(6 months ago)Read Full debate
I want to put on record our sincere thanks to the expert witnesses who took their time to present to us in the evidence sessions this morning. I think everybody benefited from that and we are all grateful to them. It is a pleasure to serve with you, Mr Bailey, in the chair once again.
Amendment 1 would oblige the court to consider whether the accused filmed themselves committing the offence or posted a video of themselves committing the offence online when establishing the seriousness of the offence. Subsection (1B) means that this consideration would be treated as an aggravating factor and would be stated as such in open court. This would be used by the court to determine the appropriate sentence and result in an upward adjustment of the sentence for those who conducted such filming activity. I am aware of and am horrified by the abhorrent actions of some people who film animal cruelty with the aim of sharing and uploading videos on social media. The hon. Member for Workington highlighted how terrible that was.
I think we all recognise that the hon. Member for Redcar movingly explained her concerns, fears and worries. In the best traditions of the House, she explained the issues in a non-partisan way. As she spoke about the need to introduce guidelines and how to approach this, it was interesting that everybody on both sides of the Committee said: “Good point”. That is very unusual in this place, so well done. One of the great things in this place is when we see somebody has a grip on an issue and brings people with them. I congratulate her for doing that.
There are many other great examples of Back-Bench support in the Committee, including the work done on the mighty Finn’s law in North East Hertfordshire. There is some really good work going on, and that should inspire people about what can be done in this place.
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Before I discuss clause 1, I want to comment on and welcome the widespread support that the Bill has received, across the House and beyond. It was clear on Second Reading that the Bill has strong backing across the House, which was unified in its view that there is no place for animal cruelty in this country and that we must deal with it in the strongest possible terms. I welcome the spirit in which our discussions today have taken place. I am sure that that is part of our collective view that the United Kingdom should continue to be a world leader on animal welfare.
The Government committed to increasing maximum sentences for animal cruelty offences in September 2017 and I am pleased to see hon. Members who have supported this measure here today. I know that some hon. Members will feel that we should have moved faster, but collectively we have moved quickly in recent weeks to see much animal welfare legislation move forward and I am grateful for that.
As was made clear on Second Reading, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 the current maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences is six months imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. This Bill amends the Animal Welfare Act to extend the maximum penalty available to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for the worst animal cruelty offences relating to animal welfare in England and Wales. We heard this morning just how important it is that this Bill reaches the statute book as soon as possible.
Clause 1 is the Bill’s main clause and outlines the mode of trial and maximum penalty for certain animal welfare offences. As it is proposed that the maximum custodial sentence is extended to five years, these offences will become triable either in the magistrates court or the Crown court, depending on the severity of the offence. Specifically, clause 1(2) changes the maximum custodial sentence for the most serious offences under the 2006 Act. These are: causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal; carrying out a non-exempted mutilation; docking the tail of a dog, except where permitted; administering a poison to an animal; and involvement in an animal fight—a dog fight or something similar, as we talked about earlier today.
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which this Bill amends, all protected animals are covered. In its legal definition, a protected animal is a vertebrate animal of a kind commonly domesticated in the British Isles. Animals not commonly domesticated, such as wildlife, are “protected animals”, but only to the extent that they are under the control of man or are not living in their wild state.
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Clause 2 provides the extent, commencement and short title of the Bill. Clause 2(1) provides for the Bill’s extension to England and Wales only. Animal welfare is a fully devolved matter, but in this case the Welsh Government have confirmed that the maximum penalty will apply in Wales. The Bill is drafted on that basis. The Welsh Government are preparing a legislative consent motion so that the Bill can be extended and applied in Wales, which is excellent news.
Clause 2(2) provides the date and commencement of the Bill. The Act will come into force two months after Royal Assent. The clause also ensures that the application of revised maximum penalties is not retrospective and is not applied to offences committed before the Bill comes into force. It specifies the short title of the Bill, that being the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2019.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
New Clause 2
Report on effects
‘(1) The Secretary of State must publish a report on the effects of the provisions of this Act.
(2) The report must include assessments of—
(a) trends in sentencing practice;
(b) the effects of this Act on animal welfare;
(c) the extent to which this Act has had a deterrent effect on animal welfare offences;
(d) the coherence and adequacy of animal welfare legislation in aggregate in the light of the operation of this Act.
(3) The assessment under subsection (2)(d) must include consideration of—
(a) the welfare of animals that are not “protected animals” under section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006;
(b) sentencing for offences under—
(i) all sections of the Animal Welfare Act 2006;
(ii) the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981;
(iii) the Deer Act 1991;
(iv) the Protection of Badgers Act 1992;
(v) the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996; and
(vi) the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (S.I.2017/1012).
(4) The report must be laid before Parliament within two years of this Act coming into force.’—(Sue Hayman.)
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament, within two years of the Act coming into force, a report on the effectiveness of the Act, including specific assessments of its effect on animal welfare, the overall coherence of animal welfare legislation, and other matters.
Brought up, and read the First time.
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As I said, we have distinguished lawyers in the room for a reason—they make important points such as that one, which only my right hon. and learned Friend could make with such eloquence. I completely agree that there is an added responsibility. It is a privilege to be able to look after animals and, when we do, we should expect higher standards of ourselves. There are laws that are relevant to other wild animals but, when these animals are in the control of man, a higher standard needs to be adhered to.
I do not really want to mention these cases, but I am trying to provide clarification and confidence to members of the Committee. We heard the example of a rabbit being kicked in a very serious way. Whether a rabbit is wild or not, rabbits are commonly domesticated, and that would be covered by the Bill. Similarly, if other animals were mistreated under the control of man, they would be covered. I understand that there are concerns, but I reassure members of the Committee that the courts will be in a better position, as a result of this legislation, to hold people to account and put the right sentences in place. They will be able to make judgments that will help domesticated animals and, in many cases, wild animals too—I will come to the point about wild animals more broadly in a second.
A review of wildlife legislation has already been conducted. At the request of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Law Commission commenced in 2011 its wildlife law project to develop proposals for a modern, simpler and more flexible framework. The commission published its report and draft Bill in November 2015, and recommended that the existing pieces of wildlife legislation be replaced with a single statute.
Exit from the EU provides an opportunity to re-examine our regulatory framework and how it works so that it is fit for purpose to meet our national needs in the future and to fulfil our international obligations. As hon. Members may be aware, much of our wildlife law stems from EU directives. That is why EU exit would provide an opportunity to take that wider look. We will need to consider the implications of EU exit for our approach to wildlife policy before deciding whether and how to implement the Law Commission proposals.
In addition to the existing reviews of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, the Ministry of Justice regularly publishes criminal justice statistics. Under the 2006 Act, data on prosecutions, convictions and sentencing speak to the impact of higher penalties on animal welfare.
In summary, I completely understand the point made by the hon. Member for Workington, but the Bill focuses on the most heinous crimes involving animals, including wildlife, under the control of man. The penalties for wildlife crimes that focus on animals in their wild habitat are separate from this legislation. Welfare groups have long called for an increased maximum sentence for the serious crimes under the 2006 Act. It is important that we get this change of an increased maximum penalty on to the statute book as soon as possible and without amendment.
I would be happy to commit to meeting the hon. Lady in the very near future to discuss different maximum sentences for Animal Welfare Act offences and offences relating to the welfare of wildlife. In line with our normal, standard procedure, we will look at the impact of the Bill in three years’ time. On that basis, and with a commitment to hold an early meeting, I ask the hon. Lady to consider withdrawing her new clause. I hope she can support the passage of this important Bill at this stage without amendment.
(6 months, 2 weeks ago)Read Full debate
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Just to clarify, we are discussing the maximum penalty; there will be other gradations that the courts will see fit to use. It is important to highlight, as I have done with a couple of case studies, that the courts felt they did not have the right sentencing available, given the horrific nature of some of the crimes they had been looking at. The Bill is about providing a maximum. The hon. Gentleman must be psychic, because I was about to come to that point. Under clause 1, the existing maximum penalty of six months will be retained if the offender is summarily convicted. However, offenders may now receive a higher penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine if they are convicted on trial by indictment.
Clause 2 outlines that the Bill will come into force two months after Royal Assent. The application of revised maximum penalties is not retrospective and does not apply to offences committed before the Bill comes into force. The clause also specifies the short title of the Bill, and provides for the Bill to extend to England and Wales. Animal welfare is a fully devolved matter, as many Members know. However, in this case the Welsh Government have confirmed that the maximum penalty should also apply in Wales, and the Bill is drafted on that basis. The Welsh Government are preparing a legislative consent motion so that the Bill can be extended and applied in Wales.
It is the Government’s view that the subject matter of this Bill is considered to be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. I have commended Northern Ireland for having already set the maximum penalty for animal cruelty offences at five years’ imprisonment in August 2016, and I am pleased that the Scottish Government have announced their intention to do so as well. This country has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but our maximum penalties are currently among the lowest. An increase to five years’ imprisonment should be introduced to enable the courts to have more appropriate sentences at their disposal for the most serious crimes of animal cruelty, and to reinforce our position as a world leader on animal welfare.
The Government are pleased to be taking forward this positive step on animal welfare. Just a month ago, we introduced a ban on third-party sales of puppies and kittens, and we have introduced mandatory CCTV in slaughterhouses. The Bill follows the previously mentioned passing of Finn’s law and we are also demonstrating the importance of the value of wild animals with the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill progressing well through the other place. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill is a fundamental step in ensuring that we have an appropriate response to those who inflict deliberate suffering on innocent animals and, for the reasons I have set out, I commend the Bill to the House.
(7 months ago)Read Full debate
I have had the chance to go to the national forest in my hon. Friend’s constituency on two occasions, and he is a fantastic champion and ambassador for the national forest. We need to take lessons from that and apply them in the northern forest as well, to see what the exciting opportunities can be.
We have set out a clear target of planting 11 million trees in this Parliament. We are at 3.6 million now and on the trajectory to achieve that target of 11 million, so I assure the hon. Lady that we are working in that direction. We have also set out strong aspirations to increase our woodland cover from 10% to 12% within the 25-year environment plan. We have stretching targets and we will move further forward.
(9 months, 3 weeks ago)Read Full debate
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair again, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston) on securing the debate. It is a testament to the hard work of my hon. Friend and many other Members, and to public concern, that so many are present. I am grateful for his work and his active communication.
Since my appointment as Minister, it has become increasingly clear to me that we need to tackle the abhorrent puppy smuggling trade from end to end by looking at both supply and demand. I have spent a lot of time working with officials on the issue. Like all other hon. Members who have spoken, I have zero tolerance for the unscrupulous dealers and breeders who are simply abusing the pet travel scheme—we need to put an end to that.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend—no, my hon. Friend; I am elevating him before his time, but I am sure that his time will come—for highlighting such an abhorrent case, which brought home just how awful and how illegal puppy smuggling activities are. We need to do everything we can to protect animals, their potential owners and other humans who may suffer from the health risks. We must tackle the issue as best we can and with real urgency.
