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Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 15 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what discussions he has had with (a) the Prime Minister and (b) Cabinet colleagues in relation to whaling since the IWC59 meeting of the International Whaling Commission; and if he will make a statement; (177612)

(2) when he last wrote to his Cabinet colleagues about whaling; and if he will make a statement;

(3) with reference to the answer of 19 February 2007, Official Report, column 195W, on whaling, whether he has received a response to the letters sent to his Cabinet colleagues; and if he will make a statement;

(4) with reference to the answer of 19 February 2007, Official Report, column 195W, on whaling, when Cabinet colleagues have drawn to the attention of their foreign counterparts the subject of (a) whaling, (b) whale conservation and (c) the whale watching industry; and if he will make a statement.

Cabinet members, along with all hon. Members, were sent a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter sent by my predecessor in June last year, which provided a full report of the outcome of last year’s annual IWC meeting. The letter emphasised the UK’s efforts to increase the number of conservation-minded countries in the IWC. The report of the meeting made clear that the UK remains vigorously opposed to whaling and details our position on issues such as the importance of welfare considerations and whale watching.

The UK has led efforts to recruit more conservation-minded countries to the IWC through our publication ‘Protecting Whales—A Global Responsibility’. The Prime Minister emphasises the UK’s strong commitment to whale conservation in the foreword to this document stating:

“I urge Governments to join the UK, and other anti-whaling countries, in the International Whaling Commission to maintain the moratorium on commercial whaling so that our generation meets its responsibility to protect whales.”

This year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is also writing to 18 countries encouraging them to join the IWC for the greater protection of whales. In the coming weeks, Foreign and Commonwealth Office posts will deliver the updated version of the leaflet ‘Protecting Whales—A Global Responsibility’ to host Governments and lobby to support the UK’s position. FCO posts are aware of the need to watch for indications that countries, including some mentioned in the answer of 19 February 2007, Official Report, column 195W, may join the IWC and adopt a pro-whaling stance. Posts in the relevant capitals are briefed, supplied with copies of our publication and engage in discussion with their counterparts on whaling at every appropriate opportunity. Such countries are left in no doubt as to the importance that the UK attaches to whale conservation.

As a result of the correspondence over lobbying mentioned by my predecessor in his answer of 19 February 2007, Official Report, column 195W prior to the 2007 Annual IWC Meeting in Anchorage, the UK and its like-minded allies managed to recruit six countries into the IWC, so that the pro-whaling majority in that organisation was overturned. In a further response to UK lobbying efforts, several other countries have indicated willingness to support our opposition to Japanese whaling and to join the IWC in time for this year’s annual meeting in Santiago, Chile in June.