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Baby Seal Products

Volume 33: debated on Monday 6 December 1982

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3.38 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the failure of the European Community to impose a ban on Community imports of baby seal products and the British Government's decision to oppose a Community-wide ban."

I had hopes that it would be unnecessary to raise the matter under Standing Order No. 9, because I expected, naturally, that the appropriate Minister—who is in his place now—would wish to make a statement today. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that during business questions on Thursday I raised the matter with the leader of the House, who replied:
"The right hon. Gentleman raises a point which has excited deep feeling not just within the House but generally. I shall see that the point is brought to the attention of the appropriate Minister".—[Official Report, 2 December 1982; Vol. 33, c. 409.]
I can assume only that it was brought to the attention of the appropriate Minister and that he decided not to make a statement, although he was available to do so.

The matter is urgent, important and of great public concern. I am pleased that the British Fur Trade Association Incorporated agreed to the Government's request to recommend to its members a one-year voluntary ban on imports of baby seal pelts starting from March this year, when the culling season starts. However, that is an unsatisfactory way in which to deal with the problem.

The matter is specific, because, on the recommendation of the Nature Conservancy Council, the Commission proposed a regulation that would have been binding on all member States. For reasons that the Government have not explained—I had hoped that they would do so today—they opposed that recommendation and sought to persuade other countries to do the same. Yet the Government then expressed disappointment at the inconclusive outcome of the meeting.

The matter is urgent, because I understand that there is to be further discussion by the Commission on 17 December. The House is entitled to express its view in a more positive and committed manner than through the early-day motion, which has attracted more than 300 signatures, from both sides of the House.

The public importance of this matter is known to every hon. Member from the very heavy post that we have all received on the subject. Cruelty to inoffensive animals is always abhorrent to people in Britain and the annual baby seal cull in the Canadian north is especially barbaric and arouses strong feelings among the people of this country. Millions have expressed that view, and the House itself should have the right to express its opinion.

The right hon. Gentleman gave me notice before 12 o'clock midday that he would seek leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the failure of the European Community to impose a ban on Community imports of baby seal products and the British Government's decision to oppose a Community-wide ban."

As the right hon. Gentleman and the House will know, it is not for me to decide whether the House shall discuss this important matter. That is not a decision that the House leaves to me. The decision is for others to make. I have to decide only whether there should be an emergency debate today or tomorrow on a matter which I know is of considerable concern.

I listened carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I must rule that his submission does not fall within the provisions of the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his applicant to the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. So that the House is not under any misapprehension, I hope that you will confirm that I gave notice this morning that I would seek to raise the matter under Standing Order No. 9 only if the Minister failed to make a statement on the subject. That is why I said at the beginning that I had hoped I would not need to raise the issue. I had assumed that the Minister would make a statement—

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has made his application. I must confess that, at that moment, I was more concerned that everyone should understand that I was not stopping the House from discussing this matter.

Statutory Instruments, &C

By leave of the House, I shall put together the questions on the three motions relating to the draft statutory instruments.

Ordered,
That the draft Commonwealth Foundation (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1982 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Parliamentary Constituencies (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the draft Criminal Injuries (Compensation) Amendment (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Lang.]