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Ivory Bill

Volume 792: debated on Monday 10 September 2018

Committee (1st Day) (Continued)

Amendment 30

Moved by

30: Clause 10, page 6, line 40, at end insert “, such fee not to exceed £5”

My Lords, many of the objects that will require registration under the Clause 10 requirements will be low in value. This will include old pianos offered for sale privately for £50 or small domestic objects such as mirrors with surrounds in mahogany inlaid with thin ivory strips selling for perhaps £30. As I previously indicated, there is no compelling reason for us to discourage the reuse of such antiques. If the registration fee is set too high, only the more valuable ivory items would be worth registering, and lower-value ones would end up being thrown away. Whether or not it is intended to charge the fee as a fixed percentage of the value of the item or a flat fee, I believe it is sensible to impose a cap. If nothing else, it will encourage efficiency in those who operate the database system. I beg to move.

My Lords, I shall be brief. I will speak to Amendment 31, which is purely a probing amendment. Following Second Reading, it struck me that the success of this Bill would very much depend on the take-up rate of the use of the register, so my amendment is aimed at trying to probe a bit of that. I noted that in the Bill, while plenty of powers are given to the Secretary of State to charge fees for registration, there is no duty alongside that, telling the authorities what they should be trying to do. My amendment is aimed at trying to put a bit of duty alongside the powers.

I notice that the success of curbing drink-driving in the UK has been very much driven by the fact that people in the country now expect people not to drink-drive. We need to ensure that nothing stands in the way of people developing a feeling that ivory has a special and difficult thing associated with it. Therefore, they should comply with this law enthusiastically, because it will help the problem that we have all been talking about. I do not think I can add any more.

My Lords, I shall speak briefly on these two amendments. I think we all accept that the cost of registration should not be prohibitive. Equally, I have to say that I think a blanket fee of £5 is unrealistic. It should not, however, be used as a money-raising opportunity, as some government fee systems have been found to do. In his letter to us after Second Reading, the Minister made it clear that the fees would be based on a cost-recovery calculation. Fine, but he went on to say that the calculation would be based on the cost of building a new IT system. At that point, alarm bells started to ring. I am sure that the Government would accept that they have a rather shaky reputation for delivering IT systems on budget.

I therefore hope that the Minister will take this opportunity to reassure us that the cost will not be prohibitive and that it will take into account the ability to pay of a wide range of potential traders who might want to use the system, taking on board the points that have been made that they will not always be the professionals and those who are able to pay large fees.

We have referred to the registration scheme several times and I know that the Minister says that we will have further details of it, but it would be helpful if he could clarify the timescale for it. Will we definitely have more details before Report?

My Lords, both amendments relate to the fees that can be set by the Secretary of State when registering an item containing ivory. When owners register their items under the exemptions for items of low ivory content, musical instruments, sales to museums and portrait miniatures, it is only right that they pay a fee for the service provided. This fee will contribute to the cost of building and administering the registration system.

On my noble friend Lord De Mauley’s amendment, we need to be careful about setting a fee on the face of the Bill—that is, in primary legislation—as, over time, circumstances which will need to be taken into account may change and mean that it is necessary to revise the fee—in either direction.

To reiterate, the Government intend that the fee will be small and proportionate, but I cannot agree with my noble friend that a fee of £5, set out in primary legislation, is appropriate. The fee will be dependent on the cost of the IT system and its administration and will be determined in accordance with Her Majesty’s Treasury’s guidelines with regard to cost recovery. I hope that alarm bells are not now ringing. We aim for the system to be as simple to use as possible.

On Amendment 31, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, I recognise his interest in ensuring that fees are not set at a rate that would discourage registration and entirely share his view. The Government are finalising the specifications for the registration system. Further details will be available in due course, but I do not have a time for them as yet. If I get one, I will write to noble Lords and advise them. Work to date has included input from a range of stakeholders, including those most likely and most frequently to use the system; for example, representatives from the Association of Art & Antiques Dealers and the Music Industries Association. We want to ensure that we understand their needs. Our aim will be to develop a system that is simple to use and cost effective.

