HC Deb 08 December 1980 vol 995 cc721-42 10.38 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Marcus Fox)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of European Community Document Vo. 6873/80 the Department of the Environment's Explanantory memorandum of 4 June 1980 and the Supplementary Memorandum of 2 December l980 concerned with common rules for import of whale products; and welcomes the Govenrment's initiative for this Regulation which both significantly increases protection for whales and takes due account of the needs of affected interests.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce this debate on a topic which is of concern to many individuals, conservation bodies and, not least, this House. That interest was demonstrated by the 347 Members who associated themselves with early-day motion 17 during the Previous Session.

Whilst we have not been able to meet the request for a total ban on imports of all whale products, which we found on examination to present formidable enforcement problems, we are on the brink of achieving a ban on the great majority of them, not only here in the United Kingdom but throughout the European Community. We continue to support the concept of a moratorium on all commercial whaling—the other issue raised by that early-day motion.

The Community clearly possesses the political will to adopt the regulation to which this motion refers. That is particularly gratifying, as the proposal for this regulation was one of the Government's first policy initiatives in Europe on taking office.

I believe that the Community will shortly adopt a truly altruistic measure by banning the import of whale products for the sake of endangered whales, even though there will be some cost to our peoples.

The International Whaling Commission at its meeting in London in July 1979 agreed upon a ban on commercial whaling by factory ships, except for minke whales, and the establishment of whale sancturary in the Indian Ocean. The meeting only narrowly failed to pass a proposal to ban all commercial whaling, a move which the United Kingdom supported. It was in the wake of these measures that the United Kingdom government announced their intention of seeking within the European Community a ban on the importation of sperm whale products.

When, however, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State wrote, to the President of the Commission of the European Communities in October 1979, the request was for a ban on the primary products of all whales. The conservation case for such a ban is stronger than that for sperm whale products only. Whereas the United Kingdom lad banned imports of products from other whales—known as baleen whales—since 1973, much of the whale oil being imported into the Community was of baleen origin. I a am glad that the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) understands this matter and agrees with me, because this is of supreme importance. Some species of baleen whale are far more seriously endangered than is the sperm whale, and so it is right that the whole Community should give them protection, too.

The list of products we proposed for banning was deliberately: restricted to primary products since we considered this most likely to lead to a quick agreement. We also suggested that the ban became operative with effect from 1 January 1982 since consultations with industry had demonstrated that, although there were no insurmountable difficulties, a reasonable interval was required in order to develop production techniques not requiring whale oil. In the United kingdom, the major consumers of this oil, the leather and lubricants industries, indicated that they should be able to switch to alternatives by 1 January 1982.

In April 1980 the European Commission published a proposal for a Council regulation to impose a ban under article 113 of the Treaty of Rome. The proposal accorded with the United Kingdom's suggestion, but leather treated with whale oil had been added to the list of products we had proposed. Although this extension will make only a small contribution to the protection of the sperm whale, it was welcomed by the British leather industry, which rightly feared that its hard-pressed industry could experience unfair competition front non-Community countries.

At the meeting of the Council of Environment Ministers on 30 June, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services was able to secure agreement in principle to the proposal for a regulation, subject to the opinion of the European Parliament. Here I add a vote of thanks to my right hon. Friend for pursuing this initiative with such success. The technical and legal details were remitted to permanent representatives with a view to rapid final adoption.

In subsequent discussions the United Kingdom has maintained the pressure for progress, and, as hon. Members will see in the annex to the supplementary memorandum, there is agreement on the operative date of 1 January 1982. There was, however, prolonged debate on the legal basis of the ban, the implementation of the regulation, whether member States could go beyond the regulation and, not least, the list of products to be covered by the ban. Happily, on almost all these points there is now Community agreement.

The one remaining major issue is the legal barriers of the regulations. The Commission argued that, as the ban was on trade, article 113 of the Treaty of Rome applied. The Council, however, maintained that since the reason for having the ban was to conserve whales and other cetaceans, article 235 should apply.

The majority of States, including the United Kingdom, supported article 113, but two held out for article 235. A compromise of basing the regulation on both articles has been considered but has not yet been accepted. It 'is, in effect, this impasse which is preventing adoption of the regulations, and I am hoping we can break the deadlock at the meeting of the Council of Ministers on Friday 12 December, which I shall be attending. It is quite clear that the Treaty was drafted to allow the Community to act in this way, and I are sure that we can find a solution.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Can the Minister say a little more about the reasons behind this impasse? Some of us are less than clear about who is creating the impasse, and why.

Mr. Fox

We have a one and a half hour debate ahead of us.

In these meetings of the Council of Ministers, there is a degree of—dare I say—bartering or wheeling and dealing. There are always nations which have a vested interest in not acceding initially to what seems to be obvious. Only two member States are holding out against agreement. I am quite certain, because of the enormous interest in this, that this initial measure proposed by the United Kingdom will find agreement. But, if the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) wishes to make a further contribution, I shall be happy to reply to him at the end of the debate.

Mr. Dalyell

I asked a simple, direct information question. It would be more useful to have it answered at the beginning of the debate than at the end of it. It is a very simple question.

Mr. Fox

Perhaps I have not been as forthcoming as I should have been, Denmark and Germany are the countries involved.

The draft regulation originally published provides for proposals on implementation to come from the Commission. The regulation as now amended establishes a committee which will be able to propose further products for control as well as work out the way in which the regulation is to be implemented.

Some member States, including the United Kingdom, already have controls which go further in certain ways than those agreed by the Community, and others may wish to go further. There is now agreement that member States should have this latitude, which has been included as an addition to article 3 to the regulation in the form given in the annex to our supplementary memorandum as article X.

One of the major talking points both within the Community and here in the United Kingdom has been the list of products to be controlled by the regulation. As I said earlier, the objective is conservation of whales, and we therefore framed our original proposal to bring the bulk trade in whale products under control as quickly as possible.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

I think that the Minister has touched upon what will resolve all our doubts. He will be aware that we have all been told up till now that there could not be a United Kingdom regulation to prevent the import of whale products because there was to be a European Community one. That is fine, if that is the case. Now, there is not a European Community one. There is only a regulation which says that there is to be a committee. But the Minister says that we can prohibit imports unilaterally. Does that mean that the United Kingdom Government will?

