Amendment 5

Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill - Committee – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 12 September 2023.

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Lord Robathan:

Moved by Lord Robathan

5: Clause 1, page 1, line 3, leave out “an animal to which this Act applies” and insert “a species classed as threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and where that list records trophy hunting as a threat to that species”

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

My Lords, I beg to move the amendment standing in my name. I do not wish to repeat everything that has been said before; it is getting late, and I am sure many people, like me, would rather go home. But I will say a few general points about this. Unfortunately, because of a medical appointment, I could not speak properly at Second Reading. I also say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, that I find it strange that men are not allowed to have an opinion on this. I note that there are six women on the Opposition Benches, against one man. Does that mean that their opinions carry more weight than that of men? I hope not; I was quite keen on equality rather than discrimination. I am just saying, as the noble Baroness has intervened from a sedentary position, that on the Opposition Benches there is just one man.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee, Chair, EU Environment Sub-Committee

I just intervene to say that the noble Lord is the opposition; we are the other side, as far as I can see, this evening—so I think the nomenclature is wrong.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

This is a Private Member’s Bill, not a government Bill, apparently, and on the Opposition Benches we have five to one—sorry, six to one; maths is not necessarily my strong point.

Photo of Lord Mancroft Lord Mancroft Conservative

I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. The noble Lord opposite makes a very interesting point. What the Government are doing today is passing socialist legislation, which is an odd thing for a Conservative Government to be doing. It is supported entirely on the Labour and Liberal Democrat Benches and clearly has very little support on our Benches. It is an odd thing for the Government to do. I dare say that if there was ever a day when the parties on the other side got into government—I think it is very unlikely—I suppose they would pass right-wing legislation, but I do not know.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

Anyway, to go back to the matter in hand, I would say that, when I and several other noble Lords here met a delegation from countries from sub-Saharan Africa, as I recall, there were two female African Ministers who came to talk to us—so it is not purely men who take a view on this.

Photo of Lord Swire Lord Swire Conservative

Just for clarification, when these Ministers and MPs took all the trouble to come from Africa to put their point over, is my noble friend aware of how many of those who support the Bill actually had the politeness to meet them?

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

Yes, I am indeed aware: none. Which was a pity, and it was especially a pity that my noble friend Lady Fookes did not come to hear what had to be said by people who actually know a great deal about the issue because they live with it.

I said I would make some general points because I was unable to speak properly on Second Reading. I have a farm in Leicestershire. I farm for conservation, in my opinion—conservation and subsidy, but the latter is not doing so well at the moment. It is covered in birds and hares. I also shoot, but I only shoot birds and animals that I can eat. I certainly do not want to shoot trophies, such as described by the proponents of the Bill; indeed, I find it rather distasteful. But that is not really the point.

My first point is that this Bill is neo-colonialist. I find it extraordinary that the left backs it, because we are trying to tell independent countries in Africa and elsewhere how wicked their policies are. The second point is that we are ignoring the wishes of these countries, especially those from sub-Saharan Africa. To suggest that we replicate the money that is made from trophy hunting with overseas development assistance is basically treating Africans—nations and others—as supplicants. It is an arrogant zeal that pushes this forward. We are treating them as people who are unable to manage their own wildlife, or indeed their economies, without us telling them what to do.

As we have just heard, this is a terrible Bill in so many ways. It is absurd. I do not think that anybody has ever hunted a mollusc as a trophy, but there it is. It is almost unenforceable and is pretty unintelligible. My noble friend the Minister, for whom I surprisingly have great respect, talked about dancing on a legal pin. Well, should the Bill come to a court—I hope that it never does—there will certainly be the possibility of dancing on legal pins here.

Photo of Lord Bellingham Lord Bellingham Conservative 9:30, 12 September 2023

I just want to clarify one matter. I actually feel quite strongly that we need to improve this Bill. Therefore, we need to see it on Report. Earlier, the Minister said something really significant; it was the first time that I have heard the Government say that they want a compromise. He said that he does not want the Bill in its current form but wants an improvement to it. We are teasing out different possibilities. I certainly disagree with him on that point, but we want this Bill to go through Committee and on to Report—just as an improved Bill that is, as the Minister said, fit for purpose, serves the manifesto promise that we made and, crucially, answers the very real questions on the submission of those five or six African countries.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

I am grateful to my noble friend because I will come on to a compromise in a minute.

