The Ivory Bill has just had its reading at the Report Stage in the House of Lords (24 October). This will be followed by a Third Reading and Consideration of Amendments on the 13th November, after which it returns to the House of Commons, before Royal Assent is sought. Paragraph 174 of the accompanying explanatory notes states “The Bill will be brought into force no earlier than six months after Royal Assent.” This is unlikely to be earlier than the second half of April 2019.
In the course of the reading at Report Stage, members discussed the impact of the legislation on the sale and hire of musical instruments, the powers of civilian officers investigating breaches of the ivory ban and government reporting on exemptions to the ban.
Various amendments supported by the art and antiques trades were unsuccessful, though one welcome amendment was a limitation on the powers of accredited civilian officers from the Office for Product Safety and Standards who will have powers to search property along with police and customs officers. The newly tabled amendment clarified and set out what these powers are to be.
Amendments that failed were an attempt to define the amount of ivory furniture or musical instruments must contain in order to be included under the proposed sales ban: the removal of a provision which would have allowed registered items containing only a small amount of ivory to be exempt from the ban; and the insertion of a new clause which would allow the relevant government minister to produce guidelines for a person dealing in ivory to verify the exempted status of an item.
Meanwhile The British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) through a freedom of information request to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has discovered that 74% of the thousands of items exported from the UK since 2015 were piano keys. It has emerged that each of the 52 keys of a piano is counted as a separate item. As Lord de Mauley (LAPADA Chairman) told the House “In 2016, the official ivory export numbers prepared in the format required by CITES amounted to over 5,700 individual components or items, but those exports actually represented 541 worked ivory items or sets, plus 93 pianos. Removing pianos from the equation, the true number of antique exports that year amounted to less than 10% of the number submitted by the Government to CITES.” Lord de Mauley reminded the House that, “in the period leading up to the Government’s ivory consultation, the UK’s “official” ivory export figures were employed by several high-profile wildlife organisations to justify their demands for a very restrictive ban on the sale of antique ivory.” It is also on the basis of these figures, the Environmental Investigation Agency claimed that the UK is the “world’s largest” ivory exporter.
Setting this huge distortion aside, BADA has stated that “the true picture of the UK’s own exports of worked ivory antiques amounts to an average of just 585 items a year.” This still leaves unanswered the question raised by one writer to the Antiques Trade Gazette (3 November) “Does my piano now need 52 separate licences”, and, moreover, certification at £40 a key?