HL Deb 09 July 1980 vol 411 cc1168-9

2.43 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they are taking to secure the release of M.V. "Rainbow Warrior" impounded by the Spanish naval authorities for the alleged offence of interference in whaling operations 50 miles from the Spanish coast.


My Lords, the "Rainbow Warrior" is being held by the Spanish authorities pending the conclusion of judicial proceedings against her captain. The captain is receiving consular assistance and there is no scope for further action by Her Majesty's Government at the present time.


My Lords, while I thank my noble friend the Foreign Secretary for that Answer, may I ask him whether he is aware of the public concern in this country for action on the preservation of whales and other animal species if they are not to become extinct? As Britain is a co-signatory with Spain of the International Whaling Commission, can he confirm that in this particular instance the action taken by this vessel was in furtherance of the restrictions imposed by the Whaling Commission on fishing by quota of fin whales and that this in fact was being broken?


My Lords, the "Rainbow Warrior" was within 200 miles of the Spanish coast and Her Majesty's Government recognise the rights of states to control the exploitation of living resources of the sea within the 200-mile limits. The Spanish Government are parties to the International Whaling Commission and have been given a quota. I understand that they are appealing against the quota and the appeal will be heard next month. In the meantime there is no reason to suppose that they have exceeded their quota and indeed they have said they have not.


My Lords, while I appreciate the points that the noble Lord, Lord Gridley, is making, may I ask the Foreign Secretary from this side of the House whether he is satisfied that the Spanish Government have acted within the two international agreements, the one relating to the 200-mile zone and the other relating to whaling, and that in addition to that the procedures relating to British subjects are continuing in a way which is satisfactory to Her Majesty's Government—that is to say, that the Spanish Government is acting correctly in regard to the case itself?


Yes, my Lords, I believe so. After the arrest of the "Rainbow Warrior" the crew were released and accommodated in an hotel, and the captain is on bail.