Ivory bill receives Royal Assent from Queen to become the Ivory Act 2018 (UK)


Laura Chesters, The Antiques Trade Gazette

Date Published

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The Queen has formally agreed to make the ivory bill, which proposes a near-total ban on the trade in ivory, into an Act of Parliament. 

However, the bill is expected to come into force in late 2019, later than some experts had predicted.

A spokesman from the department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) commented on the timing of the enforcement of the law and said: “Time is required to make sure the ban can be implemented effectively and robustly. Secondary legislation is required to do this, an online registration system needs to be developed and guidance to be issued. It is critical that all of these elements are in place before the ban can be put into effect.”

The bill includes a number of exemptions including for pre-1918 portrait miniatures where the visible surface area is less than 320cm squared, items with less than 10% ivory by volume made prior to 1947 (which will need to be registered), items that are deemed “the rarest and most important items of their type” made before 1918, items sold to and between accredited museums and musical instruments containing less than 20% ivory made prior to 1975.

Defra minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble said: “The department has undertaken extensive consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, including the music sector and the antiques sector, as well as NGOs interested in conservation, to shape the Bill and, in particular, to establish a narrow and carefully defined set of exemptions.

“I recognise that the arts, antiques and music sectors make a valuable contribution to the success of the UK’s economy– the government is keen to ensure a smooth and successful operation of the new online registration system.

“We will ensure clear communications on this issue with small and large businesses and industry organisations.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “The Ivory Act is a landmark in our fight to protect wildlife and the environment. The speed of its passage through Parliament shows the strength of feeling on all sides of the House on this critical issue.”

Extension to Cover Other Ivory-Bearing Species

The ban on elephant ivory is expected to be extended to cover other ivory-bearing species such as hippos, walruses and narwhals after the government announced in July it will hold a consultation.

MPs earlier this month discussed the idea of extending the proposed ban to include other items during the debate of the ivory bill, amid concerns the ban on one form of ivory could increase pressure on another.

In the House of Commons junior environment minister Thérèse Coffey said last week: “We have committed to gathering evidence on the trade in ivory from other species as soon as is practicable after Royal Assent.”

ATG’s guide to the UK ivory ban