Committee (2nd Day)
Relevant document: 31st Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 12: Offence of breaching the prohibition or causing or facilitating a breach
36: Clause 12, page 8, line 7, leave out subsection (2)
My Lords, Amendment 36 would remove the defence of ignorance for those found to be in breach of the Act. At Second Reading numerous concerns were raised about how unsuspecting members of the public could accidentally flout the ivory ban. There was much discussion about selling an item found in grandma’s attic or at a car boot sale that, unbeknown to them, contained ivory. Of course some of this challenge comes down to publicity and communication. As with all new legislation, there is a need to make the public aware of their new responsibilities, and indeed progress has already been made. As we discussed, the consultation received a record number of responses, which is indicative of public and industry awareness. This will undoubtedly grow when the UK hosts the international Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, at which the Secretary of State has already made it clear that he intends to highlight this flagship legislation. So really everyone should know the situation regarding the sale of goods containing ivory and understand that it has changed. Meanwhile the National Wildlife Crime Unit will have to focus its scarce resources very carefully. It simply will not have the staff to visit car boot sales on the off-chance of a transgression. As the unit itself has made clear, it will,
“deal with the ones who have a complete disregard for policy protocol legislation … who are deceptive, who lie and who want to make money out of this”.
While we understand the principle behind this subsection, we believe that genuine accidental transgressions of this type can be dealt with lightly through an enforcement undertaking with no monetary penalty, and that this provision is therefore unnecessary. We are concerned that unscrupulous traders could exploit this loophole so that they could continue to deal in ivory with impunity, only to feign ignorance if they are caught. We know that new elephant ivory is offered for sale and is often mislabelled as antique ivory, ivory from other species or other material altogether, such as bone. In some instances this may have been due to genuine unawareness, although deliberately mislabelling it is a well-known tactic in the illegal ivory trade. For the ban to be effective, it is imperative that any exemptions are narrowly defined and that breaches can and will be enforced. That is why we believe the defence of ignorance would undermine the intention and effectiveness of the Bill. I hope noble Lords understand the point that I am making and will support this view. I beg to move.
My Lords, I reiterate my declaration of interest as chairman of LAPADA, the art and antiques dealers’ trade association. We have worked closely with BADA, the other major trade association.
On the face of it, Clause 12(2) provides protection against prosecution for those people who are not aware that the item they are handling contains elements of ivory. That they may be prosecuted only if it can be shown that they knew or suspected, or ought to have known or suspected, that an item was made from ivory appears to me to be reasonable. I suppose that I could see that the interaction between this subsection and Clause 35(4) could cause confusion and potentially prove unjust. As I understand it, Clause 35(4) means there is the presumption that, if a material can be proved to be ivory of any animal, it can be assumed to be the ivory of an elephant unless proved otherwise. If one takes the case of someone who genuinely believes an item to be made from the ivory of another species and not from elephant ivory, I am not sure whether they would receive the protection of Clause 12 because it does not refer specifically to elephant ivory. I wonder whether the Minister can shed any light on this point.
My Lords, this amendment would mean that persons could not use a defence that they did not know or suspect, or ought to know or suspect, the item was ivory. I should therefore explain why this provision was included and how it would be applied.
This provision has been included to help tackle the problem of illegal ivory items being deliberately mislabelled as another substance, such as bovine bone. It is also to protect those who fall victim of mislabelling of ivory and who, and I underline this, genuinely did not know that the item they were buying contained ivory. The purpose of the Bill is not to penalise or criminalise unnecessarily people who have made a genuine mistake. This provision also allows the police, enforcement bodies and courts to use their professional discretion when considering the most appropriate approach to deploy for individual defendants.
The issue of labelling ivory as another substance when it is sold is a common one. Illegal ivory items are often deliberately mislabelled as another substance, such as bovine bone, in order to evade existing restrictions on ivory sales. For this reason, the Bill ensures it is an offence to deal in ivory where that person knew or suspected, or ought to have known or suspected, that it was ivory. In practice, this means that, where it is clear that a person is deliberately mislabelling ivory as some other substance in order to attempt to circumvent this ban, this will be an offence. Likewise, anyone buying items of mislabelled ivory who could reasonably be expected to know it is elephant ivory will also be liable.
The enforcement bodies and courts will consider the position of the person when taking a view as to whether they should have known or suspected the item was ivory; for instance, if the person is an antiques dealer or a member of the public. They may also, for example, take into account if it is a repeat offence or if the seller deliberately mislabelled the item and then provided other information to indicate more discreetly to potential buyers that the item was in fact ivory. For example, sellers have been known to include close-up photographs in order to show the tell-tale lines or crosshatching, which are characteristic of ivory.
I will need to reflect on what on my noble friend Lord De Mauley said, but the Bill at this moment relates to elephant ivory. We will come on to further amendments that relate to the ability of this legislation potentially to extend to other species. For the moment, the Bill is dealing with elephant ivory.
Clause 12(2) is phrased to capture some instances of genuine mislabelling, where there was no intention to breach the ban and where the person could not reasonably be expected to know the item was ivory. This element of the Bill is designed to protect such people, who may be buyers, sellers or those facilitating a sale or purchase and whose prosecution I think your Lordships would accept is not what we are seeking in this legislation. I hope for those reasons the noble Baroness is able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I think that we want to achieve the same thing here. It is a question of whether the existing wording achieves what the Minister has outlined. We do not want to penalise or take to court any innocent person who is trapped in this way. That is not our intention and clearly it is not the Government’s intention. However, I do not know how you can prove that someone genuinely did not know that something had ivory in it. I have a feeling that we are trying to prove a negative here, which in terms of enforcement will be quite difficult.
Therefore, we are in the game of asking how you prove that somebody ought to know and how you prove that somebody could not possibly have known. It is quite unusual to have a get-out clause in a Bill that says, “If you didn’t know about it, we’ll let you off”. With most legislation—it might be banning smoking in cars—it is not normally a defence to say, “I didn’t know”. Equally, I find it odd that the Bill is introducing a situation where someone can say, “I didn’t know, so maybe I should be let off on this occasion”.
I think that we want to achieve the same thing; I just do not feel that the wording here delivers what the Minister is trying to get at, and I would like to reflect a little more on his response. I hope that, in return, he will listen to what I am saying because, as I said, I am not sure that this wording delivers his exact intent. Maybe there is another way through this but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 36 withdrawn.
37: Clause 12, page 8, line 20, leave out “six months” and insert “12 months”
Member’s explanatory statement
This is a probing amendment concerning the discrepancy between the maximum term of imprisonment for breaching the prohibition in Northern Ireland compared to England and Wales, and Scotland.
My Lords, this is very brief probing amendment. It concerns the discrepancy between the maximum term of imprisonment for breaching the prohibition in Northern Ireland compared to England, Wales and Scotland.
The Bill states that the criminal sanction for breaching the legislation in Scotland, England and Wales is 12 months’ imprisonment, whereas it is just six months in Northern Ireland. Can the Minister confirm that this discrepancy reflects the fact that the United Kingdom does not have a single legal system? Is the law somehow different in Northern Ireland or is this simply a drafting error? On the face of it, the current wording does not seem fair or logical. I look forward to the Minister’s response and beg to move.
My Lords, I support the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, on this probing amendment. Although I accept and respect that it is for the devolved Administrations to set their own penalties, we must keep in mind the difficulties that this will cause. As we all know, the devolved arrangements in Northern Ireland have broken down and there appears to be little prospect of them resuming in the near future. This would leave a situation where the penalties in one part of the UK were lighter than in the rest.
Those seeking to circumnavigate the law and benefit from the proceeds of trading ivory might be prepared to risk a six-month imprisonment term instead of 12 months. These are, after all, hardened criminals. It would be extremely unfortunate if the trafficking in illegal ivory and ivory products were shifted to Northern Ireland because the penalties there were more lenient. I respect completely what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said, and I am sure that the Minister will give clarification—but I wonder whether the Government and the Secretary of State might consider having uniformity of sentencing across the UK.
My Lords, the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, seeks to increase the maximum prison term for breaching the prohibition in Northern Ireland. As a result of the devolution settlement, Northern Ireland has the power to adopt practices concerning criminal justice that are different from those in England and Wales. The sentence that would apply in Northern Ireland is up to six months and is set out in the laws applying to that nation.
In England and Wales, Section 154(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which would increase the maximum sentence available on summary conviction from six months to 12 months, has not been commenced. This means that currently the maximum sentence available in England and Wales on summary conviction is six months. Therefore, the two are in alignment and thus the penalties are the same across the UK. Should the relevant section be commenced for England and Wales, the maximum available prison sentence would increase to 12 months—the Bill provides for that—and the two would no longer be in alignment. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that explanation. We were just trying to establish the facts of the case, and she has clearly set them out. Obviously we will respect the devolution package and we certainly do not want to force something on Northern Ireland where it thinks it has some control of its own in these matters. I am grateful for that clarification and need not say anything more on it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 37 withdrawn.