Along with 137 other Members of Parliament, I have pledged to be part of the Dogs Trust’s campaign to end puppy smuggling. I stand by that commitment fully, and I am very grateful to the trust for its hard work on this really important issue. We must also respect the important work that the RSPCA and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home do to shine a spotlight on the issue.
DEFRA’s overall comprehensive approach to tackling puppy smuggling encompasses international engagement, enforcement, tighter regulations and public communications. We have been doing a great deal of work on all those fronts since the last Westminster Hall debate in 2017.
The Government continue to raise the issue of puppy smuggling at an international level. My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, raised that issue today. International engagement is particularly important in the wake of intelligence such as that mentioned by my hon. Friend, which suggests that puppies from non-EU countries such as Serbia are being illegally imported into the UK with EU passports and microchips, to make them appear EU-bred. Our chief veterinary officer has written to Serbia and Hungary, which is one of the potential receiving countries, to highlight our concerns.
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And we will do it very shortly. This is a huge priority for us. Obviously, it requires primary legislation. I hope that hon. Members can see that I am as committed as they are to bringing this forward as soon as we can, but it requires other parts of the Government to work with us. We will push it through. I know that the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) will cut me a little bit of slack, because she knows that I am keen to move the matter forward.
The hon. Member for Workington raised resources. We have increased resources at major UK ports by one third since 2017, specifically to detect smuggled puppies. That has helped us to intercept tragic cases such as that of Lola, the heavily pregnant French bulldog, who has already been mentioned today. Last year, we also launched our new dog importation intelligence steering group. It consists of national enforcement agencies such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Border Force, the police and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who are forming a collaborative partnership with the Animal and Plant Health Agency to disrupt puppy smuggling. I know that my right hon. Friends the Members for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) and for Ashford (Damian Green) are concerned about that issue.
Our collaborative relationship with Border Force continues, and last year Border Force established a special point of contact at Dover, who is specifically in post to share information and intelligence on suspected puppy smuggling. DEFRA and APHA officials have been working in partnership with the Dogs Trust since 2015 on the Dover puppy pilot, which aims to tackle the illegal importation of puppies by providing additional resource to seize and quarantine smuggled puppies, as well as to ensure that they are placed in secure, caring homes afterwards.
APHA continues to be fully engaged at the border, and last year we saw a downturn in the number of non-compliant puppies seized. It is, however, too early to draw any conclusions from that single result, but we will continue to monitor the situation and to shine a spotlight on the issue.
Based on what we have seen so far, there is limited overall evidence of concealed smuggling, with the exception of one case last year in which Border Force collaborated with APHA to intercept 10 heavily sedated and concealed puppies. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire mentioned that case in his opening remarks. I will be discussing the issue in more detail with the Minister for Immigration when I meet her later this month to further our continued collaboration on puppy smuggling, which is one of the requests that has been made. We need a joined-up approach.
Improving and ensuring the welfare of animals is at the heart of our recent welfare reforms. In December last year, we announced that we were going to ban the third-party selling of puppies and kittens. I was proud to be able to do that. Third-party sales are often linked to so-called puppy farms and to shocking welfare conditions, which many of us have seen on video or TV footage. It is absolutely abhorrent, and a ban will mean that puppies and kittens younger than six months can only be sold by the breeder directly or adopted through rescue and rehoming centres.
When the selling of puppies is restricted to licensed breeders, that will also help to deter people from attempting to bring puppies into the country to be sold here. The ban will help to tackle puppy smuggling as well as to address welfare issues here in England. I know that hon. Members are interested to know when that secondary legislation will be laid, and I can tell them that that will be later this spring—so, very soon.
(10 months, 2 weeks ago)Read Full debate
Well, we will be leaving the EU, so we need our own mechanisms in place to validate veterinary medicines. That is primarily what we are talking about here. We are bringing back to the UK powers by which medicines are authorised. We will carry on doing that. As it happens, most authorisations already take place in the UK. Unlike for some medicines used for humans, veterinary medicine authorisations often take place in the national states themselves. It will be important to maintain high standards. The hon. Lady and I have exchanged views on that matter in other situations, and I know that she will continue to hold me and the Government to account on these matters. The steps that we are taking in this legislation will bring across powers that are currently in the EU so that we can do what currently takes place. The only thing that is different is the market authorisations. We are requiring those entities to have a market presence in the UK, but at a very low cost. That is the approach we felt was most appropriate to get the balance right.
The Government are committed to ensuring continued levels of protection for human and animal health, as well as making it straightforward for businesses to put medicines and relevant food products on the market, ensuring that UK businesses and individuals continue to have access to a range of veterinary medicines. This instrument will help to maintain the established veterinary medicines and residues surveillance regimes, and will ensure that an effective regulatory framework for veterinary medicines is in place. This instrument does no more than is appropriate to remedy deficiencies in law arising from leaving the EU. For the reasons I have set out, I commend this statutory instrument to the Committee.
I thank the hon. Member for Workington for her contribution, which as usual was thoughtful and thorough. I will respond to some of the points she made. It is obviously vital that we continue to access science. The good news is that the Veterinary Medicines Directorate is regarded as an EU leader in veterinary medicines assessment and has considerable expertise already. We will make sure that it continues to meet that high standard—regardless of what we decide in Parliament today, or over the next few days—so that we have access to the very best.
It is also important to recognise antimicrobial resistance, which the hon. Lady rightly highlighted. As she knows, because we have talked about this in other debates, there will have been an overall reduction in antibiotics sales of 25% between 2016 and 2020, owing to the implementation of livestock-specific targets, which is good. New objectives will be defined by 2021, to sustain longer-term progress. Good progress is being made there.
The hon. Lady asked some challenging questions about the effect of all the legislative changes. I have to say that I do not have the answers to all of them.
I will do my very best to give the best possible estimates in answer to those questions. I was going to say that a lot of different factors need to be brought into play here. It is not just about the legislation but about market risk and people’s appetite for the changes that are going on and for the things that we will vote on in just a few hours’ time.
However, I assure the hon. Lady that I have been working closely with the Department for Transport and other Government Departments to ensure the continued supply of vet meds, which will be vital not only for pet owners but for agriculture as well. In the prioritisation that has taken place, medicines for human consumption stand out as key, but right next to that is veterinary medicines. They have a strong place in our priorities, and the Government have been working to ensure their continued supply, which I hope reassures the hon. Lady and many others. Again, we will have to wait and see what the House decides today, which will have quite an influence on what goes on.
I hope I have dealt with most of the issues that the hon. Lady raised. With her permission, I will come back to her on the wider concerns and with an estimate of the wider costs. I hope that Committee members now more fully understand the need for the draft regulations and the need to maintain the operability and consistency of our legislation after leaving the EU. For the reasons I have set out, I once again commend the draft instrument to the Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
(10 months, 2 weeks ago)Read Full debate
It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Mr Gray. I am grateful to the Liaison Committee for determining as the subject of the debate the EFRA Committee’s report on controlling dangerous dogs and the Government response to it. I am also grateful for the thoughtful and considered contributions that have been made in this debate, which although not one of quantity, has certainly been one of quality. I know that those contributions have been made with conviction, first-hand experience and considerable passion, not least that of my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Paris), which is characteristic of him.
I will provide some information on the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the Government’s position on breed-specific legislation. The 1991 Act does two things: it provides offences in connection with fighting dogs and offences in connection with dog attacks on people and other animals. Section 1 prohibits four types of fighting dogs: pit bull terriers, Japanese tosa, Fila Brasileiro and Dogo Argentino.
Pit bulls have been associated with a number of serious attacks on people and it was decided that action should be taken against their ownership. Fundamentally, the 1991 Act is about public safety. Under that Act, it is an offence to breed from, sell or exchange those dogs. Courts can allow owners to keep prohibited dogs if they are not a danger to public safety, taking account of the dog’s temperament and of the intended keeper, who must have had substantial prior responsibility for the dog.
(1 year, 3 months ago)Read Full debate
Yes, that is really important. I think my right hon. Friend will also welcome our commitment to ensure that we will see 1 million more trees in our towns and cities. Trees play a vital role not just in the countryside and more generally but in our towns and close to urban areas.
That is an important issue. Natural England is focusing carefully on the SSSIs that are most at risk and will ensure that those resources are targeted, for maximum impact in those vital areas.
(1 year, 3 months ago)Read Full debate
I thank my hon. Friend for his questions. As I have said, we are taking this review forward at pace, and it is now being accelerated so that we can take forward a review of food standards and food labelling at real pace.
The other thing that we have been doing—clearly, in the light of these cases, we need to do more—is to make consumers and businesses aware of the options available, particularly to consumers. It is worth highlighting that we need to find ways of communicating to 16 to 24-year-olds, who are very vulnerable, the ways in which they can find the important information that they need when making food choices.
I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. She makes penetrating points, as always. As the father of a daughter with allergy problems, I assure her that I take such things incredibly seriously. I have recently come to this post—we have worked together on issues such as the ivory ban—and she can rest assured that I will be taking this matter up with the utmost seriousness and will tackle it as a matter of urgency.
(1 year, 6 months ago)Read Full debate
As I said in the DEFRA announcement—I am pleased that my hon. Friend has given me the opportunity to underline this—the consultation would start on or as soon as practicable after Royal Assent. The commencement of the Bill will be around six months afterwards. Importantly, the consultation will take place at the point of or close to—as soon as practicable—Royal Assent. We will then move forward with the consultation and, assuming that the evidence shows that it is right to put forward the statutory instrument and include certain species that we have talked about, we can then move forward on a quicker timescale than has been set out—[Interruption.] From a sedentary position, I heard the hon. Member for Workington suggesting that we do it straightaway, which is a lovely thought and I understand her intention. However, the key thing that I am trying to stress is pace. Let us make sure that the Bill is compliant as well. I say gently to Opposition Members—I know that they are committed to pressing the new clause to a vote—that we want to make sure that the Bill is compliant, and given the focus and commitment that we have all given to the Bill, it is not right for there to be any risk, not just to the future of the delegated powers, but to the Bill as a whole by putting such provisions in it. That is what I ask Members to consider as we move to the vote.
We have already talked about new clause 1, but let me just add further weight to the arguments around it. It is clear that this new clause will place the Secretary of State under a duty to lay an affirmative procedure within 12 months of clause 35 coming into force. It would extend the prohibition on dealing elephant ivory to ivory from CITES-listed species, so it does not go as far as the approach that the Government have set out.
As I said, the Government intend to consult on the extension of the ban and to conduct analysis of the impact that this may have on individuals and business. The new clause, however, presupposes or prejudges the outcome of that important work and would remove the opportunity for the public to provide evidence. It would oblige the Government to extend the prohibition to CITES species, even if the evidence does not support it. For some or all of the species listed in the new clause, that could mean that the regulations may not be compliant with the European convention on human rights and could be challenged on that basis. Given that explanation, I very much hope that in her concluding remarks the hon. Member for Workington will consider withdrawing her new clause.
