Ivory Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:05 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 7:05 pm, 17th July 2018

My Lords, this has been an exceptional debate and we have heard from noble Lords with direct knowledge of events in Africa where the elephant is being slaughtered in unsustainable numbers. I want in particular to pay tribute to my noble friends Lady Chalker of Wallasey and Lord Hague of Richmond, who have been so instrumental in doing a great deal for the interests of communities in Africa. I pay tribute also to the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, on his experiences. I do so because I believe strongly that if our generation does not act now, it will be too late. I should also say, given the many questions put to me and the many notes I have received, that your Lordships would be sitting for a very long time if I were to answer every single question. A comprehensive reply to all the comments that have been made will of course follow this debate. I have the answers to almost all the points but, in the time available, it will not be possible to do them justice.

I shall turn immediately to an issue raised by a number of noble Lords, which is that of heritage in terms of natural heritage, as outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, in relating her experiences of the elephant, and indeed how we would rob some of the world’s poorest communities of their natural resources and deprive us and future generations of this extraordinarily inspirational creature. I am also most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for expressing her support for government initiatives, a number of which were referred to by my noble friend Lady Fookes. Through the IWT Challenge Fund, we have been supporting projects around the world to engage local communities in conservation, to enhance human/wildlife coexistence, and to strengthen community involvement in helping to tackle crime. These are the communities that are being impoverished by this trade, and it is others around the world who are enriched by it. I was also struck by what my noble friend Lady Rawlings said about the British effort, and obviously I am really pleased that our gallant forces in the military have been helping in Gabon and Malawi to deal with poachers.

As I mentioned earlier—and as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, will know through his close association with the Giants Club—the summit held in Botswana in March this year reflected the unity among the political leaders of the four countries that hold half of Africa’s remaining elephants. At that summit, the Presidents of those four countries signed a petition that called on the EU and by extension its member states to shut down their domestic markets, end all ivory exports and support efforts to ban the global ivory trade. They join 28 other African nations as signatories to the petition. That is an extraordinary request from the continent of Africa where these wonderful creatures are, and we must respond.

A number of points were made about other species. I want to deal with those immediately by saying that it is absolutely the Government’s intention to launch a consultation seeking views and evidence for extending the definition of ivory on or as soon as practicable following Royal Assent to the Bill. There are reasons for that. We have already taken a power in the Bill to allow the Secretary of State to extend it to cover other ivory-bearing species through regulation, and the power taken extends from applying only to ivory-bearing species listed under CITES to any ivory-bearing species. Obviously the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and I can exchange legal opinion, but in the end it will be the Secretary of State and this Minister who will have to sign the certificate, which as noble Lords know is part of our ministerial responsibilities. The legal advice we have is that we must consult, and we will do that as soon as possible. However, I am happy to have sight of any legal opinion referred to by the noble Baroness, but that is the legal advice we have received, and in the end it is for Ministers of the Government to sign the certificate as a matter of compliance, as one would expect.

A number of issues were raised about the ban and the country’s place in it. I was very struck by my noble friend Lord Hague’s reference to China, saying “Well, when are you going to do something about this?” Indeed, it is important to know that whatever noble Lords may say, ivory will not be a symbol of luxury anymore. We have sought a balance between absolutely curtailing and snuffing out demand, and having the exemptions that we have decided are proportionate. However, the balance in this legislation will always be that living creatures are the most important priority.

I am very glad that my noble friends Lady Rawlings and Lord Crathorne spoke about the exemptions and the rationale. I assure your Lordships, particularly my noble friends—and they are my noble friends—who have expressed the concerns of the antique trade, museums and musicians, that we have had considerable discussions with those sectors. If time permits, I will read out some of the quotes that we have had from the antique sector and musicians, who expressed some surprise that we have reached such exemptions and that the conservation NGOs think that they are proportionate. Indeed, they have expressed surprise; they thought that they were in a position where they can manage the situation.

I say to my noble friends that getting this right is our priority, but we have this Bill because of the slaughter of an animal that will be extinct in the wild unless we do something demonstrable. Neither I nor the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, is saying that there is a connection. As I said in my opening remarks, to which my noble friend Lord Hague of Richmond referred, a UN Office on Drugs and Crime report made it absolutely clear that,

“the trade in illicit ivory is only lucrative because there is a parallel licit supply”.

That is the challenge we must take on with the demand for ivory, particularly in east Asia. The figures that I have expressed to your Lordships show that the amount of ivory going from this country to Asia has been increasing, not decreasing. We need to deal with that. I want to make it very clear that we have sought a balance that we think is proportionate. I will be very pleased, both in writing and in further stages of the Bill, to explain our rationale.

We had 70,000 responses from individuals and even more from campaigning organisations. The strong message was that we should have a comprehensive ban. We thought that having these exemptions was proportionate because we were persuaded that they would not fuel the demand that we must snuff out. As we have said, it is clear that the restrictions go beyond the CITES requirements on restrictions for post-1990 ivory. We have also gone further than the EU precisely because our lead is being looked at by other countries. This is not about some sort of gesture; it is about leadership and saying that this trade must stop. We must do everything we can to stop it. I am clear that we have been, and will remain, resolute. I understand that the function of this House is to scrutinise and improve, but we have sought to do what we can to find the right balance in these matters.

