News story

The Ivory Bill: A Huge Tusk

Government Legal Department (GLD) lawyers have been providing crucial legal advice to bring about tough legislation to ban ivory sales in the UK

Elephants in the wild
Elephants in the wild

Government Legal Department (GLD) lawyers have been providing crucial legal advice to the Government, helping bring about legislation for one of the toughest bans on ivory sales in the world.

The GLD legal team, based in Defra, have worked very quickly to progress the Bill. It was introduced on 23 May and it has already completed its stages in the House of Commons, and will be debated further in the House of Lords after summer recess.

The Bill concerns dealing in elephant ivory (including buying, selling and hiring) which, when passed will be an offence punishable by a custodial sentence of up to five years and/or an unlimited fine, or a civil penalty of up to £250,000.

The Ivory Bill follows the result of a consultation which concluded in December 2017, for which more than 70,000 people and organisations responded. Over 88% of responses were in favour of bringing in legislation to ban ivory sales in the UK.

Defra legal advisor Jane Beeko who led on the Bill said:

Since joining Defra last year, I’ve been fortunate to have had a mixed portfolio, which means I’ve worked on a variety of interesting pieces of work. This has included advising on the Aarhus Convention which concerns access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision making and access to justice in respect of environmental matters; the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the EU Timber Regulations.

Working on the Ivory Bill has been a fantastic experience. It took real team-work to get this Bill through to its current stage, and I feel very proud to work as part of a team producing the legal framework for such land-mark legislation.

Under the proposed legislation, dealing in an ivory item is prohibited under the Bill unless the items fall under one of the following exemptions:

  • Pre-1918 item of outstanding artistic value or importance
  • Pre-1918 portrait miniature
  • Items with a small amount of ivory (less than 10%) and made before 1947
  • Musical instruments with less than 20% ivory made before 1975
  • Dealings to and between accredited museums

The Bill will continue its path through Parliament in September and if it faces no opposition could come into effect next year.

Published 23 August 2018
Last updated 12 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Corrected musical instrument exemption to: Musical instruments with less than 20% ivory made before 1975
  2. First published.