Amendments to the government’s ivory bill, which proposes a near-total ban on the trade in ivory, were proposed but have not been included following a House of Lords debate on September 10 and 12.
Lord Cormack said: “No single living elephant—all of which any sane, sensible person would wish to preserve—is going to be helped by this stringent, draconian ban on the sale of antique ivory. We are creating a massive and unnecessary bureaucracy… This legislation is entirely well motivated but ill conceived.”
Among the requests for amendments was a change to the size of the percentage of the so-called ‘de minimis’ exemption and a date change from 1918 to 1947 to allow for the trade in Art Deco objects that contain pieces of ivory.
Lord de Mauley, chairman of dealer association LAPADA, said: “There appears to be a premise… that the UK’s fairly minimal international trade in objects made from ivory is encouraging the demand for ivory in the countries of the Far East. As I explained on Monday, if we exclude piano keys, the total number of antiques incorporating ivory exported from the UK to the entire world amounted to 766 items in 2016 and just over 1000 last year.
“The exported objects comprise a mixture of both solid ivory carvings and objects that incorporate ivory, such as musical instruments or furniture with inlay. The latter are of no interest to buyers in the Far East. As I have previously said, these numbers are small fry when compared to the volumes of ivory traded in the ivory consumer markets.
“We have to recognise the most significant factor in stopping the trade in poached ivory is not whether the UK is selling antiques or not, but whether the restrictions promised by China and Hong Kong are effectively enforced and whether it is possible to prevent the market from transferring to neighbouring countries in the region.”
But Lord Gardiner of Kimble, under-secretary of state for rural affairs, who introduced the bill, said: “The UK ivory ban is consistent with both CITES and the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations… [but] the UK ivory ban goes further than CITES and the EU in restricting commercial dealing in ivory.”
Following the debates, Marco Forgione, chief executive of the British Antiques Dealers' Association (BADA), said: “I feel that the debate in the House of Lords exposed the misguided and unsound basis of the Government’s position. Lord de Mauley in particular highlighted not just the inconsistencies of the bill but also the fact that the government is using misleading and incorrect data in assessing the current trade in ivory.
“I hope that, in light of the debate on Monday, Michael Gove will reassess the bill and amend it to address these glaring inconsistencies.”
The bill will move to the report stage and its third reading in the Lords within the next two weeks, before Royal Assent to make the bill into an Act of Parliament.