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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 Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 6:15 pm, 24th October 2018

My Lords, I shall respond to these amendments, which would move the applicable date for exemptions from pre-1918 to pre-1947 and would lower the threshold for exemptions, allowing larger numbers of items containing ivory to be bought and sold.

As has been said, these amendments will considerably weaken the impact of the Bill. As the Minister explained in Committee, 1918 was chosen because it defines items which are 100 years old and therefore classified as antiques. A move to include more recent items for exemptions, as suggested in Amendment 3, would inevitably increase the number of items containing ivory in circulation. It would include a much wider group of objects than the Art Deco items which the noble Lord seeks to protect. In any prohibitive Bill of this kind, it is impossible to find a perfect date from which to apply the constraints. As we have mentioned several times, we would have preferred a complete ban on ivory sales but, if there has to be a cut-off date for exemptions, we agree that 1918 has the best logic. Of course, as has been said, that would not affect the ownership or gifting of items, nor the continuing trade in Art Deco items which do not contain ivory.

We have similar objections to Amendments 4, 5 and 6. We believe that the criteria should be set higher, if anything. Indeed, we proposed an amendment in Committee to curtail exemptions to the rarest and most important pieces of their type. Our aim should be to avoid all subjective definitions or scope for ambiguity to ensure that the market for ivory is properly closed down and that the professionals making the judgment have a clear mandate within which to operate.

As we have heard and debated several times now, some noble Lords opposite have never accepted that there is a link between the antique ivory trade and the current slaughter of elephants. The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, described the debate as a worn record and I think we are all beginning to feel a bit like that. But a growing body of evidence shows that illegal new ivory is smuggled across borders and mis-sold online as antique ivory. That is at the heart of our debate but I do not feel that there is any meeting of minds on the issue.