Clause 12 agreed.
Clause 13 agreed.
38: After Clause 13, insert the following new Clause—
“Report on enforcement resources
(1) Within 12 months of section 12 of this Act coming into force, the Secretary of State must make an assessment of the resources available to enforce the prohibition.(2) The report must consider in particular—(a) the resources allocated or planned to be allocated towards enforcing the prohibition,(b) the potential impact of any change in resources so allocated or planned to be allocated, and(c) the impact on other law or border enforcement activities of the resources so allocated or planned to be allocated.(3) The Secretary of State must lay a report of the assessment under this section before each House of Parliament as soon as practicable after its completion.”Member’s explanatory statement
This new Clause requires an assessment to be made and laid before Parliament regarding the level of resources allocated or proposed to be allocated to enforcing the prohibition against dealing in ivory.
My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 38 in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones and to speak to Amendments 59 and 60 in this group. Enforcement is a critical part of achieving the aims of the legislation and must not be neglected. This new clause would require an assessment to be made and laid before Parliament on the level of resources allocated, or proposed to be allocated, to enforcement of the prohibition in ivory dealing. The Minister’s department must demonstrate determination to enforce the provisions of the Bill to underline its commitment.
As noble Lords will appreciate, enforcement is a resource-intensive undertaking. However, many of the agencies and authorities we expect to be involved with enforcement of the Bill are already struggling. Home Office statistics show that the number of police officers fell from 143,734 in March 2010 to 123,142 in March 2017. The CITES Border Force team has just 10 members, who carry out more than 1,000 seizures a year, each one generating months of work. The National Wildlife Crime Unit has only 12 members of staff, including administrative staff, to cover the entirety of its work across the UK. The team not only carries out investigations referred from the Border Force but works right across all the UK wildlife crime priority areas, which is a significant remit outside CITES and includes domestic wildlife, bats, badgers, and prosecutions relating to birds of prey, freshwater pearl mussels and poaching. All of these sit within the UK’s strategic priorities, and the work of the National Wildlife Crime Unit is split right across all these areas.
Ivory products are the most popular wildlife item on the international market, despite a global ban on ivory sales imposed by the 180-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This legislation could therefore increase the Wildlife Crime Unit’s work exponentially. A strong commitment to future funding is vital if that important work is to continue. We have heard that the funding is committed until 2020 but, beyond that, the National Wildlife Crime Unit has had no formal indication that there will be continued funding, which clearly causes concern. It is unable to plan or commit to long-term strategies. It is very difficult for any agency to form business plans when, in 20 months’ time, it may not exist at all.
The APHA, an executive agency with an existing wide-ranging remit, will be responsible for administering and enforcing the registration and certification scheme. The Minister has previously confirmed that the APHA will be responsible for conducting spot checks on items registered, to check for accuracy and compliance, and will be working with the police and others to enable them to carry out any enforcement and monitoring action necessary. This is a key and very necessary part of the regulations, so it should be carried out by skilled members of staff trained to identify ivory. Has the Minister’s department carried out a budget and manpower review of the Bill’s implications for the APHA?
Finally, the Minister has advised that the regulator—the Office for Product Safety and Standards—will also play a role in enforcement. There was very little scrutiny in the other place of why this BEIS agency has been selected to oversee most of the enforcement of the Act under civil penalty provisions. Will the Minister explain why the OPSS has been chosen, given that the Ivory Act will form part of the global wildlife protection legislation that is administered by Defra? The OPSS has no expertise in wildlife regulation and there is concern that it will be preoccupied by its other work. Will the Minister assure the House that there will be sufficient funding for specially trained and dedicated staff at the OPSS to work on enforcing the ban on dealing with ivory?
Will the Minister also spell out how the OPSS will operate alongside the police, the CITES border force and the National Wildlife Crime Unit? How will the responsible areas be defined and split between the agencies when the regulator will be in another department? Will the Minister explain how the enforcement will be structured? I trust that the Government will commit to ensuring sufficient manpower and resources, otherwise the Bill will be toothless and treated merely as non-binding guidance, and the public will interpret from this that the Government are not committed to taking the measure seriously.
Amendments 59 and 60 call for a report on the impact of the Act on the ivory market. I may respond later to the remarks from the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. At this stage, I will comment only that Amendment 59 seems to focus more widely on the international market, whereas Amendment 60 in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones is focused on the domestic market—albeit that both call also for a report from DfID to be included explaining how the work of the department has contributed to the aims of the Bill.
In Committee in the House on Monday, the Government were conducive towards Amendment 35 on producing a report on exemptions to the ivory ban. They intended to share publicly information on how the ivory ban was working in practice. It seems logical to press the Government to go further and report more widely on the domestic ivory market as well and, by extension, include how the Department for International Development has worked with communities overseas that are on the front line in the battle against ivory poaching.
The proposed new clause in Amendment 60 provides for a practical analysis of the impact of the Bill in its ultimate purpose to reduce the illegal trade in ivory and to save the elephant from further slaughter. Importantly, the report should consider the impact on nations and communities that generate income from the trade, given that the Bill responds to calls from African nations that stand as one to demand an end to the market for ivory across the globe that fuels the drive for poaching. As we have argued throughout the passage of the Bill, reducing demand is the key tenet of a wider strategy. It will place the Bill alongside the activities of other nations to provide leadership on an international scale which the Secretary of State can underline when he hosts the illegal wildlife conference in London in October. I beg to move.
My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, in speaking to Amendment 59. No one who listened to the Second Reading debate in another place can be in doubt of the Government’s determination to eliminate the criminal trade in ivory. This concerns at least three government departments. We have not yet heard from the international development side of the story and I have not so far spoken, but I will not delay the Bill by repeating what was said at Second Reading.
My primary interest is not in the ivory trade, although I sympathise with many of the concerns expressed, but in the communities where elephants and people live and how they will be affected—or assisted—by the Bill. Several MPs have tried to amend the Bill on their behalf and to widen it to include the protection of other endangered species, listed in CITES, such as rhinos and even tigers and snow leopards. I am not, however, going quite that far today. That is the subject of a later amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones.
People are saying different things on the Bill. In Committee, I have been struck by the occasional polarisation of opinion. For example, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said on Monday that she was protecting elephants, while the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and others were protecting inanimate objects. My noble friend Lord Berkeley said that some of the resources required in monitoring the ivory trade would surely be much better directed towards the problem itself—towards protecting elephants and prosecuting the criminals who try to make money out of ivory. I sympathise with him.
Ivory may not be seen with quite the same reverence at a local level in Africa or Asia. Elephants, on the other hand, especially those that still have their tusks and their teeth intact, are highly respected. There are some robust programmes targeting poachers and dealers, many of whom, as in any crime, are inevitably seeking a way out of poverty. When it comes to the need for human survival, desperation can easily lure people into crime, so poverty alleviation and sustainable development must always be partners of human and animal rights.
One must not be too pious about this. We have to be aware that corruption goes a lot higher than poachers and dealers. In some communities, the elephant is quite unromantic and can become the enemy of development. I have witnessed a dangerous bull elephant in South Africa—I expect a lot of people have. Anyone in Assam will remind you that elephants never forget and wreak terrible and regular vengeance.
DfID already focuses on alternative livelihoods as part of the UK campaign to end the ivory trade. I warmly welcome that. All too often, criminal activity is seen as an easy alternative to low pay and lack of opportunity. There are many organisations tackling this, such as the African Wildlife Foundation, which combines preventing trade in ivory with development projects in local communities. The AWF, for example, has a programme to bring wildlife criminals to justice through the training of rangers and prosecutors. It has had much success with sniffer dogs at Nairobi and Entebbe airports. In the same region, the charity Save the Elephants has recruited Turkana and Samburu women to help to track elephants in its campaign to stop poaching.
The World Wide Fund for Nature has a worldwide scheme to support rangers who carry out essential protection of endangered species, directly benefiting local families as well as elephants. It is monitoring herds, training community rangers and protecting habitats. In safeguarding elephants, it is also helping to support local communities through measures to reduce human-elephant conflict and initiatives to support local livelihoods.