A number of noble Lords made points about online issues. I want to make it absolutely clear that this legislation takes enforcement extremely seriously. We intend the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Office for Product Safety and Standards and the police to have access to registration systems, take spot-checks of registrations and carry out any necessary enforcement action. This will be clearly online as well. We want to ensure that the offence of facilitating a breach of the sales ban is specifically designed to capture online sales fora and, for instance, the use of traditional media, such as newspapers. Furthermore, Clause 34 ensures that we can charge a particular person within a corporation responsible for a breach so people cannot hide behind their company.

There was another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and my noble friend Lord Selkirk. I have seen the programmes that my noble friend’s kinsman, and his daughter Saba Douglas-Hamilton, have produced. We owe them a profound debt of gratitude for what they have done to highlight the nature of elephants and how we can better protect them.

We also need to take the opportunity to acknowledge the people who have died because of seeking to prohibit the poachers from doing their dreadful deeds. Let us remember that, when we are talking about these objects, we are talking about human beings and animals that have died because of this, and I think that is the perspective in which we should look at it.

Clearly, we do not want to make unnecessarily draconian pieces of legislation; that is why the defence of ignorance is there to be proportionate so that the standards used determine whether someone has acted reasonably, and it will clearly depend on the circumstances of the accused.

Also, we want to make it clear—I paraphrase because my notes are not quite in order—that the whole point about having civil and criminal sanctions is precisely because we realise this is a new piece of legislation, and we understand that there will be different elements of criminality in terms of the sorts of gangs, organised crime, and billions that are involved. Regarding the amount of the fine that my noble friend Lord De Mauley referred to and the five years that my noble friend Lord Crathorne talked about, this is not about the person who has, by some mistake and completely with ignorance, sought to put a piece on the market. This is precisely because we need to get at the organised gangs who, in the end, want to receive the ivory from wherever it may be. This is why we have sought in our package—and, yes, it is a package and it is a balance—to make sure that civil sanctions and criminal penalties are done properly through the police, where that is required.

I say to my noble friend Lord Inglewood and the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, that I am absolutely seized of the fact that we want the registration system to be as bureaucracy-free and straightforward as possible. That is why we were working on an IT system that will not be burdensome and that—as it is based on a cost-recovery basis—is intended to be small. We want to have this non-bureaucratic system. We will also run an awareness campaign to ensure that potential buyers and sellers understand what is required. Again, this is intended to give safety and security to the seller and the buyer. That is the whole purpose. We are absolutely clear that the purpose of this legislation is to stop the demand in ivory, with certain exemptions. That is why it will be rigorous, but the registration for the first three exemptions will be through means which we think are not bureaucratic or burdensome. I shall write to my noble friend Lord Crathorne on his queries. However, I should say now that there are distinct reasons for the particular dates that we chose. It is 2018 now, so we thought that 100 years ago—1918—was a suitable choice.

The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, referred to a guide to the Bill’s application. The Government will publish guidance on various aspects of the Bill to ensure it is implemented effectively. My noble friend Lord Selkirk asked whether enforcement will be adequate and exemptions not exploited. We will ensure that they are robust—they have to be, because that will underpin the success and effectiveness of the ban. I give credit to the police, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Border Force for what they have done to date in tackling this abhorrent crime. Our proposals will go further than the current regime. We will also nominate a regulator to enforce this ban, alongside the police and Border Force.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked about the rarest and most important items. We intend this to be applied on a narrow strata of items considered, on the advice of expert assessors, to be of outstandingly high artistic, cultural and historical value. I agree with my noble friend Lord Crathorne that this is subjective but that is why we are asking experts to do that exemption, which we think is valid and is the right way forward. We did not think that a total ban was the right thing for these objects. We reached that position because we thought that this was a sensible arrangement. We therefore will be looking to experts to help us.

There were a number of questions about music and musicians. Owners of instruments containing ivory will need to register their instruments only if they wish to sell them or to engage in other commercial activities, such as hiring them out. Musicians wishing to take their instruments overseas for concert tours will not require registration, but must adhere to existing CITES regulations. My officials have received a copy of the Musicians’ Union briefings and will be happy to respond in writing or to meet it. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, mentioned Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood. I have to declare an interest in that he played at my wedding, so I know the professor rather well. But regarding this exemption, Paul McManus of the Music Industries Association has said,

“we are extraordinarily grateful that this exemption has been considered at all”.—[Official Report, Commons, Ivory Bill Committee, 12/6/18; col. 49.]

We have gone as far as we can.

I am obviously very clear and conscious of what the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, said about the Northumbrian pipes. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. I would obviously always be happy to see the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, but we have these exemptions and we have got as far as we have with them. I will obviously meet her but we have had to find some definitions for these exemptions.