We recognise that many items registered under these exemptions are likely to be of a lower value than those that qualify as exempt under Clause 2, so I can assure noble Lords that the registration fee will reflect that. As I have said, the Government are taking into account a wide range of opinions. I reassure noble Lords that we recognise the intent behind the amendments and acknowledge that it is in no one’s interest to have fees that are unacceptably high. I hope that my noble friend will feel sufficiently reassured to withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, I suppose that I shall have to be happy, at least for this eventing, with my noble friend’s assurance that the fee will be small. For this evening, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 30 withdrawn.

Amendments 31 and 32 not moved.

Clause 10 agreed.

Clause 11: Further provision about registration

Amendment 33

Moved by

33: Clause 11, page 7, line 13, leave out from “section 10” to the end of line 15 and insert “remains valid if the ownership of the item passes by inheritance to a member of the family of the registered owner.”

Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment is designed to simplify the bureaucratic arrangements which will follow the enactment of this Bill.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord De Mauley has been made tolerably happy for the moment. I am delighted about that, even if it is in a very small matter. I hope that on an equally small matter, although one with real repercussions, I can be made happy, because, as I explain in the explanatory statement:

“This amendment is designed to simplify the bureaucratic arrangements which will follow the enactment of this Bill”.

This amendment does not really concern elephants at all, and I hope that my noble friend—whichever noble friend responds—will be able to accept it. It provides that the certificate,

“remains valid if the ownership of the item passes by inheritance to a member of the family of the registered owner”.

I am not even asking that it should remain valid if it is given to somebody outside the family or is left in a will to somebody without a family connection.

Many such objects will be on the premises. Although I hope it will be many years before our noble friend the Duke of Wellington goes to a higher place, if the things that remain his property in No. 1 London or at Stratfield Saye pass to his son or another member of the family by inheritance, it seems quite unnecessary to have to go through the bureaucratic rigmarole again. I really hope that I will get a sympathetic response to this extremely modest—but I believe entirely sensible—proposal. I beg to move.

My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is trying to achieve but, with the best will in the world, I am not sure that it is practical. If an item is important enough to be passed down through inheritance to another family member, it is also important that the new owner has an up-to-date registration certificate for it.

The Bill requires that if there is a change of owner a fresh application should be made to register the item. This is important because it will ensure that the registration system has an up-to-date record of the name of the owner and their contact details and so on. Without this change of ownership recorded on the register, we are concerned that confusion might arise as to who has the legal obligations of ownership spelled out elsewhere in the Bill. If an item appears on the market or if it is suspected of being a forgery, the enforcement officers will not know whom to contact to clarify the position.

I am trying to give the noble Lord something to be cheerful about but I do not think that this is the way to go about it. I do not think an automatic transfer of an item and the registration certificate would work without the associated paper trail to show the current ownership.

My Lords, the intention behind my noble friend’s amendment is to provide that a person who inherits a registered ivory item from a family member would not need to reregister it under Clause 10, regardless of whether he or she intends to deal in the item themselves. Clause 11(2) places duties on a registered owner to notify the Secretary of State when he or she becomes aware of any relevant information relating to the registered item becoming invalid or incomplete. A person inheriting a registration in an ivory item would therefore be subject to this duty at the point he or she became responsible for the registration. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, outlined very compelling reasons. If a person inheriting or taking possession of an ivory item is unaware that the item is registered, the Government would expect that person to decide whether he or she wants to sell or hire the item and to register it accordingly.