Mr. Fox

The hon. Gentleman uses the word "unilaterally". I think that that would be a measure of failure. It would be far better for us to achieve Community agreement on this very important matter. But the position is rather better than the hon. Gentleman suggests. If any member State wants to go further than what this proposed directive contains, it can do so.

Mr. English

And we will.

Mr. Fox

I do not think that there will be any need for us to do anything other than get agreement, if we do, on Friday. I think that that will provide all that we need.

In negotiations, however, we have been able to extend the controls to cover leathers and fur skins treated with whale oil and a wide range of products made from them without causing delay to adoption. That should minimize the risk to the British leather and leather manufacturing industries from competition outside the Community that still uses whale products.

Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley, East)

The Minister said in reply to a previous intervention that it was possible for any Government, including this Government, to go further if they wished to do so. I do not dissent from his proposition that it is better to achieve unanimity in the Community. But is he saying that the Government, over and above a Community agreement, could go further but have no intention of doing so? Is that the Government's position?

Mr. Fox

No. The Government have no intention of going further than what is proposed. In the negotiations, certain other member States introduced specific issues where they sought firmer controls. It has been made clear to them that if they wish to do that they are entitled to do so.

Provision is contained in the regulation for additions to be made to the list of products in case significant avoidance of the controls is detected. Furthermore, it is proposed to subsume the regulation into the one on the implementation throughout the Community of the Washington convention. The new draft regulation has yet to be discussed within the Community and in the House. When it is, there will be a further opportunity to consider whether additional products should be covered

There is, however, a very wide range of goods, mainly pharmaceutical, among which a very small proportion of products contain small quantities of whale by-products which are not to be controlled. The Community did not consider that the conservation benefit from extending the controls over that extensive range justified the extra cost and difficulty of enforcement. An extension of the controls could well dilute the available effort and bring them into disrepute with enforcement officers and traders alike.

The European Parliament has warmly welcomed the proposal to limit imports of whale products. It gave the opinion that the ban should come into force on 1 July 1981 and be extended to cover all products that can be shown to derive from cetaceans or to contain products derived from cetaceans. Those suggestions are, however, impracticable and not, we believe, relevant to the conservation of these creatures.

The date 1 January 1982 has proved acceptable to all member States, but many of them started the switch to substitutes later than the United Kingdom and need the extra time to complete the changeover. A total ban, which some hon. Members have suggested, would, as I have indicated, extend the volume of goods by one hundredfold, only 1 per cent. of which would contain whale products subject to control. Such an extension to cover the minute percentage of products not covered by the regulation as framed would be disproportionate and counter-productive, almost certainly resulting in a weakening of the controls as a whole.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I wish to ask a simple question of principle. Bearing in mind that my hon. Friend is attending a meeting on Friday to try to break the deadlock, may I ask whether he is confident that the list that will be enforced will effectively remove the incentive for people to kill whales at sea?

Mr. Fox

I wish that I could give my hon. Friend the assurance that tie seeks. To cut off the source of demand is the only option open to us. We are working towards a ban in terms of catching whales.

Mr. Griffiths

I am asking my hon. Friend for his opinion as a responsible Minister. Does he believe that, taking into account some of the difficulties, we shall remove the incentive for the killers of whales to go to sea?

Mr. Fox

My hon. Friend used the word "deadlock". There is no deadlock, and my answer to my hon. Friend is "Yes".

Mr. Dalyell

That is an important answer.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

The House needs to be clear about the matter that the Minister is dealing with. He tells us in one breath that it is not a ban but a limitation and in the next breath he says that eventually there will be no more whaling. [HON. MEMBERS: "No "] If the hon. Gentleman is not saying that there will be no further whaling, he is not entitled to have replied as he did to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths).

Mr. Fox

Originally, we sought a ban on whaling. We failed to achieve that, and the regulation seems to be the test way forward.

Mr. English

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, especially for allowing me to intervene twice. The Government told the House that we asked for a ban on whaling. There is no dispute about that. We accept the Government's honest intentions and that they failed to achieve them, but the Under-Secretary has also said that any individual State can go further than the proposed regulation. [Interruption.] I wish that the Minister far Local Government and Environmental Services would not intervene while I am talking to the Under-Secretary.

Will the Government do their moral and honest best to carry out what they told the House, by going slightly further than the regulation and introducing an import ban in Britain? We only want the Government to prove what v e believe, namely, that they meant what they said.

Mr. Fox

As this all came about as a result of an initiative from the British Government, it would be ridiculous to talk at this stage about going further.

Mr. English

Go as far as the Government said they would.

Mr. Fox

If we find that the proposal does not go far enough, we shall not hesitate to take the matter back and go further.

Having made a bid for Community action, it would be unfortunate for the United Kingdom to consider unilateral action. Imports of primary whale products into this country have already almost disappeared in anticipation of the EEC ban. On Friday I shall be attending a meeting of the Council of Environment Ministers, which will be considering the regulation for formal adoption. I am delighted that the House has shown that it wants me to take a strong line in persuading the Council to agree to adopt the regulation on the lines that I have suggested.

I ask the House to approve the motion so that I have hon. Members' support in our negotiations on a regulation which the United Kingdom initiated and which has achieved much better progress than we could originally hive hoped for.

10.58 pm
Mr. Ted Graham (Edmonton)

This is a short debate, and I am as pleased as the Minister to see that so many hon. Members are obviously anxious to take part. I shall try to be as brief as I can.

The prime purpose of the regulation is to restrict the international trade in whale products, and it must be welcomed in every part of the House. There is no doubt that it will be welcomed by thousands, if not millions, in this country who have campaigned for a long time. The regulation is good as far as it goes, but there is something more — I will not say a great deal more — to be achieved. Ministers have made statements that are to their credit, but they will be the first to admit that what we are being asked to approve is not 100 per cent. of what the Government want.

It would be churlish to begin the debate without paying tribute to the Secretary of State for Industry and the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services, who have persisted in trying to get the aspirations of the House achieved. There has been a constant battle, as all who follow the matter know, between the interests of the whalers and those of the conservationists. That has led to the difficulty with the International Whaling Commission about the setting of quotas. The arbitrary way in which people have not accepted the quotas for various species has brought the method of banning Into disrepute.

