Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Ivory Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 24th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Quin Baroness Quin Labour 4:15 pm, 24th October 2018

My Lords, I will speak to my Amendment 28, which is grouped with Amendment 2, which has just been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack. Once again, I seek to entertain Members of your Lordships’ House with tales of the Northumbrian pipes. My amendment covers a very narrow part of the music industry, but I hope that it will receive sympathetic consideration today. I should declare that I am the president of the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society, which is not a paid role but one that I am very proud to have. I also declare that I own two sets of Northumbrian pipes, but neither contains any ivory.

In Committee, sympathy was expressed on all sides about the fact that the sale and hire of a small number of Northumbrian pipes—even a small number of Northumbrian pipes is quite a large proportion of the Northumbrian pipe market—would be caught by the Bill. I was very grateful that the Minister agreed to meet, and got his officials to meet, representatives of the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society to discuss their concerns about the Bill. I am also grateful to the senior official who met Andrew Davison, the chair of the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society. They discussed things in some detail in Newcastle. I know that that was appreciated by members of the piping community.

However, following that consultation and the serious look that Defra undoubtedly gave to the situation of the Northumbrian pipes, the Minister wrote to me and said that, while he recognised that a number of instruments were made after 1975 with ivory repurposed from billiard balls and other ivory items found in antique and bric-à-brac shops, those instruments would not meet the Clause 8 exemption for musical instruments as the ivory would have been worked into its present form after 1975, even if it came from—I understand that it almost always does—an older piece of ivory. That decision by the Government still causes concern among Northumbrian pipers, as the Minister will understand. Therefore, I tabled the amendment in my name to try to deal with this particular issue.

In his letter, the Minister said that although they had looked closely at the particular circumstances of the Northumbrian pipes, he regretted that it did not prove possible to amend the Bill in such a way as would not undermine the premise of the Bill or inadvertently create a significant, exploitable loophole. I agree with the Government’s desire to avoid the creation of a loophole—very much so—so the amendment that I have tabled tries to deal with that particular problem. The amendment states:

“An item that has ivory in it is exempt from the prohibition if it is a musical instrument that has been certified by the Northumbrian Pipers’ Society, or a similar approved organisation, as being a set of, or part of a set of, Northumbrian pipes made before the passing of this Act, and covered by a valid Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) certificate”.

Even if that is not the perfect formulation, something like that is an alteration that could be made to the Bill in order to deal with this specific issue.

I listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Hague, said about exports and I agree completely, but we are not talking here about exports but about a limited UK market, which is being somewhat threatened by what has been proposed. Therefore, it behoves us to try to look for a way through to see if an appropriate amendment can be made.

I know that, all along, the Government have not wanted amendments to the Bill and have wanted speedy passage of it, but as we can see from the Order Paper today, the Government have had to introduce a large number of amendments themselves. Given that the Bill will go back to the House of Commons, it seems to me that it gives us an opportunity to make one or two minor amendments, such as the one that I am proposing, which in no way undermines the principle of the Bill.

We are talking about ivory from old billiard balls and broken umbrella handles; I have seen some of the instruments that have been made with ivory of this kind. I also believe that it is very difficult to remove ivory from most of the Northumbrian pipes that I am talking about, without causing both irreparable harm to the pipes and quite a bit of damage to the ivory itself. We are also talking about small quantities of ivory. If there was a verification process of the kind I am talking about, that would deal with the issue in a way that would be satisfactory to pipers, as well as helping to keep this important regional musical tradition going.

In tabling this amendment, I have had the support of the noble Lords, Lord Vinson and Lord Beith, both of whom live in Northumberland and understand the issue of Northumbrian pipes very thoroughly. Therefore, I hope the Minister will take account of the amendment. I am glad that my noble friends on the Front Bench have a later amendment which talks about a report on the workings of this Bill and what effect it might have on the sale and hire of musical instruments in the UK. I am very grateful for that particular form of words, and hope to support that amendment at a later stage. In the meantime, I hope that the Minister will give careful consideration to the fairly minor and limited nature of the amendment that I am putting forward.