Skip to main content

Ivory Bill

Volume 651: debated on Tuesday 11 December 2018

Consideration of Lords amendments

Clause 2

Pre-1918 items of outstanding artistic etc value and importance

It is my great pleasure to be able to open Commons consideration of Lords amendments to the Ivory Bill.

I thank the House for its kindness while I recovered from my illness, and particularly the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (David Rutley), who has successfully taken the legislation through to this stage. The Bill is already having an impact internationally, with action on ivory sales now being consulted on or committed to in Cambodia, Laos and Singapore, while the Australian Parliament’s federal inquiry into ivory urged the Australian Government to follow the UK’s approach, which it described as

“a model of best practice.”

The Government made a number of amendments to the Bill during its passage through the other place, in response to the Committees of that House and individual peers. Following careful consideration of the reports of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee and the Constitution Committee, the Government tabled a number of amendments to address the concerns raised. The Government also tabled amendments on conclusion of its consultation with the devolved Administrations, to recognise the devolved aspects of the Bill, and in response to concerns raised in the other place over matters of insurance. In setting out the reasoning behind the Lords amendments today, I will focus my remarks on the effect of the amendments. I should point out that many minor and consequential amendments are a direct consequence of the substantive amendments.

The first amendments I will turn to in this group concern powers to make regulations. Amendments 1, 5, 7, 8, 18, 20 and 66 reflect recommendations made by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. One of the recommendations was that negative resolution regulations should be used instead of guidance to set out certain matters. Amendments 1, 5, 8 and 18 have been made to replace references to guidance with regulations. Amendment 1 refers to the Secretary of State’s power to specify any other matters, in addition to rarity and importance, that experts should take into account when assessing an item for exemption under clause 2. Such other matters will now be specified in regulations, rather than guidance. Amendments 5, 8 and 18 will require that regulations rather than guidance are used to specify any additional information, beyond that already listed in the Bill, that an applicant must provide when applying for an exemption certificate under clause 2 or registration under clause 10 respectively.

Amendments 7 and 20 remove two powers to issue guidance. Those pieces of guidance would have set out how applications for exemption certificates and registrations must be made, for example requiring that applications be made electronically or online. The Government have decided to allow maximum flexibility with regard to how applications may be made, and therefore consider that these powers are no longer necessary. While we expect the majority of registrations to be made online, there will be the facility for owners to request forms by telephone or post. I would like to reassure the House that, while important details will be set out in regulations, the Government will also produce detailed information for users to explain the new system.

A second recommendation made by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee was that the Government should include in the Bill more details about the appeals process. This appeals process is for appeals against the refusal or revocation of an exemption certificate applied for under clause 2. Amendments 10, 11, 13 and 14 provide these further details. The amendments name the first-tier tribunal as the appeal body and set out the main grounds for making an appeal, and the powers of the tribunal.

I turn to the amendments to the powers conferred on officers of the regulator. The Bill refers to these officers as “accredited civilian officers”, and I will do the same. Amendments 21 to 53, 58, 61 and 74 to 78 were made in response to concerns raised by the Constitution Committee, and by other peers, which was concerned about the powers of accredited civilian officers. The Government considered these concerns carefully and have put forward amendments 46 and 47 in response.

Those amendments create after clause 22 new clauses that confer powers of entry and other powers on accredited civilian officers. All other references to powers conferred on accredited civilian officers are to be removed from the Bill, ensuring that their role as assessors of compliance is clearly defined and separate from that of police and customs officers. That is a careful balance, as without accredited civilian officers the duty of assessing compliance would fall solely to the police.

As a result of the amendments, an accredited civilian officer would no longer have the power to enter a premises using a warrant. This will be available only to police and customs officers. An accredited civilian officer would, however, be able to enter a non-dwelling premises that they reasonably believe to be connected to ivory dealing, such as a shop or a warehouse, for the purpose of assessing compliance or if they reasonably believe that there is relevant evidence on that premises. They must give reasonable notice prior to entering.

Having entered lawfully, the officer will have the power to examine items, for example if they believe that the item contains ivory, and the power to request documents such as exemption certificates or registrations. Also, if they were to identify an item or document that they believed to be relevant evidence of an offence, they will have the power to seize that item or document. I can confirm that the accredited civilian officers will be officers of the Office for Product Safety and Standards. I hope that the House is assured that they would be able to carry out all the duties necessary for assessing compliance, ensuring proportionate but effective enforcement of the ban.

