Ivory Bill

Written evidence submitted by John Henry James Lewis (IVB04)

1. Organisations With Which I Have Been and Still Are Involved

I am a solicitor (now non practising)

I have served as a Trustee of the Wallace Collection (Chair during seven years) and a member (six years) on the Board of the British Tourist Authority (Chair during one year). I have served as a Trustee of the Henry Moore Foundation and the Burlington Magazine.

I am currently Chair of the Attingham Trust for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections (thirty years) and Chair of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (four years). Accordingly, I think I have a reasonable overview of the part that sculpted ivories have played in our history, our museums and our art trade not to mention the all important attendant tourism these bring to the UK.

I entirely support efforts to protect endangered elephants from poaching but do not believe that penalising the trade of sculpted ivory in the UK will have any effect on the poacher in the depths of Africa or the existing demand in the Far and Middle East as no evidence has been presented to support such a thesis. Indeed, if the UK is a material supplier to this demand, economics would dictate that the price of ivory would go up and the poachers would be rewarded. Nevertheless, I would support the general intention of the Bill which I understand to be that the UK should make its attitude to current poaching and killing of threatened elephants known internationally.

2. Exceptions To The Scope of the Bill

Obviously if one wished to make an extreme public statement one would ban all sales of ivory (perhaps even confiscate existing ivories from those who own them) with no exceptions. However even the advocates of a prohibitive approach agree that there should be exceptions. The question is what these exceptions should be having regard to the implications of a Bill which bans the sale of sculpted ivory.

3. Summary

I attach suggested small amendments which would enable the existing flow of sculpted ivory from owners to auctioneers to dealers and to ultimate buyers and then to museums to continue albeit in a restricted way, while still providing one of the "strictest ivory legislation in the world". This would also enable the auctioneers and dealers in London to have a reasonable prospect of defending the UK’s pre-eminence in the European Art Market and still attract collections from the Far and Middle East, most of which contain sculpted ivory. Otherwise all this business will go to Paris with its attendant upmarket tourism.

There is also the problem of confiscation of value from existing owners without compensation and this would considerably ameliorate such aspect.

In this connection, generally, I would also suggest that cutlery, was generally excluded as many, many families (I hasten to add, not my own) in the UK have (e.g.) cutlery and tea pots etc with ivory handles (one only has to view the catalogues of provisional sale rooms to see this) none of which could possibly affect the demand from the East or the poaching in Africa.

Yours faithfully

John Lewis

11 June 2018


Current Bill Proposal Reasons

Exceptions Section 2(2)(a) The item is pre-1918, and The item is pre-1975 and There is no logical reason

to choose 1918. A more

rational date would either

be 1947 or 1975, as has

been done for musical

instruments with the latter

date. This would have the

effect of enabling Art Deco

(late 1920s and 1930s)

objects, where ivory was

very popular being

incorporated in many

artistic and domestic items,

to be exempted. It would

also (inter alia) bring within

this category the 140 items

involving sculpted ivory

exhibited at the Royal

Academy between 1918 and


Section 2(2)(b) The item is of outstandingly high The item is of artistic, cultural, This would cover

artistic cultural or historical historical or religious merit of numerous "religious" arte-

value qualifying museum standard facts and make the hurdle

very high but not insuperable

Section 7(1)(c) The volume of ivory in the item The volume of ivory in the item This would iron out the

is less than 10% ……………… is less than 20% …………….. illogical difference between musical instru-

ments and other artistic

works and allow some

oriental furniture to be

sold in the UK.


There will be small consequential amendments as a result of the above.


Prepared 11th June 2018