The House must make it clear to our EEC partners and the world that the hunting and trading of whales must be ended before the species is made extinct and the ecological balance is permanently disturbed. That is the object. Tonight, we are arguing in a low key about whether the Government will achieve that laudable aim. It is a sobering thought that the effect on the marine environment of reductions in the whale population which have already occurred is as yet unknown. It is too early to say precisely what damage has been done by the over-fishing of whales.

I welcome the intention in the document that Britain and the EEC should speak as one voice. It is important that there should be a European voice. Only four EEC countries—Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom—are members of the IWC. Over the years and under both Governments, Britain has played a major role in trying to reach the present stage of progress. The Minister of State Department of the Environment said on 2 July that the Government were wholly committed to the conservation of endangered and vulnerable species and intended to keep up the pressure on this front.

What initiatives do the Government have to keep up the pressure? We can analyse the shortfall, but we must know how the Government intend to impose pressure. It is sad that at the July meeting of the IWC the call for a moratorium made by this Government, to their credit, was resisted principally because of the attitude of Japan and the Soviet Union, which currently catch two-thirds of the whales caught. Have the Government abandoned the idea of raising the moratorium issue at a suitable level?

Without reference to anyone else, the United States has begun to implement a ban. Australia has decided to take unilateral action from January 1981 rather than January 1982. There is nothing to stop any country which is party to the agreement from taking its own initiative.

Substitutes are central to the issue. The resistance to the ban is based on two arguments. The first is that whale products are necessary. The second is that substitutes are difficult to provide and costly.

The Under-Secretary of State for Industry told the House: My Department has for some time taken a close interest in the industrial usage of sperm whale oil and is now satisfied that substitutes are or can be made available for all present uses of sperm whale oil."—[Official Report, 22 October 1979; Vol. 972, c.16.] I appreciate the important cash nexus in the arguments. No country can say that it is unable to ban because the cost would be prohibitive or because the substitutes are not available.

The trade union movement, through the resolutions of the economic committee which were subsequently endorsed by the TUC general council, has fully supported the initiatives which have been taken, which have been seen to have been given impetus by the Government, over the past year. The TUC recognises that, although jobs might be lost, an equal number, or even more, might be found as a result of substitution.

Earlier today I spoke to the Friends of the Earth. It recognises that much has been achieved but states that more still needs to be done, not least in finding a satisfactory alternative to ambergris. It has asked me to say that it is pleased with the success that has been achieved so far and that it will continue to put pressure on the Government. It hopes that the Government will continue to exert pressure in the relevant quarters to achieve the complete ban that we want.

It appears to the Opposition that a major factor in eventually banning the hunting of the whale has been to add to the list of primary products a substantial list of secondary products. Some of the secondary products have been mentioned. It seems that an enormous task will be placed on the Government and their inspectors and control methods. Additional products include articles of leather such as travel goods, handbags, skins, footwear and gaiters. We are talking about 3 million handbags, 1½ million pairs of gloves and 56 million pairs of shoes, wholly or in part.

Even though every member of the EEC will be a party to the agreement, we shall not know whether all the goods that come into Britain from the EEC will have been made in a member State. I hope that the Minister will explain in much more detail, either in his reply or in writing, the steps he will endeavour to take to ensure that the agreement and regulations are kept. The Government will want to ensure that they are kept, but determined groups will be seeking loopholes or ways round the regulations.

Mr. David Mellor (Putney)

The hon. Gentleman has made a valuable point in talking about the difficulty of checking products. Does he agree that that answers the argument of some of his hon. Friends who suggest that the Government should act unilaterally or go for a complete ban? Great as are the difficulties in checking secondary products, 95 per cent. are presently controlled. To bring the additional 5 per cent. within control would multiply by a far greater percentage the number of checks that would have to be made. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce a complete ban.

Mr. Graham

I acknowledge that 100 per cent. policing and regulating of such measures will bring difficulties. I was interested to hear the Minister talk of additional manpower aspects involved in meeting the 95 per cent. control. The Government are reducing manpower wherever and whenever they can. I recognise some difficulties in meeting the additional manpower requirements.

I hope that the Minister will refer to the major alternative that is being considered, namely, the jojoba plant. In the USA, Mexico and Israel—it may apply to other countries—there have been major advances in research in determining whether that plant will produce an alternative. Are we encouraging or monitoring the research?

Although it is an offence under existing regulations to sell or display animals, plants or parts thereof that have been illegally imported, I am told that there have been only three prosecutions to date. That intrigues me. Have we detected and prosecuted only three cases, or has only very little effort been made to get round the regulations?

The ban essentially covers primary products, even though it includes leather, skin and skin treated with whale oil. Can the Minister tell us—not necessarily tonight—what the plans are for ambergris and whale hide? Having taken advice, I believe that they are major omissions from the lists. Why do they not include secondary whale products, such as cosmetics, lubricants and the derivatives needed for cosmetics and lubricants produced with whale oils, particularly those imported into the EEC? Do the Government intend to keep up the pressure to extend the list in the annex?

I do not accuse the Government of being complacent or smug. They are entitled to feel satisfied with the progress achieved, but I hope that they will continue to keep up the pressure. Will they state unequivocally that they will not consider their task complete until the use of whale products, directly and indirectly, ceases? We want a reaffirmation of the ambition of this Government and the previous Government to stop whale hunting, which endangers the species. Is it not possible, even at this stage, to press for a date earlier than 1 January 1982? We know of the action of the United States and Australia. Hon. Members may argue that industry has to retool and readjust. However, whales may be killed needlessly in the next six, four, three or two months.

We shall not oppose the regulation. In fact, we want to say kind things about the Government's initiative in this matter.

11.12 pm
Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North)

I wish briefly to give a warm welcome to the draft regulation and congratulate the Government on their initiative in this matter.

In the early summer, my constituency was host to a conference of all the national organisations concerned with seeking the protection of whales. At that time most hopes were pinned strongly on the coming meeting of the International Whaling Commission. It was hoped that a complete moratorium on whale hunting could be achieved. However, it is important to make clear that, although the divisions and delays that have always bedevilled the IWC were seen, the regulation, even if it finally receives the agreement of our EEC partners and becomes effective, will not be an alternative to continuing the attempt to obtain an ending to the hunting of whales through the IWC. I do not see the regulation as an alternative to that but as an additional way of protecting the whale stocks.