I now turn to Lords amendment 54, which deals with insurance transactions. The amendment would insert a new clause after clause 33 to ensure that any insurance policy for or covering an item containing ivory that is in existence before the prohibition on dealing comes into force is not affected by the Bill. It will also mean that the acquisition, or disposal, of an ivory item by a regulated insurer as the result of standard insurance activities will not be covered by the prohibition. The insurance company will not, however, be permitted to sell the item on to a third party, as opposed to returning it to the original owner, unless that item meets one of the categories of exemption and is registered or certified as such. The new clause also covers transactions between insurers and reinsurers.

The remaining Government amendments address devolved powers. In line with the devolution settlement, the UK Government have engaged each of the devolved Administrations from the outset. The Governments of Scotland and Wales have both expressed their support for the Ivory Bill. We have also engaged positively with the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. The two devolved Administrations issued legislative consent motions ahead of Third Reading in the House of Lords and the appropriate official procedure was also followed with respect to Northern Ireland. This engagement concluded that dealing in ivory items either within a devolved country or between a devolved country and another part of the UK is a devolved matter. The amendments therefore protect devolved interests by ensuring that most regulations under the Bill that apply in relation to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland may be made only with the consent of Welsh Ministers, Scottish Ministers or the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland. The appropriate national authority would also have the power to make regulations, for example if they did not give consent for the Secretary of State to do so.

We agreed to a minor amendment, Lords amendment 16, which specifies Scottish Ministers as the appropriate body to publish a list of accredited museums. The change was requested by the Scottish Government as a reflection of the different status of Museums and Galleries Scotland to Arts Council England, and does not alter the effect of this provision.

Before closing, I reiterate my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield. I also thank my noble Friend Lord Gardiner for the work he did in the other place. I want to put on record our thanks to the many officials who worked on the Bill, and to the Opposition, who were very constructive in Committee and in taking it to this stage. I hope that I have explained to the House the effect of the Government amendments tabled in the other place. I have not referred to each of the 78 amendments individually as the majority are minor and consequential, but I hope that this House will agree with the other place that amendment 1 and amendments 2 to 78 be made.

Both the Asian and the African elephant are threatened with extinction. Just over 350,000 African elephants were counted in 2016, but that is over 100,000 fewer than in 2006. There is no reason to suppose that the number of elephants is not continuing to decline. The decline is almost certainly due to poaching for ivory. No species can continue to lose numbers at that rate without eventually becoming extinct. Unless there is a step-change in the rate at which African elephants are being poached, there will not be any African elephants in the wild in 30 years or so. We cannot possibly stand by and see such an iconic creature become extinct.

CITES estimates that 40 tonnes of ivory were illegally traded in 2016, which is the highest ever recorded. If the trade continues, the poaching will continue. The UK needs to be at the forefront of measures to stop this trade, to prevent the illegal trade that comes through markets in the UK, to enable other countries to close loopholes that traders linked to this country can exploit, and to provide an example to others.

Despite the existing laws governing the ivory trade, the UK is still a major exporter of ivory products. So long as it is legal to trade in pre-1947 ivory without a permit, and to trade in post-1947 ivory with a permit, it becomes far easier for illegal traders to disguise their fresh ivory as antique. Thirty-one per cent. of the total EU exports of ivory items between 2005 and 2014 came from the United Kingdom, and we know that there is a substantial illegal trade, because seizures have continued, and indeed increased, between 2010 and 2014. All those facts led to the consultation that preceded the Bill, and the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Luke Hall) and the Minister made moral and consensual judgments in allowing and encouraging the evolution of the Bill.

The fundamental problem with the pre-existing legislation on the trade in ivory is that it gives far too wide an exemption for there to be any chance that the trade will come to an end. If, as is intended, the trade in fresh ivory is to cease completely, the expectation that there will be any legal supply of ivory also needs to cease. We need to close down the demand for ivory by rendering the whole trade morally, socially and legally unacceptable. In these circumstances, it is understandable that there are some who find any exemptions unacceptable. The Labour party would tend to support the narrowest possible range of exemptions, and during the passage of the Bill, several attempts have been made to reduce the scope of exemptions. However, during the Bill’s passage through the Lords, all the possible loosening or tightening of these exemptions has been debated, and it would be unhelpful to try to unpick any criteria now.

