§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will support the European Commission and the European Parliament in their vote to ban the import of baby seal products into this country.
§ The Earl of Avon
My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, the Member for Pudsey, led the United Kingdom delegation at the meeting of EC Council of Environment Ministers on 17th December, at which the principal item discussed, as on 3rd December, was a range of proposals from the Commission and the Presidency relating to the import into the Community of the products of harp and hooded seal pups (whitecoats and bluebacks).
We are glad to report that, after prolonged and difficult discussions, the Council reached unanimous agreement on a wide-ranging resolution which will close the main market for these products before the next cull. Member states have undertaken to adopt all measures necessary to prevent such imports. The Commission has been instructed to undertake a comprehensive examination of all aspects of the cull and to explore proposals put forward by Canada for the international management of Atlantic seals. The Council will review the justification for further Community action by 1 st March next year in the light of progress made by the Commission.
As was reported by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State on 7th December in another place, so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, agreement has already been reached with the British Fur Trade Federation on effective controls from 1st March 1983. These will be monitored by the Government. In addition, you will be aware that from 1st January 1981, all seal skin products sold in this country have had to be marked as such, thus allowing consumers to make their own choice about the purchase of these products.
My honourable friend is satisfied that these measures by the Community should meet concern expressed both in Parliament and by the public that action be taken to prevent trade while doubts remain about the humanity and consequences of the cull. I understand that the Community market accounts for over 90 per cent. of the world market in these products and the decisions taken on Friday will virtually bring this trade to a halt.