The civilised conscience demands an end to hunting, Put there is strong evidence that the only way in which the slaughter of these sensitive and sentient creatures will be ended is by commercial pressure on those who utilise the Products. In the past, that has proved to be particularly effective. The substitutes that are now so widely used—eosmetics were mentioned earlier—have been used over he last few years because of pressure from customers. It has become more profitable to move away from the use of whale products, which has been the most effective way of Fringing about change and the development of alternatives.

The regulation goes a long way towards creating the conditions in which whale hunting would become less profitable. It is important that we should recognise Mat here is an advantage in a united movement and a united regulation rather than a series of different national regulations. I make no secret of the fact that I should like a total ban on whale hunting and on the importation of whale products into this country. Nevertheless, I recognise that making regulations and policing them is different. It is not simply that the International Whaling Commission has not teen at le to agree on what should happen to the whale population but rather that where it has agreed it has not always led to the acceptance of those restrictions by Governments and individuals who have known of the restrictions.

I congratulate the Government on their original initiative and on maintaining the momentum, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be successful in his negotiations on Friday. This is an occasion when, whatever minor doubts we may have about the completeness of the regulation, we should not do other than welcome with acclamation this step forward by this country and by our partners

11.18 pm
Mr. Peter Hardy (Rother Valley)

Had I originally intended to speak in this debate, I would simply have suggested that the regulation could have been brought forward earlier.

The Minister may be aware that about 18 months ago a number of hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Bury St., Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) and Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) and I took part in a pleasant and successful rally in Trafalgar square. In response to that extremely well-supported rally, the Government gave a clear commitment. In so far as these proposals meet that commitment, they are to be welcomed. I would have been prepared to welcome them grudgingly in respect of the 18 months delay but to welcome them nevertheless. Unfortunately, the Minister's speech causes concern and suspicion.

I am suspicious about two or three items in the proposals. For example, I am worried about the date of 1 January 1982. I wonder whether it will give the unscrupulous manufacturer here or some of our competitors in Europe an opportunity to stock up in advance. We need some reassurance about that.

I was also worried when the Minister we have known each other for some time—started talking about Wheeling and dealing. Hon Members, particularly Yorkshire Members on this side of the House, may be a trifle suspicious, as I am, about paragraph 5 of the explanatory memorandum, which states: Some Member States already have controls which go further than those agreed, and others may wish to go further. I formed the impression that the Minister did not want us to go any further. The next sentence reads: There is agreement that Member States should have this discretion. As we have the discretion, and in view of the commitments from all parties, we are entitled to expect the Government to use it.

The proposal for an additional article is before member States now. We ask the Minister for an assurance that on Friday the United Kingdom will emphatically support the provisions of that article. We ask also that he and his advisers will do their utmost to ensure that the article is as meaningful as possible and fully in accordance with the commitments that the Government made 18 months ago, in response to the Trafalgar Square rally.

I apologise to the Minister if my impression is wrong. He needs to make the position absolutely clear before the debate is over, because he seemed to give the impression that he and the Government did not wish to go one jot beyond that which is already provided for. In my view, that is a breach the commitment made on behalf of the Government in response to the hundreds of thousands of people who supported the campaign.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) referred to the congratulations that had been offered to the Government. If the Minister satisfies us on the points that we raise, those congratulations will be entirely deserved. If he is not prepared to do that, the Government will be seen to have betrayed their friends and to some extent broken their word.

They will cause considerable irritation, which is absolutely avoidable, because I believe that in this connection the Government want to be on the side of the angels. I believe that they do not want to put their supporters, such as the hon. Members for Watford and Bury St. Edmunds, in an embarrassing position.

As we have for some years adopted a view that has across-the-board support in the House, it would be very unfortunate if the Government did not make the position clear and demonstrate that they are in no way in breach of the pledges and commitments that they made 18 months ago. We look forward to hearing from the Minister.

Mr. Fox

I realise that other hon. Members may take the same line, so perhaps I may intervene now. The hon. Gentleman talks of our dragging our feet. As we got 95 per cent. of what was asked for 18 months ago, I should have thought that by any measure—in terms of securing agreement not simply by the United Kingdom but by the European Community—this proposal must be a success, bearing in mind the reluctance of certain of our partners initially. If the hon. Gentleman gives me an example of where he thinks we have failed, I am sure that I shall be able to reassure him.

Mr. Hardy

I am delighted to hear that, but the fact remains that the Minister gave the impression in his speech that he was very reluctant to see Britain going beyond the article. If he will clarify that, I shall be glad.

As our position in Western Europe on this matter was commendably in the lead, it would be highly regrettable if we allowed other member States to go beyond the article while we refused to do so. We are not asking the Minister to go very far; we are asking him to ensure that the United Kingdom stays in the lead. If we appear to be falling behind other countries that have followed our example, we shall not appear in a good light internationally.

If the Minister can satisfy us on that matter, the Government will be entitled to congratulations. It would be foolish of the hon. Gentleman to throw away that opportunity. The Government are not very popular in the country. It is pleasing that there is at least one area where they can easily command popularity. I am tempted to say that I wish they showed as much consideration for my constituents as they do for whales, but that would be grudging. I hope that at least the Minister will not throw away the slight advantage that it was possible for the Government to gain in recent months.

11.24 pm
Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford)

When I was elected to the House, one of my first acts was to table an early-day motion on this matter, which eventually collected 347 signatures of hon. Members from both sides of the House. I am particularly grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Bath (Mr. Patten), Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) and Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) and to the hon. Members for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) and Birkenhead (Mr. Field), who were the original main sponsors of the motion.

It was only later that I discovered that early-day motions have become something of a device and have rather lost the initial meaning and force that they were intended to have. But I am delighted to say that that early-day motion 17, in gathering no fewer than 347 signatures—a record for the past decade—did no more and no less than reflect the level of feeling that there is throughout the country on this very important matter.

It is worth saying — Opposition Members have generously acknowledged it—that the draft regulation is the outcome of an initiative by Her Majesty's Government. I support the remarks made by the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) in saying that I hope that, if there is any possible way of achieving an advance on the date which has been fixed for switching to substitutes—1 January 1982—the Government will press for that.

The hon. Member also mentioned ambergris as used in perfumes. I am a little surprised and disappointed that that substance has come outside the annex. I hope that this is another area where the Government will continue to press for what is required.

