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Labour accuse Tories of ‘sitting on their hands’ over delayed implementation of Ivory Act

Labour accuse Tories of ‘sitting on their hands’ over delayed implementation of Ivory Act
‘Stop any further delay’, government urged on World Elephant Day

The Labour Party has accused the government of “sitting on their hands” for failing to bring the UK’s Ivory Act into force more than two years after it was passed by parliament.

On World Elephant Day (12 August), the party said that since the act gained royal assent in 2018, up to 53,130 African elephants have been poached and killed for their tusks, based on figures from the WWF.

The act, which the government has described as “world leading” will introduce a near total ban on the import, export and dealing of items containing elephant ivory in the UK.

When it takes effect the act will help reduce demand for ivory, take the UK out of the international trade route for ivory and thereby help reduce the targeting of wild elephants by poachers.

Luke Pollard, the shadow environment secretary, has written to the government demanding action.

In a letter to the environment secretary George Eustace, Mr Pollard said: “In 2018 parliament passed the Ivory Act with cross-party support to ban the trade in ivory products. This was an essential step to protect wild elephants from illegal poaching.

“But two and a half years on you have chosen not to activate or use a single part of this important act of parliament. On World Elephant Day I am calling on you to fully use the powers granted to you in the Ivory Act and stop any further delay.”

Mr Pollard told The Independent: “The clock is ticking, we need the government to put the Ivory Act into law or we risk elephants being poached out of existence in the wild.

“Labour has been calling for ministers to get protections for elephants in force for the last 30 months. While ministers have been sitting on their hands, tens of thousands of elephants have been killed.

“We need real international leadership on the climate and nature emergency, that means the Conservatives must enforce the Ivory Act.

“Time is running out for these majestic animals.”

The government launched an eight-week consultation on the legislation in March this year, and subsequently launched another consultation on extending the legislation to other ivory-bearing species, though the act itself has not yet been implemented.

Labour’s calls for action were echoed by campaign group the Environmental Investigation Agency, which led a coalition of environmental groups to secure the act, and described the 30-month wait for the law to take effect as an “inordinate delay”.

EIA wildlife campaigner Rachel Mackenna told The Independent: “While we appreciate that Brexit, a judicial review challenge and complications due to the Covid-19 pandemic have been factors, they don’t justify the inordinate delay.

“The act became law in December 2018 and it will have been three years if it does not come into force before the end of this year.

“We have increasingly seen other countries take steps to introduce domestic ivory trade bans and we want the UK government to implement the Ivory Act as a matter of urgency, to continue demonstrating the strong leadership role it claimed when it first introduced the act and signalled its commitment to the protection of endangered elephants.”

A Defra spokesperson told The Independent the government would “soon” be taking the next steps to implement the legislation.

They said: “Our ivory ban is one of the toughest in the world and the UK government is committed to bringing it into force as soon as practicable to help protect the world’s elephants.

“Progress on implementation was delayed by a legal challenge by a part of the antiques industry which we successfully defended. We have consulted on the implementation of the act and we will be publishing a response confirming our plans soon.

“We are also currently consulting on extending the Ivory Act to afford greater protections to a range of ivory-bearing species.”