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Ivory Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of The Duke of Wellington The Duke of Wellington Conservative 4:45 pm, 24th October 2018

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 22 but, before doing so, I should like to support the noble Baroness, Lady Quin. I knew little about Northumbrian pipes until she spoke in Committee but her amendment seems entirely reasonable and I really hope that the Government will support it.

As I did in Committee, I declare an interest in that my family’s collection of works of art includes many items containing ivory but, as I also said in Committee, this is really a non-interest as I have no interest whatever in selling any of those items. However, the main point of the Bill, which I think we all support, is to try to protect elephants. I therefore completely support it and am very persuaded by what the noble Lord, Lord Hague, said in respect of Amendment 1. I agree with him that to exclude exports from the Bill would undermine some of its objectives and am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, withdrew that amendment.

However, I say to the Government that some of the restrictions on the exemptions are too restrictive. Amendment 22, which I am speaking to, has great substance and we should support it. After all, the Government have accepted the principle that portrait miniatures should be exempt. As we all know, they are painted on a tiny sliver of ivory. In no way does the value of a portrait miniature consist of its ivory content; it is in the quality of the painting or the identity of the sitter. Therefore, one really cannot pretend that it is a significant factor that so many portrait miniatures are painted on ivory.

The Government, therefore, have rightly accepted this principle. However, it is so surprising that they then restrict this to miniatures with an area of 320 square centimetres. I think I remember the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, in replying in Committee, saying that this restriction would capture 90% to 95% of miniatures. I have to say to the Government that if you accept the principle of exempting miniatures but wish to capture only 90% to 95%, why not exempt all portrait miniatures? That seems logical and I cannot imagine that it creates a loophole that would give any concern to all of us who support this Bill.

That is really the main thrust of what I wanted to say. I really hope the Government will think again on the matter. I am minded to support a number of other amendments about percentage of content and other matters, which seem to make the Bill a little more flexible. It will be easier to establish that an object is exempt if we do not define the percentage of ivory content too narrowly. Therefore, I hope some of these other amendments will be put to the vote.