I recognise that the Government have made extensive preparations for the IWT conference next month, but DfID, since it works overseas, always appears to be a junior ministry in these joined-up initiatives. I have looked at its website in relation to elephants. Inevitably, there will be a lot of variety in different countries’ responses to the illegal trade and the conference will doubtless show that there is no simple development formula. This affects how you assess the effect of these programmes. There is no simple development formula beyond the rule of law but, knowing DfID’s investment in the programme, it would be reasonable to ask for some impact assessment.
All that I am seeking with this amendment is a recognition of the work of DfID and its in-country partners through an annual report that makes some assessment of success in both protection and development alongside trade bans. The Government have given huge sums to this and launched impressive targets, but it is important for us to judge how effective these targets are going to be and how they will benefit local people.
There was a degree of euphoria in another place during discussion of the Bill. The ivory campaign inevitably has widespread support on all sides. Nevertheless, we must be aware that, while we can and must reduce the international trade in ivory, the real problems are not taking place on this island and we need a formal assessment of the impact on the people most directly affected. I thank the Opposition Front Bench for presenting a comparable amendment and I hope that we can carry this through to later stages of the Bill.
My Lords, I apologise for not having taken part in the Second Reading debate on the Bill. I was unable to do so, but, having seen the amendment put down by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I was moved to add my name. I will take a few minutes to say why I thought that that was necessary.
The aim of the Bill is well and good within itself and I support it wholeheartedly. The success of the Bill in reducing poaching will, we all hope, lead to a rise in elephant numbers and it therefore makes sense that we should also be alive to any unintended consequences that could arise. That is why I have added my name to the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I am most concerned about the consequences for developing communities in countries where the elephants are found.
The Minister will know—we have already heard about this from around the Chamber this afternoon—that human-elephant conflict is a real and growing issue in regions where elephants and humans live in close proximity. Indeed, the issue has its own acronym—it is frequently referred to as HEC. Smaller farms risk crops being devastated by elephants and the wrath of farmers can translate into hostility towards elephants and the granting of licences to poachers, which rather defeats the purpose of the Bill, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned. In addition, heedless large agribusiness, of the type that Africa is in dire need of, can cut swathes through traditional elephant corridors to food and water, causing major conflict.
The abhorrent practice of destroying majestic, intelligent creatures must be put to a stop, but it must be done so that it is permanently sustainable. If we are serious about the endeavour, we must be proactive in identifying areas where challenges will arise and take action to meet them. Some excellent work being done in this field has highlighted the important insights that local communities can provide, so it is crucial that those communities are involved in designing the initiatives for crop protection that will lead to elephant conservation. It is important that this is done by DfID, because it is best placed and has the best know-how and it will be able to take the lead in efforts to mitigate the impact of rising elephant numbers on the countries where elephants live and, in particular on the local communities, particularly farming communities, that may be adversely affected.
In conclusion, peaceful coexistence of humans and elephants is eminently possible through effective and sensible land management. However, we must be alive to the dangerous unintended consequences and must not neglect to give this issue sufficient attention.
My Lords, I declare an interest as president of the British Art Market Federation, as I did on the first day in Committee.
May I ask the Minister about the comments about resources that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, made at the beginning of his speech? On the first day in Committee I moved an amendment that the noble Lord will remember, about the requirement to register Clause 7—de minimis—exemptions. These exemptions, in the words of the Explanatory Memorandum, are there because they in no way, either directly or indirectly, contribute to the poaching of wild elephants. At the same time, the Minister told the House that government policy had been prepared with the benefit of the widest consultation, with all the relevant interest groups, including the wildlife interest groups. That being the case, having heard the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, surely it must follow, given the very small number of resources that are available to deal with the problems of ivory, that this stipulation that de minimis exemptions need to be registered is a serious misallocation of resources. The Government admit that they are not contributing to the destruction of wild elephants. Therefore, if it is an offence not to register, they are deflecting resources that could otherwise be put to better purpose. If the noble Lord says that it will not lead to any change or misallocation of resources, I will ask him what the purpose is of having that stipulation in the legislation at all, because it is conceded that it is not achieving anything.
My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Sandwich. I declare an interest as a longstanding trustee of the Tusk Trust, which has not just been looking to address the chronic problem of poachers and dealers but to assist in educating local communities about the importance of ecotourism. In this regard, it is important to consider an impact assessment report, which would help DfID to support local communities in their education efforts. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that enforcement is crucial. Without enforcement the Bill would be toothless.
My Lords, I am afraid I am going to strike a rather discordant note. I want to focus on Amendments 59 and 60. It is widely accepted that by far the most significant markets for ivory are in the Far East. The Secretary of State acknowledged in his impact assessment that the United Kingdom ivory market has not been linked to the trade in recently poached ivory. There are many other factors at play in the illicit international trade in wildlife that will have a far greater impact on demand for ivory than the trade in antiques here in the United Kingdom.
With respect to the noble Lords who have moved these amendments, I therefore struggle to understand how the requirements proposed in Amendments 59 and 60—to report on the impact of this Bill on the elephant populations in Africa and on the demand for ivory in other countries—would be carried out. How exactly would one attribute to the Bill a change in the demand in Hong Kong for raw ivory, for example?
With respect to the noble Lords who have proposed these reports, there appears to be a premise behind both amendments that the UK’s fairly minimal international trade in objects made from ivory is encouraging the demand for ivory in the countries of the Far East. As I explained on Monday in Committee, if we exclude piano keys, the total number of antiques incorporating ivory exported from the UK to the entire world amounted to 766 items in 2016 and just over 1,000 last year. The exported objects comprise a mixture of both solid ivory carvings and objects that incorporate ivory, such as musical instruments or furniture with inlay. The latter are of no interest to buyers in the Far East. As I have previously said, these numbers are small fry when compared to the volumes of ivory traded in the ivory consumer markets.
I was tempted to support these amendments so that afterwards I could say, “I told you so”, but I do not believe that we should spend taxpayers’ money in that way, especially when I know the answer already. We have to recognise the most significant factor in stopping the trade in poached ivory is not whether the UK is selling antiques or not, but whether the restrictions promised by China and Hong Kong are effectively enforced and whether it is possible to prevent the market from transferring to neighbouring countries in the region.
My Lords, I support this small group of amendments. As the Minister has said in the past, the Bill has been prepared with great care and knowledge, with one aim and one aim only: to protect the African and Asian elephant. This will be achieved by taking the value out of trading in ivory, prosecuting those who break the law and making the poaching of elephants for their ivory uneconomical. While the fees charged for certification will help to cover some of the costs of setting up the registration and certification process, they will not cover them all at first. It is important that parliamentarians and the public—who, as was clearly demonstrated during Second Reading, care very much about the plight of the elephant—are reassured that sufficient resources have been allocated to enforcement. If the enforcement of the measures set out in the Bill is not properly funded, it is unlikely it will have the desired effect.
We welcome the suggestion of a public awareness campaign to inform potential buyers and sellers of the requirements of the registration system; we recommend that this be done to ensure that robust monitoring and evaluation measures are put in place by the appropriate agencies, and not left to individuals with financial motivations. Guidelines and an honesty-based system will not be enough. Applications will need to be checked.
The annual report to Parliament on the operation of the Act should include information on the number and categories of certified and registered exemptions, civil penalties imposed, criminal prosecutions undertaken and work happening overseas to conserve elephants in which the UK is playing an important role. This amendment could also allow the Government to commission a report from a suitably qualified NGO, utilising official data.
Transparency will be everything in ensuring that the UK becomes a world leader in protecting the elephant. Being able to demonstrate that adequate resources have been allocated to back up our enforcement measures will be key in demonstrating to the rest of the world that we are serious in our efforts. The Government will need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. As the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, has said, communities which are the subject of poaching will need to be supported to achieve sources of income and to continue economically. I full support this group of amendments.
My Lords, I had not intended to take part in this brief debate. I do not support the amendments, which will not cause any great surprise. Not for the first time, I am rather provoked by the noble Baroness who has just spoken.
I do not believe that this Bill is the result of great care and massive consultation. This is hogwash, if one looks at the number of responses—and I will read these into the record yet again. First, the paper which went out did not state information for and against a total ban on ivory. That could have helped those who were genuinely concerned to come to an informed conclusion. Of the responses, 39,485—almost 40,000—were identical emails from members of the Stop Ivory campaign. Another 66,472—52%—responded to a 38 Degrees campaign. They would only have signed if they supported a total ban.
I come back to the point that those of us who believe that this is an example of gesture politics have made time and again. No single living elephant—all of which any sane, sensible person would wish to preserve—is going to be helped by this stringent, draconian ban on the sale of antique ivory. We are creating a massive and unnecessary bureaucracy which would merely be compounded by the passage of any of the three amendments that have been spoken to. I put this on record, though it will come as no surprise to any Member of your Lordships’ House to know that I feel very strongly on this issue. This legislation is entirely well motivated but ill conceived.
