It is as the noble Viscount rightly says. But some will then say, as mentioned in Committee, that it is not necessary: “Selling it doesn’t matter—give it away to a charity shop”. What is a charity shop to do with it? It will want to sell it to somebody else, so it will be caught by the requirements for prior legislation. The only way that I can see this chain of argument evolving is that we may end up with refugees from other parts of the world surrounded by battered Georgian furniture, which seems a pretty surreal destination.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said, the likely result of all this is that a significant quantity of all the items—which, let us not forget, have real cultural and historical significance for this country—will end up on the tip. In addition, let us not forget that going to the tip along with the ivory will be a lot of tropical hardwoods such as mahogany, rosewood and so on. For a country that cares about these things and tells the world how much they matter, as we do, to legislate and consign them to the tip in Britain seems ludicrous, and a sad end to the ivory and mahogany involved. If I might misquote John Betjeman:
“Goodbye to old things. We who loved you are sorry
They’ve carted you off by refuseman’s lorry”.
By no stretch of the imagination could these things harm anyone or anything. In a free country one should, as a matter of principle, be able to sell freely items of that character. You should not need a state commissar’s authorisation to do so. From what I have heard, the Government’s case for this registration is illogical, not based on the evidence, completely disproportionate, philistine and a gratuitously destructive proposal. As a consequence, I am strongly opposed to it.