Requirement to amend definition of ivory

Part of Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:00 pm on 4th July 2018.

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Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset 3:00 pm, 4th July 2018

It was a pleasure to serve with Sue Hayman and her colleagues and with my right hon. and hon. Friends on the important Bill Committee. It is great to see the Bill on Report. Since before the days of Hannibal the elephant has been important, totemic and ritualistic in our psyche and in our history. We want to ensure that the elephant, and man’s relationship with that supremely powerful and totemic animal, has not just a present but a future.

From time to time, I toy with trying to win the lottery. If I did, one of the things I would do is take my children on safari in Africa to see, among other animals, elephants. My children are quite young, so I think to myself that I will do that in 10 or 12 years’ time when they are a bit older. I just hope that the elephants will still be there. That, of course, presupposes that I win the lottery. I fundamentally believe that the Bill will have an important role to play in helping to deter the trade, making it morally reprehensible to trade in ivory and to poach, and to act as a beacon of excellence for other countries to follow.

I do not particularly like to be tied into other agendas and the timetable of other agendas, but I have been entirely persuaded, in Committee and on Second Reading, by the comments and assurances given by my hon. Friend the Minister from the Dispatch Box about the importance of getting the Bill through cleanly and swiftly to ensure it hits the statute book at an appropriate time and in a form whereby it can be cited at the important conference in autumn.

The hon. Member for Workington will know that I share entirely what she says, but she will not, I am sure, also be surprised to hear that I will vote against her new clauses. Clause 35, which we discussed at some length in Committee, is clearly able to deliver what the hon. Lady and many of us on the Government Benches seek. I take entirely her point and it is not contained in the Government amendments. One of the great joys of being a Parliamentary Private Secretary, such as I am, is that one is not allowed to table in one’s own name amendments to proposed legislation or to sign such amendments. I still have concerns, however.

Clause 35(3) refers to animals or species only on the CITES list. CITES is clearly a recognised international forum that deserves a huge amount of respect and great weight must be placed on its findings. However, I say politely but with a certain degree of firmness to those on the Treasury Bench that we should not be restricted solely to species recognised by CITES. My hon. Friend Zac Goldsmith, who has led this debate in so many ways, alluded to the warthog. This seems an appropriate time to rest an argument on the wise words of Flanders and Swann, to whom one should always turn in moments of stress and anxiety. It is probably before your time, Madam Deputy Speaker, but you might remember the song, “The Warthog (The Hog Beneath the Skin)”:

“The jungle was giving a party

A post hibernation ball”—

I’m not going to sing it—

“The ballroom was crowded with waltzing gazelles, gorillas and zebras and all.

But who is that animal almost in tears

Pretending to powder her nose?”— it is not my hon. Friend Alex Burghart

“A poor little warthog who sits by herself

In a pink satin dress with blue bows.

Again she is nobody’s choice and she sings in a sad little voice:

No one ever wants to court a warthog

Though a warthog does her best.”

I do not want to see us almost in tears as a result of a drafting error that restricts ourselves only to CITES. It may be that CITES does not respond to what I regrettably predict will be a fall in the warthog population, if that is the only form of ivory still able to be traded legally because it cannot be covered by the requirements of clause 35. I therefore urge my friends on the Treasury Bench to consider the small deletion of the word “only” in clause 35(3).

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park, I too am not a lawyer—a fact that I usually rejoice in—but I suggest that the deletion of clause 35(6)(b),

“extant on the day on which this Act is passed”,

brings into the compass of the Bill mammoth. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. What we should be trying to endeavour to encourage across the world, not just here as a legislature, is the decommoditisation of ivory. The fact that it comes from a species that is extinct to my mind is immaterial, because one is still saying that it is fine to trade in it. My anxiety is that a perverse response, totally counter-intuitive to that which the Bill hopes to achieve, could be that the provisions expedite elephant poaching, because if the argument is that it is fine to trade in an extinct species, there could well be an impetus to drive the elephant to extinction merely to legitimise the trade in its ivory products.