My Lords, this proposed new clause would provide the Secretary of State with a new delegated power to make regulations and publish guidance to enable a potential buyer of an ivory item to check its exemption status prior to purchase. I reassure the noble Baroness that the Government will ensure that compliance, by both sellers and purchasers of ivory items, is fully facilitated. The Secretary of State will issue non-statutory guidance, which will set out the detail of each exemption and the requirements for self-registration or certification of exempted items. The guidance will also contain clear advice, for both buyers and sellers, on compliance, including the process by which a potential buyer will be able to check a registration or certification before purchasing an item. I also make the point that verification is in the Bill. We will provide administrative guidance to assist both the buyer and the seller.
I note that the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness would create an additional delegated power for the Secretary of State, by allowing him to specify how many items should be verified. Furthermore, to lay regulations to specify this would be a duplication of the relevant provisions already in the Bill.
Before I set out for your Lordships precisely how the registration system will work, which is important, and thus the measures in place to enable verification, I also note that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of this House has considered the Bill in detail and made a number of recommendations to reduce the number of delegated powers, which, as we heard on earlier amendments, the Government have addressed.
Ultimately, it will always be in the seller’s interest to ensure that the exemption certificate or registration document is available at the point of sale. It would be appropriate for an antique dealer or auction house to display the certificate or registration details alongside the item or show it to customers at the point of sale. For online sales, we would similarly anticipate that a seller would show proof that the item has been registered or an exemption certificate issued.
We are currently working on the design and build of a new online system to enable owners of exempt items to register them prior to sale or hire. A potential buyer wishing to check the registration of an item will be able to look up that item on the online system, using the unique registration number provided on the seller’s registration document. The buyer will be able to view the information concerning that item held on the database to satisfy themselves that it indeed relates to the item in question. This will allow buyers the comfort that the seller has complied with the process and to verify the registration document.
For items with an exemption certificate under Clause 2 of the Bill—that is, the rarest and most important items of their type—we would in practice expect the seller to make the exemption certificate available to the potential buyer. Similarly, the potential buyer will also be able to consult the online database using the unique identification number on that exemption certificate.
That is why we do not need a power in the Bill to provide the means for buyers to verify that they can legally buy a certified or registered ivory item: as I have explained, it is our intention that this will be achieved through the functionality of the online registration system. This provides a clear means for the buyer to verify the legitimacy of their intended purchase. Furthermore, the Government will publish non-statutory guidance, which will set out exactly how sellers should provide buyers with the assurance that they are entitled to sell an item and that the transaction will therefore be lawful.
Before the Bill is commenced, we will run an awareness-raising campaign to ensure that relevant stakeholders and members of the public are fully aware of the new legislation and associated guidance. As such, we believe it would be unnecessary to include additional powers in the Bill to enable a potential buyer of an ivory item to check on the exemption status of an ivory item. As I have explained, this is precisely why perfecting the online registration system is so important and why work is under way on that.
I believe that the Government have covered the points that the noble Baroness seeks to address, given the explanation and a bit more detail. As the online system is developed, I am happy to ensure, for any noble Lords interested in these matters, a continuum of assurance that this work is well in hand. On that basis, I say to the noble Baroness that these points are covered. I sincerely hope she feels able to withdraw her amendment, because the Government have covered this point.