My Lords, this group of amendments relates to reporting on enforcement resources and the impact of the UK ivory ban on international ivory markets.
Before I turn to the amendments, I should like to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that my noble friend Lord Gardiner will respond to the points he raised about the operation and funding of the enforcement system in a group that noble Lords will come to later this afternoon. I will focus my remarks specifically on the reporting element of the amendments.
Amendment 38 raises the critical issue of ensuring effective enforcement of the ban. I assure your Lordships that this issue is of foremost concern to the Government, and I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that it will not be neglected.
I take this opportunity to give credit to the police, including the National Wildlife Crime Unit, and the Border Force for the work they already do in tackling the abhorrent illegal trade in wildlife. During the Commons Committee stage, we heard that the Border Force CITES team is recognised as,
“one of the best in the world at enforcing controls against the illegal wildlife trade”.—[Official Report, Commons, Ivory Bill Committee, 19/6/18; col. 129.]
Both the Border Force team and the National Wildlife Crime Unit are sharing their valuable expertise with other countries all over the world.
Provisions in the Bill provide that police and customs officials will be supported in the enforcement of the ivory ban by accredited civilian officers from the Office for Product Safety and Standards. The OPSS will be responsible primarily for improving compliance with the provisions in the Bill, with a programme of engagement and awareness raising, and for enforcing lower-level or more minor offences. The police will deal with higher-level or more serious offences, such as those involving serious organised crime. For clarity, the APHA will administer the database and will refer any suspicious activity to the OPSS or the police as the seriousness of the offence allows.
I reassure noble Lords that, in developing and implementing the compliance processes necessary for the ban, the Government will assess the necessary resources required, in line with the additional work that will need to be undertaken, and we will monitor the effective application of these resources over time. On the suggestion for a review within 12 months—
I am sorry. This may be the only intervention that I will make in this Bill but I would like to understand is how you are going to measure and assess the seriousness of the crime, particularly at an early stage in the investigation. Surely it will be quite critical to do so at that point.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for his intervention. As I stated at the start, the operation of the enforcement system will be a topic for discussion later today, as there are many more amendments dealing with that. This is purely about reporting on the enforcement. As I said, the Government will monitor the effective application of resources over time.
Turning to the reporting, the amendment suggests that a review might be undertaken within 12 months of the Bill’s provisions being commenced. I suggest that this might not provide an adequate assessment, as it is likely that different levels of resources will be required in the early stages of enforcement, particularly for the early engagement and awareness-raising phase, and it is likely to take at least a year and probably more to understand the steady-state financial resources that are required to effectively police and enforce the ban in the longer term.
Therefore, we do not believe that a resources assessment on a specified date should be included in the Bill. The Government will, as a matter of course, assess the implementation of the ban over time—in particular, its enforcement. Much of this information will be available in the public domain and will be subject to public scrutiny. Therefore, a separate report is unnecessary and a drain on resources. We therefore do not believe that this matter needs to be addressed in the Bill.
I turn to the other two amendments in this group, the intention of which is for the Government to provide an update to Parliament, and the public, on the impact of the new Ivory Act, if passed, on the domestic and international ivory trade. Although the intention is commendable, we do not envisage that the full impact of the legislation, particularly on international markets, will be measurable in isolation within the first 12 months of it coming into force. It is logical that the international impact of the UK ivory ban—in reduced flows of ivory from the UK to the Far East or reduced prices—will be seen over a much longer term.
The Government have made it clear that they believe that the UK’s ivory ban, along with the fourth international Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in October, will encourage other countries to follow the UK’s lead and implement their own bans. This will, in turn, further reduce demand and prices and, therefore, the poaching and killing of elephants. Again, the impact on international markets and the poaching and killing of elephants will be seen over a long period.
I am conscious that the proposed undertakings may, in effect, duplicate some of the work done under the auspices of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species—CITES—and would therefore be an unnecessary drain on resources. CITES reports on the illegal killing of elephants and the trade in ivory are presented every three years to the CITES Conference of the Parties. All countries implicated in the ivory trade, including the UK, appear in the cluster analysis of the ivory trade reports. These reports are the Monitoring of Illegal Trade in Ivory and Other Elephant Specimens and the Elephant Trade Information System.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned the enormous and ongoing commitment by DfID to tackle poaching. It is true that DfID is very involved in the tackling of the poaching of elephants but the funding is often inextricably linked to other illegal wildlife trading interventions, which are often undertaken with other nations’ programmes within these larger international umbrella schemes. For example, DfID and Defra announced back in July that they had helped secure an increase of £27 million, but this was from international partners; all of it was put into the Global Environment Facility’s Global Wildlife Program. Again, that programme is subject to rigorous scrutiny and stringent reporting requirements. I fear that we could end up with a reporting overload, and trying to narrow it down to one particular species from one particular country might not be the best use of time or resources. The obligation to produce additional and unnecessary reports would be a considerable and potentially expensive undertaking, and one which Defra is not particularly qualified to undertake. An objective report on the impact of the UK ban on the illegal wildlife trade would be best carried out by an organisation outside government; as I have explained, this is already the case.
For the reasons I have outlined, I cannot agree to these amendments. However, their intention has merit and we will consider the ways in which we make sure that the public have the right information about the impact of the ban and, indeed, the work that DfID and other parts of government are doing to tackle the poaching of elephants. I hope that the noble Lord feels able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I apologise for any confusion. I was unaware that some of my remarks might have been covered in later amendments, so we look forward to understanding those a little better. On Amendment 38, we need to show commitment; the initial load may diminish after the bulk of the registrations has occurred. But we share with the Government the objective of making this legislation a success and the Minister’s confidence in the wildlife crime unit and CITES.
On the later amendments—which I will certainly not be moving—I listened carefully to what the Minister said. I reiterate that this is a clear opportunity for joined-up government to be demonstrated. However, I recognise that the work of DfID involves a wide range of other agencies. I stress again that the value of elephant tourism is extremely high, with an elephant worth 76 times more alive in the savannah than dead in the marketplace. I am heartened that the Government are showing commitment to closely monitoring the impact of the Bill on the international market and to working more widely with the agencies and communities that will be most affected by the ivory ban. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 38 withdrawn.
Clause 14: Power to stop and search persons
39: Clause 14, page 9, line 5, at end insert “, such officer to have specific expertise and training in identifying ivory items”
My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendments 39 and 40. Starting with Amendment 39, Clause 14 grants National Crime Agency officers powers to stop and search someone when they have “reasonable grounds” to believe that an offence may have been committed. This could, for example, include an alleged offence connected to the registration of an antique with a low ivory content—not just an ivory carving. NCA officers are not police or customs officers and it is not entirely clear to me why they should be granted the same powers as police officers—unless, perhaps, they are qualified to assess whether an item is made from ivory and falls under the Act.
For instance, would they have sufficient understanding of the operation of the Act to be able to identify when the proportion of ivory in an object comprises more or less than the 10% threshold, or the 20% threshold in the case of a musical instrument? To carry out their duties properly, they should surely have some expertise in judging whether an item is of the correct date. The purpose of the amendment therefore is to ensure that NCA officers are properly trained for the job they are undertaking.
On Amendment 40, while there are misgivings about the extent of the role and powers of accredited civilian officers, one of their jobs is to raise awareness and understanding of the provisions in the Bill in order to facilitate and assess compliance. This being the case, there is nothing in the Bill to require sufficient knowledge of ivory on the part of an accredited civilian officer. It is important that they possess the skills and knowledge to equip them to make sound judgments, and to understand the information presented to them, when viewing antiques which may contain ivory. Unless this is the case, searches of dealers’ and auctioneers’ premises could result in inaccurate and misguided reports being submitted, alleging breaches of the provisions of the Bill. When appointing these officers, the Secretary of State should be under an obligation to ensure that the appointees have demonstrable knowledge of antique and modern elephant ivory in its various forms, and an ability to identify it. I beg to move.
My Lords, my noble friend’s first proposed amendment would require police or customs officers to undertake specific training in identifying ivory items before exercising the enforcement powers provided in the Bill. The CITES border force team is recognised as one of the best in the world at enforcing controls against illegal wildlife trade. Both the CITES border force team and the National Wildlife Crime Unit are experienced in identifying illegal wildlife products, including ivory, and already lend their expertise to police forces across the country. The skills of the CITES border force team in detecting illegal wildlife products are in demand internationally and the team regularly undertakes training with their counterparts around the world.
As needed, police forces also seek the opinion of experts, including APHA wildlife inspectors. Before the Bill comes into force, we intend to run an awareness raising campaign around its provisions. We will work closely with the police to ensure that wildlife crime officers in police forces nationwide are apprised of these measures.