Labour Members asked my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment whether he could guarantee that the regulation would bring an end to commercial whaling. He cannot, of course, give that guarantee, but I hope that he is aware that the feeling in the House is that if commercial whaling continues and we see any further measures that can be taken, our country will go on taking a lead, not only in the European Community but in any other forum. I mention particularly the International Whaling Commission, because in the next year we shall aleady have achieved a sanctuary for whales in the Indian Ocean and would like to see the Government pressing for another sanctuary in the Atlantic Ocean. Although this country is no longer, fortunately, a whaling country, it can help to—

Mr. Dalyell

We should not be under the delusion that we have any sanctuary in the Indian Ocean, because of the activities of the pirate whalers, about which the Government of the Seychelles rightly complain.

Mr. Garel-Jones

That is a very important point, and it underlines the fact that, while on each side of the House we are congratulating the Government, we cannot yet claim that we have saved the whale. We have taken measures which will perhaps help to save the whale, but we must ask the Government not only to be ever vigilant where these measures are concerned but to seek to extend them, not only in the European Community but in other world fora such as the IWC.

11.28 pm
Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley, East)

As I shall in a moment be saying a few things rather critical of Ministers, perhaps I may first indicate that I make my remarks in no partisan spirit by saying that the record of this Government is considerably better than that of the Labour Government in this field. I pay tribute, therefore, to what Ministers have succeeded in doing so far, and I pay them that compliment without reserve. I am delighted that they have gone as far as they have.

Having said that, I must say that I found some of the Minister's remarks this evening unacceptable. I understood him to say to me, quite ambiguously, in reply to an intervention earlier in the debate, that the Government had no intention whatever of going beyond this regulation at any future time. If the Minister wishes to change that interpretation, I shall be delighted to hear from him when he replies, if he catches your eye again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, later in the debate.

I do not think that it is good enough to take a position that all that the House should be interested in is saving whales that have become endangered species. I am 100 per cent. absolutist in this matter. I see no excuse for killing any whale on any occasion, for several reasons. I consider it to be a barbaric practice. There is no way of killing these creatures painlessly. It is not necessary to kill them for any economic reason whatever. I shall revert to that point in a moment. It is merely because it has been a traditional industry in some parts of the world that this practice has continued for so long. There is no need whatever for it. We should pay tribute to the efforts of Tory Members. We should be pressing, as Members on both sides of the House have already done, for an end to all whaling at all times, in all places.

As the hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) said so well, these are sentient creatures who experience great pain, and they probably have an intelligence no less than our own.

I said that there was no economic reason for the use of whale products. The Minister referred to their use in the leather goods industry and as lubricants. I draw his attention to the record of the last Government in this respect, because work was undertaken at the Ministry of Defence when I was there—if I may blow my own trumpet for a moment—which resulted in all the major oil companies producing substitutes for all lubricants used by the Ministry They said that there was no need whatever to use sperm whale oil in any lubricants used in this country. There is no excuse for it.

I turn to the leather goods industry. The Ministry of Defence was concerned about a range of leather goods, particularly high-quality leather goods in which sperm whale oil was used. The most high quality of these leather goods were pilots' flying gloves and the backs of the pelmets that jet pilots wear. As a result of a series of tests undertaken by the Ministry of Defence, it was found that these leathers could be produced to the highest quality—because pilots' fingers had to be extremely sensitive through these flying gloves—and could give the right degree of stretch, wear and sensitivity, without using sperm whale oil products and without any appreciable increment in cost.

These were tests done within the Government. The results were announced by this Government, because they were not completed when the Labour Government were in office. The results were announced by the present Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Lord Strathcona, early last year. There is no excuse for the leather industry saying that t needs until 1 January 1982 to produce substitutes. The substitutes are known. They exist, and the Government should force the leather industry to come into line much quicker.

Mr. English

I can confirm that the Government to 'which ray right hon. Friend referred were most forthcoming in this respect. I am sure my right hon. Friend will recollect my writing to him and his colleagues about this matter after having consulted the chemical industry of he United Kingdom, which quite explicitly said that synthetic products could be produced to replace all the products now in argument.

Dr. Gilbert

As for the use of whale products in the one area in which the Ministry of Defence was not concerned, cosmetics, frankly I do not think it is worthy of any hon. Member to put forward the argument that we should go on killing whales because there are not enough versions of cosmetics available for women when they adorn themselves without using whale products as ingredients. That is an argument that will not wash.

I support what the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) ha; said about safe zones for whales and I hope that the Government will take the lead in international fora to get further zones of this sort established. Of course, there will be problems with pirates and inspections. What the Ministry of Defence did was to require everyone who had a contract with it to sign an undertaking that no sperm w hale oil was an ingredient in any product being sold by it to the Ministry. It is easy, without legislation, for the Government to go to the former users of these products and invite them to sign an undertaking of this sort. What we want to see is the Government going beyond what they have so far achieved and not resting on their laurels. They should not rest until they have made it absolutely impossible for there to be any economic incentive for anyone to import any whale product into this country.

11.35 pm
Mr. David Mellor (Putney)

There are many blots on cur civilisation. To my mind, not the least of them is the Continued hunting of the hale. I shall not detain the House by commenting further on that, except to say that I agree with the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert).

I wish that there had been agreement among all the worlds whaling nations no longer to pursue this cruel and unnecessary practice. However, that is not the case, and the situation that my hon. Friends in the Government have had to face was that the IWC had turned down this proposition.

I think that it is right to pay a generous tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr King), the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services, for all that he has done. It is easy for those who have played no part in the negotiations to say that he should have gone further—that becomes almost a cliche in this House — but I say that it is a formidable achievement to have led European opinion, because anyone who has taken an interest in animal welfare knows that many of our European neighbours lack the standards that we have in these matters. Those of us who have been pressing for amendments of the rules on animal experimentation know just how difficult it is to see any form of common European arrangements.

I repeat that I think that my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated, and my view—I hope that it is not a complacent one, because I have been concerned about what some Opposition Members have said—is that for this country, and for the Community if the regulation is ratified, the Government will have beaten the problem of making it commercially worth while to kill whales in order to have a Western European market for their products, because the import of primary products has gone, and 95 per cent. of secondary products are covered.

