The bill, designed to introduce a near-total ban on the ivory trade, is due to move from the Commons to the upper house later this month.
Lord Matthew Carrington of Fulham told ATG: “My concern is the bill will not be effective in stopping the trade in illegal modern ivory as it is far too complicated. But at the same time it will make life complicated for dealing with old ivory.
“We want to create a more workable bill that is more effective in stopping the modern trade in ivory and that is less damaging to the trade in antique ivory. We are hoping to make amendments. We must not allow the destruction of artistic heritage.”
De minimis rule
Lord Carrington said the Lords is planning to table amendments relating to the so-called de minimis exemption (antiques with less than 10% of ivory) and specifically the registration requirements. He is also seeking clarification about what museums can buy under proposed exemptions.
He highlighted institutions such as the Cutlery Collection in the Sheffield Industrial Museums, the Geffrye Museum in London and The Holburne Museum in Bath that focus upon domestic life throughout the ages. “We want to ensure it is possible for these museums to buy the types of items they want.”
Last week environment minister Michael Gove confirmed plans to consult on a proposed widening of the ban to include other ivory-bearing species such as hippo, walrus and narwhal.
The consultation will launch “as soon as possible” but will not delay the progress of the current bill.
Separately, Asian art dealer Alastair Gibson has launched a petition to lobby parliament to amend the de minimis exemption. He argues the proposed 10% rule is too narrow and is calling for it to be raised to 50% for cultural objects.
Trade bodies BADA, LAPADA and SOFAA seek to legally challenge the government’s bill once the act receives Royal Assent (before it enters the statute book).
Also see Letters this edition.
Ivory bill – key dates
July 4 – Ivory bill passed unanimously by the House of Commons
July 17 – House of Lords debate on the ivory bill begins
July 25-September 3 – Summer recess
October – Government target to enact bill into law