Requirement to amend definition of ivory

Part of Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) (No. 2) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 4th July 2018.

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Photo of Ranil Jayawardena Ranil Jayawardena Conservative, North East Hampshire 3:45 pm, 4th July 2018

I am pleased that the Bill has made progress in Committee, building on the Government’s proactive work. As I have said before, I am pleased not only because of my interest in this area—that was why I founded the all-party group on endangered species with Members on both sides of the House—but because, like Opposition Members, many Conservative Members were elected on a manifesto promise to tackle the international wildlife trade and to press for a total ban on ivory sales. That was in the first manifesto I stood on. It is a manifesto promise I intend to keep, and I wish to highlight the last point in that specific wording. While the Minister is to be commended for bringing forward this much-needed Bill, in an unrelentingly positive manner, to protect these strong, smart, gentle endangered animals from murder—that is what it is: some 20,000 elephants are murdered each year for their ivory—we must protect many, many more species.

As I said on Second Reading, clause 35 is unnecessarily narrow. I can accept that the explicit exemptions, such as those on portrait miniatures or musical instruments, are necessary, fair and proportionate, but an over-narrow definition of ivory is not. This is not just a technical matter; it is a matter of principle. It is not just about ensuring that the Bill covers every type of ivory and is extended to another category of item. It cuts to the fundamental principle of the ban: protecting endangered species now. If all a poacher has to do to sell the ivory they have recently butchered from an elephant is to declare it as ivory from a hippopotamus or from a long-dead mammoth, that is simply not good enough. Members can be certain that those profiting from the illegal wildlife trade will know the loopholes inside out. Worse, as Anna Turley set out, such an approach may lead to poachers targeting those other species—hippos, walruses, narwhals and others—perfectly legally so that they can then sell that ivory under this Bill, as it stands. In effect, poachers would target those species by default for extinction. I am sure none of those outcomes is the desired intention, which is why I am pleased that the Government seem to be moving in the right direction.

I do not raise these points to criticise Her Majesty’s Government. Quite the contrary: I absolutely commend the Minister for his commitment to action on this, and I believe he will seize the opportunity to do the right thing, particularly as Government amendments 3 and 4 suggest that the Government are listening and want to expand the Bill’s scope through secondary legislation. That is why I will support the Government’s amendments, if anyone was to oppose them—I am encouraged to hear that they seem to have universal support across the Chamber—but I have concerns about the shadow Minister’s new clause 1, given its unnecessarily narrow focus on CITES and the species with us today. The measure could result in those who wish to do these animals harm using the loophole of simply saying, “That is mammoth ivory.” I am sure that that is not the shadow Minister’s intention, however, and I welcome her support for Government amendments 3 and 4 as they are the way of delivering the change we want.

I encourage the Minister to bring forward the consultation as soon as possible after Royal Assent, as he has indicated already. I encourage him to make that consultation as wide as possible and to include as many species as the Government need to be aware of. I hope that the Government will then act as swiftly as possible to bring secondary legislation to this place at the appropriate time.