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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 20 December 2004


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): A total of 151 countries attended the 13th conference of CITES parties, which was held in Bangkok, Thailand over the period 2–14 October.

The conference agenda covered 65 different topics, including 27 proposed resolutions, 48 draft decisions and 50 different proposals to amend the species listed in the CITES appendices. I attended the conference during its second week where, amongst other things, I spoke against Japan's proposal to downlist the Minke whale to appendix II of CITES. I am pleased say that was eventually soundly defeated and that this magnificent species will continue to be fully protected from commercial trade. I was also pleased to be able to announce that the UK would be providing an additional £110,000 to help fund various projects, including workshops on enforcement, lions and Asian big cats.

Other successful outcomes included increased protection for the Irrawaddy dolphin, great white shark, ramin, humphead wrasse, sulphur-crested cockatoo and the Chinese yew. Our proposed resolutions seeking to address the problems relating to the conservation of great apes and the unsustainable trade in bushmeat were also adopted with some minor amendments, as were the EU proposals for achieving greater synergy with CBD. Details of all the decisions taken at COP13 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Prior to the conference I was aware of considerable public concern about proposals submitted in relation to trade in lions, ivory and rhino and leopard hunting trophies.

On the lion, the range states were not convinced that the biological data were sufficient to justify a total ban on commercial trade and Kenya was eventually persuaded to withdraw this proposal. However the range states did agree to hold a number of regional workshops to look at the management of Africa's lion populations and I was pleased to be able to announce that the UK would be providing £30,000 to help fund these.

On the question of trade in ivory, Kenya's revised proposal for a six-year moratorium was withdrawn while the EU's compromise alternative, which provided for a suitable "testing period", was rejected. The parties also rejected Namibia's proposal for an annual quota of 2,000 kilos of ivory, although they did agree an amended proposal to allow non-commercial trade in traditional native jewellery made from worked ivory (known as ekipas). The UK would have preferred to defer this
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latter proposal to the next conference, to allow Namibia and the other range states time to agree a comprehensive arrangement for regulating the trade in ivory. However, there was no consensus within the EU for this approach and the member states therefore had to abstain on this vote.

The parties did agree an action plan for investigating the global trade in ivory, which will focus in particular on the domestic markets in Africa and South East Asia where the demand for ivory is strongest. The parties also endorsed the decisions taken at COP12 with respect to the proposed one-off sales of ivory by Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. This means that these sales can only go ahead once the CITES Standing Committee has confirmed that the strict conditions attached to that agreement have been met. These provide for strict controls over the potential market for this ivory, including the development of a unique monitoring system for any worked ivory that is produced. They also require close monitoring of the illegal killing of elephants using baseline data which are now being gathered on current population and poaching levels. The UK will of course be pressing the Standing Committee to ensure that these conditions are met in full before any sales are allowed.

On the question of black rhino hunting trophies, Namibia and South Africa argued that their populations were increasing and that they should be granted an annual quota of five males (about 0.5 per cent. of the total population). This is needed to enable them to deal with problem animals and to provide an incentive for private landowners to allow these animals on their land as the populations expand beyond the limits that can reasonably be managed within the national park areas. These proposals were eventually agreed by consensus, subject to a requirement that such trophies be individually marked. The parties were also satisfied that the leopard populations in these countries were healthy and causing problems in some farmland areas. It was therefore agreed by consensus to increase the hunting quota for Namibia from 100 to 250 specimens, and that for South Africa from 75 to 150.

Overall this was a very successful conference for the UK, in which most of our strategic goals were achieved. We played a prominent role in the main and side events and had the honour of being elected to chair the difficult discussions in Committee II (one of the two decision-making committees which dealt with most of the business of the conference). We also played a very prominent role in lobbying in support of common EU objectives. Our role in helping to broker deals on the more complex issues was widely recognised by all parties, who frequently looked to the UK for leadership and guidance.

The UK's standing at the conference was very high and I am very grateful for all the long hours of hard work put in by all the members of the UK delegation to achieve this. A lot of good work has been done and I am sure we have laid the foundations for even greater success when the parties meet again in the Netherlands in 2007.
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Global Opportunities Fund

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I will today lay before Parliament the Foreign and Commonwealth Office annual report on the global opportunities fund (GOF) 2003–04. This is the first such report which covers the financial year (FY) 2003–04.

Copies will be placed in the Library of the House. Additional copies can also be obtained from the Vote Office. A copy will also be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website: www.fco.gov.uk/gof.

I launched the GOF in May 2003 to focus the FCO's programme spending more closely on our priorities; and to bring greater professionalism to our programme and project management work. It has made an impressive start. This report provides an overview of the GOF programmes and describes project activity. It also contains a section on lessons learned and a forward look to the current FY.


Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 6 and 7 December. Items on the agenda relating to health were covered on 6 December. Items for discussion were: a co-ordinated approach to combat HIV/AIDS in the European Union and its neighbourhood; European Commission proposals for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on medicinal products for paediatric use; and the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on nutrition and health claims made on foods. I represented the United Kingdom.

Ministers welcomed the European Commission's approach, as set out in its working paper "A Co-ordinated Approach to Combat HIV/AIDS in the EU and its Neighbourhood", but agreed that further work would be needed at all levels. The UK called on the European Commission to provide a clearer picture of where EU resources were currently targeted on HIV/AIDS and an analysis of how effective these investments had been. The UK stressed the need for the EU to work closely with the global fund. The UK also stressed its commitment to working with member states to develop a vaccine following the announcement in the UK on World AIDS Day (1 December) on exploring the use of advance purchase agreements to create the right financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies to invest in research.

The Council discussed, for the first time, the European Commission proposed regulation on paediatric medicines. The European Commission presented the proposal, setting out the principal objective of improving the health of the children of Europe by increasing the development of medicines for use in children. The UK did not intervene.
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The Council had its first discussion of the Commission's proposal to harmonise rules for labelling foodstuffs with health and nutrition claims. The Council's exchange of views was structured around presidency questions focused on the key issue of nutrient profiles, the proposed method of determining whether claims should be allowed. The UK's position was that the impact on business had to be proportionate to the objectives, and that full stakeholder consultations on the details of implementation would be needed.

Ministers adopted Council conclusions on a European response to emerging zoonotic diseases without any discussion.

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