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Ivory Bill

Volume 793: debated on Tuesday 13 November 2018

Third Reading

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Ivory Bill, has consented to place her interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.


Moved by

My Lords, I express my gratitude to all noble Lords for their interest in the Bill and their contributions. Whatever else, we are all united in our desire to protect such a magnificent animal in the wild.

I bring it to your Lordships’ attention that I have placed in the Library of the House, with their permission, copies of letters received from my noble friends Lord De Mauley and Lord Carrington regarding Clause 7, “Pre-1947 items with low ivory content”, and my response to them. Specifically, these letters concern the definition of “integral” and the means of assessing the 10% de minimis threshold. In particular, the letters confirm that the ivory content of an item for the purpose of the de minimis exemption is to be determined as a percentage of the total volume of material in the item.

I am grateful for the positive engagement and support of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, on the Opposition Benches, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I also express my gratitude to the Constitution Committee, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The Government responded positively to the recommendations made by these committees and I agree with the comment made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, on Report that this was,

“a very good model of how this House works”.—[Official Report, 24/10/18; col. 948.]

I am also grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, for raising insurance transactions and for the subsequent discussions that led to the resolution of this matter on Report. I also place on record my gratitude for the contributions that my noble friend Lord Hague made during the passage of the Bill, and for the experience he brought of what is really happening in the worldwide threat to the elephant.

I take this opportunity to thank each of the devolved Administrations for their productive engagement and the support they have shown for the Bill. Finally, I thank my noble friend Lady Vere and the hard-working Bill team, my private office and the clerks for their work and support.

My Lords, the Bill represents a significant step towards ending the illegal elephant-poaching crisis. It will enshrine in UK law the commitment made at the 2016 CITES convention to close down the domestic ivory markets that fuel illegal poaching. We believe that the exemptions permitted, carefully crafted in consultation with stakeholders, strike the balance between being robust and pragmatic. I welcome the Minister’s clarification that we can help by taking the value out of the market.

The Minister raised the question of items containing voids and the de minimis issue. While we agree very much with the advice that he has now given, there may be occasional cases where assessing the ivory content of an item is not straightforward. We believe that such items ought to be rare and can be picked up in the guidance that will follow.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, for successfully steering the Bill through the House and bringing it back for Third Reading today. Ivory is an emotive topic for conservationists, musicians and antique dealers alike. I commend the Minister and his team for their unfailing courtesy in what were not always the easiest of discussions and for their resolve in ensuring that the Bill will prohibit dealing in ivory with only a few narrowly defined exemptions. I am delighted that there is cross-party support for the Bill and, ultimately, unanimous support for its overarching objective of ending the illegal poaching of elephants. I thank my Front Bench colleague, my noble friend Lord Grantchester, for his support and all noble Lords around the House for their contributions over the past weeks and months.

Members of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the Constitution Committee scrutinised the Bill, and I am particularly grateful for the continued engagement of members of those committees during our debates on the Bill. The amendments brought forward by the Government on Report on those recommendations will ensure that the powers of civilian enforcement officers are clear and appropriate and that the guidance is subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

I am also very grateful to the Minister and his team for listening to concerns about the impact of the prohibition on other ivory-bearing species, whose numbers are dwindling due to the illegal ivory trade. As we have heard, hippos, whales and walruses are becoming endangered, and I welcome the Government’s amendment to extend the scope of the prohibition on dealing in ivory to other species and urge them to launch their consultation on this as soon as possible.

I put on record my particular thanks to the various organisations that have provided helpful briefings on this Bill, including the World Wildlife Fund, the IFAW, Born Free and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation. Their knowledge of animal welfare and experience of the illicit wildlife trade has enabled us to table amendments that ensured several critical issues were explored and debated in depth. I am also grateful to the Musicians’ Union for its help in exploring the impact of the ban on its industry. Lastly, I echo the Minister’s thanks to the Public Bill Office staff and to all those involved in the House service who aided the preparation and passage of the Bill. It is now in safe hands and it is up to the Secretary of State to take this forward so that it is not just a UK ban but ultimately a global ban, which is what we all aspire to.