The second amendment in this group would require accredited civil officers to have,
“proven knowledge of and expertise in identifying ivory”.
In the next group of amendments I will spend a little time in my reply outlining the work of the Office for Product Safety and Standards. The accredited civilian officers from the Office for Product Safety and Standards —OPSS—which is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will work alongside the police and customs officers to help enforce the ivory ban. While I will expand more fully, perhaps in the next group of amendment, on the important task of enforcement arrangements, the OPSS officers will be tasked primarily with raising awareness and ensuring that sellers are able to comply with the ban. They will also be responsible for checking that items for sale have the correct registration documents.
On the particular point about expertise in ivory, I can reassure my noble friend that an appropriate training programme for OPSS officers will be developed and implemented before the Bill is commenced to ensure that they are equipped with the skills and expertise required to help enforce the ban. This will include, for instance, the ability to recognise the distinctive Schreger lines, the visible cross-hatching that identifies a substance as ivory. It is worth mentioning that, as needed—for example, with serious offences—officers would normally refer the items to expert witnesses. I understand the points that my noble friend made, but I hope that, with that explanation, he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister. I look forward to his foreshadowed remarks on the next group of amendments and I am happy to consider his remarks after today—so, for today I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 39 withdrawn.
Clause 14 agreed.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed.
Clause 17: Powers to enter and search premises
Amendment 40 not moved.
Debate on whether Clause 17 should stand part of the Bill.
Member’s explanatory statement
Leaving out Clause 17 would prevent the appointment of accredited civilian officers with powers of entry and seizure by the Minister.
My Lords, I apologise to the Committee for having failed to address the issue involved in this legislation at an earlier stage. In the past few weeks, I have had two meetings with Ministers, and I thank them very much for their courtesy and patience in having listened to me. I beg leave to oppose the Question that Clause 17 should stand part of the Bill. There is cross-party support for this amendment, and, as the Committee will appreciate just by looking at the Marshalled List, each supporting name on the Marshalled List is that of a member of the Constitution Committee.
Before I come to the amendment, I would like to emphasise that the broad objectives of this Bill have my complete support. The slaughter of a single elephant diminishes us all. You do not have to have seen an elephant in the wild; it is enough to look at it on the television. When the tusks of a lifeless elephant, killed for ornament or vanity or perhaps for investment purposes, are worth more than the noble magnificence of a living creature trundling about in its natural environment in an organised herd or as a solitary elephant, we know that values have become inverted.
It follows from what I have just said that my support for the broad objectives means that I entirely agree that a Bill that does not have provisions for enforcement is pointless, and I agree that the provisions in this Bill should be properly enforced. This amendment is concerned, when one analyses it, with three words in the enforcement process—three simple little words. What a lot of fuss about three words. The three words are “accredited civilian officer”. Those words create a new enforcement body additional to the police but not subject, as the police are, to police discipline, answerable to a chief constable or equivalent and ultimately answerable to a complaints procedure or its equivalent.
I am going to read the Bill, because I am going to be hearing later on this afternoon all about Explanatory Memoranda, possibly ministerial letters, possibly ministerial assurances in this House:
“In this Act … ‘accredited civilian officer’ means an officer of the Secretary of State who is authorised by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this Act”.
No more, no less. No single embellishment. Absolutely stark. No other safeguarding. No other provision of any kind. He or she will be, if this Bill comes to pass, a civil servant authorised by a Secretary of State and accountable to him. This individual, man or woman, will effectively, if one studies the Bill, have the same powers as a police officer with no provision for oversight, for control, for discipline—all ultimately, in the Bill, left to the Minister.
Clause 17 is troublesome enough, but I accept that it has some limitations on it. It cannot be operated without notice. The Minister’s officer may enter premises for the purpose of,
“promoting awareness and understanding of the provisions of this Act”,
which means that you will get a pep talk, or,
“assessing compliance with those provisions”,
which means rather more. Clause 17 is clear that he may search premises: “any place”, except a dwelling-house. Fair enough. However, that includes any office, factory, shop and, presumably, any garage that is not physically attached to somebody’s dwelling-house, which may be searched for items made of ivory, or containing an appropriate level of ivory.
Given the way the Bill is drafted, we might think that that is it; that is what the accredited officer will do. Indeed, some of the observations I have heard from the Minister rather imply that this is going to be low-level work, not quite as high as that of the police. But if you thought that, and thought that Clause 17 was the end of it, you would miss the subsequent provisions and all the wider powers that are being granted.
I do not want to bore noble Lords, but Clause 18 equates this body of civil servants with the police. On the authorisation of a grade 7 civil servant—that is what the Bill means, though it does not say the words “civil servant”, but only “grade 7”—an application may be made for a search warrant. This time, the search warrant can encompass a dwelling-house as well as all the other premises covered by the previous clause. It may be granted to an accredited civilian officer. Lo and behold, if we read more deeply into this provision, the authorisation may extend to an individual who is not in fact an accredited civilian officer. On the basis of the warrant, that individual will have the same powers as an ACO, who has the same powers as a police officer.
If we go through the provisions in Clauses 20 and 21, they would enable that individual, on entering the house, to examine anything in the home and to carry out tests on any object, while causing the least possible damage, whatever that may mean—what an argument lies ahead about whether this was the least possible damage. However, it is causing damage to somebody’s property. The officer,
“may break open any container”—
they may, therefore, open any drawer; they may require the production of documents; they may,
“seize and detain or remove”,
any item, as they think appropriate in the context of the Bill, from your home, your office or your shop. They may also use “reasonable force, if necessary” to achieve the objective. In other words, if you object, they may use reasonable force to take the item away from you.
If this was a series of powers granted to a police officer, I would have no objection. That is consistent with our having police officers who act independently of Ministers and are answerable for their conduct. However, if this applies to civil servants answerable to a Minister, and subject ultimately to his approval, I respectfully suggest to the Committee that it is a very serious provision. Entering your home and seizing your property may be fine, if justified. It may be fine if subject to limits that we in Parliament put on; but what are the limits here? I can go only by the passages that I have read in the Bill that is before us. I am sorry to sound discourteous, but I do not attach any significance to an Explanatory Memorandum or to a ministerial letter—which are of no relevance whatever in assessing what the powers are—or, indeed, as I have said, to ministerial assurances here, though I mean no discourtesy to the Minister. Of course, it will not be used for this purpose or that purpose or the other purpose.
This Bill has come from the House of Commons and is being proposed or countenanced in Great Britain in our name. It proposes that we should give these powers to such officials. If noble Lords read about this happening in a country that they were fond of—let us say, for the sake of argument, Australia, New Zealand, Canada or France, or wherever it might be—and heard that an Act, passed by whatever the legislative assembly might be, gave a Minister in what they thought was a democracy, anxious to protect its liberties, the power to deploy civil servants in the way in which this Bill proposes, they would be immensely troubled.
We can look at this as a ministry “taskforce”, but if it were happening abroad, “taskforce” would not be the kind of word that we would use. We would use words that indicated a much deeper degree of trouble and concern. We would have to recognise that, as the Bill stands, it is a ministry’s private law enforcement body. This is not our way. This simply will not do, and we must not let it do. I beg to move.
My Lords, my name is attached to all the other amendments in the group. I need to say very little, because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, has spoken with passion and eloquence. He has made a case that is impossible to refute. The noble and learned Lord has done many services to your Lordships’ House. Many times, he has drawn attention to Henry VIII clauses. Many times, he has drawn attention to giving by those means and others more and more power to the Executive in the person of their Ministers.
This is a most alarming example of passing power from Parliament to the Executive—in fact, to a Minister’s nark who will have invested in him or her all the powers rightly possessed by the police and perhaps more. There are implications for our society and our democracy in a clause such as this being accepted in a Bill which everybody accepts has noble intentions. Some of us have sought to demonstrate that it is not a very well-conceived Bill, but whatever view one takes on the importance of antique ivory, which I and other noble friends have been talking about on Monday and today, this issue is wholly separate. It concerns the independence of the citizen and his right to retain his private property and not to have it molested by those who would not ordinarily be in a position to examine it. The provision to allow the use of minimum force is again alarming. That is why I went through the Bill and deleted every reference I could see to those three very innocent-sounding but alarming words, “accredited civilian officer”.
I do not want to over-dramatise, but this is Orwellian. We should not have anything to do with this in either House of Parliament. I am astonished that this should have come from the other place. It illustrates, if anything is needed to illustrate it, how important it is that we have a more dispassionate assembly to scrutinise our legislation. It also illustrates how exceptionally fortunate we are to have in your Lordships’ House those who have no party political affiliation, who cannot by any stretch of the imagination or vocabulary be accused of making a political point. We have in this House Cross-Benchers, among whom are some of the finest lawyers in the land.
