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Ivory Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Lord Carrington of Fulham Lord Carrington of Fulham Conservative 5:00 pm, 24th October 2018

My Lords, I rise to speak to my Amendment 25, which is a very specific amendment and rather esoteric, but I will come on to that in a moment because I really just wanted to register my agreement with the previous speakers that this Bill is far too restrictive. We are banning ivory items and ivory inlays and items containing ivory that have no possibility of being recarved in the Far East for sale on to that market and no prospect of having any value in themselves. An ivory carver sitting in Vietnam, for instance, would have no interest in carving a sliver of ivory to go into a false 18th century box. It would just make no sense at all and it would be nonsense. We ought to have a sense of proportion about what we are trying to do in this Bill.

What we are trying to do is to stop large lumps of ivory being exported to countries where they will be recarved and converted into the items that their populations think are attractive and for which they will pay good money. This is not an emotional business; it is purely a financial business. If we ban the export of large items of ivory, or their sale in this country—because they will be smuggled out of this country eventually, just as rhino horns are smuggled out of here, which is a similar problem—we will achieve what we can achieve in respect of saving the African elephant using the antique ivory trade.

As has been said, the protection of the African elephant is not down to what is sold as Christie’s in King Street in London. It is down to whether we can finance the actions against the poachers, whether we can train the police and protection officers in those countries, whether we can arm them properly, and whether we can ensure that the supply routes where the ivory is taken out of the country are shut down. That is what it is really all about. It is not about this gesture politics Bill. That is what it is about, and that is what we should be concentrating on.

I add something that has not been mentioned because it is not politically correct to do so. A lot of ivory is not obtained by rogue poachers; it is done with the connivance of people who are very powerful in the countries where the elephants are, and they make a lot of money out of it.

My noble friend the Minister assures me that several of the countries which have large numbers of elephants are in favour of us banning the sale of ivory. I am perhaps too cynical. Perhaps I have lived too long a life dealing with rogues and rascals both in politics and in business, but if I were trying to make money out of selling ivory, I would try to shut down part of the market which I thought conceivably—however misguidedly—could be competition. In other words, I would of course say, “Ban the ivory market. Ban, ban, ban”, so that I can kill the elephants in the savannah and make money by selling those tusks to Hong Kong.

I should apologise, because perhaps I should have made that speech during Committee but, as some noble Lords will know, I was under the depredations of various surgeons then, so I apologise for not making it then.

My Amendment 25 is rather esoteric. It is even more esoteric than the Northumbrian pipes of the noble Baroness, Lady Quin. Under the Bill, an item which is detachable and can stand alone is an individual item and is therefore treated as such. This is not usually important, but it is very important if you are dealing with scientific instruments. The way that 18th-century or early 19th-century mercury barometers are regulated is by a little knob that pulls out. It is detachable and independent of the barometer itself. You would use it to adjust the vernier on the scale to measure the height of the mercury and to put pressure on the mercury reservoir at the bottom of the barometer, when you regulated the barometer to show the correct barometric pressure, to make sure that the mercury was at the right level. So it has two functions.

My amendment is specifically designed to say that this knob should be treated as part of the barometer, not as a separate item, because these knobs were almost always an ivory disc—not dissimilar, I have to say, to the discs used in so many other things, such as portrait miniatures, tickets for theatres, and so on, which have no commercial value for recarving. They have commercial value because there are artistic elements to them, but the knob has no commercial value. If I tell your Lordships that they are 2.54 centimetres in diameter, those of you with a scientific bent will know that that is an inch. They are of a maximum of an inch in diameter, very thin and on a metal shank. All I am trying to do by the amendment is to ensure that antique dealers do not have to throw away the integral knob when they sell the barometer.