During the debate, a number of other issues have been raised and I will turn briefly to some of them. The hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley) has made points about resources and cyber-security. I assure her that this is obviously a key area of focus and priority for the Government. The National Wildlife Crime Unit and Border Force do a fantastic job and we are committed to making sure that they have the resources to take this work forward. Of course, the Office for Product Safety and Standards, the regulator, will have additional resources, and working together with the enforcement agencies, will ensure that the ban is enforceable and is done so well.
The hon. Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) made the point about plectrums. If they are made of mammoth and assuming that the ban extends to mammoths, they would be prohibited, but clearly, they can still be used. They can be passed on and bequeathed; they just cannot be sold commercially. He makes an excellent point about narwhals. We have exchanged correspondence and we encourage other nations to take such commitments seriously. I will gladly meet him separately to talk about Canada.
The hon. Member for Workington talked about the need for a report. We talked about this in Committee at great length. I understand why she wants a report, but the Government do not believe it to be their job to produce one, because other organisations can do so more independently, and of course there would be a cost involved as well. I therefore ask her not to press her new clause 2. With that, I thank hon. Members for their contributions on Report.
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
What a pleasure it is to move the Third Reading motion for this important Bill. It is a simple but vital piece of legislation with a clear purpose: to help save one of the world’s most magnificent animals, the elephant, from the brink of extinction at the hands of ruthless ivory poachers. The ban on the sale of elephant ivory items of all ages, with only limited exemptions, will be the strongest in Europe and among the strongest in the world. The introduction of the Bill has reaffirmed the UK’s global leadership on this critical issue, and reflects our commitment to making the abhorrent trade in ivory a thing of the past. By seeking to ensure that ivory is never seen by the poachers as a commodity for financial gain or by potential customers as a status symbol, we will protect elephants for future generations.
The Bill has been improved today by amendments made on Report that took account of the evidence put forward by expert witnesses in Committee. This is my first time taking a Bill through the House as a Minister, and I am grateful for the positive way in which Members have engaged with it as it has progressed; I hope that that spirit will continue. We can all be rightly proud of the Bill. Let me take this opportunity to thank all the non-governmental organisations, the museums, the antiques sector and the enforcement bodies for their contributions and written evidence taken and received in Committee evidence sessions.
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We will seek to do this as speedily as possible. A consultation normally lasts about 12 weeks, but, clearly, that work needs to be further reviewed, and then we can move things forward. I think that my hon. Friend can use his own process of deduction to work out that we can move this further and quicker than would have been set out by the Opposition’s amendments.
Let me conclude by thanking once again and paying tribute to the Secretary of State for his determination to introduce this Bill. I have also mentioned the important work that the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) has done in taking this Bill forward, ahead of its introduction in this House. It is also important to recognise the contributions from my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) and from my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) who set out his long-held ambitions to take this work forward. I also wish to pay particular tribute to those members of the Bill Committee who sat through various evidence sessions and made very important contributions during the Committee stage, including the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman). She made some characteristically thoughtful and considered contributions, even though we did not quite agree on some of the procedural matters. We are grateful for that constructive approach not just from Members of this House, but from representatives from conservation non-governmental organisations, from the musicians sector, from the arts and antiques sector, from the enforcement agencies and from others. I also wish to extend my thanks to our wonderful and hardworking Bill team, our private offices, our Parliamentary Private Secretaries, and the Whips who, like warthogs, can get overlooked at times. I also wish to thank the Clerks and other parliamentary staff for their sterling work and support on this issue.
It has been a real honour to take the Bill from Second Reading through to today, particularly knowing that there has been such strong support from all parties across the House. I wish the Bill safe and speedy passage through its remaining stages in the other place.
(1 year, 7 months ago)Read Full debate
I thank the hon. Lady for her careful consideration of the Bill and for this amendment, which seeks to define “facilitate” in the context of a sale of an item of ivory in breach of the prohibition on sales of ivory. I would like to reassure her, and the Committee more generally, that the amendment is not required. No definition for facilitating a breach of the prohibition was provided in the Bill, as the term “facilitate” shall have its natural meaning.
The amendment would also be misleading, as it refers solely to the sale of ivory, whereas the Bill is concerned with the broader concept of commercial dealing in ivory. The facilitation of the illegal purchase, hire or acquisition of ivory for valuable consideration—that is, bartering—is also prohibited. The wording used in the amendment is taken from the explanatory notes, as the hon. Lady set out, but those are intended to provide guidance and steer on the meaning of the Bill, not to prescribe provisions.
I share the hon. Lady’s intention that the Bill should be as clear as possible, but on this occasion I do not believe that the amendment is necessary. The current wording in the Bill is sufficient to define when an offence of breaching the prohibition through facilitation has been committed. Furthermore, the Bill’s explanatory notes are not intended to set a direction in the prohibition on dealing in ivory; they are there to assist the reader. With that explanation, I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment.
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I thank the hon. Lady for that point, and I understand her concerns. We all want to make sure that cyber-crime is cracked down on more generally, and specifically in the Bill. As I said to the hon. Member for Workington, the Bill as drafted will tackle the issue of facilitation, so we do not need a further definition. We will also debate later today the role of internet service providers, which is included in the Bill. We heard from non-governmental organisations that they are satisfied that there are strong measures in the Bill and that the ban will be strong. I assure the hon. Member for Blaydon that the provisions will tackle the concern that she rightly raises.
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As I have already described, enforcement agencies do such work all the time. They work through quite tricky situations where they have to work out the intent as well as the act itself: for example, the difference between murder and manslaughter. I am no lawyer, but there are differences in degrees. The key thing is that the Bill will push forward strict legislation. The NGOs were clear that the ban will be tough. The provisions in the Bill will enable people to be held to account. The enforcement agencies will be able to do that. As I have said, an element of proportionality and discretion is required, and that is true for the vast amount of law that enforcement agencies need to enforce.
To give another example, a person might have inherited an ornament thinking it was bone, as family members had always said that it was. The person then sells it without realising it is elephant ivory. It is difficult to say that they should have known. The enforcement agency will need to test that and work through it. Over time, it will be able to work out, through precedent and judgment, how appropriate it would be to use the range of enforcement measures that we will discuss line by line. Those measures are there to help work out proportionately how serious that particular crime is.
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The clause provides for the new offences to be created under the Bill. The new offences have been developed to capture the likely chain of actions pertaining to commercial dealing in ivory or that support commercial dealing. Directly breaching the ban, causing it to be breached or facilitating a breach are all offences under the Bill. In practice, directly breaching the ban would include dealing in a prohibited item or dealing in ivory without an exemption certificate or registration for that item. That applies equally to the seller and the buyer. Causing a breach would include someone acting under the discretion of another person, such as an auctioneer, or someone otherwise engaged on behalf of another—a person selling an item on behalf of a friend, for instance. That relates partly to the point that the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow raised earlier. The offence of facilitating a breach discussed under amendment 9 would apply, for example, to those responsible for an online sales platform if they were found not to have taken reasonable steps to prevent an illegal sale. It would also include anyone found to have advertised an item to facilitate a sale, for instance a newspaper.
Clause 12(2) ensures that it is an offence to deal in an item of ivory if the person knows, ought to have known or suspects that the substance is ivory, as we discussed at length under amendment 10. That will mean that it is less likely that a defendant can rely on a claim that they did not know that an item was ivory because the item was mislabelled. The enforcement bodies will consider the position of the person in taking a view on whether they should have known or suspected the item was ivory, for instance whether the person is an antiques dealer or a member of the public, as I have said several times.
Clause 12(3) ensures that actions taken by individuals and organisations to exercise due diligence and avoid committing an offence should be taken into account and can be used as a defence. For example, a buyer of a prohibited ivory item may be able to demonstrate that they checked that the item was registered and that the registration appeared authentic before they making purchase, and an organisation that listed a prohibited item for sale, for example online or in a sale room, may be able to demonstrate that it had taken steps to check that it had been registered and that the registration appeared authentic.
Recognising that offences committed under the Bill will vary in severity, a mixed regime of criminal and civil sanctions will apply. Clause 12(4) details the criminal sanctions that are applicable to the offences. We are committed to setting a high bar for sanctions for illegal wildlife trade activities and, as such, the maximum criminal sanction of five years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine will be applied in line with existing sanctions under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997—COTES.
The clause also provides for summary convictions through a magistrates court to be applied in line with the maximum sanctions applicable in each of the devolved Administrations. The regulatory body, the Office for Product Safety and Standards, and the police will be responsible for identifying and investigating breaches of the ban. Criminal breaches will be dealt with by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service and the specific nature of the breach will be considered when a sanction is applied, to ensure a proportionate approach is adopted, as discussed earlier.
We recognise that the defences under existing legislation, such as the Serious Organised Crime Act and Police Act 2005 and the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, may apply to illegal dealing in ivory. The Bill will rely on the existing offences, where the appropriate criteria are met. For example, it would be an offence under the Fraud Act 2006 to make or use a fraudulent exemption certificate or registration.
New clause 3, which the hon. Member for Workington tabled, raises the critical issue of ensuring effective enforcement, a theme she has understandably been keen to raise this morning. I can assure the Committee that the issue is of foremost concern to the Government, as reflected in the strength of the powers we have conferred on the police, customs and the civilian enforcement body—the Office for Product Safety and Standards—to ensure compliance with the ban and to prosecute those who breach it. Effective enforcement is, of course, reliant on the appropriate resources, and I give credit to the police, including the National Wildlife Crime Unit and the Border Force for their efforts to date in tacking the abhorrent trade.
In the oral evidence to the Committee we heard that the CITES Border Force team is recognised as one of the best in the world at enforcing controls against the illegal wildlife trade. Moreover, both the Border Force team and the National Wildlife Crime Unit share their expertise with countries all over the world. It is paramount that the available resources are effectively used to enforce the ban.
Our proposals go further than the current regime by putting a civilian regulator in place to enforce the ban, alongside the police and the Border Force. The regulator will raise awareness of the ban and the compliance provisions and assess whether businesses are operating in compliance with the legislation. That will reduce the burden on the enforcement agencies by increasing compliance. The regulator will also be responsible for issuing civil sanctions, which are new in the Bill.
In developing and implementing the compliance processes necessary for the ban, the Government will assess the resources required and monitor their effective application over time. It will be a matter for the Home Office to allocate and monitor the police resources necessary for the enforcement of the ban, and the National Wildlife Crime Unit will play an important role. It will also be critical to assess the enforcement of the ban over time, including the number of cases successfully brought and the sentences applied.
We do not believe that the resources assessment should be included in the Bill. It would also be unhelpful for a single assessment to be made 12 months after clause 12 comes into force. That is because it is likely that different levels of resources will be required in the early stages of enforcement and as implementation progresses, for example, as awareness-raising exercises are carried out to improve awareness among those affected. Such an assessment would also not capture a sufficient period following the Bill’s coming into force. For example, it would not cover an assessment of court cases and rulings brought forward as a result of the ban.
The Government will assess the implementation of the ban over time, in particular its enforcement, as a matter of course. Much of this information will be in the public domain and open to civil society and to public scrutiny.
In summary, we do not believe this matter needs to be addressed in the Bill and a one-off assessment will not be sufficient. With this explanation, I ask the hon. Lady not to press her new clause.
