Chris Raises Matters In The Hunting Trophies Bill Debate
Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch
Can my hon. Friend confirm that Vernon Booth, a conservationist and wildlife consultant in Zimbabwe, writes in today’s Daily Mail that
“Revenue from trophy hunting contributes 25 per cent of the income of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority”?
Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection
I have no reason to disagree with that, and it demonstrates what a thorny issue this is.
It is worth remembering that this Bill is designed to stop the importing of trophies, rather than prevent the banning of hunting. I have tabled new clause 2 on implementation and monitoring, which is similar to new clause 1 in that its intention is to assess the practicality and effectiveness of the provisions of the Bill. It would require that
“Within three years of this Act being passed, the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a report on its implementation and the effectiveness of its provisions”, with that report including an assessment of the impact the Act has had on the conservation of endangered species.
As the UK is a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, we should follow its recommendations before restricting trophy hunting. Those include sound analysis of the conservation role of trophy hunting, meaningful consultation with affected Governments and communities, steps to address poor practice and implementation of feasible, fully funded alternatives that generate equal or greater conservation benefits. Since I do not believe that those steps have been adequately taken, it is only right that new clause 2 be adopted, to ensure the effectiveness of the Bill in promoting conservation of endangered species, measured three years after its implementation.
If there is such confidence that the Bill will contribute to the conservation of such species, I see no reason for there to be any objection to a post-implementation review being undertaken that examines the impact on species abroad. In order to test the efficacy of the legislation, and whether it has achieved the desired goal of improving the population numbers of endangered species, I hope that the House will consider the new clause, which will ensure we continue to keep the effectiveness of the Bill under review until it is enacted.
New clause 3 is a reporting requirement for the Secretary of State to assess the impact of provisions on Northern Ireland. It was put forward by my hon. Friend Sir Christopher Chope, who has been a tremendous ally in this. If I were to occupy a foxhole, perhaps in Ukraine, I could ask for no finer colleague to join me than he. So I want to thank him for tabling that. Clause 3 makes it clear that, although the Bill extends to Northern Ireland, it does not actually apply there. I wonder whether he would therefore agree that, considering the delicate nature of the Northern Ireland protocol, requiring a Secretary of State to provide the House with as much information as possible on the impact of the Bill on imports would be a sensible measure.
I am also grateful to my hon. Friend for tabling new clause 4, which seeks to introduce an advisory board on trophy hunting. It is a helpful step forward, and I am glad that we have had productive talks with the Government on it. The Government recognise that it would be sensible to include that in the Bill. In principle, I support the introduction of the advisory board, whose role would be to advise the Secretary of State on matters relating to the import of hunting trophies to Great Britain.
If the aim of the Bill is to prevent the hunting of endangered animals, then expert advice on hunting trophies that have been derived from a species of animal that appears to be or is likely to become endangered is very welcome. It is vital that we keep the focus on the endangered species at the heart of the Bill, since that is the aim.
Much of the information that has been presented on Second Reading has been analysed by Dr Dilys Roe and Professor Adam Hart. They found that, out of over 150 statements made by MPs in support of the ban, 70% were factually incorrect or misleading. It is likewise with much of the public campaigning and lobbying that has been done by high-profile actors and celebrities, who have very little expertise in this matter.
Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch
I am grateful to my hon. Friend Henry Smith for supporting new clause 4. The background to that has been explained—there are diametrically opposed expert opinions on what would be a good hunting trophies ban and what would not be. It is important that the debate should be informed by the facts and the science.
I hope that by accepting new clause 4, we will give some solace to Dr Dilys Rose, the chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s sustainable use and livelihoods specialist group, and Professor Adam Hart, a member of that specialist group. They wrote to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 22 February, setting out their concerns for the Bill and the risk of the United Kingdom Government ignoring the scientific evidence and actively harming conservation globally. They said that for the sake of wildlife all over the world, now it is time to listen to quieter, more informed voices. Setting up such an advisory panel will facilitate that. I am delighted that the Government have indicated that they will support that.
There is agreement about the objectives but not the means by which those objectives should be achieved. The objective is to protect endangered species and encourage their revival. We have made a lot of progress today, but I draw attention to my new clause 3. I have made it clear that I will force it to a vote. It would deal with the problem that the Bill fails to deliver in full on the Conservative party manifesto commitment to ban the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals to the United Kingdom. The Bill’s title makes it clear that it is limited to prohibiting the import of hunting trophies into Great Britain. Northern Ireland is excluded from its scope, which has prevented me from tabling amendments to extend the Bill to the whole of the United Kingdom.