The Lords amendments that would make the operation of the Bill more effective are most crucial to achieving the closing down of the ivory trade, and we are pleased to see that these amendments are being proposed by the Government. It is entirely right that the details of the operation of the Bill should be laid down in regulations. It is sensible to limit the powers given to accredited civilian officers, and we wholeheartedly support the amendments that the Government have accepted. When there is an appeal against the refusal or revocation of an exemption certificate, it is sensible and effective for the appeal body to be the first-tier tribunal and for that to be on the face of the Bill. I put on record my party’s gratitude to all the Members of the upper House who have helped to steer this Bill through, and in particular, to Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch.

One issue, however, was raised repeatedly before and during the passage of the Bill: other animal sources of ivory. For the purposes of the Bill, ivory is defined as being from elephants. There is a very real danger that the number of other animals killed for their ivory will increase to try to maintain a supply. This particularly relates to other animals in the CITES schedule of endangered wildlife: walruses, narwhals, hippopotamuses, orcas and sperm whales. We would argue that whether or not there is a consequential increase in the killing of these species, it is wrong and damaging to their chances of survival for trade in the ivory derived from these creatures to continue.

We all want the maximum protection for elephants to commence as soon as possible, so it would be unhelpful to make any attempt to disrupt the Bill’s progress now. However, the opportunity to extend the definition of ivory, and hence the range of species protected by the Bill, rests with the Secretary of State through the making of regulations under the affirmative procedure. We urge him to take that opportunity as soon as possible to cover all the relevant animals in the CITES schedule, as well as others, such as warthogs. Unicorns are apparently very popular at the moment, although, of course, they do not exist. What a terrible shame it would be if, because of our inaction, narwhals, whose horns quite possibly prompted the invention of the unicorn myth, were themselves to become non-existent.

All those who want to live in a world that possesses a rich variety of living animals will welcome the passage of the Bill. By passing it, this Parliament will be making a powerful statement that will carry weight throughout the world, but for that weight to have maximum impact, the Government must use all the instruments and influence at their disposal to persuade other countries to take a similarly strong stance, so that we can stamp out the international ivory trade for good.

I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) on Second Reading. We must send a clear message at home and internationally that the only ivory we will value is that on a live elephant in the wild. I would like to see a world in which all those attributes that make our diverse species so varied and special—turtles’ shells, tigers’ stripes, ostrich feathers, butterflies’ wings—are appreciated in their proper place, as part of the living creature, and not by killing the animal and cutting off part of its body. We are taking an important step forward here today. Let us not stop with elephants.

It is a privilege once again to speak on this historic Bill, and I am delighted to see the Minister back in her place, because she has contributed so much to its progress over such a long period. The Scottish National party welcomes that progress and the Lords amendments, which we believe offer clarity and strengthen the processes set out in the Bill. We are also extremely keen that through the Bill the UK continue to show best practice and leadership throughout the world on the work that has to be done to protect species.

We are working together to implement stringent measures to protect and conserve populations of elephants and other endangered species for future generations. The survival of the species is the most important thing and must be realised, so the Bill must be as strong as possible. I want to thank all the members of the Public Bill Committee, who worked so consensually throughout the process. I consider my input into this important process to be one of my proudest achievements in Parliament so far, and I would like to thank everybody for their approach.

We heard compelling evidence in Committee about the unscrupulous nature of ivory poachers. They will stop at nothing, leaving no ivory-bearing species safe. In fact, they trade in death. They also undermine poor and vulnerable communities in developing parts of the world, moving from species to species to make their money. I would like to hear what work the Department for International Development is doing, and what expertise it can lend, to ensure that we protect those vulnerable communities, show leadership and protect people’s jobs and livelihoods, because poaching affects some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in our world.

My daughter has been doing a project in school on narwhals and is very interested in making sure we do all we can to protect not only elephants but narwhals and the other species impacted by ivory poaching. Like me, she would most definitely like to see progress made for all the species affected. The fact that young people are so engaged with this work shows how important it is to future generations and what an historic Bill this is.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on leading on this issue for the SNP. We are all pleased and proud to see the Bill, which was a manifesto commitment at the last election certainly for our party and, I believe, for other parties. It is important to many of my constituents that animal welfare issues are taken very seriously. As she highlights, the importance of that in developing countries cannot be overstated either. It is important that these creatures be protected for future generations, and it is good that there is consensus around the Bill, despite everything else that is happening in politics today.

I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. I think that that is extremely important. This is a truly historic day, although not, perhaps, in the way that we expected it to be.