Forget this Bill and forget our differences on other aspects of it. We would be doing a grave disservice to our democracy if we allowed this Bill to proceed with these words in it. I devoutly hope that my noble friend will be able to give a much more encouraging answer to this group of amendments than he has given to other amendments, and I hope very much that we will not have to return to this subject on Report. I hope that it will have been dealt with by that answer. But if it is still in the Bill, it is your Lordships’ duty at that stage to take it out of the Bill.
My Lords, I do not wish to detain the House long, because the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, has set out very clearly the reasons—elaborated on by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack—for the concerns that this clause and ensuing clauses, which refer to an “accredited civilian officer”, have given rise to. Like the noble and learned Lord, I very much share the objectives of the Bill. Indeed, as the Constitution Committee said in its brief report published at the outset of the Summer Recess, we do not wish the progress of the Bill to be delayed as its fundamental objective was widely welcomed at Second Reading.
However, we are concerned that the important policing functions, including powers of entry, search and seizure, are to be exercised by civilian officers working directly for the Minister. As the noble and learned Lord has indicated, the Bill as it stands makes it very clear that the accredited civilian officer is an officer of the Secretary of State, authorised by the Secretary of State for particular purposes. There are no qualifications for that, although I anticipate that when he comes to reply, the Minister will elaborate on that—he gave us a foretaste when he replied to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, in the previous group. But that is only elaboration; it is not in the Bill.
We can anticipate some things. Indeed, we will be told, as stated in the letter from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, David Rutley, to Mr Alex Chalk MP, which has been put in the Libraries of both Houses, that,
“the Office for Product Safety and Standards … which is part of BEIS”,
will be the enforcement body and will be “the Office”. But there is no reference to that body in the Bill, its power and what it does. Again, we will be told that,
“the Office will fully adhere to the provisions of the Regulators’ Code”.
What is the regulators’ code? Parliament cannot see what it is in the Bill; nor is there even any reference to it. No doubt we will get explanations and elaborations as to the intention, but we should not easily pass legislation without any reference to it. There are serious concerns because of that absence. Even if there is reference to it, fundamental points have been made about wide-ranging powers being given to civilian officers—people who, no matter what might be said about how it would happen, ultimately will be the appointees of the Secretary of State. That is a matter of fundamental principle which the Government need to address and justify.
In conclusion, in the letter to which I have referred, the Minister said:
“We envisage close working of the Office with other enforcement bodies. The Office will use civil sanctions and criminal sanctions are likely to fall to the Police”.
The implication is that in not all circumstances will criminal sanctions fall to the police; they could fall to this body. That is quite significant: criminal sanctions might fall to a body that is appointed by the Secretary of State, without more. Some considerable reassurance will therefore be required when the Minister replies.
My Lords, I, too, have signed to give notice of opposition to the clause standing part of the Bill. I endorse the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, with whom I agree totally. Like him, I have no problems with what the Bill seeks to achieve; the principle is wholly worthy. Indeed, I have no problem with other parts of the Bill either. My concern is with this clause. I do not see why it cannot be excised from the Bill leaving the other parts in place.
Given the clauses that precede and succeed it, I do not see why this clause is necessary. It confers a particular power on civilian officers and civil servants in a way that is remarkable. The Explanatory Notes seek to claim that the powers conferred in the clause are not unusual, but they cite only one example as a means of doing that. One example is not sufficient to demonstrate that this is “not unusual”. It strikes me that these are remarkable powers in themselves, which means that there would have to be a compelling case for this House to go along with them.
There is already a problem with the actual powers, therefore, but then, as the noble and learned Lord indicated, we have to look at what they are designed to achieve. Subsection (2)(a) is free-standing. It confers on civil servants the power to enter purely for the purpose, as the noble and learned Lord put it, of giving a pep talk. I would be rather amazed if even police officers wanted the power to come in and simply give one a pep talk, so to confer that power on civil servants strikes me as remarkable. It is not linked to the enforcement powers; it is simply to go in and, effectively, to seek to educate people about the provisions of the Bill.
Therefore, the power of entry is remarkable but so is what it is used for. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether there are provisions in any other Acts that confer on officials powers of this sort to go in and simply remonstrate or give a pep talk to those whom they feel need to be educated. I am at a loss to understand why the clause is in the Bill, given the other provisions that it contains.
My Lords, we very much welcome the interventions by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, members of the Constitution Committee and other noble Lords who have raised concerns about the status and powers of accredited civilian officers. The noble and learned Lord has done a fantastic demolition job on the provisions in the existing clause. I also welcome his overall support for the objectives of the Bill, which are indeed very welcome.
While we have argued throughout that there need to be robust enforcement mechanisms in the Bill, we equally accept that the creation of a new breed of civilian enforcers, with the widespread powers envisaged in the Bill, goes far too far. We would have hoped that providing extra resources for the National Wildlife Crime Unit would provide a more acceptable alternative to the challenge of effective enforcement.
I do not intend to say a great deal because I know that the Minister is keen to find a way to resolve these concerns. I hope that he is able to reassure us that the Government will be tabling their own amendments to bring enforcement back in line with the practice of legal enforcement using comparative situations. I therefore look forward to hearing his response.
My Lords, I express my gratitude to the Constitution Committee for publishing its valuable report, which raised some important points regarding the powers conferred by the Bill on accredited civilian officers. I place on record that I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, for meeting me and officials so that we could discuss and, in turn, reflect on the concerns that he and the committee expressed. I am also mindful of the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Cormack.
The issue of enforcement is critical and I am sure that the Committee would agree that it is paramount that the enforcement of the ivory ban must be both proportionate and robust. As noble Lords will be aware, when I refer to accredited civilian officers, I am referring to the officers of the regulator, which will be the Office for Product Safety and Standards. OPSS is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is an experienced enforcement body that currently enforces a range of regulations on behalf of the Government, including regulations on timber, biodiversity, waste and chemicals, and carbon reduction. For example, OPSS ensures that timber traders are complying with the regulations to ensure that their products are made from legally sourced timber.
OPSS also has experience of co-working with the police, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Border Force, which will also play a critical role in the enforcement of the ivory ban so that we make sure that the enforcement is effective and that all parties are clear on their role and remit. For all those reasons it was considered to be the most appropriate regulator.
I am interested to hear examples of the work set out in the letter to which I referred, but can the Minister tell us—this reflects the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Norton—about the underpinning statutory basis? Which Acts relate to, for example, EU timber regulation, which underpin any work done by the Office for Product Safety and Standards?
I am waiting for some assistance to give some precise detail, but clearly, with the timber trade, there must be some legislative basis on which we ensure that timber is legally sourced. If I do not receive the full detail for the noble and learned Lord, I will of course write to him and place a copy of my letter to him in the Library.
Our intention is the ensure that the Ivory Act will be well understood and abided by and, to that end, to define clear roles for the accredited civilian officers, police officers and customs officers. For example, we expect accredited civilian officers to raise awareness and assess compliance with the ban. As such, they will play a critical but distinct role from the police. It is our intention that the accredited civilian officers will focus on low-level offences, while the police will be responsible for pursuing higher-level offences and all criminal offences. Clear protocols between the enforcement bodies will be in place ahead of the commencement and will underpin effective joint working to ensure the effectiveness of the Ivory Act.
The Constitution Committee’s report provided a number of extremely useful recommendations on how we could more clearly define the role of accredited officers in helping to enforce the ivory ban. I would like to assure all noble Lords that we are fully seized of the importance of this issue and are looking carefully at how we might consider these points further on Report.
The Constitution Committee’s recommendations also included a point about the Regulators’ Code. This is a statutory code of practice provided for by the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. It sets out the Government’s expectations of how regulators will behave and expands on the statutory principles of good regulation. For example, regulators subject to the code must ensure that activities are carried out in a way that is transparent, accountable, proportionate and consistent, while regulatory activities should be targeted only in respect of cases where action is needed.
In practice, either a regulator or the piece of legislation that is being regulated can be listed under this Act via secondary legislation under Section 24(2) and therefore be subject to the code. A number of existing pieces of legislation that OPSS regulates—I am waiting on the detail for the noble and learned Lord—are subject to the Regulators’ Code and therefore OPSS adheres to the code in these cases. We are considering further the recommendation raised by the Constitution Committee with regard to the Regulators’ Code.
