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Ivory Bill progress update

Thursday 25 October 2018

The Ivory Bill was discussed in the House of Lords yesterday, with peers having the opportunity to debate the Bill and vote on amendments that were tabled by various members.

Three amendments to the Bill were voted upon, as the Bill reached its report stage in the House of Lords. But whilst there was a good level of debate throughout the session, it was only Amendment 40 that resulted in anything like a close vote. 

Amendment 40 - 'guidance'

Labour Peer Baroness Jones of Whitchurch moved amendment 40, to insert a new 'guidance' clause after clause 11, which would allow the relevant government minister to produce guidelines for a person dealing in ivory to verify the exempted status of an item.

The guidelines would be published in the form of regulations to be laid before both Houses of Parliament.

The vote:

The Lords voted against Labour, with 127 against adding the amendment, and 82 voting for the amendment. The amendment was therefore not added to the Bill. 

Amendment 24 - 'registration'

Lord Inglewood moved amendment 24, which "removes registration as a precondition of allowed sales of de minimis objects containing ivory".  If passed this would have meant the removal of paragraph (d) in clause 7, page 5, line 25 from the Bill - extract given below:

7 Pre-1947 items with low ivory content
(1) An item that has ivory in it is exempt from the prohibition if —
(a) the item is pre-1947
(b) all the ivory in the item is integral to it,
(c) the volume of ivory in the item is less than 10% of the total volume of the material of which the item is made, and
(d) the item is registered under section 10.  

Speaking in support of the amendment, Lord Inglewood said it would bring the UK in line with the rest of the world. "I do find it odd that we are being told that the right way to tackle this is rather different to the rest of the world." He therefore pushed it to a vote.

The vote:

The Peers voted against Lord Inglewood's amendment - with 249 voting against, and just 18 in favour. The amendment was therefore not added to the Bill.

Amendment 2 - 'exports'

Conservative Lord Cormack moved amendment 2, which was to to remove restrictions on exports of ivory from the UK for sale or hire.

He wanted to change what the term "ivory" includes on Clause 1, page 1, line 21 of the Bill, proposing to leave out 'ivory in it' and instead insert “more than 20% of ivory in the case of furniture or other objects and 30% in the case of musical instruments”.

Lord Cormack said: "If we're going to prevent people from realising their own legitimately acquired assets, surely we're not going to prevent them from selling them in a country where it is entirely legal,"  "this is common justice as well as common sense."

Former Conservative foreign secretary Lord Hague of Richmond opposed the amendment, saying that other governments will only close their domestic markets for ivory if the UK does the same and that the amendment would be very destructive for the objectives of the Bill. He said that the ultimate objective is to the "end the demand for new ivory" and that other governments had told him: "If you don't stop your exports, it's much harder for us".

A heated debate between Government minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Lord Cormack then ensured. 

Lord Gardiner agreed that the amendment would be contrary to the bill's purpose saying "... by closing this market we want to ensure that the UK no longer drives the demand for ivory." He asked for the amendment to be withdrawn, to which Lord Cormack said he may bring something back on third reading. The minister responded: "I have no option but to say that I will say exactly the same at third reading."

Liberal Democrat Baroness Miller also opposed the amendment saying that: "any widening of the criteria, will increase the market for ivory objects" insisting that restrictions and exemptions on ivory are already very limited

Conservative Lord Gardiner said the government want to do everything they can to protect elephants and that "the interest and importance of these animals must come before privately owned objects " to which Lord Cormack responds: "no elephant is going to be saved by the insistence on registering a chest of drawers".

The vote:

The Lords voted against Lord Cormack, with 323 against adding the amendment, and just 20 voting for the amendment. The amendment was therefore not added to the Bill. 

Other amendments of note but which were withdrawn (not voted on) were:

Conservative Lord De Mauley tabled and introduced Amendment 3 which would change the Clause 2 date from 1918 to 1947 to prevent the inevitable loss of "many thousands of genuine antique objects". saying that "as the bill stands, it would forbid the sale of the most outstanding and rarest examples of Art Deco design, whilst allowing the sale of ordinary upright pianos mass produced as recently as the 1950s."

He said the antiques trade supports the idea of items being checked by third parties and being granted exemption certificates, but he says concerns about problems identifying ivory are focused on "low priced, solid ivory", not on "culturally valuable works of art".

Following resistance by other peers, he withdrew his amendment, stating: "Lord forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Lords vote on ivory registration preconditions

Government minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble tabled a government amendment, which will require regulations to be considered when judging ivory items, rather than decisions being made based on guidance from the government.

The amendment was added to the bill without a vote from the house.

The Bill now moves to the third reading in the House of Commons, followed by the third reading in the House of Lords. Will will keep you updated with any further changes. 

What we're doing for you

Coming soon ... NAVA Propertymark is creating a comprehensive Ivory Bill Fact Sheet for members. Keep an eye out for further details.