The main point I want to reference is that we are working extremely hard with all concerned to ensure that the self-registration of ivory items will be straight-forward and as simple as possible for those expected to use the registration system. For the security of the next generation in ensuring the item is as it should be and is properly registered, I am very sorry to have to disappoint my noble friend. It is in the interest of the next generation that we have the provisions for the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, outlined rather better than I have. On that basis, I respectfully ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

I am sorely tempted to divide the House. I say to my noble friend that all you need is a simple form that informs that the new owner is by inheritance the Marquess of This or Mr That. That is all that has to be done. You do not have to go through a whole paraphernalia of reregistering. That is what I am against. I hope we can come up with a formula, my noble friend and I, which will be acceptable on Report. With that hope, which is almost certainly a vain one, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 33 withdrawn.

Clause 11 agreed.

Amendment 34

Moved by

34: After Clause 11, insert the following new Clause—

“Verification of exempted items

(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument provide for the verification of the exempted status of an item containing ivory.(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”Member’s explanatory statement

This new Clause would allow the Secretary of State to create a verification system to enable a person intending to purchase an item containing ivory to check that it has been registered as exempt or has an exemption certificate.

My Lords, this proposed new clause would allow the Secretary of State to create a verification system to enable a person intending to purchase an item containing ivory to check that it has been registered as exempt or has an exemption certificate. That is imperative to ensure that the exemption process is robust and deliverable. Defra has stated that:

“The compliance processes will enable sellers to demonstrate that their items meet the relevant exemption, and thus that their use in commercial dealing is permitted under the Bill. The processes will also enable potential purchasers to assure themselves that they are acting in accordance with the ban”.

The term “assure themselves” is interesting and seems to indicate that a buyer has less responsibility to ensure compliance with the ban than a seller. Given that the definition of dealing in Clause 1 specifically includes buying ivory, we believe that a trustworthy system needs to be available so that buyers can ensure that they are complying with the law.

There are many reasons why a buyer may need to verify that an item is exempt; for example, when purchasing an item online. A buyer may not even be aware of what a legitimate exemption certificate should look like and may seek the reassurance of an independent confirmation. We are also aware of cases involving legal CITES Article 10 certificates and fraudulent copies being used to conceal illegal ivory. Sadly, unscrupulous dealers may well attempt to contravene the ban though such tactics. At the same time, an added advantage would be that a failed verification check could bring an individual to the notice of the authorities and be used to support a prosecution.

I hope that noble Lords will see the sense of the proposals we are making today, and that the Minister will feel able to take this proposal away and come back with suggestions as to how a robust verification process could be implemented. Of course, key to that will be the infamous IT system, when it is in force, and the issue of data, data protection and access. I realise that there are more complications to this than I am suggesting, but we feel nevertheless that buyers should have the right to make those checks and I therefore beg to move.

My Lords, I think that this is a most sensible suggestion. The definition of “dealing” includes buying ivory objects, so how else is a buyer to avoid breaking the law, unless they have a means of verifying either that a de minimis object has been registered, or that an exemption certificate has been issued for an outstanding one?

My Lords, the intention of this amendment has been set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, so I will not repeat it. The Government agree that a potential buyer must be able to verify that it is legal to purchase the item before finalising the sale. If the purchase is in person, the buyer will need to examine the exemption certificate issued for a rare and most important item, as this will need to accompany the item at the point of sale. The buyer will also be able to confirm that it is genuine via the online system. For online sales, the seller should confirm that an exemption certificate has been issued and will be transferred with the item. As with offline sales, the buyer will be able to confirm that it is genuine.

A buyer wishing to check the legality of selling or hiring an item registered as being exempt under Clause 10 will be able to look it up on the database, through the item’s reference number. This number should be provided by the seller. It is in the seller’s interest to ensure that the information is available to provide the buyer with confidence. The potential buyer will then be able to compare the photos and the description on the registration system with the object that they intend to purchase. The registration system is currently being developed, in consultation with many of those who are likely to use it, as we have just discussed. We are able to do this without making regulations and, as I have set out, we intend to include this functionality in the new system. Guidance will set out the best way for a seller to assure a buyer that they are able to legally purchase an item, and enable a buyer to satisfy themselves that they are able to legally purchase that item. With this explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

I thank the Minister for that reply. I am pleased to hear the stages that she set out and confirmation that there will be that access to a verification system. I was disappointed in her last comment that we do not need regulation on this, which is part of what our amendment proposes. I think this is straying into the whole area of the Delegated Powers Committee report; it queried the extent to which information like this should be in the Bill rather than just being taken in the form of guidance, which I think is what she said. I would like to look at this in more detail. Again, it comes back to when we will have more detail before Report but, obviously, at the moment I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 34 withdrawn.

