HC Deb 09 May 1991 vol 190 cc813-5
4. Mr. Archer

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received on the proposal at the International Whaling Commission to review the moratorium on the killing of certain species of whale.

Mr. Gummer

I have received a very great number of representations, many expressing appreciation of the Government's strong stand on the conservation of whales.

Mr. Archer

Although I do not dissent from that statement, will the Minister take the opportunity to confirm that our common ecological heritage is as much a legitimate subject of international law as our common security? Will he give an undertaking that the Government will do everything possible to give effect to the overwhelming consensus among civilised countries in favour of the continuing enforcement of the moratorium, if necessary by trade embargoes on those countries that ignore it?

Mr. Gummer

I have made it absolutely clear that there is no case for raising the moratorium and we are using every possible pressure to ensure that it continues. We have been successful in using the framework of the International Whaling Commission. It has a lot of faults and we want to extend its framework to cover some of the small cetaceans which some people believe are not covered, although we believe that many are. We have a lot of work to do and we should press on and make sure that the protection of whales continues.

Mr. Skinner

Introduce legislation and stop blubbering.

Mr. Gummer

It is all right for the hon. Gentleman to make comments from below the Gangway, but some of us take seriously the conservation of whales and do not make jokes about it.

Mr. Ashby

Does my right hon. Friend understand that most people in Britain find whaling abhorrent and extend that feeling to the fishing of porpoises? Countries such as Japan are fishing thousands of porpoises for no real reason. Is there any possibility of extending the moratorium?

Mr. Gummer

My hon. Friend is right, particularly about Dall's porpoise. The Japanese have carried out a major attack on that species and I am concerned to extend the controls. However, we have used the present framework effectively up to now. I am determined that we should use it more effectively in future. No one must be in any doubt about our commitment to the protection of the whale.

Dr. David Clark

Is the Minister aware that there is deep concern in Britain about what is regarded as the abuse of scientific whaling, especially by Japan? Will the Minister give us a categorical assurance that he will oppose commercial whaling and tighten up scientific whaling so that it is not abused by other countries in future?

Mr. Gummer

I made it clear as long ago as the conference in Brighton that the Government are wholly opposed to scientific whaling being used as a cover for commercial whaling. We shall continue to fight that. We are particularly concerned that not just one but a number of nations have signified their intention to extend their whaling activities. In today's circumstances, that is clearly unacceptable.

Mr. Dickens

Does my right hon. Friend agree that whales are slaughtered throughout the world in barbaric ways and that the numbers of many species are getting rather low? The management of the slaughter of whales is deplorable. Will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance this afternoon that he will not agree to anything until he is satisfied that those dreadful trends have been reversed?

Mr. Gummer

The history of monitoring and controlling whaling shows a very poor record. One reason why we are concerned about management proposals is that management has been very bad in the past. I see no sign that the problems are being overcome. We have succeeded much beyond our expectations so far. Our job is to make sure that we continue to do so.