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I set out in our discussion on clause 12 that a mixed regime of criminal and civil sanctions will be applied to the offences under the Bill. In line with that approach, clause 13 ensures that civil sanctions may be applied to breaches of the ban. The civil sanctions are detailed in schedule 1. We recognise that offences made under the Bill may vary in severity. Overly harsh sanctions should not be applied in a way that could be deemed to be disproportionate. For example, where members of the public have genuinely made every effort to abide by the ban or are genuinely of the belief that the item is not ivory, it would clearly be inappropriate to levy criminal sanctions.
However, compliance with the ban cannot be seen as optional. Acts of non-compliance must be deterred and penalised with the appropriate level of sanction. That is critical if we are to meet our objective of ending the link between the UK ivory market and elephant poaching. The clause ensures that, where a criminal sanction is unwarranted, a range of civil sanctions may be applied. The regulatory body and the police will be responsible for identifying and investigating breaches of the ban. The regulatory body will be responsible for issuing civil sanctions, as I described earlier.
If an offender does not comply with a civil sanction imposed against them—for example, if they do not pay the monetary penalty imposed against them within the necessary period—they may be subject to criminal sanctions. The Government believe that the range of available sanctions reflects the seriousness of the ban, while allowing it to be proportionate. I commend the clause to the Committee.
I understand the hon. Lady’s concern about getting this right. I can assure her that there will be further clarification on these points in the guidance. The point is well made, but it will be in the guidance.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 13 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 1 agreed to.
Power to stop and search persons
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. Of course, there will be a strong training regime to ensure that these individuals are able to carry out their current role and we want to ensure that they have adequate training to take on new roles related to the ivory prohibition. I will write to him with details of how that will be moved forward.
The Bill is clear that the powers given to the body and its members will be strictly controlled. The relationship with customs officers and police officers is tightly defined. As for the number of times it will be used, we are putting more focus on civil sanctions. The key point is that officers or members of the OPSS will need these powers to carry out their work and move matters through. The hon. Lady will note that clause 17 requires the OPSS to issue reasonable notice of intent to enter. The move to enter premises is not just to search; it can also be to ensure compliance. It is important to remember that the job of the OPSS is to help educate and train as well as ensure compliance and enforcement. It is a matter of thinking about their role more broadly. In many situations, as set out in the Bill, reasonable notice will be required.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 17 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 18 and 19 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Schedule 2 agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 26 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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I reassure my hon. Friend that we are not looking to skimp, and we must of course ensure proper training. I will write to him, as I have already promised. We are all getting our heads around a new regime, but I assure the Committee that it is not unprecedented for OPSS to exercise powers under legislation; it falls under the remit of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and, as I have said, it has these powers already in relation to the Consumer Rights Act 2015. We want to ensure that it has the proper powers and that there is proper training, because of the implications.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 27 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 28 to 34 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Meaning of “ivory”
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(1 year, 7 months ago)Read Full debate
I will speak to amendments 11 and 12 and clause stand part. I warn colleagues that this will be a lengthy contribution, but that is fitting, given the contributions we have heard. I will take interventions, and I know that the hon. Member for Workington will wrap up with her final thoughts. She made a few detailed points about consultation, and the fact that she is an associate of the Consultation Institute and is taking guidance and advice from it. We would be happy to look into that. As a Minister, I need to take guidance from other sources within Government too, so there are often different views on these matters. We will of course look at that.
The hon. Member for Leeds North West spoke with passion and conviction about narwhals, and he made some good points. I will write to him with the details on imports. The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport talked about the risk of judicial review. Perhaps he could hold that thought, because in the main body of my remarks I will talk about the biggest risk here, which is of the European Court of Human Rights challenging the provisions in the Bill. We can answer questions as we go. I thank hon. Members for their amendments and would like to acknowledge the significant degree of support, in the House and from conservation organisations, for extending the scope of the Bill to cover other species.
Clause 35 provides the definition of ivory applied in the Bill. Ivory is defined as the tusk or tooth of any species of elephant. Subsection (6) defines elephant as any animal or species that is within the family Elephantidae and that is extant—meaning living—at the time the Bill is passed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Witney questioned whether we should be looking at the chemical composition of ivory, so let us put that on the table as well, as we are all keen to understand the situation. The chemical composition of ivory cannot be used here, or indeed in the CITES or EU wildlife trade regulations, to assist in defining elephant ivory. That is because the chemical composition of all mammal teeth is broadly the same, so this is not a helpful method for distinguishing between species. Instead, a range of other approaches is used to distinguish elephant ivory from other species and other materials such as plastic, including physical characteristics and DNA testing. Therefore, chemical composition or any other practical means of testing ivory cannot be used as a legal definition for elephant ivory, either in the Bill or in international restrictions on ivory, with which it is important that we align.
Many will ask why back in October we consulted only on the sale of elephant ivory. We have moved quickly—not just in this Committee but before—but the short answer is that that is where the clear priority lay at the start. As we heard so clearly from the NGOs last week, their primary aim is to see a world-leading ban on elephant ivory sales enacted in the UK. That is where the Government have acted quickly in response. Also, the UK signed up to a resolution at the last CITES conference committing to close domestic elephant ivory markets. We therefore wanted to do what was necessary to get this legislation on to the statute book as soon as possible.
Elephant ivory is the most commonly found and traded form of ivory. Indeed, during initial consultations with NGOs it was stated that their primary focus was on banning the sale of elephant ivory as it forms the vast majority of the trade. Amendment 11 seeks to protect other endangered ivory-bearing species by extending the scope of the Bill to cover hippos, killer whales, narwhal, sperm whales and walrus. I stress that we share these concerns about other endangered ivory-bearing species and want to do all we can to protect them. Species such as the hippo and the narwhal—the unicorn of the sea—deserve as much protection as the elephant, and the poaching of such creatures for their ivory is equally abhorrent. However, I cannot say what proportion of the UK ivory market concerns non-elephant ivory, as we did not seek that information in our consultation—that consultation was narrower.
That is why the Bill includes, in clause 35, a power for the Secretary of State to lay regulations to widen its scope to cover other endangered ivory-bearing species, such as hippopotamus, narwhal and walrus. That power is broad, and it is not dependent on demonstrating that the banning of elephant ivory has caused the displacement of the market to other species. The hurdle is low.
Clause 35(3) states that regulations may be laid only in respect of ivory-bearing species listed on an appendix to CITES. That is an important qualification. A listing in one of the three appendices to CITES demonstrates that the animal or species requires a degree of protection from trade, for example through restrictions on the trade in that species. Currently, the listed ivory-bearing species to which that may apply are hippopotamus, walrus, killer whale, sperm whale and narwhal. Unfortunately for my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset and the hon. Member for Bristol East, the Bill does not include walruses, but I will come to them in a second.
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I completely understand that. I think we need to pause for a moment, though, to reflect on the fact that we are trying to make a real difference with elephant ivory. There are provisions for all other forms of ivory and I will take away the hon. Lady’s point, but it is worth reflecting on the evidence we had from the NGOs, which was that they like the ban, that it is meaningful that and it is going to make a difference. It will also set a standard for others to follow.
I am sure Opposition Members as well as the Government will reflect on these matters. We will do everything we can to make these provisions as wide-ranging and impactful as possible. As I hope I have described, we need to get through a balance test, and at the moment we do not have enough evidence to support a balance review taking place.
Should warthogs become endangered and listed under CITES, the Bill provides the ability to amend the regulations to reflect that. With my rather lengthy explanation, I hope I have addressed most of the points to be made regarding clause stand part. I say to my hon. Friends and Opposition Members that I am committed to considering whether steps can be taken to use the subsection (3) powers as soon as possible after commencement so that all statutory instruments and guidance to enforce the ban on elephant ivory are in place. However, I am happy to consider the evidence and data required for a balance review.
The key point is that this is not about judicial review. I know I am getting a bit techy, but the key thing is that it would be a challenge under the European convention on human rights. To satisfy the requirements of the ECHR, we need to review whether we have looked not just at the general interest in the ban but in the rights of individuals, in particular to do with possessions, that are enshrined in the ECHR. That is why we have to do the balance test. What I am trying to get across to the Committee is that we need to ensure that we have the evidence—we want to gather it as quickly as possible—but there is still a requirement to do the balance test.
I thank the hon. Lady for setting out her view. At this point, I think we strongly agree with each other. On helping to get people familiar with the provisions, that is exactly what the Government say—it is an ECHR requirement, so it is about getting the fair balance review in place. We are perhaps using slightly different language about what we are trying to describe, but we are saying the same thing.
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. The answer is that it will not. I can write to him to give him a bit more detail as to why that is the case.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 40 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 41 to 42 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
New Clause 1
Reporting requirements: Exemption certificates
‘(1) As soon as reasonably practicable after the end of each calendar year, the Secretary of State must—
(a) prepare a report on applications for exemption certificates that have been granted during that year, and—
(i) lay a copy of that report before Parliament, and
(ii) publish the report.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to a year if section 3 of this Act has not been in force at any time in that year.
(3) A report prepared under this section must include the following in respect of each exemption certificate granted—
(a) the description or descriptions provided in accordance with section 3(1)(b) by the person that applied for the exemption certificate,
(b) the photograph or photographs provided in accordance with section 3(1)(c) by the person that applied for the exemption certificate,
(c) when the certificate was granted, and
(d) any other information that the Secretary of State considers appropriate.’—(Sue Hayman.)
This new clause requires an annual report to be published with details and pictures of all items that are granted an exemption certificate under section 3.
Brought up, and read the First time.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.
I thank the hon. Lady for tabling the new clause, the intention of which is clear, and it would potentially provide useful information. However, gaining such information could be a considerable and potentially expensive undertaking that is likely to require the engagement of outside experts or organisations, even though the full costs and benefits of this ban may not be fully known within the first 12 months of its coming into force.
As explained in the accompanying impact assessment of the Bill, no single comprehensive data source exists about the domestic ivory trade. Recent studies, including by TRAFFIC, the University of Portsmouth and Two Million Tusks have provided some useful evidence. However, each of these sources has its limitations with regard to generalising to wider regions or sectors.
Internationally, a key assumption is that other countries will be positively influenced by the UK lead and implement their own bans, which will reduce demand, prices, and therefore the poaching and killing of elephants. That is what we all want. However, while there have been many reports into various aspects of ivory and its trade—the UK has conducted some—I am not aware that there is a single comprehensive data source that would allow for the type of analysis that is being proposed.
Furthermore, I am conscious that such an undertaking may in effect duplicate some of the work being undertaken under the auspices of CITES, whereby reports on the illegal killing of elephants and the trade in ivory are presented every three years to each CITES conference of the parties. All countries implicated in the ivory trade, including the UK, appear in the cluster analysis of the ivory trade reports.
Those reports are “Monitoring of Illegal Trade in Ivory and Other Elephant Specimens” and the “Elephant Trade Information System”—ETIS. While the reports are the not perfect and have their critics, they are the best we have at this time.