Scottish National party Members and our constituents throughout Scotland want the Bill to be as strong as possible, so we welcome the news that there will be regulations rather than guidance. We also welcome the clarity on the appeals process, and the clear and definitive guidance on the regulatory powers of the accredited civilian officers.

I want to record my thanks for, and appreciation of, the consensual way in which the Secretary of State, the Minister and the Government in general have engaged with the devolved Governments, particularly the Scottish Government. A collaborative approach brings out the best in all our Parliaments. We want to ensure that the Bill has resonance throughout the United Kingdom and is applied as stringently as possible. We have worked extremely hard to reach this point. I thank all who have been involved for working so well together. I also pay special tribute to the voluntary and other organisations that work in animal welfare and have lent us their support, advice and expertise to ensure that the UK can proceed with the Bill, and that it is a historic development that will protect species for future generations.

It is a bit strange to be discussing a subject like this today, but we are, and I think we should recognise how important the Bill is. I congratulate Opposition Front Benchers, and indeed the Government, on their work.

I was particularly struck by what the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) said. The Chamber should be much fuller than it is at the moment. As she said, what we are doing here is historic. She mentioned her daughter; unfortunately, for me it is grandchildren. As I have asked in other debates, are we to be the generation that sees the obliteration from our planet of some of the most remarkable species that have ever existed? Today we are debating the elephant, but what will people be saying in 20 or 30 years’ time? Every year 20,000 African elephants are poached and slaughtered just for their ivory. The Bill relates to our own country, of course, but hopefully it will act as an inspiration and a lead for other countries.

Is it not the case that the Chamber is normally full when we disagree and often empty when we agree with each other? There is an upside to the fact that there are not many Members in the Chamber: the Bill is proceeding by agreement.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is something nauseating about a person who would slaughter an endangered animal to produce a trinket?

I absolutely agree that that is nauseating. It is also nauseating that people post photographs of themselves engaging in so-called trophy hunting. As for the right hon. Gentleman’s other point, it is not really a question of whether we agree or disagree. I am attending the debate because I agree with the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow that the importance of this issue should be recognised across the House. Of course there is no disagreement about it—I do not think it is a party political issue. Every single Member of Parliament is appalled by the prospect of elephants and other species being slaughtered for their ivory, and the Bill is an important step forward.

I visit school after school, as do all Members, and meet young people after young people, from all walks of life, who are simply sickened by what is happening. Unless we as a world wake up, these animals—whether they be elephants, whales, giraffes or any other species—will become extinct. It is all very well for us to say “It is difficult, and it is tough”, but the Bill is a step forward, so I am not criticising the Government. It is tough and difficult, but we must not be the generation that sees the end of these species on our planet.

We have a degree of unity in this debate, and I think we all agree about this elephant ivory Bill, but those of us who were on the Bill Committee and who spoke in previous stages in the House argue that the protection is not the same for the other species we talked about—I mentioned the narwhal in Committee and in the House, and there is also the rhino, the walrus and others. Is it not a failure that we are not including all those species in the Bill?

Of course that is a weakness in the Bill, but the Minister and our Front-Bench spokesperson, my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sandy Martin), mentioned—this is my understanding, too—that the Secretary of State has committed to consulting on extending it to other species. I say to the Secretary of State that this is urgent. Public consultation can take a year or two years before the Government review it. I say to the Secretary of State—I know that he and I agree on this issue, if not others—that there is an urgency about this and we have to get a move on.

I say to our own country and the world that we need to wake up. If we do not wake up, our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren will say to the Secretary of State, to my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, and to me and other Members here, “What were you doing? What did you do? How did you stop this?” And everybody will say, “Well, it’s terrible and awful and a disgrace.” That is not good enough—we all need to use the sickening feeling we have to demand more of ourselves and this Parliament.

The last point I want to make is that today and other days have obviously been dominated by discussions about Brexit, but our constituents often ask us what else is happening while that debate is going on. I hope that at least some of the comments made in the Chamber about the important step forward being taken through the Bill will be reported, and that some of the young people out there—whether in the school of the daughter of the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, my grandchildren’s school or others—will learn that this Parliament has been listening and trying to do what we can to ensure that the great animals, including elephants, are saved for future generations.

I also welcome the move to put this legislation in place, and I welcome the Lords amendments, but for those of us who served on the Bill Committee there are still some questions, which were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sandy Martin). I want to ask about some of the things I was banging on about during the previous stages of the Bill.