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, referred to guidance. I do not want to rehearse again the arguments that we have been through in Committee, on Report and, indeed, at Second Reading, but she will recognise that while there is a unanimous support for the Government’s central aim of dealing with ivory poaching, those who poach and those who deal in illicitly obtained ivory, nevertheless there remain real concerns among those who have legitimately acquired ivory objects in the past and now find that their possessions may well be worthless in the market. There are also many musicians, particularly those who have been in touch with me recently, who are very concerned about the bows of stringed instruments. A lot depends on the sensitivity with which regulations are drafted and guidance is given. I hope that my noble friend, a sensitive as well as sensible man, will take a particularly close interest in the drafting of regulations and the giving of guidance. What we do not want, and what there is a real danger of, is an overwhelming bureaucracy that makes innocent people feel guilty and makes musicians who travel the world feel apprehensive.

As I say, this is not the time to develop these arguments in detail, but it is the appropriate moment to mention them for the last time, and I urge my noble friend to respond with the sensitivity of which I know he is capable so that those who have legitimate concerns about the Bill and its implications can, to some degree, have their minds put at rest, just as those who were concerned, as I was, and as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, was about the civilian officers. My noble friend met us on that point by signing some of the amendments that I had tabled and by endorsing the general line of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. Could that please be a precedent for the way in which he now issues his guidance and drafts his regulations?

My Lords, I support the Bill very much, but will the Chief Whip say why it was necessary to get the consent of the Queen? Is it because she is worried about the value of the ivory that she might own if it were sold, or is she worried about elephants? They are both good causes, but it seems a bit odd. We should be pleased to have her consent, but does the Duchy of Cornwall own ivory? Why did we not seek the consent of the Duchy as well?

My Lords, I join in the congratulations to the Government, who have worked for several years on this really important Bill. I beg for one minute at the end of this Third Reading. I said in Committee that I wanted to see some form of impact assessment or annual review of the effectiveness of the Bill. I recognise how hard that would be to achieve because, as the Minister pointed out, statistics on control are already kept by many different organisations.

I was hoping to encourage DfID and its partner organisations, mainly in Africa, to redouble their efforts in halting the devastating attacks on elephants. DfID is a major partner in this government initiative because, unlike the FCO and Defra, it has the mandate and resources to help control the ivory trade at its roots in the countries concerned. We have heard almost nothing of the trade at its source and the predominant methods of poaching. So I am a little disappointed, but I hope the Minister can reassure me that he will encourage colleagues to report back in a year’s time, not only on the effects of the Bill but on the valuable work that DfID will have done in the interim.

May I speak? Thank you, my Lords. I will be brief. The UK has shown that it can lead the way in protecting the elephant. We have adhered to CITES and have moved forward tremendously in banning the trade in ivory objects in our country. Prior to the Bill, a large percentage of new ivory was being laundered through our country, masquerading as being of pre-1945 and pre-1918 vintage. There is still some way to go before the Bill can be implemented but there is now a clear timetable for how that will progress. I look forward, once the Bill is enacted, to a consultation on the other animals with the misfortune to have expensive trophies as part of their anatomy: the narwhal, the hippo and the rhinoceros, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said. It is important that in banning elephant ivory we have not substituted another animal for the poachers to target.

I thank the Minister for his briefings and his patience and the Bill team for their very helpful information that was provided at all stages of the Bill. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for the leading part that she has played during the passage of the Ivory Bill. The plight of the elephant is of great importance to all those who sit in your Lordships’ House. Often our debates fall into party-political camps but that has not been the case with the Ivory Bill; the House has been united across all Benches to ensure the passage of this legislation. I am extremely proud of having played a small part in that process. I look forward to a similar meeting of minds on some of our future legislation, but I am slightly more pessimistic about that in the near future.

My Lords, I have listened to all the remarks that have been made. It has been an honour for us all to have been a part of this legislation. I will reflect on all that has been said. This is an international effort. I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.