I also believe that a report objectively analysing the effect of the illegal ivory trade on the UK would be best carried out by an organisation outside Government. That should probably be a conservation organisation experienced in analysing regulations on the illegal wildlife trade and in reporting its findings to the public and the Government.
I understand the hon. Lady’s point. It was clear on Second Reading and in Committee that we have to appreciate the wider sense of what is going on and the wider global implications. We also have to recognise that the Bill is one piece of the co-ordinated approach that we are taking to tackling this problem.
I thank the hon. Lady for tabling the new clause. Most people recognise that while the internet can be a helpful tool, it can also be used to facilitate and perpetuate criminal acts. In that context, I understand the intention of the new clause. Paragraph 5(1)(a) of schedule 1 allows the Secretary of State to serve a stop notice on a body such as an internet service provider to stop it displaying material that facilitates a breach of the prohibition. It is an important point. It is possible to serve a stop notice, and that in essence mirrors what the new clause seeks to achieve. The schedule could apply to an online sales forum such as eBay or an internet service provider, although in practice the latter, whether it be British Telecom or another internet service provider, would be a higher bar for the enforcement body. The better focus of attention through such stop notices would be the online sales forum itself.
Moreover, the Bill confers broad powers on the regulatory body, whose role should not be forgotten: the Office for Product Safety and Standards addresses online breaches of the ban. Clause 21, for example, allows a regulator to require the production of documents where the officer thinks they are relevant to an offence. This may mean documents or other materials from online companies and sales forums that provide evidence that an online company has facilitated a breach of the ban.
In addition, the NWCU is an intelligence unit that plays an important role in supporting police forces, as we have already highlighted. They have observed an increase in the use of the internet to enable and facilitate many types of wildlife crime. They have identified cyber-crime as a thematic threat area on which they are going to focus. Working with the OPSS will help with this task.
It is also worth considering this amendment with respect to the broader picture around the governance of the internet. The hon. Lady will know that this is a big, important question that is currently being addressed by the UK and Governments around the world. The way in which Government and society approach internet governance is a major strategic challenge, and it will not be tackled by this Bill alone. In January 2018, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport launched the digital charter. It is to be a rolling programme of work to agree norms and rules for the online world and put them into practice, and it should give confidence. In some cases it will involve shifting behavioural expectations. We will need to agree new standards, or we may need to update our laws and regulations. Our starting point is that we will have the same rights and expect the same behaviour online as we do offline. That is important. With that explanation, I ask the hon. Lady to consider withdrawing the motion.
It is my turn to scurry around. I cannot readily find the definition of “person”. All I can say is that we are very committed—[Interruption.] Inspiration has arrived. The definition of “person” is wide enough to capture businesses, and therefore ISPs. We can see that from clause 34. The definition of “person” is broad enough to satisfy that requirement.
Excellent points have been made. We will certainly clarify that and put it into English—not just legal English—to help everyone understand what has been said. We can do that in guidance notes and by clarifying the scope of the Bill for people who are not so familiar with it. There is a real commitment to address this issue. I hope I have been able to reassure the hon. Lady that there are provisions in the Bill itself, but that we will explain that better. I hope that satisfies her.
(1 year, 7 months ago)Read Full debate
There is a risk that that could happen, but the Bill covers it, and we will look at that issue in further stages as we go through the Bill, line by line.
Subsection (5) provides a simple definition of ivory in relation to its prohibition by the Bill, capturing that “ivory” covers items made solely of ivory or worked items containing ivory. The clause is integral to banning the dealing of ivory in the UK and to achieving our aims: removing the UK from international trade in ivory; and not fuelling international ivory markets.
For those reasons, I seek the support of members of the Committee and I move that this clause stand part.
I thank the hon. Lady for those questions. It is worth reiterating the point about the so-called swapping of pieces of ivory. So that Members on both sides of the Committee understand, that would be considered bartering, because it would be exchanging for a valuable consideration, so it would be prohibited.
The point about museum loans is a very good one, which was raised in our excellent evidence session. Loans between accredited museums, or from a private owner to an accredited museum, would be considered hiring and therefore would be permitted under the terms in the Bill for museums.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Pre-1918 items of outstanding artistic etc value and importance
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. The Bill provides for that. The hon. Member for Workington raised some interesting questions around this, which we will debate shortly. For the reasons that my hon. Friend set out, agents will have the ability to get involved in that process.
I thank the hon. Lady for those points. On updating the list, yes, those powers will absolutely be available through delegated powers. On removing bodies from that list, yes, the Secretary of State will absolutely have that power if required. Let us hope it is not.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Applications for exemption certificates
I understand that the amendment’s intention is to clarify that only an owner of an item can apply for an exemption certificate. However, although I understand the point that the hon. Lady makes, I do not think the amendment is appropriate. It is the Government’s intention that the application for an exemption certificate under clause 2 will be completed by the owner or by somebody acting on behalf of the owner. This is intended to take into account the owner’s circumstances; the owner may have instructed an agent to act on their behalf, or the owner may not be capable of completing the registration process—due to illness, for instance—so a family member may be able to do so on their behalf.
Subsection (1)(a) states that the name and address of the owner must be stipulated on an exemption application, which reflects the concerns that prompted the tabling of the amendment. Under clause 10, the item is registered using the owner’s details. The primary intention of the clause is to ensure that items meet the criteria for the applicable exemption. The identity of the person making the application is much less significant than ensuring that items containing ivory that should be prohibited from dealings are restricted from the market. For those reasons, I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment.
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I thank the hon. Lady for her suggestions in the two amendments. On amendment 2, we would all agree that a declaration of a conflict of interest is a necessary requirement in many areas. I do not, however, believe that the amendment is necessary, as I hope I will be able reassure the hon. Lady, because we intend to take measures to that effect.
Clause 3 provides for the certification process that applies to pre-1918 items of outstanding artistic value and importance, and takes into account whether the item is rare and the extent to which it is important. The clause also sets out the role of the designated assessor. Our aim is to appoint eminent museums and academic institutions to act as assessors for the exemption. We are in discussion with some of those institutions. We have built safeguards into the process by which they will be able to provide advice. We intend that the institution and assessor will be asked to sign a waiver before accepting a commission to assess an item from APHA to confirm that they have no commercial interest in that item. The final decision whether an item meets an exemption will fall to the Secretary of State through the APHA.
On amendment 3, it is feasible that an institution asked to assess an item might wish to acquire it for its own collection, thus leading to a potential conflict of interest. Additionally, the pool of owners and collectors of such items will clearly be small. In some cases, the assessing expert might even know the owner through seeing the item. We therefore intend that advisory institutions and the assessors that they appoint to assess an item will sign a waiver to the effect that they have no interest in purchasing an item when accepting a request to assess it. Obviously, that will be a very small set of circumstances because, as we heard in the evidence session on Tuesday, the number of transactions will be very small. With that explanation, I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment.
I will seek some inspiration to ensure that the hon. Member for Workington, which is an incredibly nice part of the world—
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My goodness! I do not think I can disagree with a word of that. We are forever grateful. Indeed, I am genuinely grateful for the conversations that we have had outside the Committee and elsewhere. We are all trying to progress the Bill, and these questions are absolutely right.
The point made by the hon. Member for Redcar is particularly interesting and I would like to consider it further. We would all agree that we want museums to be able to acquire important items for public enjoyment, so we need to further understand the implications of the point she raised.
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As I was saying, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, on behalf of the Secretary of State, will check that all necessary information has been completed and that the application is reasonable. For example, if the application is clearly for an item that is not pre-1918, that will not be considered reasonable and it will be rejected. If satisfied, the APHA will refer the application to an appropriate designated assessor, provided for under clause 2. Although the application’s initial stages will be similar to those for the self-registration system—submitting requested information via the online system—the certification process diverges significantly, as the information provided will be passed by APHA to one of the listed prescribed institutions for expert advice, as discussed earlier.
As we discussed in response to amendments 2 and 3, the institution will be required to confirm via a waiver that it has no commercial interest in the item before accepting a commission. That is to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. The assessor, as a relevant expert, will be best qualified to assess the item against the conditions of the exemption. APHA will then decide whether to issue an exemption certificate, taking into account all relevant factors, including the expert assessor’s advice.
When making an application, the applicant must pay a fee as set by the Secretary of State through regulations. In practice, the set fee will be paid to cover the application’s administration costs. If referred to an expert assessor, an additional fee will be paid to cover reasonable costs incurred by the assessor. The additional fee will be considerably higher than the fee applicable to the self-registration process, reflecting the specialist advice needed and the limited number of unique items for which the process is designed to cater.
I thank the hon. Member for Workington for tabling new clause 1. Clause 10(5) sets out the minimum information and evidence that the Secretary of State must record with regard to both successful and revoked exemptions to applications. That information includes a description of the item and photographs and expected dealings in the item. Furthermore, statutory guidance to be published before the Bill comes into force may stipulate further information requirements to be captured. The Government share the hon. Lady’s aim of being informative to the public and agree that being as transparent as possible about how the system is working in practice will be essential to ensuring public confidence in it. As such, I assure her and the Committee that we already intend to publish headline data on the number of exemption certificates issued each year for items exempted under clause 2.
I will, however, issue a note of caution with regard to publishing the information described in subsections 3(a) to (d) of the new clause. The exemption will apply to a very limited number of outstandingly important items. As such, and particularly when considering the small number of people who are likely to own and wish to sell such items, it is highly possible that the owner may be identifiable through the publication of photos and so on of an item, which would have serious repercussions in terms of personal privacy and data protection. Any information that the Government publish on annual exemptions must be fully in line with the Data Protection Act 2018. In the light of the assurances that the Government intend to publish information on the number of certificates issued, and with reference to the provisions of the Data Protection Act, I ask the hon. Lady not to press the new clause.
I thank the hon. Lady for her points. She makes an important point—[Interruption.]
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The hon. Lady makes a good point. We are trying to get the right balance between privacy and transparency. That is a real challenge in lots of legislation. I also point out that items that are registered, as opposed to certified, will come under clause 10. We will publish data on those items as well.
We are looking at ways of making it as transparent as possible, but the issue with the rarest and most important items is that they are more easily identifiable with an individual than items in some other categories, which is why it might be more difficult in this area than in others. I hope that explanation is helpful. We will do everything we can to try to bring transparency. We are very committed to doing that, and I will work with officials, while the Bill is in Committee and beyond, to see how we can make that more definitive.
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Mr Pritchard, I think we need a bit more clarification. We want to ensure that everybody is clear.
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I thank the hon. Lady for her amendment, which recognises an important issue: to ensure that, through our legislation, we do not create any loopholes—something she is keen to avoid, as we all are—that could be exploited by those wishing to circumvent the ivory ban and continue to trade ivory illegally. I understand the concern that an individual might exploit the provision to issue replacement certificates under the exemption for the rarest and most important items. Such an individual might, for example, fraudulently use replacement exemption certificates for non-exempt items.
However, we clearly heard from the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum that items exempted under clause 2 will necessarily be unique pieces, meaning that there is an exceedingly low risk that a certificate, which will include a photograph, can be used fraudulently for another item, because they are so unique. I must first say that such an action would of course be an offence under the Fraud Act 2006 and might be subject to criminal sanctions, a custodial sentence or a criminal fine. I also want to reassure the hon. Lady that the process an individual must follow to request a replacement will be carefully developed with APHA, alongside other online application processes required for the implementation of the Bill.
