Ivory Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:28 pm on 17th July 2018.

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Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:28 pm, 17th July 2018

My Lords, I should declare at this juncture that I have a small number of ivory objects, which I was given many years ago and have no intention of selling.

The legislation has a vital purpose: this country will play its part in helping to save the elephant from extinction. We are showing leadership—the ban on the sale of elephant ivory objects of all ages, with only limited exemptions, will be the strongest in Europe and among the strongest in the world.

The numbers are stark. About 20,000 elephants are killed for their tusks every year—that is around 55 each day. To put these figures into context, since 2006, the total number of elephants in Africa has decreased by some 21%, with numbers of savannah elephants declining by 30%—equal to 144,000 elephants—between 2007 and 2014 alone.

The human cost is real too, with over 100 rangers dying in one year between July 2016 and 2017. UN reports recognise the link between wildlife and arms trafficking in central Africa, with illegal wildlife trade—IWT—helping to finance armed groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army. Environmental crime, which includes IWT, is the fifth most lucrative serious organised crime. IWT alone is worth up to £17 billion per annum, fuelling corruption and instability, and devastating animal populations.

That elephants now face the prospect of being wiped out by criminality and, I am afraid, by plain avarice, is simply unacceptable. But such a tragedy is not inevitable. We have an opportunity, and a duty, to be part of international efforts to change this course. In 2014, we hosted the London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, where the UK secured ambitious agreements from more than 40 Governments and the EU to take urgent, co-ordinated action to combat IWT. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Hague of Richmond for his pivotal role in this.

Since then, an even clearer international consensus recognises that IWT is a global crisis in need of global solutions. In April this year, the 2018 G7 communiqué committed members,

“to working together to strengthen … law enforcement and tackle associated corruption”,

and closing illegal demand markets, “including elephant ivory”.

We know that the illegal wildlife trade must be tackled by sustained action across many fronts. Indeed, the UK has committed £26 million on efforts to combat IWT, including supporting 61 projects around the world under the IWT Challenge Fund. We are training anti-poaching African park rangers and sharing Border Force expertise in key demand states, such as Vietnam. We are providing funding to Interpol and the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime to support their global enforcement operations. We are supporting projects to provide alternative sources of income to local communities in key poaching areas, and to identify and disrupt illicit financial flows linked to IWT.

While this is indeed a global crisis, the effects are felt most acutely in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, particularly in Africa. IWT not only helps to drive corruption and undermine the rule of law, but has a crippling effect on nascent wildlife tourism and other opportunities for sustainable development.

African states cannot, and should not, be left to tackle IWT in isolation. They have called on the international community to help, and to recognise that this includes closing down markets which help to fuel poaching. In March this year, the Presidents of Botswana, Gabon and Uganda joined 29 other African elephant range states in signing a petition to urge the EU to close its ivory markets. The United States and China have already closed theirs; Hong Kong and Taiwan, two critical demand markets, are in the process of doing so. All recognise that reducing demand is a critical part of a comprehensive response to the crisis.

The government consultation on ivory received over 70,000 individual responses, of which the overwhelming majority—some 88%—favoured an ivory ban. We have worked extensively with conservation NGOs, the arts and antiques sector, and the musician and museum sectors to help shape this Bill. Your Lordships will be aware that there are already restrictions on the trade in post-1990 ivory under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered SpeciesCITES. The EU has gone further in banning the export of raw ivory. We need to go further. Elephants are still being poached and killed for their ivory at unsustainable rates. Record quantities were illegally traded in 2016.

The UK has a world-renowned arts and antiques sector and one of the world’s largest markets for antique ivory. Under existing legal restrictions, in the UK only items of, or containing, ivory which have been worked before 1947 can be sold without a permit. But it is extremely difficult to differentiate legal from illegal ivory, meaning that legal markets can be used to “launder” new ivory sourced from recently killed elephants. Indeed, UK Border Force has seized many ivory items that had been artificially aged, often through such crude but effective means as staining them with tea.

