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Ivory Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:50 pm on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Cormack Lord Cormack Conservative 3:50 pm, 24th October 2018

My Lords, I am sorry that there are not more in the House at the moment. I think if I were to ask any of your Lordships, individually or collectively, if you believed in the deprivation of the value of legitimately acquired private property, you would give a unanimous answer.

I have a retired friend in Lincoln who has spent his life collecting English watercolours. Some are very beautiful and he has collected them because he believes that they are beautiful but also because he always felt that in acquiring a watercolour, he was safe- guarding his money and knew that if he or his wife came upon difficult times, he could realise his assets. So it is, so it should be, and so, if he hits on hard times, it will be.

But if he had been like the gentleman who wrote to me only last week and collected ivory chess sets made at the same time that the watercolours were painted—the late 18th and early 19th century—he would be facing the prospect of having no assets that he could realise. This must surely be the law of unintended consequences. It cannot be that any Government, least of all a Conservative Government, would wish to act in that way against someone who has studiously—I use the word properly—collected items of interest and of some value, though not superb national value necessarily, and done no harm in the process.

There is probably not a single Member of your Lordships’ House—I hope there is not—who is not fundamentally opposed to the activities of ivory poachers. To that degree, we all welcome the Bill and applaud the Government’s desire to deal with poaching and punish those who trade nefariously in ivory items. But how many elephants will be protected in 2020 by forbidding someone from selling an ivory chess set made in 1820?

In Committee, I moved a slightly more far-reaching amendment, but I had the impression that it would not necessarily prosper, so I have made this amendment much simpler. It merely deletes the paragraph in Clause 1 that refers to,

“exporting it from the United Kingdom for sale or hire”.

If we are to prevent people realising their own legitimately acquired assets, surely we will not prevent them selling them in a country where it is entirely legal—as it is in France—to sell their ivory objects.

This is common justice as well as common sense. I beg to move.