Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons am 11:20 am ar 22 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 11:20, 22 Mawrth 2024

Many Members on both sides of the House have been eagerly awaiting the passing of this piece of legislation, as have many outside campaigners who have worked tirelessly on the issue and many of our constituents. I have had many emails on the issue in Taunton Deane. I thank John Spellar for introducing the Bill and all those who have taken part in the debate, not least my hon. Friend Henry Smith, who did such a sterling job just one year ago. I think he will agree that we had a lively debate then, and we have had a similarly lively debate today.

I want to list some of the colleagues from both sides of the House who have spoken eloquently. My hon. Friend Tim Loughton made the point well about taking photographs of these wonderful creatures. There were interventions by my right hon. Friends the Members for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) and for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) and my hon. Friend Dean Russell, but there have also been moving speeches, in particular from my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley. Of course, many Opposition speakers have joined in as well.

It is clear that the issue of hunting trophies continues to divide opinion. We have witnessed some of that today from my hon. Friends the Members for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) and for North Herefordshire (Sir Bill Wiggin). There is disagreement over the scientific, social, economic, moral and ethical rationales for trophy hunting, and that will no doubt continue for some time. There are those who point to evidence of the potential benefits of well-managed hunting—we heard a great deal about that from my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire. We also heard the other side of the argument, with evidence of the harm caused by poor practice.

I want to stress something critical: we face the triple planetary crisis of biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution. Those are the greatest threats we face globally and, as the nature Minister, they are in my inbox every day. I am only too aware of all those threats and of how we need to tackle them. About 1 million animal and plant species face extinction. Much of that has occurred very recently—in our lifetime. The abundance, diversity and connectivity of species is declining faster than at any time in human history, and that includes the species targeted for trophy hunting. We all know and love them: elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and polar bears, to name just a handful.

There are those who argue that banning the import of trophies from those animals will do nothing to improve their conservation status, and I am certainly listening to my hon. Friends on that, but we have to ask ourselves whether importing into Great Britain trophies from endangered animals helps to tackle biodiversity loss. Does this trade really help to secure a sustainable future for species on the brink of extinction? Many animals are under terrible threat anyway because their habitats are shrinking. That is happening for a range of social and economic reasons, but climate change is certainly part of it. Ultimately, the aim of the Bill is to ensure that imports of hunting trophies to Great Britain do not put additional pressure on already threatened species. That is what should concentrate our minds, and that is why I am pleased to confirm that the Government will support the Bill. In doing so, we signal our continued determination to fulfil our manifesto commitment in this regard.

I have heard the argument that a ban will have implications for local communities and conservation efforts globally, which is definitely something we must consider carefully. We must be alive to the unintended consequences. However, the Bill is about imports into Great Britain, as many have said in the debate—my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal reminded us of that. This is about listening to the British public. There is a clear, strong and consistent message that we need to bring to an end the imports of endangered animals taken as hunting trophies. The winds of change are blowing us in that direction, and a number of countries have already put restrictions in place.