This Bill is of course a manifesto commitment left over from 2019. It was probably put in, rather surprisingly, by a former Prime Minister to placate somebody close to him. As somebody who was a Member of the House of Commons for 23 years, I can promise those who talk about 86%—or whatever it is—of people asked about trophy hunting not approving of it that this is not something that exercises most people on the streets of London, Manchester Blaby or Leeds. Furthermore, the Bill ignores the advice of the Government’s own body, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

I go back to what my noble friend just raised. Let us have a compromise that promotes conservation—I am absolutely a conservationist on my farm—fulfils the manifesto commitment to ban the importation of endangered species and listens to the Africans and others who oppose this Bill. Let us not listen to the arrogant zeal of activists.

I turn to the specific amendment. It goes to the heart of the issue, which is conservation, and asks us to listen to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list, which concerns species that are seen as threatened by trophy hunting—if they are. The Minister just mentioned CITES. Let us stick with that, then; that would be something useful, although I do not think that you are allowed to trade in anything that is on a CITES list anyway. Let us stick conservation at the heart of this Bill, not the sort of patronising, arrogant zeal that we see from a lot of people on this. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Roborough Lord Roborough Conservative

My Lords, I rise to speak in support of my noble friend Lord Robathan’s Amendment 5. I declare an interest, as stated in the register, as a partner in a sporting estate in Scotland.

I note my noble friend the Minister’s earlier words. However, I echo other noble friends in the Chamber: this is a critical amendment that would return the Bill closer to the original Conservative Party manifesto commitment and ban imports from the trophy hunting of endangered animals. When Henry Smith proposed this Private Member’s Bill, he stated:

“The world’s wildlife faces an extinction emergency of extraordinary proportions. We have to do everything we can to support conservation”.

We now understand that we all support that, but I am familiar with the high importance of hunting, which can involve taking trophies in financing conservation efforts and in the protection and restoration of habitats and ecologies that support the species being hunted.

In this country, it is of limited national economic benefits, but it can make a material impact at a local level in relatively disadvantaged communities. When we look overseas—to countries in Asia and Africa, for example—the impact is much greater. Revenues from hunting can be the key financial support for conservation efforts. I understand that hunting may be distasteful to many, but conservation efforts funded by that hunting are universally welcomed. What right do we in this rich country have to cut off that funding and send a signal to the rest of the world that they should do likewise? Why should we make decisions that put out of work people around the world whose interests are also best served in ensuring a surplus of these species, potentially turning hunters into poachers?

The globally accepted definitive authority on threatened species is the IUCN red list. This classifies species into nine categories according to their level of endangerment, from “not evaluated” to “extinct”. The amendment identifies “threatened”, which incorporates “critically endangered” and “vulnerable”. That is one more than the manifesto commitment. Dr Challender of Oxford University, and colleagues, showed that less than a quarter of the 73 CITES-listed mammal species that have been imported as hunting trophies since 2000 fall into the “threatened” definition and 60% are of “least concern”. The same work showed that nearly 80% of imports were from countries where populations of the hunted species were stable, increasing or abundant.

The amendment brings in the concept of trophy hunting itself as a threat to the species being hunted. Analysis of the red list by Challender, Dickman, Roe and Hart showed that

“legal hunting for trophies is not a major threat” to any of the species imported to the UK as trophies since 2000. In fact, the analysis concludes that trophy hunting is not listed as a threat to the survival of any species. The positive impact of hunting on threatened species is well illustrated by Michael ‘t Sas-Rolfes and Dr Emslie in their article in the Conversation:

South Africa and Namibia are the two countries with the most African rhinos. In 1970, before legal hunting was introduced, they jointly held about 1,950 white rhinos … That number had risen to about 16,600 by 2017 … the biological and socio-economic benefits generated by these hunts … can boost conservation performance through enhanced population growth and funding”.

Returning to the Challender analysis, only 10 endangered species have been imported to the UK as hunting trophies since 2000, including ranched animals, which would not have been bred without hunting as an objective. Therefore, I question why this Bill is identifying over 6,200 species. How will our Border Force cope with this burden of determining which species or subspecies an animal part may be from and whether it is a trophy, has been hunted, or where the importer lives? How much simpler and more targeted to rely on IUCN red list designations.

