HC Deb 28 June 1989 vol 155 cc969-70
12. Mr. Andy Stewart

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures were agreed at the recent meeting of European Community Environment Ministers to ban trade in ivory.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The Environment Council strongly supported the United Kingdom Government's proposal for an immediate ban on the import into the Community of raw and worked ivory.

Mr. Stewart

I thank my hon. Friend for that positive result. Is she aware that the British people are delighted by the Government's strong lead in trying to stamp out that evil trade? One could say that we are in a position to blow our trumpet. What success has my hon. Friend had in persuading other countries to follow our example?

Mrs. Bottomley

I thank my hon. Friend for his tribute. My noble Friend the Minister for Housing, Environment and Countryside visited Kenya and was most successful with the initiative taken at the Environment Council. All members of the Community now ban raw and worked ivory, Hong Kong has taken further steps to ban imports, Japan is strengthening its controls, and the United Arab Emirates have announced their intention to become parties once again to the CITES agreement.

Mr. Hardy

Is the Minister aware that elephant tusks from east Africa tend to be shaped differently from those originating in central and southern Africa, yet photographs of tusks imported into Britain and Europe over the past few months supposedly from central and southern Africa clearly originated from the Kenya national parks and are a result of the serious poaching there? In view of the corrupt, irresponsible and illegal nature of such activities in east Africa, will the Minister ensure not only that a ban is enforced by Britain and Europe but that there is a great deal more international effort to stop that particularly disgraceful trade?

Mrs. Bottomley

Very great care was taken to control such legitimate trade as was allowed through the ivory trade monitoring unit at CITES, which has worked closely with our Customs and with our managing agents in the countries concerned. As a result of concern about the species, we decided that the African elephant should be included in appendix I of CITES, which will outlaw all ivory trade.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

While warmly welcoming my hon. Friend's reply and the very fine example set by the United Kingdom, is she not afraid that by banning ivory we could drive that evil trade underground? Is she aware that South Africa and Namibia have found ways of cutting out illegal poaching, though both countries are so openly criticised by Opposition Members?

Mrs. Bottomley

I am well aware of the steps taken by the countries that my hon. Friend mentions to control the ivory trade. Our primary concern must be the conservation of the species, and we have decided that the time is right for the African elephant to be included in appendix I of CITES together with the Indian elephant, and to outlaw trade in its ivory.