It is easy to say "Why not 100 per cent.?" and I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) that in the long run that has to be our aim. Equally, however, there is a problem among politicians that we turn to our constituents and say 'We banned it" and people can say "How wonderful that you have done that". But all the problems of enforcement, of actually stopping people from doing what we do not want, rather than merely saying that it is unlawful to do so, are left on one side in the glib utterances that so many of us have made on so many issues.

I do not think that it would be right for any of us to underestimate the points that are set forth in these documents about the difficulties of actually checking and ensuring that the regulation is not defeated. Living in the real world, and knowing how sorely pressed are those who have control over checking for illegal importations and how much work they already have without this additional imposition, I think that it would be right for us to work with this new regulation if, as is hoped, it is adopted by the Community and then, in the light of experience, to move to bringing into control those 5 per cent. of secondary products which, in terms of the problems that they pose for enforcement, are far more substantial than the figure of 5 per cent. would indicate.

It is regrettable that not all members of the Community share our abhorrence of killing whales, and particularly the role of Denmark in this matter is to be deplored. I have said in the House before on the accession of Greece in relation to its standards on article 25 of the Convention on Human Rights and my constituent Ann Chapman that it is regrettable if members are allowed into the Community, which is more than just a commercial union, if they do not obey common standards of civilised behaviour.

It will be unfortunate if Spain is permitted to enter the Community while there remains this substantial blot and question mark over her adherence to the quota. I take the view that there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that Spain is not playing the game here, and before that country is welcomed into the Community it is right that it should put its house in order in this respect.

We would have wished to see a moratorium on the killing of whales, but it would be wrong to regard this as only just second best, because the truth is that if one removes the commercial basis for killing one removes an incentive far greater than merely the incentive to break the law. Anyone who doubts the validity of that proposition should consider the difficulties of enforcing a ban on the killing of elephants in East Africa. Because ivory remains commercially a highly marketable product, certain people will go to any lengths to evade the prohibition on killing. If we are able to create conditions in which substitutes are available and the pressure of bans does not make it commercially worth while for people to consider buying whale products, even if they are available, I believe that we shall have done almost as much as by getting a moratorium on killing.

I turn now to the two nations which are currently preventing the IWC from taking action on a moratorium — Russia and Japan. To my mind, it is almost impossible that the argument of civilised behaviour alone will weigh with those in authority in Russia. But there is that whole concept of linkage devised by Secretary Kissinger as the basis of negotiations with the Russians. I sometimes feel that we give away too much in our trade and other negotiations with the Russians and get too little back. Given the Russians' desperation for our high technology and other forms of agreement, there is no reason why that should not be linked to agreement on certain matters, and the Russians' attitude to the killing of whales would seem not worth neglecting.

The Japanese have done a great deal — a much-needed great deal — to put their house in order as regards civilised standards, but one area in which they have singularly failed to do so concerns their view on animal welfare, which is deplorable. One has only to consider the slaughter of dolphins by Japanese fishermen to realise that their standards leave a great deal to be desired.

Again, I suspect that commercial pressures can be brought to bear on the Japanese. Surely we should not hesititate to point out candidly, as only friends can, to a nation that seems anxious to be accepted as a civilised nation in the West that it is not enough to have a fast-growing economy and great industrial base, that being a civilised and leading country is about other standards than that and that, while the Japanese maintain their attitude to whaling, they are not fit to be numbered among civilised nations.

11.42 pm
Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) has, as usual, made the points that I wished to make, but I do not mind.

I congratulate the Government on what they have done. I do not know whether my congratulations should go to the Secretary of State for Trade, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or the Secretary of State for the Environment. I suspect that this initiative started in the Department of Trade. Whether it be the Secretary of State for Trade or the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, I give hearty thanks. However, I am disappointed that we have not gone to the full 100 per cent.

The hon. Member for Putney said that some member States do not have the same attitude as we have to animal welfare, but, as the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) said, some member States have controls which go even further. Perhaps we may be told which member States are intending to impose a total ban.

I remind the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) that during the six and a half years of my membership of the House every early-day motion on whale products has had a substantial number of signatures—certainly more than 300. I agree that his motion had the highest number. However, in each case there has been a call for a total ban on the import of whale products. A motion signed by 347 Members—more than half the membership of the House—should count to some extent in the Government's thinking on this issue, and it should be a total ban.

I was in Japan four years ago. At that time I asked the Foreign Secretary when whaling would be stopped, and the answer was silence. Some of my colleagues went to the fish market in Tokyo at about 5 o'clock one morning and saw some of the fish that had been brought in. They saw dolphins and goodness knows what. The Japanese fishermen just dredge the sea.

Recently, I took part in a demonstration outside the Japanese embassy on the killing of dolphins. I may say that when we went inside to meet one of the officials we got a receptive response. He seemed to understand that we in Western Europe at least felt strongly about what was happening in Japan.

I understand that the Japanese kill the largest numbers of whales. If they can be persuaded to stop this practice, I believe that the Russians will quickly follow suit, because their fleet is very much out of date. We have the whip hand in this matter because the Western world takes huge imports from Japan. Surely the Americans, who have a great storage of sperm whale oil and, therefore, have been able to impose a total ban, the Australians and ourselves in trading negotiations can say "The British people and most other people in the Western world feel very strongly about this matter. Please put your house in order and phase out whaling." The others will then follow suit.

I agree with the hon. Member for Putney that we should make clear to the Spanish that we shall have no truck with them and that we shall not accept them in the EEC until they stop their whaling activities. I do not deny the Eskimos their odd whale or two; they are entitled to it. That is their way of life. With that exception, the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) and I want a total ban.

I recognise that the Government have made a susbstantial step in the right direction. The right hon. Member for Dudley, East rightly said that the Labour Government did not do that. The Government have done it and are to be congratulated. Please keep up the pressure.

11.45 pm
Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

It is a pleasure to hear so many references to this Government in such good terms and the praise that has been showered on them. I join with those who have congratulated the Government on their pioneering efforts in the EEC to do something positive about a matter that has caused a great deal of concern to a great number of people.

I should also like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), who put down an early-day motion—I see that he has had to leave the Chamber—which enabled us to focus our minds on this subject and was a response to a widespread feeling in the country that something had be done about this rare and endangered species. A number of schools in my constituency took an active interest in the campaign. As a campaign, it was a highly successful operation and was conducted extremely well.

