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Ivory Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:30 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) 7:30 pm, 24th October 2018

My Lords, Amendment 40 concerns verification regulations. As we debated in Committee, it is imperative that the exemption processes introduced in this Bill are robust and proportionate. In Committee, we introduced a probing amendment that would allow the Secretary of State to create a verification system to enable buyers to ensure that they were complying with the law. We felt that this was particularly important, given that the definition of “dealing” in Clause 1 specifically includes buying as well as selling ivory. Even the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, with whom we on these Benches have found little common ground with regard to this Bill, concurred that it was a most sensible suggestion.

In response, the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, agreed that a potential buyer must be able to verify that it is legal to purchase the item before finalising the sale. She outlined how a buyer wishing to check the legality of buying or hiring an item would be able to confirm that it had been registered or certified as exempt and look it up on the online system via the item’s reference number. This would enable them to compare the photos and description on the system with the object they intended to purchase. This was a welcome commitment from the Government. I was disappointed, however, by the noble Baroness’s insistence that we do not need regulations to underpin such a system.

Noble Lords will be aware that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee report raised concerns about the scope of regulation-making powers contained in the Bill, concluding that the delegation of powers was inappropriate in many areas. We agreed with this view and feel strongly that it would be inappropriate for the purpose of establishing a verification system too. The verification process described by the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, must be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and should be set out in regulations. We feel that this is very important, given the legal implications for breaking the prohibition on dealing, as well as issues involving privacy and the protection of personal data. Indeed, it was for this reason that the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, advised that the Government would be unable to publish photos or descriptions of specific items exempted. We need to be much clearer about the verification processes that would underpin the Bill and the protections that would be afforded to the buyers, particularly when they are making online purchases, when fake sales particulars are all too often a hazard.

Having reflected on the Minister’s earlier response, we also believe that the negative procedure offers an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny for the verification of exempt items. Therefore, we hope that noble Lords will support this amendment, which would insert regulations, but to be approved only through the negative procedure. I beg to move.