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Ivory ban - where do political parties stand?

Wednesday 24 May 2017

The General Election has brought an element of political uncertainty but will allow voters to look at the policies of each party and choose who they want to lead the country for the years ahead as we leave the European Union and tackle domestic and international issues.

In Westminster, before the General Election was called, MPs twice debated the ivory market after the Government announced in September that it would consult in the coming months on plans to ban modern-day ivory sales. Contributions came from all sides and political persuasions largely to ensure a ban is in place, but with some recognising the importance of the antiques trade in the UK.  

The manifestos of the main political parties have now been released and give us and insight into how the debate could be changing.

In 2015 the Conservative party manifesto stated, “We will promote effective worldwide measures for tuna conservation, press for a total ban on ivory sales, and support the Indian Government in its efforts to protect the Asian elephant.” Two years later the 2017 edition does not reference ivory and merely states, “We will continue to lead international action against climate change, and the degradation of habitat and loss of species.”

The Labour party’s 2015 manifesto had no reference to ivory or conservation, but now under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn have said in their 2017 manifesto that, “We will prohibit the third-party sale of puppies, introduced and enforce a total ban on ivory trading, and support the ban on wild animals in circuses.”

The Liberal Democrats, who were part of the Coalition Government between 2010 and 2015, have pledged to, “Provide greater resources for international environmental co-operation, particularly on climate change and on actions to tackle illegal and unsustainable trade in timber, wildlife, ivory and fish.”

The phrase ‘international environmental co-operation’ sits nicely with the European Commission’s announcement on 16 May 2017 for new measures to fight poaching and end the trade in raw ivory.

Due to the terrorist attack in Manchester, at the time of writing, the Scottish National Party (SNP) have postponed the launch of their manifesto. However, SNP MPs were vocal in the recent Westminster Hall debates when the issue of ivory trade was discussed and the SNP’s 2015 manifesto said, “We will support further animal welfare measures with a global focus. This includes action to end the illegal ivory trade and protect species such as polar bears and Bluefin tuna.”

It is worth remembering that the ban announced by the Government last year will cover the sale of items containing ivory dated between 1947 and the present day. Trade in ‘worked’ items, such as works of art and ornaments dating from before 1947 (deemed ‘antiques’) will continue to be permitted.

Whilst, Brexit and Donald Trump prove that no election result is a forgone conclusion, all political commentators are predicting a Conservative victory in June. Therefore, based on the comments from Conservative MPs in the debates and the ‘removal’ of the word ivory from the Tory’s manifesto it would appear that the trade in antiques containing ivory will continue to be permitted, but more tightly controlled, with possible certification requirements and could also include rules around size and weight. 

However, we won’t know until the General Election result is declared, which could mean a new Prime Minister and or Environment Secretary. NAEA Propertymark will continue to update members as soon as information is released.