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Sperm Whale Oil

Volume 975: debated on Monday 3 December 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if the studies being undertaken by his Department into the replacement of sperm whale oil as an ingredient in any goods purchased by his Department have now been completed; and if he will make a statement.

The right hon. Member will recall from his time as Minister of State, Ministry of Defence that the Ministry launched an experimental programme in July 1978, with the co-operation of the leather industry, to establish whether sperm whale oil could be eliminated from the manufacture of various kinds of high quality gloves used by the Armed Forces. This was the final phase of a successful programme begun in early 1977 to find substitutes for sperm whale oil in all defence products, and in the field of lubricants.The experimental programme has now been completed and the conclusion is that operational items such as combat and aircrew gloves can in future be supplied to an acceptable standard without sperm whale oil being used in the manufacturing process. Other kinds of non-operational items such as officer's dress gloves will also be made from leathers treated with substitutes.As a matter of policy all contracts placed by the Ministry of Defence for leather items now stipulate that sperm whale oil shall not be used in leather processing. Stocks of lubricants containing sperm whale oil have been replaced by other oils which contain substitutes.The successful elimination of sperm whale oil from defence products has been made possible by the considerable amount of work already done by the British leather and oil industries on substitutes. The Government are grateful for the co-operation they have received in ensuring that future requirements of the Services can be met.