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Ivory Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:15 pm, 24th October 2018

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hague, for so eloquently setting out the case. The removal of “outstandingly” or “outstandingly high” would substantially increase the number and types of items that qualify for exemption. The purpose of the outstanding artistic value exemption is to allow the older items of exceptional artistic value to be traded.

The exemption before us would undermine that purpose and risk weakening the Bill by enabling trade in many pre-1947 worked items. The proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, to replace “important” with “significant” will similarly severely weaken the exemption criteria. It will already be possible for Art Deco items to be purchased by museums from private owners under Clause 9, which intentionally does not specify the age of ivory artefacts that can be acquired by museums. It is unwise and unnecessary to widen the exemption further.

As I said, those who support extending the exemptions do not see that this increase in items containing ivory will impact on the elephant population. Unfortunately, they are not correct. It is also wrong to assume that anything that is not exempt, or does not get a certificate, will be destined for the rubbish dump. Families will keep their personal artefacts and furniture containing ivory and pass them on to their children or grandchildren. Unfortunately, a lot of hysteria is being generated.

The monitoring of the elephant population, particularly in Africa, is much more sophisticated nowadays—due to the use of drones—than previously. The sad truth is that the population is down to 400,000. For the first time since records were kept, the number killed each year is higher than the number of live calves born. It is time to make a stand, and it is obvious that this House—across the political divide—supports the Bill. While the Ivory Bill is not perfect, it is a significant step forward in protecting the elephant. We must show the world that we are serious, in the hope that others will follow suit. We cannot support this group of amendments.