As stated in the Bill, a replacement certificate will be issued only if the original has been lost, the original is not passed on by the original owner when the item is sold, or for any other reason the APHA considers appropriate. It is expected that the owner will need to submit an application to request a replacement and declare why a replacement is required. The APHA will compare information provided by the owner against the database of exempt items to ensure that the item in question has indeed been issued a certificate in the past.
A unique identification number will be included on the certificate, which associates it with the exempt item. Certificates will also include the photographs of the item originally submitted when applying for the exemption and a narrative description of the item. Given the nature of items exempted under this category, it is highly unlikely that there would be another item of such close similarity that it could reasonably be taken to be covered by the certificate issued for another item—they are so distinct and different. That will ensure that prospective buyers and enforcement agencies will be able to check that items for sale are compliant with the ban, and will therefore allow any fraudulent activity to be identified by enforcement agencies and the appropriate sanctions to be applied. With that explanation, I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment.
Excuse me. It is the Animal and Plant Health Agency. There are a lot of acronyms.
I think we are all learning through this process, and Committee stage is about getting into the details and ensuring that we get the right answers to those important questions. The APHA and the enforcement bodies will have full access to the database of exemption certificates, and we have full confidence that they will consider applications for replacements—there will not be many—very sensibly, with reference to the history of applications for that item. The point that I think the hon. Lady was making is whether the enforcement bodies will be engaged in creating the guidance. She is nodding from a sedentary position. My understanding is that we will involve those bodies as well. We want the best expertise to ensure that this process is as watertight as possible.
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Those are more good questions. I explained a little bit in my remarks—I apologise if I ran through them too quickly. An example would be if a certificate was lost or not passed on appropriately from the original owner when the item was sold. There are situations in which that can happen, and we need to be open to that; we live in a world where people lose things. The hon. Lady makes an important point about tracking. That is where the APHA will be able to log the number of replacements and take the appropriate action. If there is a pattern of behaviour that looks odd, obviously it will be on to that.
The important thing to bear in mind as we go through the Bill is that we are spending a lot of time on the most important areas. It feels like this is a big category, but actually there is a very small number of items. In this particular category it will be much easier to track patterns of behaviour than it would be in some others.
I await a little inspiration on that point, but it is worth pointing out that the Secretary of State can revoke a certificate if he has cause to do so. Some people might not have focused on that. If there is a pattern of behaviour, certificates can be revoked. That is an important point to consider. On the point about the number of replacements that have been put into the public domain and whether that will be published, we certainly will consider that.
This is a real-time conversation—that is what we are here for. Some very good points have been made. I hope that the hon. Lady will gain some reassurance from what I have said; bodies will review the certificates and the replacements will be tracked. On behalf of the Government, I will give due consideration to the proposal for publication. Law enforcement agencies will track this, as they can share and exchange information under the Data Protection Act. That is another layer of protection. We all want a tight system. The steps to achieve that have been set out in this clause.
Clause 5 makes provision for an owner of an ivory item either to make a fresh application for an exemption certificate under clause 3, where the Secretary of State has revoked a previously issued certificate under clause 4, which we spoke about, or to appeal the Secretary of State’s decision to refuse a previous application.
The clause simply sets out that any reapplication for an exemption certificate will be treated as a new or fresh application. It will follow the same procedure as set out in clause 3, and will incur the same fees. The clause gives the Secretary of State a delegated power to set in regulations provisions for an appeals process against a decision to refuse an application or to revoke an exemption certificate. The appeals process will give individuals the right to a fair hearing by an independent and impartial panel. That is consistent with article 6 of the European convention on human rights. A recent example of an appeals process that is article 6-compliant and, like the Ivory Bill process, is outlined in secondary legislation, is section 48(3)(f) of the Children and Social Work Act 2017, which allows appeals when courses for mental healthcare professionals are not approved.
Any appeals process is intended to incur fees that are reasonable and proportionate to the cost of dealing with the appeals. Our intention is to establish an appeals process through regulations before the Bill is commenced.
As the hon. Lady says, we need an appeals process. It must be efficient—we do not want logjams—and the relevant bodies must be fully sighted of the appeals so that they can spot any trends that look odd and take appropriate action. The design is very important. The process will be established before the Bill is commenced.
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I thank the hon. Lady for filling that time, which shows true co-operation. We are trying to get answers to these questions on both sides. I really appreciate that. I will try one more time to explain the process. Forgive me if I have not been as clear as I should have been. Initially an individual or the owner makes an application, which is refused. The appeal is then considered by a separate new assessor once. Separately, an owner may make a new application and pay the fee again, but after the appeal has been heard.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 5 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Pre-1918 portrait miniatures
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Perhaps finishing the point I am trying to make will clarify the matter for the hon. Lady, and I will then go on to the point about the frames. I am grateful for the amendment, and I also note the helpful detail from Philip Mould & Company given during the evidence session. We will continue to consider this issue fully.
I assure the hon. Lady that the Government will give it full consideration, as I said. This is one point in the Bill’s passage. We will give full consideration to what has been said in Committee today and in the evidence sessions.
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We will give that full consideration. I understand the point that hon. Members have made, that including a definition would add greater clarity. We will make that definition as clear as possible. However, as I have said several times now, the point has been made very clearly by Members on both sides of the Committee and we will give it full consideration.
I understand that the hon. Lady’s enthusiasm knows no bounds; she is very passionate, as we all are, but I think she understands that there are formal processes that need to be gone through as part of the legislative process, and there will be moments at which these points can be given full consideration as the Bill progresses over the next few weeks.
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. I hope I have provided some reassurance to Members on both sides of the Committee that we are taking the matter seriously. I have never said that we are giving something serious consideration as often as I have in the past couple of minutes, and clearly my voice and tone are not as reassuring to people as they should be, but in the spirit of what we are trying to achieve, I hope that Members understand that important points were made in evidence, and there are processes that need to be undergone. Members have made important points in Committee about ifs, buts and maybes, and they need to be worked through, but I make a commitment that we shall give the matter proper consideration, with the right expertise, and move forward as quickly as we can. I hope that reassures Members on both sides.
I did not realise that there was so much interest in portrait miniatures until we got involved with the Bill.
I understand the hon. Lady’s frustration to some extent, but having been asked to come off the substitutes bench to act as a Minister for a few weeks, I am learning that processes need to be put in place to ensure that various regulations and laws are respected and due process is followed before any changes are made. That is the point I am trying to make, perhaps not as elegantly as I should, but I hope that reassures her.
That is an excellent suggestion, and I look forward to working with the hon. Lady in the spirit of co-operation that we have seen today, to see how we can move it forward.
Clause 7 sets out the second exemption under the Bill. Subsections (1) and (2) state that items made before 1947 in which the ivory content is below 10% of the total volume of the item and the ivory is integral to the item, so it cannot be removed without damaging it or without difficulty, are exempt from the prohibition of sales, provided they are registered under clause 10.
The 1947 date for de minimis items derives from the EU wildlife trade regulations as the date before which worked ivory does not currently need a CITES—convention on international trade in endangered species—certificate to be commercially traded, and is familiar to those in the antiques sector. That familiarity will aid the ban’s implementation.
The exemption recognises that items with a very low ivory content, such as inlaid furniture, or a dish or a teapot with a small ivory handle, are not valued on the basis of their ivory content. Further, in such pieces, the ivory is incidental and integral to the item. It cannot be easily removed, so it is not vulnerable to recarving. The threshold of 10% ivory content is higher than in a significant number of countries. At federal level, the US has a 50% by volume limit or 200 grams threshold for de minimis exemption, although some states, such as New York and California, have implemented tougher thresholds.
The de minimis threshold is supported by key non-governmental organisations, including the World Wildlife Fund, the Tusk Trust and International Fund for Animal Welfare, which recognise it as a tough measure. Enforcement agencies have also indicated their gratitude that we have opted for a volume rather than a weight-based threshold, as it is far easier to assess.
Ordered, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Mims Davies.)
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It will be a relatively speedy process. On the cost, we have said that small fees will be involved. That will become clear as we carry out the work. The aim is to recover the costs involved in establishing the IT system and the compliance arrangements, rather than to create surplus funds. The fees will be small and the process will be as simple as possible, but it is there to create a consistent approach.
I thank the hon. Lady and, once again, we strongly agree on the same point. We are saying that the exemptions need to be robust, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham is saying that they also need to be proportionate. I think we have the balance right.
It is also important to reiterate to my hon. Friend that although people may want to sell some of those items, and we are putting a ban in place to make that more difficult, they can be gifted or donated to other people who might appreciate or have space for them. Certain charities might benefit, but the items would not be for resale. Gifts and donations are fine. We just have to look again at the way we treat ivory. This involves a cultural change for some people. We are all on a journey and the measure will help in that regard.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 7 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Pre-1975 musical instruments
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
The clause exempts from the prohibition of commercial dealing certain musical instruments containing ivory. Subsection (1) sets out that if a musical instrument is made before 1975 and less than 20% of it contains ivory, the item will be exempt, provided that it is registered as set out in the Bill, from the prohibition of the trade of ivory in the UK.
Subsection 2(a) defines a musical instrument as an item whose primary purpose is to be played as a musical instrument. It explicitly excludes items that, although they may technically be used as an instrument—in other words, they could produce a sound or be used to beat a rhythm—that was not their primary purpose on manufacture. That also extends to items intended as ornaments.
Subsection 2(b) confirms that items used as an accessory to play a musical instrument, such as a violin bow, are within the definition of the clause. The exemption recognises that musical instruments, particularly expensive ones, continued to be made with ivory until late into the 20th century. As the Government have no intention to unduly affect artistic and cultural heritage, nor to unduly affect the livelihoods of professional musicians, the exemption extends on the general de minimis exemption.
We heard from the musicians sector about the significant value of some instruments and the role they play in professional musicians’ retirement plans. The backstop date at which Asian elephants were first listed under appendix I of CITES was 1975, before the poaching crisis of the 1980s. Evidence provided through the consultation, including from the Musicians Union, showed that the vast majority of commonly played and traded instruments, including violins, pianos and bagpipes, contain 20% ivory or less by volume.
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In the scheme of what we are debating, it certainly is a small item. However, for those involved, it may be significant. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: if it is made of elephant ivory, it does not comply. However—we will debate mammoths at length when we debate clause 35, I am sure—mammoth ivory is not in the scope of the Bill as it stands, and therefore a plectrum will not be affected if it is made of mammoth ivory.
The OPSS will have a role in driving awareness. However, we clearly need to work through how it will carry out that task. Lessons will need to be learned from the rosewood example and other situations.