This is an important amendment, returning the Bill to its original intention and supporting conservation efforts globally. Further to comments on earlier groups, these amendments, and this one in particular, are carefully designed to turn a damaging, emotionally driven Bill into legislation which genuinely will support conservation.

Photo of Lord Mancroft Lord Mancroft Conservative

My Lords, I support this amendment. We have been told that the motivations behind this Bill are the manifesto commitment and public opinion. I am not particularly enthusiastic about either of those things, but there is no doubt that this amendment does return the Bill to the manifesto commitment that was given. If that is what the Government are hanging their hat on, as they appear increasingly to have done during the summer, then they should accept this amendment. If they say, “Well, we can’t do that because that will return the Bill to the House of Commons”, well, they have had the timetable for this Bill, as they have for any Bill, in their gift throughout, so it is their fault and not ours that we are debating it at this late hour.

A point was raised earlier about public opinion. We have had “public opinion” thrown at us—that 80% or 90% of people support this. The reality is that the people support it because they think it is a conservation measure. When it is explained to them—as it has been by the IUCN, with its rather more nuanced and in-depth research into public opinion—that actually, it does not help conservation, less than 50% support it. The number goes right down.

The polls that put it up at 80% or 90% are the usual incredibly biased animal rights polls, which we have seen for 20 or 30 years in this country. They say, “Do you want to rip a small animal to shreds and enjoy every minute of it, relishing in its blood?” You get 99% on that one; if you have these sorts of ridiculous questions, of course you do. The reality is that we should not and must not run our country by public opinion poll.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

I was in the House of Commons for 23 years. I do not know if I achieved anything useful; I did try. During those 23 years, I got an enormous amount of correspondence—letters and latterly emails. To my certain knowledge, I did not get one letter, email or even telephone call worrying about hunting trophies.

Photo of Lord Bellingham Lord Bellingham Conservative

I got one actually, over more than 23 years.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

You got one, but you were there for longer than I was.

Photo of Lord Mancroft Lord Mancroft Conservative

Well, it was lovely to have that domestic entertainment, but the point I was trying to make is that we should not be basing serious legislation on rather dubious public opinion polls. In-depth research is useful, but the ballot box is the real thing that we do. I do not think we should be doing this on public opinion polls, but we have an opportunity to take the Bill back to the original manifesto commitment, if that is what everybody is so obsessed about.

I notice, however, that most manifestos have God knows how many items in them which nobody takes any notice of at all. They discard them at will when they are not interested in them, then grab them and hang their hats on them when they think they are very important. I must admit that my noble friend Lord Robathan is absolutely right, in that I do not see queues of people going around Parliament Square waving placards because of this Bill or issues like it. There are more important things on their agenda.

Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

It is interesting that the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, said no one asked him about this. My noble friend Lady Anderson and I were in the House of Commons more recently than he was, and we had a great number of letters on this issue. On the other hand, it could be that only socialist ladies get them.

Photo of Lord Swire Lord Swire Conservative

The noble Baroness may well be right, because I was in the House of Commons until 2019 and I got no letters on this subject. I was on the Hunting Bill committee when I first came into the House of Commons and I got a lot of letters about that, mainly because all the evidence was being ignored in favour of prejudice.

Photo of Lord Mancroft Lord Mancroft Conservative

If we are all making confessions, I was not in the House of Commons and I never had a letter, but I had a bomb delivered to me in this House from the very nice animal rights people. I also had some threatening letters describing precisely what they were going to do my six year-old daughter, when they followed her to school here in London. Luckily, special branch was very helpful about that. So I am delighted that I did not get any letters, but I know an awful lot about the people who send them.

Photo of Lord Bellingham Lord Bellingham Conservative

My Lords, I want to pick up a few points that have come out of this debate on the amendment so ably moved by my noble friend Lord Robathan, supported by my noble friend Lord Roborough.

I return to the point about manifesto commitments, without being completely repetitive. We said in our manifesto that we would ban the import of trophies hunted from endangered species. This is a Private Member’s Bill, but it has government support. The Government were originally going to bring it. Maybe the Minister could help me here when he winds up this debate: if the Government had brought in either a clause in the captive animals Bill or a free-standing government Bill on trophy hunting, would it have referred only to endangered species? At what point in this discussion was the definition of endangered species extended to the 6,200? Was that Henry Smith, the MP for Crawley, going a bit off-piste and substantially widening the Bill? Do the Government support that?

