HL Deb 12 February 1990 vol 515 cc1089-90

2.42 p.n.

Lord Dulverton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the decision to allow Hong Kong's stocks of ivory to be traded does not contradict their own support for the banning of the ivory trade world-wide, and how they intend to ensure that it will not give scope for the further illicit slaughter of the African elephant.

Lord Reay

My Lords, both the United Kingdom and Hong Kong are fully committed to the conservaton of the African elephant. Hong Kong will comply with the ban on international commercial trade in ivory after a breathing space of six months. Since June 1989 Hong Kong has banned imports of ivory into the Territory, thereby ensuring that there is no incentive for poaching.

Lord Dulverton

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer and sympathise over the delicate state of our relations with Hong Kong. However, is he aware of the grave concern felt in, for instance, Kenya which is making such valiant efforts to save its elephants from destruction? Can Hong Kong's existing ivory stocks be so clearly identified as to preclude their augmentation by smuggling from illicit sources during the six-month period?

Lord Reay

My Lords, vigorous controls are in force in Hong Kong to try to prevent the situation feared by my noble friend. Apart from the import ban enforced in June last year, other measures have been taken. Every trader in Hong Kong must register all stocks above 5 kilogrammes and he must possess a licence for holding them. He will receive an export licence only if the ivory comes from those registered stocks and is accompanied by valid CITES documentation. Moreover, the destination of the ivory must not be a CITES party which exercises a ban on ivory imports. We believe that the controls should ensure that there is no loophole for entry on to the market of illegal ivory.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, following the first part of the supplementary question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Dulverton, what steps are the Government taking to support African governments in the fight against elephant poachers? Does the Minister agree that supporting initiatives such as the Luangwa Intergrated Resource Development Project in Zambia could contribute substantially to the eradication of poaching?

Lord Reay

My Lords, in the fight against poaching, we have provided assistance. for example, to Kenya in the form of trucks and ammunition. We are prepared to look carefully at any other requests which we may receive for such assistance. I shall look into the proposal made by the noble Lord.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, the Minister has not answered the Question on the Order Paper. Is it not the case that the Government's decision to allow Hong Kong's stocks of ivory to be traded contradicts their support for the banning of the ivory trade worldwide? Why have they allowed ivory trading to re-start in Hong Kong, particularly in view of what was said by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn? Valiant attempts have been made by many African governments to stamp out the trade in ivory before the African elephant is extinguished.

Lord Reay

My Lords, we entered the reservation which runs out in five months' time in order to allow traders time to dispose of their legally acquired stocks in an orderly fashion and also to enable some 3,000 ivory carvers and workers in Hong Kong to find alternative employment. We considered that to enter a reservation was the best way of meeting our responsibilities to a dependent territory without compromising our strong support for measures which are intended to secure the future of the African elephant.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, can the Minister give the precise amount of ivory in Hong Kong and say what proportion of it is deemed to come from legal sources?

Lord Reay

My Lords, at present the sum total of ivory in Hong Kong is 474 tonnes. It has been investigated by the local authorities and they found no evidence to suggest that any of it was acquired illegally.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, can the Minister say whether there has been a reduction in the illicit slaughter of elephants and, if so, can he give the present figures?

Lord Reay

My Lords, I am afraid that I do not have such figures but I shall gladly look into the matter and write to the noble Baroness.