In addition to my meeting with the noble and learned Lord, I wanted to take the opportunity of hearing this debate on the amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and my noble friend Lord Cormack and indeed the interventions made by other noble Lords. First, the Government understand the points that have been made by the Constitution Committee and today in the Chamber. I hope that what I am going to say will be understood, but these are the words that I should say at this point. I look forward to a continued dialogue after Committee, with the hope of finding a resolution before Report. I understand the points that have been made across the House. If noble Lords will accept this, I can assure them of the bona fides of the Government in this case, although I am also absolutely clear about the points that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, made about how good Governments change and come and go. Our bona fides is that we want to have enforcement of this legislation, so it is important that we get it right. However, for this afternoon, I hope that the reassurances I am able to give at this stage will be helpful to the noble and learned Lord so that he may feel in a position to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, can my noble friend answer one little question? Will the Ministers be accountable to Parliament for the actions of the accredited civilian officers, perhaps in a way we find police officers are not?
If it would be helpful, as part of BEIS, OPSS does not have a legal identity of its own, as it falls under the Secretary of State for BEIS. Perhaps that is the reason why it is not named in the Bill in its own right. I will reflect on what my noble friend said, but that is the position on the matter.
Having heard the Minister’s remarks, it struck me that when the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, concluded, he said “This just will not do”, and he is right—it will not do. But having then heard what the Minister told us, I was unclear as to whether he will, in the period between now and Report, directly address the issues raised by the noble and learned Lord. His response struck me as being that of somebody interested in administration in reply to the noble and learned Lord, who was putting some specific constitutional questions to him.
I am grateful to my noble friend for permitting me to re-emphasise not only that the Government will consider what has happened during this debate but also the recommendations of the Constitution Committee. I cannot be fairer than that at this stage, as my noble friend should know.
My Lords, I am always willing to talk to the Minister, but the courteous way in which both Ministers have treated me during our discussions would make it extraordinary if I did not come straightaway when they were ready. However, the issue that has to be addressed is a simple one, which, unless something is done about it, will eventually lead me to invite the House at a later stage to consider its view. We cannot have a ministerial task force with these powers. That is what is not acceptable. Beyond putting that marker down for myself, I am willing to talk at any time, but for the purposes of today, I withdraw my opposition to Clause 17 standing part of the Bill.
Clause 17 agreed.
Clause 18: Warrants authorising entry and search of premises
Amendments 41 to 45 not moved.
Clause 18 agreed.
Clause 19: Further provision about search warrants
Amendments 46 to 50 not moved.
Clause 19 agreed.
Clauses 20 and 21 agreed.
Clause 22: Powers of seizure etc
51: Clause 22, page 14, line 8, at end insert—
“( ) In respect of a seizure or detention under subsection (2) an officer must take account of the item’s physical nature and must exercise all reasonable care to avoid damage to the item.”
My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments 52, 54, 56, 57 and 58 in this group. Many antiques, regardless of the materials used in their construction, can be fragile and need to be handled with care. For example, ivory is sometimes incorporated into bronze sculptures. To the uninitiated, bronze may seem a strong material, capable of withstanding a gentle knock or two. However, one important feature of bronze sculptures is the patina of their surface. Application of a sticky label in the wrong way or allowing a metal watchstrap to rub against the surface could damage it, destroying the sculpture’s integrity and thus reducing its value. Antique dealers spend a fortune purchasing professional packing services when moving or shipping antiques and the handling of antiques is a specialist skill in its own right.
A badly informed officer, believing that he is seizing an ivory item that breaches the provisions of the Bill, may treat the item casually, even before it has been properly assessed by someone with knowledge and understanding of antiques. Ivory in particular can be brittle and will not take kindly to rough handling. What we need to avoid is antiques being seized, subsequently found to be compliant and then returned damaged to their owners. This amendment is intended to place an obligation on officers to take extra care when handling the antiques that they have seized.
On Amendments 52 and 54, as drafted Clause 29 allows not just the Secretary of State but also police officers and accredited civilian officers to decide the fate of cultural property that has been seized. The factors that need to be considered in disposing of a cultural artefact differ greatly from those that apply to endangered species that do not also possess cultural and historical attributes. A seized item may well be an object of cultural significance that a museum may wish to acquire and, consequently, a decision about its future should involve the input of people possessing specialist knowledge of objects of the same type. This is knowledge that police officers and accredited civilian officers will not have. For this reason, the amendments would limit the decision about the fate of seized objects to the Secretary of State alone and require him or her to take the advice of someone who is able to provide specialist advice, such as a museum curator or art market professional.
I turn finally to Amendments 56, 57 and 58. The aim of amending Clause 31 is similar to that of amending Clause 29. In this case, it concerns the people who are granted the power to decide the fate of previously seized objects where the person entitled to the object cannot be traced. At present this power is granted to a police or customs officer, as well as the Secretary of State. For the reasons that I referred to on Clause 29, the decision should be limited to the Secretary of State alone and be taken on the advice of someone familiar with the type of ivory object whose return has been attempted. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will make just a few brief comments in response to the noble Lord’s amendments, which seem in the main unnecessary. First, it is self-evident that the officers would take care to avoid damaging seized items. This would apply equally to the process of seizing other high-value goods including stolen artworks, with which they would be familiar. I am not convinced that the need for that level of care needs to spelled out in the Bill, given they have that specialist training.
Secondly, we have already addressed the concern about the role of accredited civilian officers, but it does not seem practical or sensible that the only person able to determine how a piece should be disposed of should be the Secretary of State. Thirdly, as we discussed earlier, we would expect a decision to dispose of an item to be taken with guidance from individuals with clear expertise in this area. Again, we are not convinced this needs to be in the Bill. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s undertaking on how these disposals will work in practice and hope that he will be able to reassure his noble friend that these amendments are not necessary.
My Lords, the first amendment in this group would require police and customs officers to take account of an item’s physical nature and exercise reasonable care when searching premises under the powers in the Bill. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that officers must always have regard to their surroundings and the objects therein when conducting a search and should not wilfully damage anything. Police and customs officers have vast experience of conducting searches in many different types of premises and for a wide range of items—valuable, delicate, dangerous or otherwise. I therefore do not think it necessary to include wording to that effect in the Bill. Indeed, it may be counterproductive. For example, if it is omitted from other Bills in future involving similarly delicate items, will it be assumed that care is not needed in those cases?
The other amendments in this group remove the discretion from police and customs officers to dispose of seized or forfeited items and instead require the Secretary of State to consult an expert in ivory items before making decisions on the disposal of such items. Police forces have well-established processes for dealing with seized property of all types. In the first instance, owners have the opportunity to appeal against a seizure and therefore the item may be returned. But if the seized item cannot be returned to the original owner, there are well-established methods for its disposal.
There are many possible uses for seized items containing ivory that cannot be returned to the original owner. For example, they may be used for educational, training and research purposes, when it is in the public interest to do so. Ivory items seized by police and customs officers in recent years have been used for training officers in the identification of ivory products or donated to accredited museums or to conservation bodies for awareness raising. Zoos, for example, might display examples of illegal wildlife trade products made from endangered species.
I hope that this explanation will be sufficient to satisfy my noble friend and that he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her response. I am pleased to hear of her confidence in the care to be taken by police officers and others. Towards the end, she perhaps answered a question that I had not actually put. Nevertheless, today I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 51 withdrawn.
Clause 22 agreed.
Clauses 23 to 28 agreed.
Clause 29: Forfeiture of seized items by court on application
Amendments 52 to 54 not moved.
Clause 29 agreed.
Clause 30: Appeal against decision under section 29
Amendment 55 not moved.
Clause 30 agreed.
Clause 31: Return of item to person entitled to it, or disposal if return impracticable
Amendments 56 to 58 not moved.
Clause 31 agreed.
Clause 32 agreed.
Amendments 59 and 60 not moved.
Clauses 33 and 34 agreed.
Clause 35: Meaning of “ivory”
61: Clause 35, page 21, line 3, at end insert—
“( ) As soon as practicable after this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must consult on amending subsection (1) to include ivory from other animals and species including—(a) hippopotami;(b) narwhals; and(c) walruses.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult on extending the ivory ban to the other ivory bearing animals listed as soon as practical after the Act is passed.
My Lords, Amendment 61 is also in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones. As drafted, the Bill has a narrow focus only on elephants. Labour believes that broadening the definition of “ivory” is necessary not only because many CITES species are at risk of becoming endangered but to prevent the narrow focus on elephant ivory, which may unintentionally displace poachers towards hunting other animals with ivory.