I come back to the point the Minister made a few moments ago, when he said that he was keen to find a way forward. That is absolutely the spirit in which we should be entering this whole discussion. I served under the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, as an MP, when she was Deputy Speaker, and she was very strict about MPs staying in order. That is why I think it is important that we stay in order on these amendments. On this particular amendment, I absolutely do not want to go beyond what the two noble Peers have said already.

Before going on to one of the points that they have made, I would just say to the noble Baroness that surely it is better to have something at the end of this—a Bill that has the opportunity of going through Parliament and that achieves maybe 70% of what she would like to see—rather than nothing at all. That is the art of compromise. The Minister understood and accepted that a moment ago, and I very much hope that the noble Baroness will too, on reflection, perhaps later in Committee. I do not know how late we are going to go tonight; I think we are perfectly happy to go all night, until perhaps 10 am or 11 am tomorrow morning. We may draw stumps, or maybe we will come back to Committee at another point, but the Bill will come back on Report. I hope that the Minister has time for some very serious reflection, and to have a look at this specific amendment, or maybe the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas.

I will pick up on one point that the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, made about those African Governments and conservation bodies in the SADC region and in east Africa—I think Tanzania was one of the countries that signed that letter. I had the privilege of serving twice in the Foreign Office, latterly as the Minister responsible for Africa and the UN. I had the opportunity to visit all of those countries in southern Africa, and a chance to speak to most of the Heads of Government, most of the Foreign Ministers and most of the Environment Ministers. Unlike in this country, where we change Ministers every six to nine weeks, in most of those African countries the Foreign Ministers and Environment Ministers stay in place for many years. I have kept up my contacts in all of those countries, and I try to travel to them when I can.

I can tell noble Lords that, further to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Robathan, the strength of feeling among those African countries is quite extraordinary; I have been really and truly blown away by it. As I said earlier, we are talking about two trophies of wild lions being brought into this country every year and 115 hunting trophies—probably four or five people who are absolute fanatical hunters are bringing in the bulk of them. This is the minute scale of this issue in this country, and yet it has generated this huge pushback from these African countries, where they are really angry about what our Parliament is trying to do—they have said that to me very clearly.

The noble Lord mentioned the delegation that came over in the summer—the two Ministers and the Back-Bench MP from Botswana, and the heads of different conservation bodies. The letter to our Prime Minister from the heads of mission of the SADC countries, plus Tanzania, was interesting and compelling. What they were saying—and the noble Lord, Lord Swire, summed it up very well—was: “Please trust our judgment about what is best on the ground locally in our country”. I think they have also said—they have certainly said so to me—that they do not want the Bill to go through in its present form but would accept an amended Bill.

We have here an amendment, put forward by the noble Lord, very similar to the amendment from a moment ago by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Will the Minister, when he sums up, rather than just going back to what he said originally—that he is not prepared to take any amendment—commit to go away and really think this through carefully? We can then come back, if not in Committee then on Report, and put in place an amendment that will keep everyone here in our Parliament and most people in Africa happy. It will actually show that we have listened to them, care about their interests, and have made a small but important change.

Photo of Lord Swire Lord Swire Conservative 9:45, 12 September 2023

My Lords, I too will be very interested in my noble friend the Minister’s reply to this amendment. It gets to the kernel of the argument, and actually teases out whether or not this whole Bill is about conservation or something completely different.

This amendment is suggesting that it would apply to

“a species classed as threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List and”— critically, where that list records trophy hunting as a threat to that species. It does beg the question: if it does not record trophy hunting as a threat to that species, and if the animal is not on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list, why are we gold-plating legislation which would be perfectly palatable to most of us, and at whose behest?

Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative

My Lords, having listened to the debate so far, I think that this amendment is slightly closer to Amendments 14 and 33, which are in my name, so it might be for the benefit of the House if I say my remarks now rather than repeating them at a later stage—if such a thing happens.

The Government have not told us why the present licensing system does not work. I think it is important for us to recall and think about how the present licensing system works. If anybody wants to import a trophy into the UK from a species that is listed in CITES appendix 1 or 2, there is a requirement for an export certificate from the country and an import certificate from the UK. The issuance of these certificates is based on a science-based assessment that there will be no harm to the species—that is worth stressing. In CITES terms, this is called a non-detriment finding, or NDF.