First, we talked about the enforcement of the legislation, particularly in respect of online sales, which can be difficult. Secondly, I would like to know about the future funding of the National Wildlife Crime Unit after 2020. Can the Minister give us some clarity and assurances on that? Most importantly, as other Members have mentioned, there is the question of when the Government expect to launch the consultation on extending the scope of the Bill to animals such as hippos and narwhals. If we really want to end the trade in ivory it is imperative that there be no debate about what kind of ivory it is and whether it is covered by this Bill. I urge the Secretary of State to clarify that point.

I also welcome the Bill and congratulate the Government on bringing it forward, and our Front-Bench team as well, but I think everybody would say that it is just a step in the right direction and there is still a huge amount of work to do. We know about legal trophy hunting, and I would like the Government to clamp down on individuals who are still offering tours on safari to take out these wonderful beasts. I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) said: there is an imperative on our generation to stop this. We all know of American tourists who come over here—I had the misfortune once of meeting somebody who said, “My daughter’s into hunting, you should see what she’s taken down”, and showed me sick photos of bloodied beautiful bears and lions that she had killed in the Serengeti and elsewhere in Africa. That has to stop, and I hope that the Government will look again at this issue.

I also hope that the Government will go beyond the ivory trade and look at other wonderful animals, including whales. I hope that they will ban items such as whales’ teeth, for example. I hope that they will create a real stigma around trophy hunters, so that when people show trophy hunting pictures others will find them sick and distressing. I am picking on Americans here, but I have seen elected officials with pictures on their walls of hunts that they have taken part in. That has to stop.

I hope the Government will also recognise that this trade is bringing about criminality and mafia practices. I hope that this is just the start of a wider debate, that the consultation will be short and that the Government will bring forward extra legislation very soon to ban trophy hunting and the companies that send people on hunting tours.

With the leave of the House, I shall respond to the hon. Members who have asked questions about various elements of the amendments. First, I should like to say that 11 December will linger in my mind because we have now reached this stage, and I hope that once the House has agreed to these amendments, Her Majesty will give us Royal Assent very soon. I also want to commend the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who has really been pushing this agenda. Indeed, he is now the chair of the Ivory Alliance 2024, a global organisation that is trying to ensure that this kind of legislation can be spread around the world in order to stamp out the demand for ivory totally.

The hon. Members for Ipswich (Sandy Martin) and for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) asked about other species. We have committed to gathering evidence on the trade in ivory from other species as soon as is practicable after Royal Assent. It is important to state that any extension of the Bill through secondary legislation needs to be robust and evidence-based, and also that our original consultation was only on elephant ivory, so we will need to ensure that we consult appropriately and get the full evidence before deciding on the next steps. It is also fair to say that, while we have not been too presumptuous, we have already initiated all the work that needs to be done to get that further work under way. The IT projects are under way, for example, and we are working on other elements, although we have not yet started writing the secondary legislation referred to in the Lords amendments that the House will be voting on today.

The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) asked about international elements of this. We should be proud of our record around the world on these matters, and the Government agree about the importance of sustaining and supporting work to suppress demand and ensuring that we proactively fund a range of training for anti-poaching efforts. We also acknowledge the importance of supporting sustainable livelihoods in the communities affected. The Department’s illegal wildlife trade challenge fund has supported 47 projects with a value of more than £40 million in developing countries, and we continue to work not only with the Department for International Development but with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence on those activities. We also continue to make the case in the European Union for doing even more.

The hon. Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist) asked about enforcement in relation to online sales. The Bill has been drafted from the outset with online and physical sales in mind. It prohibits commercial activities involving ivory, regardless of where those activities take place. Clause 12 makes it an offence to facilitate the breaching of the ban, and that could cover online sales forums that allow sellers to advertise items, make contact with buyers and accept payments. She also asked about the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Our Department currently co-funds that unit with the Home Office and the police. She will be aware that we have to agree our spending review for future commitments, but I know that the NWCU is highly valued and I am sure that we will want to continue to see its work proceed.

I hope that I have outlined to the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) the actions that are already under way, and I agree with him that this will be an important piece of legislation. The Bill is so important, and I am very pleased to have been part of it. The House should take great pride in it and in ensuring that we continue to save wildlife, wherever it may be.

Lords amendment 1 agreed to.

Lords amendments 2 to 78 agreed to.