Various hon. Members have referred to the position of Japan and the Soviet Union. Tonight we are illustrating the benefits of being a member of the European Community. Through our membership, we have been able to bring this about, not just as a single country but as a member of a partnership. We have been able to involve our partners in that. That gives us a strengthened position when it comes to dealing with Japan and the Soviet Union, because it means that we are in a trade-off position. We are talking about trade and quotas and about reaching trade agreements.

When this matter has been brought forward in January 1982, we shall be in a position to insist on certain regulations as regards our trade with those countries. I hope that we shall be able to do that.

One of the spin-offs of this campaign has been the development of substitutes for sperm oil. I very much hope that it is the case that British companies have been involved in that. There is a future, I should have thought, for such products on a world wide basis. I hope that the Minister will be able to say something about the role the British companies can play in that work.

There is one aspect of the products listed in the annex that causes me same concerti. I refer to leather products that have been treated with whale oils, as compared with those treated with non-whale products. I am not sure that I could tell the difference. The right hon. Member for Dadley, East (Dr. Gilbert) gave a good illustration and pointed out that special gloves for pilots which were produced by the Ministry of Defence had been treated with the substitute oils. Presumably the differences were so slight that it would have been difficult to tell which leathers had been treated, in which ways. I should have thought it was important to ensure that adequate labelling was affixed to leathers treated with sperm oil. I hope that my hon. Friend tie Minister will take up that point with his partners and ensure that there is clear identification of the goods which have been treated with whale products and can be restricted under the licensing system, which is now being introduced.

Finally, I wish to ask my hon. Friend a purely technical question. I wonder whether he can tell us how many People will be employed in issuing the import licences and something about the amount of work that that will entail. The employment aspect is good. Its cost is another. No doubt the cost should he recouped from sources that benefit from the regulations.

I end with this final welcome for the steps which are being taken. We look forward to greater efforts in the future, which I hope will lead to the banning of all whale fishing.

11.49 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Will the Minister give an undertaking that he will use unparliamentary language in relation to the Danes and tell them, in as picturesque terms as he can, that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark? The Danes lecture us on conservation and environmental issues year in and year out. On this matter I gather that they, more than the West Germans, are responsible for the EEC impasse.

I have a suspicion as to what the trouble may be. It is, in fact, that there is the problem not only of the International Whaling Commission but of the pirate and outlaw whalers. It is recognised that a significant proportion of the world's whale catch is being made by vessels which neither come under the jurisdiction of the IWC nor belong to the fleets of recognised non-member whaling nations. They operate under flags of convenience and have no direct connections with their ports of registry or with any recognised whaling nation.

I refer to the well-known position of the Government of the Seychelles because, as the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) said, the Indian Ocean is very important in this matter. The Seychelles has expressed concern about such operations because, first, unlike most commercial whalers, these pirates are totally indiscriminate, taking whales of any species without regard for size, sex or scientific status; and, secondly, they do so wherever they please, violating commission areas and divisions and national jurisdictions at will.

The Seychellois say: Unregulated whaling and, in particular, that carried out by vessels under flags of convenience, is an assault on sovereignty, a disaster for conservation, a blatant subversion of the New Management Procedure and a severe blow to the International Whaling Commission's credibility". At any moment in time, it is difficult to assess how many such pirate whalers are operating. But, as a measure of the importance of this trade, one such well-known vessel, the infamous "Sierra", discharged 1,329 tons of whalemeat during the last five months of 1978. That is fact; it is not speculation. Most of the spoils from this form of whaling appear to go to Japan, and imports from one pirate whaling company are included in the official Japanese customs statistics under Somalia for 1976 and 1977. If the Japanese have improved their ways, I shall be glad to hear it, but some of us remain very suspicious.

In 1978, the country of origin changed to Cyprus, with the heaviest import of whale meat, 2,776 tons, after the USSR and Iceland. However, the imports from Cyprus were second only to those from Russia in value, which suggests that only the best quality meat was taken.

What will be said to the Danes? Will they be told bluntly that they are behaving disgracefully in this matter? Secondly, what will be done about Cyprus, which is being used as some kind of depot or third base? Thirdly, as a number of my colleagues have asked, what will be done about the Spaniards in relation to accession? Now is the time to speak up in these matters. Having been extremely helpful to the Spaniards, we are perfectly entitled to ask them some direct questions.

I do not normally use precious time to pay tribute to my parliamentary colleagues, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), a former Minister of State for Defence, really set about doing something and fought some of our mutual colleagues in a very estimable way. He talked about being 100 per cent. clear that there were substitutes for anything. The only problem is whether people are prepared to spend the money. When it comes to money in this connection, I say quite bluntly and sentimentally that I want our grandchildren to live in a world where the whale continues to exist.

Dr. Gilbert

My hon. Friend has been most kind to me. However, the Ministry of Defence did not have money to throw around. If it had been an extra cost on the defence Vote, I would not have succeeded in getting it through. These substitutes are available without any appreciable increase in cost.

Mr. Dalyell

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I shall not take up any more time other than to repeat the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham). We have vast documents and many ministerial letters on jojoba. What is being done by the Ministry of Overseas Development to establish the cultivation of jojoba in countries of the Third world with balance of payments problems and arid deserts? It is a very good substitute.

11.55 pm
Mr. William Waldegrave (Bristol, West)

I shall make only two very brief points, one less serious than the other.

The first is to draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister to the extraordinary fact that the early-day motion sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) has one quite unprecedented feature about it, which is that it is signed by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), and that, I think, makes it unique for an all-party early-day motion. I am sure that there are hon. Members even on the Government Benches who will not feel that the House has returned to its full strength until the hon. Gentleman is well enough to be back in his place.

The second point follows up a comment by the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy). If evidence is brought to the attention of my hon. Friend that stockpiling is going on in this intervening year before the 1982 starting date, will he consider taking urgent action to stop it, perhaps by bringing forward quickly an amendment to the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Acts 1976? That might be one way of dealing with such a problem, and I ask him to consider such action.

