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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 Hague of Richmond Lord Hague of Richmond Conservative 3:50 pm, 24th October 2018

My Lords, I have listened carefully to my noble friend Lord Cormack but I am opposed to his amendment, which would be destructive of the objectives of the Bill. It is important on this and other amendments to remind ourselves of the objectives of the legislation. Our ultimate objective and the objective of international policy on the ivory trade is to end the demand for new ivory. We probably all agree that this is the ultimate answer. Whatever we do in anti-poaching measures, conservation and the interception of shipments is really only mitigation. The answer to keeping elephants alive today is to end the demand for ivory.

That means bringing that demand to an end in China, Vietnam and south-east Asian countries. For years, some of us have been trying to persuade them of that, including when I was Foreign Secretary and began the conversation with China about ending its domestic ivory market. Now I am pleased to say that China closed its domestic ivory market at the beginning of this year. The British Government, including my noble friend the Minister at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference two weeks ago, were persuading other Governments to close their domestic ivory markets, including that of Laos, which is an important piece of the jigsaw, and, I hope, Vietnam and Malaysia in the future.

In every one of these conversations, including that with China, the first thing they say is, “Are you going to do the same? Are you going to close your domestic ivory market?” Secondly, they say, “If you don’t stop your exports from the United Kingdom, it is much harder for us to close our markets if thousands of items are exported as they have been each year”. The CITES figure is of 54,000 ivory pieces from the UK in a 10-year period, largely into Far Eastern markets. It is not credible to say to those countries, “Please close your domestic ivory markets so we save the elephants for the future. However, we are going to have a lot of exemptions and export to wherever we can from the United Kingdom. We have all these nice things we picked up during the Empire and we would like to be able to sell them in the future”.

It is very important to what is becoming a sensibly agreed international policy, not only that we support the Bill in general but that we do not make an amendment that would cut out of it the prohibition of exports, which would largely defeat the object of the Bill.