In the UK, implementation of CITES happens domestically via the principal wildlife trade regulations referred to in the Bill. The two annexes of the wildlife trade regulations that are referred to, annexes A and B, are broadly aligned with the CITES appendices. In the UK, the JNCC, as I have said before, is the relevant public body for overseeing imports of animal species, including hunting trophies. For any species listed on annexe A, JNCC is required to determine, first, that the import will not have a harmful effect on the conservation status of the species or on the extent of the territory occupied by the relevant population of the species—this is the NDF—and, secondly, that the import is taking place for one of the purposes referred to in CITES Article 8(3): that is, for research, for education, for breeding aimed at the conservation of the species, or for other purposes that are not detrimental to the survival of the species concerned.

The JNCC has interpreted other purposes that are not detrimental as including hunting trophies—as long as trophy hunting is part of a careful species management plan that should, as appropriate, be based on sound biological data collected from the target populations; clearly demonstrate that harvest levels are sustainable; be monitored by professional biologists; be promptly modified if necessary to maintain the conservation aims; demonstrate that illegal activities are under control; produce significant and tangible conservation benefits for the species; and provide benefits to, and be in co-operation with, the local people who share the area with, or suffer by, the species concerned.

For species on annexe B, the measures are less strict since, by definition, the species on this annexe are less threatened by trade, and no certificate is required other than for six exceptions: the African lion, African elephant, argali sheep, hippopotamus, polar bear and white rhinoceros. For these species, the UK has the equivalent stricter measures that it applies to annexe A species, meaning that import permits are required—including an NDF. Thus, if a hunting trophy has been issued with an import certificate by JNCC, we can be confident that this is because due process has been followed: a non-detriment finding assessment has been conducted and the assessment has indicated there is no risk to species survival.

This Bill is about conservation and preventing the further endangerment of threatened species. The system in place under CITES already performs this function through a process that has been agreed multilaterally by over 180 countries. The Bill does not need to concern itself with those species that are not under annexes A or B. I have an amendment coming up to delete annexe B. However, the amendment before us is a better one and I would be very happy to support it should it be taken to a Division. However, if it is not, I give notice to my noble friend the Minister that I will wish to divide on my amendment in due course.

Photo of Lord Benyon Lord Benyon The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My Lords, as I said earlier, I spoke at some length on the first amendment and covered many of these points. However, to address this precise amendment, it would narrow the scope of the ban to species considered threatened on the IUCN red list. Where this assessment identifies trophy hunting as a threat, it would remove the power for the UK Government to determine species in scope, which the Bill currently does through annexes A and B of the wildlife trade regulations. This amendment contradicts Clause 2, which clearly sets out the species in scope of the import ban and would remove the power for the UK Government to determine species in scope. With that in consideration, I respectfully ask my noble friend to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

My Lords, I note that almost all the speeches have been in favour of this amendment. That is because it is about conservation. I am a conservationist—I think everyone who has spoken is a conservationist—but this Bill, which my amendment aims to improve, is not about conservation. I find that very distressing—I really do.

The two noble Baronesses on the Front Bench said that they had letters from people supporting a trophy Bill when they were in the Commons. They may have done, but I remember a rather dreadful organisation called 38 Degrees, which ran campaigns the whole time. I discovered that some of my constituents who wrote to me and emailed me on standard responses that were given by 38 Degrees had not even sent them themselves; they were sent for them. We all know how campaigns can work.

I am disappointed that the proposer of the Bill and the Minister do not think that we need to highlight conservation in this Bill. I was not going to divide the House because it is time for my bed; I am getting rather old.

A noble Lord:

You are younger than Joe Biden.

Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

I am younger than Joe Biden. However, my wife and my children in particular tell me how old I am.

Noble Lords:


Photo of Lord Robathan Lord Robathan Conservative

They do. Because people are urging me to, I think I will test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 25, Noes 32.

Division number 5 Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill - Committee — Amendment 5

Aye: 23 Members of the House of Lords

No: 30 Members of the House of Lords

Aye: A-Z by last name


Amendment 5 disagreed.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 10.09 pm.