Ivory Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:12 pm on 17th July 2018.

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Photo of Lord St John of Bletso Lord St John of Bletso Crossbench 4:12 pm, 17th July 2018

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hague of Richmond, who has played a key role in campaigning to stop the illegal trade of ivory. I also welcome the Bill and was delighted that it had a swift passage through the other place. It is of paramount importance that it be enacted before the IWC Conference in London in October, to which over 70 countries have been invited. I declare my interests as a long-term trustee of Tusk Trust—I am now on its advisory board—and as vice-chairman of the APPG on Endangered Species.

We are all acutely conscious of the horrendous and stark poaching statistics, mostly for African but also Asian elephants. As the Minister mentioned in his excellent opening speech, there is strong public support for a ban on buying and selling ivory in the UK. In fact, many campaigners have been asking for no exemptions. I support very limited domestic trade in items falling within the exemptions as listed in Section 2, but call for a total ban on all online dealing. There is increasing evidence of ivory being passed off as antique items when in reality, it is modern ivory. To this end, I wholeheartedly support the total ban of raw tusks.

I was alarmed to read in the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, called TRAFFIC, that between 2005 and 2014, the United Kingdom was a net exporter of ivory for commercial purposes. TRAFFIC also gave evidence that UK ivory traders were often unclear about the laws pertaining to the legal ivory trade. To this end, I strongly recommend that a user-friendly guide to the new rules be published on the APHA website, including the CITES rules. The ivory trade represents less than 0.7% of antique trade in the United Kingdom in revenue terms. The British Art Market Foundation has been clear that it would have liked the legislation to have been a little less tough, but can live with it.

The noble Lord, Lord Hague, mentioned the sale of ivory antiques, in many cases to markets in Asia. This has fuelled the desirability of ivory and, many would argue, has undermined enforcement measures and efforts in key destinations where there has been a massive problem with illegal ivory. I pay tribute to the enormous efforts and contribution of the Duke of Cambridge in persuading the Chinese to forge ahead with their measures to ban the ivory trade and, now, shut down designated factories. It is critical that UK exporters be substantially curtailed in their exports to Asia. I welcome the recommendation that Defra should publish an annual report showing details of the number of new items allowed to be sold through the registration and exemption certificates processes.

We should draw attention not only to the horrendous elephant poaching statistics but, as the noble Lord, Lord Hague, has already mentioned, to the plight of rhinos and other endangered species. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, drew attention to the reduction in the number of hippos in the wild. I understand there has been a 95% reduction in the number of hippos over the last 30 years, mostly relating to their teeth. To this end, I welcome the power in this Bill to extend its protection to ivory that comes not only from elephants but from other species. This will be limited to species listed in one of the CITES appendices, but can the Minister indicate whether more can be spent from our aid budget to support conservation efforts?

In conclusion, the sheer number of noble Lords who are speaking at Second Reading shows the depth of feeling and support for this Bill. The Bill should be framed openly, in the CITES context, as a stricter measure, under Article 14 of the convention and through implementation by the United Kingdom of its international commitments. We need to show leadership. It needs also to be enforceable. I hope the Bill will have a speedy passage through your Lordships’ House and I wholeheartedly support it.