covered by this Bill. Such sales tend to be items that are 100% ivory and they will not fall under the de minimis exemption. The question is to what extent the Government and enforcement agencies can realistically enforce the ban for online trading—I am sorry; that is beyond my paygrade.
Alexander Rhodes: The UK domestic trade in ivory impacts on elephants because we are the largest exporter of ivory pieces to China. From 2010 to 2015, 36,000 pieces of ivory were exported from the UK to China. The next country by volume after us was the US, with just over 9,000 pieces. We play a big role in this, and almost all of that is mediated over the internet. To my mind, if it were possible the Bill should say that ivory may not be bought and sold over the internet because that would make it so much simpler for the enforcement guys. It makes it cheaper and easier. If someone is selling ivory online, that should be the wrong side of the line so that they can be chased down.
Alexander Rhodes: Yes. I agree with previous comments that the wording in the Bill does not quite reflect what was discussed in the consultation about the rarest and most important pieces of ivory. However, if a museum wants to buy a piece of ivory, which will necessarily fall in that category, it will not be buying it online. If a private collector is buying a piece that is of the rarest and most important type of its kind, they will not be buying it online. If you are buying a bit of inlaid furniture, you are unlikely to be buying it just online. You may see it online, but you are unlikely to be buying it online. The category of ivory that is traded online is the low-value Victorian stuff, which is being shipped overseas, where it contributes directly to consumer markets that are principally fed by modern, current ivory from elephants that are being killed as we sit in this room.
Under the current Bill, we can look at the provisions and enforce it for online trade. Fine. Why not just say you cannot deal in ivory online, which will make enforcement so much simpler? If one could achieve that, it would be the first prize.
Charlie Mayhew: Absolutely. As part of this Bill—I believe DEFRA is planning to do this anyway—we need a significant awareness programme, not only for the judiciary but for the general public. That is essential. Educating the public, the judiciary and the enforcement officers is absolutely essential.
We very much hope that, in the same vein that DEFRA has consulted us to date, it will be willing to consult us on the guidance notes. I fully endorse that. There is a desperately increasing need to educate the judiciary in African countries on enforcing the legislation against the illegal wildlife trade, poaching and so on. In some countries, they are more advanced than others. We see how important it is that the judiciary fully understands the scope of this Bill and how it is going to be enforced.
Alexander Rhodes: It is interesting that a number of the African countries that are members of the elephant protection initiative and others have been working hard with support from colleagues to develop prosecution and sentencing guidelines for wildlife crime, in particular in relation to the ivory trade.
Alexander Rhodes: Really importantly, it is something we can learn from and it is quite good that we can learn from what African countries have been doing in relation to that. Interestingly, we paid for it anyway. In the context of Angola, for example, where we are working at the moment, a challenge fund grant is paying for a programme of legislative reform review and prosecutor and judicial training.
Alexander Rhodes: The purpose of this is clarity and certainty, so my preference would be for it to be straightforward. If it is ivory, you cannot sell it, and you cannot deal in it, online. To add a little context, you are right, of course. Not only are musical instruments with bits of ivory in them bought and sold online but some inlay furniture is also sometimes bought and sold online. However, it is the overwhelming minority of musical instruments or pieces of furniture that contain ivory of that kind.
My personal preference, for clarity and therefore for certainty, would be for it to apply across the piece. Of course, if it applied only to part of the piece, that would still be better certainty than its not applying at all.
Alexander Rhodes: That is the opportunity of the Bill and of October. It is also the opportunity coming out of the broad consultation with musicians. We have had great conversations with them.
Even in the future, I do not think that he would realise that there was a ban on him putting his guitar on eBay. I would not want people criminalised for doing something like that. You are not talking about people making huge amounts of money in the ivory trade; you are talking about somebody who just happens to have a product that has a bit of ivory in it. We will ask the Musicians’ Union what they think.
Alexander Rhodes: It is a balance.
Are there any further questions? Okay. If there are no further questions, I thank our witnesses for their evidence.
Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Mims Davies.)
Adjourned till this day at half-past One o’clock.