Thérèse Coffey, minister at Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Thérèse Coffey, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who spoke in the House of Commons yesterday about the ivory bill.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Amendments proposed by the House of Lords were passed in a debate in the House of Commons last night as the bill progressed through the final stages in parliament.

An amendment to the ivory bill raised in the House of Lords and passed will limit the powers of accredited civilian officers.

Once the bill gets Royal Assent it is expected to be enacted into law in six months, by the middle of 2019.

Extension to other species

The near-total 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 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 yesterday junior environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: “We have committed to gathering evidence on the trade in ivory from other species as soon as is practicable after Royal Assent.”

MP Sandy Martin said: “There is a very real danger that the number of other animals killed for their ivory will increase to try to maintain a supply. This particularly relates to other animals in the CITES schedule of endangered wildlife: walruses, narwhals, hippopotamuses, orcas and sperm whales.

“We would argue that whether or not there is a consequential increase in the killing of these species, it is wrong and damaging to their chances of survival for trade in the ivory derived from these creatures to continue.”

"Unintended consequences"

James Lewis, founder and director of Bamfords Auctioneers, said: “We all need to be very aware that a lot of research is being done into the unintended consequences of the future ban in particular the effect on other species such as walrus and hippo; two easily obtained sources for elephant ivory replacements.

“The trade and in particular restorers should be wary of using such replacements as I’m sure an extension of the ban will be looked at in 2019 if not 2020.

“I think that if we in the profession do our job to ensure that people are not smuggling elephant ivory through under the cover of mammoth, we should be able to escape a mammoth ivory ban.”  


The bill includes a number of exemptions including for pre-1918 portrait miniatures where the visible surface area is less than 320 centimetres squared.

Philip Mould lobbied animal welfare groups and worked with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to argue the case to exempt portrait miniatures during the consultation on the proposed ban.

He said: “Portrait miniatures are a cause I felt it was essential to take up. I remain sad about small pieces of ivory, most particularly netsuke, but after discussions with Anthony Browne [BAMF chairman] it became clear we had to choose the fight that was most relevant to us as an art business.”

The other exemptions to the ivory ban are 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.

ATG’s guide to the UK ivory ban