Like elephant tusks, hippo teeth are hard-wearing and can be worked into curios and ornaments. According to CITES, since 1975 more than 770 tonnes of hippo teeth have been sold, the bulk from Tanzania and Uganda. The black market’s insatiable demand for ivory has already turned towards hippos. Since the international ban on elephant ivory came into effect, they offer a cheaper and in many ways easier ivory option. Illicit hippo teeth are also far easier to smuggle because of their size and are subject to less protection and awareness. As a result, the number of hippos has declined by 12% to about 100,000 in the past decade—just a quarter of the elephant population. Experts have cited a rise in the demand for hippo teeth as the main reason threatening the mammal with extinction.
Narwhals and walruses are also now considered at risk of being near-threatened. In practice, this means that they could soon become vulnerable because of the changes in their natural environment and the impact of hunting. We need to be aware that this Bill could, counterintuitively, become a factor.
The Bill has a narrow focus on elephants. To speed it towards enactment, its extension to other species would be best enhanced through further consultation. In July, the Secretary of State recognised that consideration needed to be given to this extension, announcing a further consultation to extend the provisions in the Bill to include hippos, walruses and narwhal ivory. This amendment puts that commitment on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, in this amendment. At Second Reading, the Minister gave an undertaking that there would be consultation on the animals listed in the amendment after the Bill had received Royal Assent. It is a great pity that we were not able to include hippopotami, narwhals and walruses within this Bill once it had started its passage, but I understand the reasons for it. I welcome the fact that an undertaking has already been given and hope that, as soon as Royal Assent has been given, consultation will be ready to begin.
My Lords, the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, seeks to insert into the Bill a commitment that the Secretary of State would consult on extending the scope of the ban to include ivory from hippopotamus, walrus and narwhal as soon as practicable after Royal Assent. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester and to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, for their remarks.
As noble Lords will be aware, this matter was discussed at some length in the other place. I want to reassure the noble Lord and the noble Baroness of the Government’s intention on this point and to explain how the existing provision in the Bill may be applied. The Bill will prohibit the commercial dealing in living species of elephant—namely African and Asian elephants. Clause 35 provides a delegated power to allow the Secretary of State to extend the Bill to cover other ivory-bearing species through a regulation. We recognise concerns that, by banning the trade in elephant ivory, there may be an unintended consequence of trade displacement on to other ivory-bearing species, such as hippopotamus, putting these species at greater risk, as the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester has outlined. It may be appropriate to use this power to protect these species if the evidence gathered supports such actions.
The Government have committed in the other place and in a public announcement that the Secretary of State will conduct an evidence-gathering exercise—for example, a public consultation—on or as soon as practicable after Royal Assent. It is in the Government’s interest to launch this exercise within this period. However, we will ensure this does not impact our timetable to get the elephant ivory ban in place. The representatives from the conservation NGOs which gave evidence during Committee in the House of Commons emphasised that, at this time, the Government’s priority should be the ban on elephant ivory.
If I may ask a genuine question, how easy is it for all these officers that we have been talking about to distinguish the ivory from which an artefact came? Is it difficult, or is it always simple?
I shall have to take myself on a course of expertise. If through use of this power it was deemed, because of the consultation and the evidence that we had, that other ivory-bearing species should be encompassed in some form of legislation—which would clearly come before your Lordships for affirmative resolution—there would definitely need to be some understanding on the part of the enforcement officers as to differentiation and whether certain other species should be added. However, I must not take myself down a route of conjecture, although it is very a very valuable and important point. Perhaps after the enactment I should undertake myself some better understanding of the definition.
We should not act unless we have informed evidence—I think this is a point my noble friend Lord Deben would very much approve—so we can make a proper decision on whether the scope of the Bill should be extended to another species. As noble Lords will be aware, as a result of the government amendment in the other place, this delegated power has been extended from applying only to ivory-bearing species listed under CITES to applying to any ivory-bearing species. The CITES-listed species are currently narwhal, killer whale, sperm whale, walrus, and hippopotamus. The amendment brought all ivory-bearing species—for instance, the warthog—into the scope of the delegated power. All those species are therefore in scope of the delegated power and may, therefore, be subject to an evidence-gathering exercise.
As I have said, we have committed to carrying out an evidence-gathering exercise on or as soon as practicable after Royal Assent. To clarify an important point, and reassure the noble Lord, the delegated power also enables the Secretary of State to take action in the future. That is very important because of what your Lordships have already said about the possible unintended consequence of other species becoming poached because of the elephant ivory ban. For instance, a subsequent evidence-gathering exercise could be carried out on the scope of the ban if necessary. This is an important element of us ensuring that, on all ivory-bearing species, we will have the ability to act through this legislation, although this legislation before us today is precisely about the African and the Asian elephant.
I hope that, with the explanation I have given, the noble Lord feels reassured that the Government are committed to carrying out an evidence-gathering exercise on or as soon as practicable after Royal Assent, and that this will consider extending the scope of the ban to other ivory-bearing species. On that basis, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.
I thank the Minister for that reply and recognise that the legislation contains the visions that he suggested, although it could perhaps be more emphatically stated. I appreciate his repeated commitment that the Government will follow up on the extension of the ivory ban to other animals through the consultation. With that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment 61 withdrawn.
Clause 35 agreed.
Clauses 36 to 42 agreed.
Schedule 1 agreed.
Schedule 2: Search warrants: England and Wales and Northern Ireland
Amendments 62 and 63 not moved.
Schedule 2 agreed.
64: Insert the following Preamble—
“Whereas the 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreed to ban the international trade in African elephant ivory; and the resolution adopted at the 2016 Conference of Parties to CITES agreed to phase out domestic ivory markets which contributed to poaching or illegal trade in ivory:
And whereas it is expedient to give effect in the United Kingdom to the restrictions on domestic trade:”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment would insert a Preamble linking the Bill to the resolution adopted unanimously by governments at the 2016 Conference of Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which called on all governments to close domestic ivory markets which contribute to poaching or illegal trade in ivory.
My Lords, this amendment would insert a preamble linking the Bill to the resolution adopted unanimously by Governments at the 2016 Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES. This called on all Governments to close domestic ivory markets which contribute to the poaching of, or illegal trade in, ivory.
Unfortunately, the government amendment introduced on Report in another place had the accidental consequence of removing the only explicit link between this Bill and CITES. There is now nothing in the Bill to make it clear that this legislation was drafted partly in response to the resolution adopted unanimously at the 2016 Conference of the Parties to CITES.
An amendment of this type was specifically requested by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and the Born Free Foundation, which shared our concern that the link to the conference commitment had been deleted. We believe that such a preamble would strengthen the Act against possible judicial and equalities challenges by confirming that the legislation enables the UK to comply with international obligations to control domestic ivory markets under a UN-backed treaty. There are already precedents for this, notably in the original legislation to implement CITES in the UK—the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976—so this amendment would protect the Government’s resolve to comply with international treaties and strengthen their legal defence. I hope that noble Lords and the Minister will see the sense of the amendment and feel able to support it. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Baroness’s amendment would insert a preamble at the beginning of the Bill to draw a link between the provisions in the Bill and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
The United Kingdom is a party to CITES in its own right and will continue to be bound by and committed to its obligations under this important convention. Indeed, the UK is a very active participant in CITES. At the last CITES Conference of the Parties in 2016, the UK played a major role in achieving strong outcomes for endangered species, which will help ensure their survival in the wild. The UK ivory ban is consistent with both CITES and the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations. Under the withdrawal Act, these regulations will become part of UK domestic law. The UK ivory ban goes further than CITES and the EU in restricting commercial dealing in ivory.
Clause 35, which deals with the definition of ivory, previously referred to CITES for a specific reason—in order to limit the future application of the Bill to CITES-listed ivory-bearing species. As I alluded to in the previous group, the amendment made in the other place made it possible to broaden the scope of the Bill in the future to all ivory-bearing species, thus removing the need for a reference to CITES. No other provision in the Bill could be limited by a reference to CITES.
The Ivory Bill will apply alongside our existing obligations under CITES and the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, and therefore there is no need to reference CITES or indeed the regulations in the Bill. As is customary, the Long Title of the Bill outlines the matters covered by it. As I said, we are acknowledged as one of the strongest participants in CITES but, given the amendment introduced in the other place, we do not think that CITES requires to be cited in this Bill. For the reasons I have set out, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the Minister for that explanation. The purpose of the amendment was to strengthen our hand in the Bill so as to avoid legal challenges that might otherwise have been made. In seeking to insert this preamble, I do not think that it was ever our intention to restrict what the Bill could achieve in terms of broadening out beyond CITES-specified endangered species. Nevertheless, I hear what the Minister says. I will again reflect on his views and his response, and I will take some soundings from those who have encouraged us to put forward this amendment. However, for the time being, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 64 withdrawn.
Bill reported without amendment.