Victoria Borwick MP
Victoria Borwick MP took part in a debate about the ivory trade in the House of Commons on December 8 where she argued the case against a total ban on the ivory trade.

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During the Commons debate on ivory, held in Westminster Hall on December 8, MPs laid out arguments on proposals ahead of the planned consultation in the new year.

As president of The British Antique Dealers’ Association and MP for the London borough that is home to the Victoria & Albert Museum and Portobello Road, Borwick called on government to acknowledge the distinction between modern carved trinkets or raw tusks and genuine antiques.

She said a total UK ban would do nothing to stop poachers as it had not been demonstrated that antiques containing ivory contribute to the sale of poached ivory.

She argued:  “The purchaser of a carved ivory medieval Christian diptych… wants the ivory because it is a beautifully worked, culturally and historically significant piece that happens to be made of ivory.

“To ban the sale of an 18th century cabinet inlaid with ivory or a Georgian portrait miniature painted on a thin slither of ivory in order to stop Far Eastern buyers from purchasing contemporary carved Buddhas or trinkets makes no sense.”

Need for exemptions

Following Borwick’s speech a number of MPs acknowledged the need for exemptions.

Congleton MP Fiona Bruce said there should be an “intelligent differentiation” of “museum pieces or genuine antique objects so that we can ensure that there is a distinction”.

MP for Stafford Jeremy Lefroy, who had called for the debate, said he had listened to Borwick’s arguments and called on the minister to “widen the consultation to cover all possible scenarios”.

However, the general tenor of the hour-and-a-half long debate was not pro-exceptions.

A letter sent to all MPs by campaign group Tusk ahead of the debate had said: “We strongly believe… the forthcoming consultation looks at the case for banning pre-1947 ivory as well as newer ivory.”

York Central MP Rachael Maskell described Borwick’s comments as “objectionable”. She said: “Ivory should no longer be traded. No excuses, no demarcations and a clear and simple ban.”

Rebecca Davies, chief executive at LAPADA, said: “Victoria Borwick did an excellent job. We remain concerned that the long-term intention remains a total ban. We, together with the other associations, will make sure our members’ voices are heard clearly on this matter in 2017.”

Mark Dodgson, secretary general at The BADA, added: “We are pleased the minister gave recognition of the importance of consulting with museums and the fine art and antiques trade.”