It is exciting that people generally are clearly learning very quickly about plastics, and we need to capture some of that enthusiasm in the same way on ivory. I think that will be quite straightforward for some people, but for those who are unaware that their item has any ivory in at all, more work will need to be done. That is what the OPSS will do. The exact detail of that will be drawn up with the action plans. The decision that the OPSS will be the regulator is very recent, so there is clearly a lot more work to be done on that point. On the point about people not being aware of an item’s containing ivory, I will write to the hon. Lady to provide some clarity.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 8 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Acquisitions by qualifying museums
I thank the hon. Lady for her careful consideration of the issue. I understand her desire to ensure tight control over exemptions. The intention of the clause is to provide for an exemption to the prohibition on dealings in ivory to and between qualifying museums. There is a strong argument for allowing the exemption on the grounds of national and international cultural exchange of heritage.
There is some doubt as to whether the amendment would achieve its stated intention. Were it to be accepted, the effect would be for qualifying museums to have to register items of ivory in every circumstance and to deal only in items meeting one of the other exemptions. The amendment would in effect remove the museum exemption. That is neither our intention, nor what we have set out publicly.
We should bear in mind that a qualifying museum is one accredited by either the Arts Council England, the Welsh Government, Museums Galleries Scotland or the Northern Ireland Museums Council. For museums elsewhere, they must be a member organisation of the International Council of Museums. Accreditation by those bodies requires adherence to high standards of governance and financial management and, as we heard in evidence, high ethical standards.
To require registration by qualifying museums in all circumstances would undermine the reasons for providing qualifying museums with an exemption and be a disproportionate burden, particularly as we do not believe the exemption is likely to contribute to continuing poaching of elephants. We intend, however, that a person seeking to sell an item to an accredited museum will be required to register it. The purchasing museum will be required to confirm its purchase.
With that explanation, I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment.
I understand the hon. Lady’s point. We are trying to be very narrow in our approach. An example that might be useful—it certainly helped me to understand this case—is a museum that wanted to have a household object for a display on social history. The item has direct relevance to a period of time in a social history exhibition, so it would not qualify under the other exemptions we have discussed, if it is more modern, but it would still be directly relevant to the museum’s exhibition.
Let me give another example to make it come alive a bit more. We heard from the Victoria and Albert Museum that a post-1918 item made wholly of ivory, such as an art deco item, which would not be exempt elsewhere, might be relevant for a particular display, in terms of culture and heritage. Of course, that would have to take place in line with the museum’s very strict acquisition processes.
Without seeking to become an expert in how museums acquire these things, I think that it was clear from our evidence session that they have very strict approaches, which would still be in place. This is a discreet exemption for museums because they are held to higher standards. They are regulated in a different way, and are subject to restrictions that do not apply to other holders and owners of ivory. We need to make sure that there are regulation processes outwith museums, but museums are required to work at very high standards.
Because there might be some items that sit outwith the exemptions we have broadly agreed upon, we want to continue to have the exemption for museums. There is a danger that the wording of the amendment would nullify the museums category. I hope that the hon. Lady will see that it would be wise to withdraw the amendment. We can discuss the matter more outside the Committee if that is required.
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Returning to the clause, registration will require an explanation of any planned commercial activity for the item. We recognise that there might be occasions when an item is registered for non-commercial reasons, such as to satisfy insurance requirements. Subsection (1)(f) provides for the Secretary of State to specify, in guidance, any other areas of information that must be provided.
Subsection (1)(g) allows the Secretary of State to issue regulations that will prescribe a fee payable by those registering an item for commercial dealing, such as sale. The fee will be in line with the Government’s principle of cost recovery, as we talked about earlier, to reflect the cost of establishing the registration scheme, including the new IT system.
We also intend the registration scheme to apply to those who wish to import into the UK items bought abroad that meet one of the categories of exemption. Again, we have talked about some of those, such as the musical instrument exemption. By registering the item, the owner will confirm that, to their understanding, the item qualifies under the relevant exemption. This registration must take place prior to the dealing of that item. The system will be administered by the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
In submitting the required information to register an item, the owner will in effect be making a declaration that the item is as they have described. Subject to the requirements of the registration process being fulfilled, confirmation of the registration of the ivory item will be issued, which will permit the owner to engage in dealing with that specific item. Should it transpire, as a result of either a check of the system by the Secretary of State or compliance and enforcement activity by the regulator or police, that the information does not match the item in question, the owner may be liable to prosecution.
I thank the hon. Member for Workington for tabling new clause 4. I think we all agree that we need to make the process as transparent and open as possible. As we discussed in relation to new clause 1, the Government intend to publish the number of exemption certificates issued. I appreciate the intention behind the new clause, which is that the Government should be able to build up a clear picture of the movement of items exempted under clause 2 as they are bought and sold, and of items registered for exemption under clause 10. I should clarify that an exemption certificate will be associated not with a person, but with the relevant item—we touched on that earlier in the debate. A registration, on the other hand, will be valid for only one commercial dealing resulting in a change of ownership—that is, a sale. Once an item has changed hands, the registration expires.
We need to ensure the right to privacy of owners and sellers, in line with the Data Protection Act 2018. We therefore doubt whether it would be permissible to list a current or previous owner’s name on either exemption certificates or registration certificates, as they might be displayed publicly by the seller, or by someone acting on behalf of the seller. In the case of exemption certificates, they will also be required to be passed on to the purchaser.
We are looking at the possibility of publishing data annually on the types of items exempted under each category—for instance, how many pianos are registered under the musical instruments category. Again, the publication of any further detail will have to be considered in line with the Data Protection Act, in order to ensure the right to privacy of owners and sellers. We talked about some of these tensions in the earlier debate.
In addition, law enforcement agencies and the regulatory authority will have access to the database for registration, so they will be aware if previous applications have been made in respect of an exemption certificate under clause 3 or a registration under clause 10.
I thank the hon. Lady for the amendment, but I believe that it would add an unnecessary and disproportionate requirement to the registration process. The clause establishes the compliance regime that must be followed by the owner of an ivory item who wishes to deal in that item under any one of the exemptions. The registration process already requires a description of the item and a photograph to confirm the distinguishing features. From responses to the consultation, we understand that the majority of commonly played and traded musical instruments and accessories, such as pianos and violin bows, are less than 20% ivory. We also believe from the evidence we have received that it is reasonably easy to assess with the naked eye whether an item is 10% or less ivory by volume. Indeed, we believe that it is easier to assess against a 10% threshold than, for instance, a 30% threshold.
Anyone who registers an ivory item will have confirmed to the best of their knowledge that the item in question meets the relevant category of exemption, and will have submitted information or evidence about it—photographs, for example. Spot checks will be carried out on registered items by enforcement and compliance officers to confirm that they are exempt from our ban. If an item is being used commercially, regulators or the police may check to confirm that it is registered and compliant, and may take appropriate action if necessary. Given that explanation, I ask the hon. Lady to withdraw her amendment.
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There are a few items. We are going in a slightly different order, but we are going with it, in the spirit of the Bill. We are getting through it and I appreciate the co-operation.
We are. We are fleet of foot, that is for sure. Some of the questions are quite interesting.
As we are talking about lots of different issues at this point, I want to go back to the comments from the hon. Member for Leeds North West, to bring it together. The musicians sector has said that it is broadly happy with the 20% exemption. Particularly for pianos, the vast majority are definitely going to fall within that exemption, so that will be fine. The US has a different arrangement, but our enforcement bodies were very clear that they did not want a weight measure. It just made it more difficult. Just so we are all clear, the US body is called the US Fish and Wildlife Service—I thank my officials for that.
A very good point was raised about resources. Obviously, public finances are always under scrutiny and we need to make sure that they are being best used. The National Wildlife Crime Unit is jointly funded by the Home Office and DEFRA and will be funded up to 2020, and there are ongoing conversations about that. Future funding decisions about such bodies will be for the Home Office, and the Home Secretary has said he is working on those matters. We should also not forget that we have the regulator involved.
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While the hon. Lady thinks about it, perhaps I can explain that although our approach will require resources, it will also require online tools so that we can have a proper registration and certification process in place. I do not know whether that has given the hon. Lady enough time to revisit the amendment.
Yes, I can reassure the hon. Lady that proper guidance will be available. The enforcement agencies that we spoke to during the evidence sessions were committed to the volume-based approaches, and they seem able to move on. They did not query it when we met, so I can give her those assurances.
The clause is largely technical; it provides further information on the registration process and ensures that the Secretary of State has the necessary levers to ensure that the process works effectively and is not open to abuse or misuse. Subsection (1) ensures that the registration of an item would cease to be valid as soon as its owner changes. Unlike the exemption certificate issued for items under the rarest and most important category, registration allows the current owner either to sell their item or to engage in other forms of dealing that do not result in change of ownership, such as hiring the item. The registration is therefore associated with the individual and is valid for a single change of ownership. It is different from certification.
The owner must register an item in order to carry out dealings but does not need to register an item each time a commercial dealing is undertaken, as long as the owner does not change. For example, if the owner wishes to hire the item multiple times, they complete a single registration for the item to be subject to hire. If the owner changes, however, the registration becomes invalid and the item must be registered by the new owner before they can carry out any dealing. This applies to individuals and organisations.
Subsection (2) sets out that once the owner registers an item under clause 10, they have a responsibility to ensure that the information recorded in the registration process remains complete and accurate. As such, if the owner becomes aware that information included in the application is inaccurate or incomplete, or if any information becomes invalid or changes, they must notify the Secretary of State and provide the required information to address the issue. That could be, for example, because the item is damaged or otherwise altered at some time after registration but before dealing, or if the owner, having completed the registration process, subsequently becomes aware of some fact that might invalidate the registration. If an owner were found to be in possession of such information and had not informed the Secretary of State, they could be found to be in breach of the provision.
In the interests of clarification, it is important to note that certificates are required for the rarest and most important items. The certificate is in a way a passport that goes along with the items, because they are particularly rare, important and often valuable. The certificate acts a bit like a passport, moving on with the item.
The other categories are covered by the registration process. Notwithstanding the fact that I have learned through this process that some musicians have valuable items, often such items are not that valuable. In this approach, therefore, we have a registration process that is more simple and straightforward, with lower cost—this is about cost recovery from applying through an online system. Applying for a certificate will be a more costly approach, because of what we talked about this morning—where the Secretary of State is required to get advice from another body. The idea is that certificates are for the rare and most important items, and a more simple, low-cost registration approach is for all the other exemptions that we have discussed so far. I hope that clarifies matters.
I agree that the provision can sound complicated. I have tried to explain as best I can how it will move forward. The key thing is that registration is the lighter touch when compared with certification. People who have an item and want to ensure that everything is all right can use the registration system online, and there are telephone and postal arrangements for those who are not tech-savvy.
We need to ensure that we have a robust system and should remember that we are trying to stop the use of ivory. That is the balance we are trying to strike; we want something that is both robust and proportionate. Registration for those other categories is more proportionate but will enable us to ensure that the measures are properly complied with.
I thank the hon. Lady for those further points. The responsibility will be very much with the owner—we are putting the onus on the owner—which is why we need to ensure that the system is clear. We will be working hard to ensure that it is an easy-to-use and clear system. We now have several months in which to get the provisions in place. We need to get moving to Royal Assent, but then there will be a six-month period when we can get ready for when it is put into practice.