That aspect of the debate featured in a report on page 14 of yesterday’s Daily Telegraph and a commentary by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who asked what was the point of election manifestos if MPs do not vote for what is in them. Eduardo Goncalves, the founder of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting, has said:
“We are aware of trophy hunters from Northern Ireland who are shooting threatened species…and are bringing their heads and bodies back home. This needs to be stopped.”
He went on to say:
“Exiting the EU made it possible for the UK to introduce world-beating legislation to ban hunting ‘trophies’. It would be a travesty if the Bill were not to apply to the whole of the UK because of unfinished business with Brexit.”
Given that Mr Goncalves feels so strongly, it is a pity that he did not criticise the limiting long title of the Bill when it was introduced on 15 June last year. He is, however, correct to highlight that under the Northern Ireland protocol and the proposed Windsor framework, the European Union’s single market rules will still apply in Northern Ireland, raising fears that Northern Ireland could become a back door to get the trophies to rich clients in Britain and dodge the ban. He says:
“Hunting trophies could be stopped from entering Northern Ireland overnight with the stroke of a pen…The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland would need only to issue a Ministerial Decree stating he”— or she—
“will no longer sign import permits”.
I would be interested to hear from Ministers in the Department what they think about that suggestion. If it is correct, surely it could also apply to the whole United Kingdom, thereby making this legislation totally redundant.
I ask the Minister to comment specifically on the assertion that France and the Netherlands have used ministerial decrees to ban trophies because single market rules prevented them from legislating. Is that correct? Is it also correct that Belgium and Finland are considering doing the same? Would it be possible for the United Kingdom to do likewise? We try not normally to legislate by decree, although I notice that the President of France is trying to do just that in his own country at the moment.
I am a bit sceptical about what can be done to deal with the problem that the legislation does not apply to the whole United Kingdom. My new clause 3 would therefore require the Government to report on the implications for Northern Ireland of what is happening, so that in due course Parliament will be properly informed as to whether legislative action is needed to address any loopholes or avoidance. I am disappointed that the Government are not prepared to accept the new clause.
I put a challenge to the Government. What solution does the Minister have to the Daily Telegraph headline “Brexit loophole allows import of hippo heads and stuffed tigers”? Quite a lot of people will want a clear answer to that question, but I do not think it is forthcoming in the Bill, which applies only to Great Britain and not to Northern Ireland.
I will not go into all my other amendments, but I do think that the compromise that is now emerging should be of some help to our friends in the six African countries that have expressed outrage in their letter to the Government about the implications of the Bill for those countries. In this House we make much of the importance of soft power. I think we need to start thinking more about what we can do to engage positively with the countries in Africa that abstained in the recent United Nations General Assembly vote calling for Russia’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine: Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Uganda.
In my view, we need to work much more closely and positively with the Governments of those countries, instead of letting them think that they are alienated or that we view them as subject to colonial control, which is the essence of the complaint that has been made to the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Mr Mitchell, and the Foreign Secretary. Let us see whether we can work with those countries, listen to them and try to understand them. We might then find it easier to prevent them from falling into the hands of Chinese and Soviet influence, which they seem to be tempted by at the moment because they are being neglected. This compromise has great potential to improve relations between our country and those countries in southern Africa, based on a better understanding of the need to protect wildlife in a sustainable way that fits in with local economies.
This is an historic day for me, because it looks like the Government will accept one of my amendments. I will not say anything else in case they change their mind.
Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch
Does the Minister accept that, apparently, the Netherlands, despite being within the European Union, has imposed a complete ban on trophy imports? If the Netherlands can do it, why can it not be done in respect of Northern Ireland?
Trudy Harrison The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Madam Deputy Speaker, you will excuse me from being drawn into that wider argument. To return to the crux of this debate, since the Bill Committee, we have published the environmental improvement plan, setting out our goal in the UK, across our country, to see thriving plants and wildlife, and how we are going to achieve that. The UK is supporting other countries to take action, working together with a shared commitment to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, as we agreed at the UN nature summit COP15 in Montreal last year.
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