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Not that the leather-upholstered seats in Westminster Hall’s Grand Committee Room in the House of Commons aren’t comfortable.

It was just that many of the references to antique ivory during the debate on Monday, February 6, would have been difficult listening for many ATG readers, not least because several of the 29 MPs who spoke appeared dismissive of, or ill-informed about, the antiques trade.

There is a dearth of data about the size of the trade in antique ivory – not surprising given the emotion around the issue. In such an information vacuum, one MP’s reference to the value of ivory to the antiques business as being worth no more than “a round of drinks” went unchallenged. But there were glimmers of hope for those who have significant parts of their business or collections tied up in antique ivory. Several MPs including the representative for South Antrim, Danny Kinahan, formerly of Christie’s, echoed Victoria Borwick MP’s declaration that the antiques industry finds modern poaching abhorrent.

If the debate felt at times like a battle for survival, a faint sense of breakthrough came at the end, a sign that the argument being made by our trade bodies refuting a link between modern and antique ivory is taking root.

This was when junior environment minister Dr Therese Coffey said the government will assess how banning the sale of a 17th century religious ivory carving would help prevent the slaughter of elephants (see front page).

It’s easy to resort to hyperbole in columns like this but the debate on February 6 was arguably the most significant about the antiques trade in the post-war era, certainly since the parliamentary wrangles over Artist’s Resale Right 10 years ago. Few issues span the antiques trade – from the humblest stall at showground fairs to the glitziest stand at TEFAF – quite like ivory.

Delegates at ATG’s Seminar on CITES in January were told “you fail to tell your story”. Unfortunately, on February 6 this inconvenient truth was, at times, all too evident.