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Volume 684: debated on Thursday 20 July 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What views they have expressed in international bodies on the proposed ivory stockpile sales from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa; and whether they will resist all future calls to re-open the trade in ivory; and [HL6807]

What representations they have made and what steps they are taking to combat the continuing decline in the number of African elephants, particularly in respect of (a) the illegal ivorytrade conducted through London; (b) habitat degradation; and (c) the bushmeat trade. [HL6808]

The international ban on trade in ivory remains firmly in place and is fully supported by the UK Government. We remain clearly of the view that the illegal and unsustainable trade in ivory should not be permitted. We will not support any resumption in the commercial trade in ivory until we are satisfied that this will not result in an increase in the illegal killing of elephants, or undermine the conservation of elephant populations elsewhere in the world.

The UK has been closely concerned in the debate surrounding proposals for one-off sales of stockpiled ivory, through our involvement in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES has placed a number of strict pre-conditions that have to be met before one-off sales of ivory stocks could take place. In addition, the proceeds would have to be used exclusively for elephant and community conservation projects within, or near, the areas where the elephants reside. The UK will not support the proposed one-off sales if we are not entirely satisfied that the strict conditions are met.

To assist any considerations, my colleague the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Biodiversity (Barry Gardiner) has asked the International Fund for Animal Welfare to prepare estimates of the cost of improving conservation measures to combat elephant poaching commensurate with ensuring that any stimulus such one-off sales of stockpiled ivory might give to the black-market trade would be more than offset by the improved conservation.

From 20 March 2006, all applications for Article 10 certificates for un-worked ivory tusks are being refused regardless of origin or acquired date, unless there are very exceptional circumstances.

Last year officials prepared a specific guidance note for antique dealers, in consultation with the British Antique Dealers Association, concerning the control of trade in endangered species. It contains information concerning the requirements that must be complied with by dealers when they are engaged in the sale of antique items in the UK or their export overseas, and the ramifications of non-compliance with the regulations. This was distributed to trade associations and to applicants and enquirers with antique queries.

The findings of Care for the Wild's report, Ivory Markets in Europe, produced by Dr Esmond Martin and Dr Daniel Stiles last year, states there is no evidence of a large illegal market in ivory products in the UK or Europe as a whole. Although the scale of the UK’s worked ivory market was ranked ninth out of 33 countries surveyed, the report concluded that most of this ivory trade was legal.

Statistics from the Elephant Trade Information System (a global monitoring system established to track and assess the scale of illegal trade in ivory) have not revealed any significant problems of illegal ivory trade in the UK. We believe that there are far more serious ivory issues than that represented by the UK trade.

We are working, within the context of the UK’s commitment to reduce poverty in developing countries, to secure public and animal health here, and to meet a commitment to stem the loss of biodiversity globally. An interdepartmental ministerial body on biodiversity issues has commissioned a study into the importance of bushmeat to poverty alleviation and biodiversity loss. It is expected to report in Summer 2006. Improved forest governance and reduction in illegal logging are also seen as key to the sustainable management of forests and forest resources, which include bushmeat.