Ivory Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:10 pm on 17th July 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Fookes Baroness Fookes Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 6:10 pm, 17th July 2018

My Lords, unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, I did not grow up knowing elephants, but I do have a vivid recollection of a safari trip I made many years ago—not at Treetops but somewhere similar, with a watering hole. We were told that the animals would probably come during the night, a bell would ring and if we wished we could get up to see them. The bell rang and I shot up—I was younger in those days—and one of the things that stood out for me, among the other animals coming, was a little family of elephants: two adults and two very frolicsome youngsters. In fact, they were behaving slightly badly and one of the elder elephants gave them a bit of a cuff—you know, “Just behave yourselves”. That has stayed with me for evermore and it reminded me of the story by the noble Lord, Lord Jones of Cheltenham, about the wonderful ending of that matriarchal elephant. I saw them young; he saw one very old. They are remarkable and something to be cherished and preserved.

I do not take the view of some of those in the debate who fear that the Bill, though well intentioned, really will not do any good. I thought that my noble friend the Minister made a very strong case for the good that the Bill could do, and he was ably and powerfully supported by my noble friends Lord Hague and Lady Chalker. They have an immense knowledge of Africa and have done a great deal and, if I have to choose between the doubters and those two, I am going to support my noble friends: they made very powerful cases indeed.

We have all been horrified by the number of elephants killed, but nobody has actually mentioned the suffering in their deaths. I suspect that the poachers are pretty vicious and I am quite sure that they are capable of bringing an animal down, not killing it completely and still hacking off its tusks. I do not really want to think about that too much, but it is something we should remember because it is all too likely to happen. I realise that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will not do everything and I think there is a very important case for trying to encourage, perhaps through other departments, the value of providing alternative livelihoods for people in these countries. It will not affect the poachers, who are obviously after something far bigger and more vicious, but we should try to encourage in every way possible that the elephants and other wildlife should be seen as an economic advantage, through tourism and various other ways of using them to best advantage while we preserve them. I hope that my noble friend will look at that, although I realise that it goes far beyond the Bill.

I am also anxious that we should take pretty urgent steps to include ivory from other animals—rhinoceroses and so forth. We can see that if there is a market—and everybody keeps telling us that there is a market for ivory, particularly in the Far East—people will obviously go for alternatives to elephant ivory if it exists. Very often in this place we do not know all the unintended consequences of Bills that we pass, but we can be pretty sure that if we ban ivory from elephants people will look for alternatives. I hope my noble friend will make full use of the ability in the Bill to act fast. I believe there are consultations going on, and I hope they will not take for ever because this is very important.

I have one other, slightly quirky point. As a former chairman of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, I looked with interest at the departmental brief which the committee will be looking at between now and when the Bill comes back in Committee. I notice that there are at least five occasions when statutory guidance will be given by the Secretary of State and there is to be no parliamentary intervention. My antennae twitched slightly at that. No doubt this will be looked at it, and maybe I am worrying unduly, but delegated legislation often has a very important impact on a Bill and how it is to operate. I simply make that passing reference and hope it will be taken on board.

I listened with interest and some concern to those who are interested in the world of works of art, who spoke about the possible impact of the limited exemptions which will exist. That is not something I feel particularly confident about pontificating on, but I hope that during the passage of the Bill reasonable points can be made, perhaps in Committee, to deal with some of that. Broadly, I think the exemptions are right and provide a very good balance between banning all ivory products entirely and allowing exemptions. I look forward to more detailed progress, but in the meantime I warmly support the introduction of the Bill.