11.57 pm
Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Minister a number of quite specific questions. Will he undertake that the Government will themselves ensure that their own procurement agencies no longer purchase any commodity containing whale products? I appreciate the difficulties of enforcement, but I ask him to say now that he will instruct the PSA not to purchase products that contain whale oil, that he will advise—in fact, require—the nationalised industries not to do so, that he will approach the Local Authorities Managements Services and Computer Committee so that no local authority procures such products, and that he will, of course, give the assurance that the Ministry of Defence does not do it. I think that that covers the wide range of public procurement.

I should like my hon. Friend to go further and say that the Government will use such influence as they have, which is considerable, to ensure that perfume and toiletry manufacturers also do not use whale oil and that if they do they should advertise the fact that they include such products among their manufactures.

I became aware of whales a long time ago in the Galapagos islands, where I first saw them. Later, I had the distinction of leading the British delegation for a considerable period at the United Nations conference on the environment in Stockholm, where I made up my mind that we must preserve the whale in the interests of humanity as well as in the interests of the whale itself.

I am delighted that the Government have gone as far as they have. I wish my hon. Friend the very best of luck in his meeting on Friday, which may not be an easy one. I hope he will not fall for the blandishments from both sides of the House to say tonight that the United Kingdom would adopt a unilateral position in the event of his not getting agreement. In my view, his purpose should be to get agreement, and he will not be so likely to get it if he says to the other countries present that the United Kingdom will go ahead anyway. That would be the last way, diplomatically, of getting an agreement. But, in the event that he is unsuccessful—and I do not believe that he will be—I hope he will then feel free to come back to the House and say what in those circumstances he could tell us that would take the matter further.

11.59 pm
Mr. Fox

I am grateful to the House for the considerable interest that has been shown and for the many points that have been put to me. It is doubtful whether, in the few minutes available to me, I shall be able to answer all the points. I asked for a strong line to take to Europe on Friday. It strikes me that many hon. Members would ask me to do the impossible, even going so far as to use unparliamentary language to the Danes. As a Yorkshire Member, that would be easy. Whether I should have any influence is doubtful. I shall bear in mind the encouragement of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell).

I wish immediately to put right the suggestion that the Government are not going far enough. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), who put the matter in a nutshell. The important thing is to reach agreement on 95 per cent. of what we are seeking to do. It is incredible that we should disagree about the margins. I do not think that there should be any disagreement.

I was asked about the further extension of the article. That has been introduced since the draft regulation was made. I am hopeful that on Fridy we shall agree that any member State that wishes to go further should be entitled to do so. I do not mean to infer that we do not want to go further. For example, the Danes were fussed about whale teeth. They asked for them to be included, but they were excluded because they could not be identified as such against the teeth of other amimals. They then withdrew their insistence. Britain controls imports of all animal teeth under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act 1976. Britain is ahead in many areas.

The right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) pointed to his record as a Minister at the Ministry of Defence. I accept that he achieved a considerable amount. But I do not accept that British industry has not made a move in that direction. It was suggested that the leather industry is dragging its feet. That is not the case. It is probably true that our industry has gone further than any other. That is why, on reflection, we agreed to imports of rather goods being included. Our industry is capable of fleeting the improved qualities that will be demanded once he directive has been approved.

I welcome the support of the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham). I assure him that we shall continue whatever pressure we can to achieve what we all want—which includes, as many hon. Members said, a moratorium on the killing of whales. I did not go into great detail about that in my initial speech. We know that that s what we all seek.

The question of substitutes is not as easy as we think. The United States is having problems. The hon. Gentleman drew attention to one substitute that can be grown only in arid conditions. The United States is not finding that the solution comes from that means alone. We have a record of the amount of whale oil imports this year. It is minute compared to a few years ago. We are satisfied that industry is facing up to the challenge and is already winning. I am sure that the House will welcome that.

A number of hon. Members raised the question of the (late of 1 January 1982. I realise that it is not the date that we wanted. However, it is the date wanted by the majority of member States. Once the date has been agreed and the directive passed, member States will work towards that. They will not wait until 1 January 1982 to do something about it. I take note of what hon. Members said about the date.

I welcome the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) and I am particularly grateful for his practical approach. The hon. Member fir Rot her Valley (Mr. Hardy) understood what I meant when I spoke about wheeling and dealing. I am sure that that is not European language, but it describes some of the activities that take place. The important thing is to achieve success, and I am sure that we shall do that on Friday. I have already dealt with the other matters raised by the hon. Member.

My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel Jones) expressed his anxieties about the date. If we see abuse of the proposed regulation, we shall take action. I have commented on what the right hon. Member for Dudley, East said about the Ministry of Defence taking action. I believe that industry is doing likewise. I note what my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) s dd. I welcome his congratulations. We note the activities in Spain,

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Minister get the Foreign Office to raise the matter with the Spaniards?

Mr. Fox

The hon. Gentleman must accept that Spain it anxious to join the EEC and it is important to get the ban agreed before Spain joins. As a member State, it would be bound by the agreement. I think that what the hon. Gentleman is seeking will be achieved. I can say nothing about Cyprus, but I note what has been said.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) for his comments about the Government's efforts, and I take note of the abuses that he claims are carried out by the Russians and Japanese.

Mr. Stephen Ross

I forgot to mention in my speech that the House ought to pay credit to Greenpeace and the crew of the "Rainbow Warrior", who are brave people who have fought this campaign for a number of years and take great risks in doing so.

Mr. Fox

I note what the hon. Gentleman says.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) congratulated the Government on their pioneering efforts. I hope that I have convinced him that British companies, particularly in the leather trade, are in the lead in the development of substitutes. We shall look carefully at what my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave) has proposed. My hon Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds raised a number of interesting matters. I promise him that I shall look at them carefully.

It is important that on Friday we should achieve success in the draft directive. Thousands, perhaps millions, of people throughout the world will welcome what is to be achieved. Hon Members have mentioned America and Australia taking action on their own, but perhaps the most significant event will be the EEC, representing millions of Europeans, taking action. This is not the end but just the beginning of ensuring the survival of a species which, as the hon. Member for West Lothian said, our grandchildren have every right to see.

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business).

Question agreed to.


That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 6873/80, the Department of the Environment's Explanatory Memorandum of 4 June 1980 and the Suplementary Memorandum of 2 December 1980 concerned with common rules for import of whale products; and welcomes the Government's initiative for this Regulation which both significantly increases protection for whales and takes due account of the needs of affected interests.