The UK is one of the largest suppliers of “legal” ivory items to the world’s ivory markets. The majority of this goes to east Asia, where demand is the highest. According to TRAFFIC—the wildlife trade monitoring network founded by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and WWF—between 2005 and 2009 the number of ivory items exported from the UK to mainland China was 2,000. Between 2010 and 2014, that number had increased to about 11,000. In 2010 a UN Office on Drugs and Crime report concluded that,

“the trade in illicit ivory is only lucrative because there is a parallel licit supply, and ivory can be sold and used openly. Ivory would lose much of its marketability if buying it were unequivocally an illegal act, or if ownership of these status goods had to be concealed”.

This is not about casting judgment on those, including previous generations, who may have been ignorant of the destructive impact of the ivory trade, but it is a clear-sighted assessment of the facts as we find them: the rise in demand for ivory in east Asia; the increasingly organised nature of poaching operations; and the catastrophic impact on animal populations and vulnerable communities. We simply cannot claim to be ignorant any more. We can act and we must.

The Ivory Bill will introduce a total ban, with narrow and limited exemptions, on commercial activities involving ivory in the UK that could be directly or indirectly fuelling the poaching of elephants. By closing the UK ivory market to all items containing ivory, except those that meet narrow exemptions, we will remove the financial value from ivory, reduce the opportunity for new ivory to be laundered through legal markets, significantly reduce the flow of ivory from the UK to overseas markets, and encourage other countries to take similar actions. The Bill will not affect the ownership, inheriting, donating or bequeathing of ivory items where this is currently allowed.

The exemptions are as follows: de minimis—items with an ivory volume of less than 10% and which were made prior to 1947; musical instruments with an ivory content of less than 20% and which were made prior to 1975; picture portrait miniatures produced prior to 1918, with a maximum surface area of 320 square centimetres; and items which are the rarest and most important of their type. This covers pieces made of, or containing, ivory produced prior to 1918 that are assessed by an independent advisory institution as of outstandingly high artistic, cultural or historical value.

The fifth category of exemptions covers museums: specifically, commercial activities, including sales, loans and exchanges to, and between, government-accredited museums—that is, museums which meet the strict accreditation criteria of Arts Council England or equivalent bodies in the devolved Administrations. There is no intention for this ban to affect the display of historic, artistic and cultural items to members of the public by accredited museums.

The Government have created a compliance and enforcement regime which is both robust and proportionate. Owners will have to register their item before they can sell it. Ivory owners will need to confirm that the item falls within the scope of a particular exemption. They will need to confirm, for example, that the item has less than 10% ivory by volume and was made before 1947. This will mean that owners need to consider carefully whether the item is exempt before it can be sold. This will also make enforcement of the ban easier, as it will be an offence to sell an unregistered item. This will not be unduly bureaucratic or burdensome: we are developing a new IT system to facilitate the process. This register will ensure security for both the buyer and seller.

It will be an offence to breach the ban on commercial dealing in ivory items. This offence can be committed in three distinct ways: by breaching the ban directly; by causing the ban to be breached; or by facilitating a breach of the ban. It is a defence to show that one took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing the offence. Any ban is only as strong as its enforcement. Breaches will be liable to either civil or criminal penalties, meaning that enforcement bodies will have the flexibility to apply the most appropriate penalty, depending on the severity of the offence. Criminal sanctions for failing to adhere to the ban will be entirely consistent with existing offences concerning ivory under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations. Those found guilty of a criminal offence under these measures may be liable to an unlimited fine and/or a maximum prison sentence of up to five years. Civil sanctions will consist of stop notices, monetary penalties, enforcement under- takings and enforcement cost recovery notices. The Office for Product Safety and Standards, which is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, will be responsible for ensuring compliance, investigating breaches and issuing civil sanctions; the police will be responsible for criminal sanctions.

The Ivory Bill is a proportionate response to curtail the demand for ivory, in our continued fight to save the elephant from slaughter in the wild. Our country is showing leadership, in a co-ordinated international response to the crisis. In October, we will host the fourth IWT conference, once again convening international partners to urge further decisive action. The Ivory Bill has a critical role to play. The nations with most at stake have sought our help. The Bill will help protect elephants of the present and future. That is surely our generation’s responsibility. If we do not tackle this, we will lose the elephant in the wild. That would be an abdication of our duty to the natural world and I believe that future generations would rightly ask, “How on earth did you let this happen?” I beg to move.