Amendment 35

Moved by

35: After Clause 11, insert the following new Clause—

“Report on exemptions to the ivory ban

(1) As soon as reasonably practicable after the end of each calendar year, the Secretary of State must prepare a report on certified and registered exemptions to the prohibition; and—(a) lay a copy of that report before both Houses of Parliament, and(b) publish the report.(2) Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to a year if section 3 of this Act has not been in force at any time in that year.(3) A report prepared under this section must include the following information—(a) the number of applications received;(b) the number of applications rejected;(c) the number of appeals received;(d) the number of exemptions granted on appeal;(e) the number of exemption certificates and registered exemptions revoked; and(f) any other information that the Secretary of State considers appropriate.(4) The information listed in subsection (3) must be listed by category of item.(5) The Secretary of State is responsible for prescribing the categories referred to in subsection (4).(6) The Secretary of State is not required to include in a report any information that, in his or her opinion, it would be inappropriate to include on the ground that to do so—(a) would or might be unlawful, or(b) might enable the identification of the owner.”Member’s explanatory statement

This amendment would require the Secretary of State to prepare and publish an annual report on exemptions to the ivory ban. The report must provide statistical information about applications, appeals and revocations by category of item as determined by the Secretary of State.

My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 35 standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones. We need as much transparency as possible about whether this system that has been devised for granting exemptions is operating as intended. While the Government have committed to publishing headline figures about the number of exemptions granted, we believe that breaking down these figures into more meaningful categories of exemption and item type would provide us with important data and allow for confidence in the Act.

We recognise, however, that there is a balance to be struck between transparency and privacy, given that we have been led to expect that only a small number of items will be exempted on the grounds that they are the rarest and most important of their type and that it could therefore prove quite easy to identify these items and link them to certain individuals. When this point was debated in another place, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, David Rutley MP, advised that it was unlikely the Government could publish more detail on the specific items exempted for data protection reasons but gave an undertaking to consider whether the headline figure could be broken down further to cover broad categories of items, such as statues, reliefs or furniture, for example.

Given that there was such an overwhelming support for a total ban, better transparency is needed on how the ban will work, how effective each exemption has been, and how workable the regulations and monitoring have proved to be. This amendment reflects the pledge by instructing the Secretary of State to prescribe the appropriate categories for the purpose of publication and specifically to preclude the release of any information that would be unlawful or might lead to the identification of the owner. I am sure the Minister will agree that such transparency can be assured through amendments such as this one. I beg to move.

My Lords, the Government are in full agreement with the principle of this amendment. We acknowledge the importance of transparency and providing information to the public. That is why, once the ban is in force, we intend to share publicly information on how the ivory ban is working in practice, as this will be essential to ensuring public confidence in the ban and the supporting systems. I therefore assure the noble Lord that we already intend to publish headline data on the number of registered items and exemption certificates issued and revoked each year, as well as the appeals, in line with the Data Protection Act.

Furthermore, regarding subsection (4) in the amendment, I confirm that we will further break down headline figures as far as we are able—for instance, to cover broad categories of items such as statues, reliefs and furniture. In light of these assurances, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

I am very happy to receive such assurances and feel that maybe I have been the lucky one to be satisfied tonight. I am grateful to the Minister. Perhaps we can examine on Report how this may be put in the Bill so that more substance can be given to her reassurances. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 35 withdrawn.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 9.10 pm.