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The year-long study, a piece of academic research conducted by the School of Law at Portsmouth University, could have implications for policy-making.

Speaking at Portcullis House, London, on November 26, Mark Dodgson, secretary general of BADA, and Rebecca Davies, chief executive of LAPADA, argued that the problem lay outside the legitimate antiques trade. They said that further legislation would impinge upon the cultural heritage of several millennia and impact the sale and the commercial value of hundreds of thousands of items, from medieval devotional diptychs to Victorian pianos.

"Rather More Complex"

The 20-strong panel from the antiques trade, the legal profession, the wildlife lobby, forensic science and restorers and dealers in musical instruments was chaired by Caroline Nokes MP.

The Conservative member for Romsey and Southampton North began the two-hour discussion with the admission that "from the heart the ban [as suggested in the Conservative Manifesto] seemed superficially attractive - but it does now appear rather more complex".

Caroline Cox, a socio-legal academic at Portsmouth University with an interest in the laws surrounding art and antiquities, said the project had been inspired by the 2014 case of Chiswick Auctions (fined £3200 for selling a 1960s carved ivory tusk) and the disparate ways similar transgressions are treated in other parts of Europe. 

She concluded: "We have a duty to ensure the survival of the African elephant. We also owe a duty to conserve artefacts from the past that speak about our cultural heritage. I don't think that the two are incompatible."

DEFRA have asked to see a copy of the document after publication (scheduled for December 2016).

Contact Cox on caroline.cox@port.ac.uk