We are moving at pace and want more pace, but at the same time we need to ensure that the systems are right. We are working behind the scenes with officials and various other bodies to ensure that there is clear guidance and that the systems, once established—we are still developing them—are fit for purpose and easy to use.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 11 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Mims Davies.)
(1 year, 7 months ago)Read Full debate
Q I join members of the Committee in thanking you and your teams for the work you are doing and also for the way in which you are leveraging the rest of the Border Force or the wider police force available to tackle this crime—we are very grateful.
To go back to the regulator for a minute though, do you both agree that having the regulator in place will help you with your work, because it will help to raise awareness of the new regime that will come into place, and because it will work with the antiques sector and musicians to help to improve compliance and assess compliance in future? Would that help you with your work?
Grant Miller: It would certainly help us. We have found the antiques trade to be very receptive. We have delivered training sessions to it on the rules and regulations, and generally, the larger auction houses have been keen to work with us and to drive the illegal trade out of their supply chain. An increased resource—another body—actually going round and delivering a prevention message, and helping and enabling an understanding of the controls, will assist us, but an awful lot of the illegal trade at the moment sits outwith the regular auction houses. It is private individuals who are sourcing ivory from car boots, house clearances and so on, and that illegal trade will continue. They have no intention of complying with any rules or regulations, so that market will continue for us to police.
Chief Inspector Hubble: From an enforcement perspective, we echo those thoughts about working with auction houses. We are regularly contacted by people within the industry for advice—for them to satisfy themselves that they are complying. Although it is good to raise awareness of an issue, ultimately that may result in increased reporting of it. Once the Bill comes into force, if a member of the public sees something on sale that they think is ivory, inevitably they will report it, which comes back to the issue of resourcing and how we deal with the potential increase in the volume of crimes that we will have coming in to us.
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Q You have done a lot of work to explain that museums do not get involved in a huge number of sales, and perhaps get involved in a very small number of purchases. What I was talking about—I should have been clearer—was the rare and most important items that you and institutions like you help to certify. Do you anticipate large volumes or small volumes? What volumes do you think will qualify under the definition of rare and most important?
Hartwig Fischer: I am personally not in a position to answer that question, I am afraid, because I do not have a sufficiently deep and detailed overview of what is happening in the trade. We see from the museum side that a very small quantity of objects qualify to enter the museum. When it comes to museums and what we see generally, even following what is happening in auctions, we are talking about small quantities. We are not talking about thousands of objects. The material that is historically relevant and significant is very limited.
Dr Boström: If one were to talk about taste in ivory carving and collecting, we always associate the working of it more with the 17th and 18th centuries, and the collectors with the end of the 19th century. It is not foremost in collecting practices or trends.
Hartwig Fischer: It remains to be seen what will actually come up for certification. One will have to react to the volume to see how best to deal and cope with it efficiently.
(1 year, 7 months ago)Read Full debate
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), opened the debate by talking about the beauty of the Lincolnshire Wolds. Without wanting to sound competitive in any way, I would like to remind colleagues of the wonders of the Cheshire Peak district—right next door to High Peak, of course—and Cheshire’s beautiful plain. I am grateful to Members on both sides of the House for setting out their views on rural crimes and public services, and I thank the Opposition for securing this important debate.
As the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman) said, this has been a wide-ranging debate with contributions from across the United Kingdom, including from Scotland through the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant), and from Wales with speeches from the hon. Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones) and the right hon. Member for Delyn (David Hanson). However, I must confess that I do believe that this debate was over-represented by Members from Lincolnshire, although we recognise that that is another great county.
The Government are committed to bringing sustainable growth to the rural economy, and to supporting and strengthening communities. We have talked a lot about crime. To reassure the hon. Member for High Peak (Ruth George), my DEFRA responsibilities are purely for a short-term period until my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) returns to her place.
Around 12 million people—19% of the UK population—live in rural areas. Despite some of the challenges we have talked about today, statistics show that most people feel that our rural towns and villages are great places in which to live and work. The fundamental features of rural areas—being more geographically dispersed and more sparsely populated than urban areas—are the key attractions of the UK’s rural towns and villages. We recognise, however, that distance, sparsity and demography can affect the delivery of important services. Rural areas are further away from the main economic centres and can suffer from poorer access to services and facilities that are commonplace in urban areas.
That is why the Government have made a commitment to rural-proof all policies. Much of what Government do has an impact on rural areas. We want these policies and programmes to take account of the specific challenges—and opportunities—for rural businesses and communities. To support this, DEFRA published updated rural-proofing guidance in March 2017. My ministerial colleagues, including Lord Gardiner, have represented the rural voice on taskforces on childcare, housing, and digital. The rural voice is being heard more loudly across Government, as it should be.
As I said, much of this debate has focused on rural crime. I would like to acknowledge the excellent work of our police—in particular, the North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire forces and PCCs who lead nationally on rural crime issues. That said, there have been incredible contributions from Members praising the North Wales and Derbyshire forces, for example. I would like to add my voice in paying tribute to the great work that Cheshire police do on these issues as well. DEFRA and the Home Office work closely with the National Police Chiefs Council’s wildlife crime network and the National Rural Crime Network. I recently went on patrol with Cheshire’s rural and wildlife crime team to see their work at first hand in the Macclesfield area.
It is important to recall that, although crime has a regrettable impact on victims wherever they are based, crime rates in rural areas are generally lower than in urban areas. For example, there were 3.9 vehicle offences per 1,000 population in rural areas compared with 8.5 vehicle offences per 1,000 population in urban areas. However, as we have heard, remoteness and isolation can increase the sense of vulnerability in those rural areas. There are types of crime such as hare coursing, fly-tipping and sheep-worrying that are a particular problem for rural communities, as has been well expressed today.
I recently heard from the Macclesfield branch of the NFU in Cheshire about how distressing livestock-worrying is for farmers and animals, and about how serious the financial repercussions can be for local farmers. I thank the NFU for producing its illuminating and constructive report, “Combatting Rural Crime”. That is an important contribution to this debate, as I think we will all agree on both sides of the House. Earlier this year, DEFRA wrote to all police forces and local authorities to explain the powers and initiatives available to help to tackle irresponsible dog ownership, including in relation to attacks on livestock. This is a real concern to the right hon. Member for Delyn, who made some excellent points. I encourage him to write to me, particularly on recording crimes, and I will follow up on them. We will listen to the points that he made—absolutely.
Hare coursing was raised by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), by my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman), and by many other Members. It is another issue raised by the NFU in its excellent report. The Government recognise the problems that hare coursing causes for rural communities—not just around the activity itself but, as we have heard, the associated violence, damage, and sense of intimidation. The Hunting Act 2004 bans all hare coursing in England and Wales. Anyone found guilty of hare coursing under the Act can receive an unlimited fine. My hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson) and the hon. Member for Peterborough (Fiona Onasanya), among others, raised important points about what can be done further to improve the response to this heinous crime. Again, I ask Members to raise those with me in writing and we can follow them up. Whether it is about recording or other issues, we do need to address this with greater vigour.
The Government recognise the costs that landowners face in dealing with fly-tipping. The hon. Member for Canterbury (Rosie Duffield) made an important contribution on this, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mrs Badenoch) and the hon. Member for Peterborough. We are committed to tackling this problem. We have given local authorities the power to issue fixed penalty notices for small-scale fly-tipping and strengthened their powers to seize and crush vehicles of suspected fly-tippers. We will set out further measures to tackle all elements of fly-tipping in our strategic approach to waste crime as part of the resource and waste strategy that DEFRA will publish in the autumn.
DEFRA and the Home Office jointly fund the National Wildlife Crime Unit as part of efforts to prevent and detect wildlife crime. We have provided £301,000 of funding per annum for the next two years. That supports the unit’s important work in intelligence gathering and analysis of wildlife crimes, including some of the crimes mentioned earlier, such as hare coursing, rural poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. We heard more about that important work on Second Reading of the Ivory Bill on Monday.
This debate, however, has not just been about rural crime. It has also touched on public services in rural areas, which I will come on to later, because we must not miss those issues. It is vital that we address other points raised in the debate, including antisocial behaviour in some of our smaller communities. My hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke) talked about antisocial behaviour in Saltburn. I promise faithfully that my family were not responsible for contributing to that when we went body-boarding there during the recess—in the North sea fog, I hasten to add.
County lines challenges were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge), the right hon. Member for Delyn and my neighbour, the hon. Member for High Peak. This is a truly worrying and concerning development. The Home Secretary is co-ordinating a response to this scourge by overseeing a county lines working group with other Government Departments and law enforcement agencies to improve the response to drug dealing, the violent crime associated with it and the exploitation of vulnerable people, which includes those in a rural setting.
The hon. Member for Clwyd South and others raised concerns about speeding. It is true that we have some of the safest roads in the world, but we need to do more, and we need to innovate to find ways to reduce speed on these often very difficult roads. We found ways to do that on one of the most notorious roads, the Cat and Fiddle road going from Macclesfield to Buxton, where we significantly reduced traffic accidents as a result. We need to promote more actively the Government’s important THINK! campaign, particularly among younger people.
Much has been said about police funding. That has been dealt with well by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley for the Opposition and by my hon. Friend the Minister. The 2015 spending review protected overall police funding in real terms. We recognise that we need to respond to changing demands on the police. That is why new flexibility has been given to police and crime commissioners so they can raise the income required to tackle specific local challenges. I am pleased that we have increased the overall investment in policing from £11.9 billion in 2015-16 to £13 billion in this financial year.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), who is also from Lincolnshire, reminded us, we should not always be too gloomy about the challenges we face. Of course they are very real, but we need a greater understanding of and ability to respond to new technology. He talked about the use of drones. We need to be innovative in our approach. In Poynton, a village to the north of Macclesfield, we have an excellent emergency services hub where we bring together fire, ambulance and police services. We can get better at taking forward action by looking at innovation.
This is not just about the crime or policing element. We want to ensure that our public services and rural businesses thrive, to support rural communities and those who live in the countryside. We want this experience to be an opportunity, not a challenge, as we may have painted it today. Britain is blessed with beautiful and iconic countryside, which can provide a good quality of life, but we recognise too the challenges of rural life. We will look to support and encourage innovative solutions in the crime arena and also in other areas, such as community hubs in villages to host libraries, surgeries and outreach services.
DEFRA Ministers will continue to champion the interests of rural communities, working with other Departments, including the Home Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on issues such as broadband and mobile reception, to ensure that rural communities can thrive and realise the very real opportunities that lie ahead.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House is concerned that the level of rural crime remains high; notes research by the National Famers’ Union that rural crime cost the UK economy £42.5 million in 2015; recognises that delivering public services across large, sparsely populated geographical areas can be more costly and challenging than in urban areas; agrees with the National Rural Crime Network that it is vital that the voice of the countryside is heard; calls on the Government to ensure that the personal, social and economic costs of crime and anti-social behaviour in rural areas are fully understood and acted upon; and further calls on the Government to ensure that rural communities are not disadvantaged in the delivery or quality of public services.