He is right that the ‘Sandringham case’ based on the current rules meant that an ivory piece was removed from display in 2017 because Sandringham House charged an entrance fee. That was a perverse consequence of the current law and it should be changed.
However, he is wrong about the impact of the proposed sales ban. There will be a specific exemption for accredited museums.
The government’s policy statement says that “accredited museums play a vital role in protecting the nation’s cultural heritage, and in making our heritage accessible to the public, and as such will be permitted to purchase items that do not meet any of the listed exemptions, but are in line with their acquisitions and ethical policies”.
It stands to reason that if museums will be permitted to buy items that do not fall within the exemptions (as well as those that do), they will also be able to display them – and not have to hide them in the basement.
But we do not even have to rely on that assumption, as the policy statement also says: “We do not intend, through our ban on ivory sales, to affect the display of historic, artistic and cultural items to members of the public by accredited museums.”
It is hard to see how a sales ban on that basis would have what Michael terms a “potentially devastating” impact on museums – or indeed any impact at all.
(Michael Baggott's letter appeared in ATG No 2339.)