In recent days a number of constituents have contacted me recently regarding the ivory trade.
I agree that we need a total ban on the domestic ivory trade in the UK.
Although the international community has made considerable progress, I share your concerns about the serious threat that endangered species continue to face. In 2015, 20,000 elephants were killed in Africa for their tusks.
It is estimated that between 1979 and 1989, over 50% of Africa's elephants were poached for their ivory. While international trade in ivory has been banned since 1989, I appreciate the concerns that have been raised about the legal ivory markets which continue in some countries, including the UK.
The UK already has a ban on trade in raw tusks, or 'unworked' ivory, of any age. In September 2016, the Government announced plans for a ban on sales of modern day ivory in the UK - this would cover the sale of items containing ivory dated between 1947 and the present day.
I am concerned that the Government's proposals are too limited because they do not include older ivory products. There are concerns that illegal ivory can be falsely claimed to be old ivory as only carbon dating can provide the necessary identification. The charity Action for Elephants UK has said that the existence of a legal ivory trade serves as a cover for illegal sales of ivory.
The Government says it will consult on plans for this partial ban early this year. I believe that the time for consultation is over: it is time for action. China, which has the biggest ivory market in the world, has announced a ban on all ivory trade and processing activities by the end of 2017. 85% of people in the UK think buying and selling ivory should be banned. The British public are calling for a total ban, not a partial ban, and I believe the Government should listen.
As you may be aware, a Westminster Hall debate was scheduled on the domestic ivory trade on 6 February 2017 but due to other parliamentary business I am unable to attend the debate.
I would like to assure constituents that I will continue to press the UK Government to ban ivory sales and make progress towards stopping the poaching of elephants and other endangered species.