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International Whaling Commission's AGM, 20-24 October

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The International Whaling Commission's (IWC) 49th annual meeting was held in Monaco from 20-24 October. The UK delegation was composed of officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, assisted by officials from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and representatives of environmental organisations and veterinary experts. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary (Commons) attended the first day of the conference and took the opportunity to meet

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with representatives of the environmental organisations and the chairman of the IWC.

At this meeting we made clear the United Kingdom's continued opposition to commercial whaling. We stressed that the UK does not believe that there is any justification for any whaling to take place, other than some subsistence whaling by indigenous peoples, and would like to see all other forms of whaling ended. We believe whaling does not serve any genuine need and involves unacceptable cruelty. We also emphasised our continuing support for the current moratorium on commercial whaling. We are pleased to say that a request by Japan for a quota of 50 minke whales, which we and many others considered would have breached the moratorium, was again defeated.

Before the meeting, Ireland had indicated that it intended to put forward a number of ideas for consideration. At the meeting Ireland explained that it was concerned that the inability of the IWC to reach agreement on fundamental issues relating to whale conservation made progress on this impossible and might lead to the break-up of the IWC. It wished therefore to explore whether there was any scope to reach an agreement between those opposed to and those in favour of whaling.

With this objective, Ireland suggested:

The Revised Management Scheme, (RMS) should be completed and adopted; the RMS, which is currently being developed by the IWC, is intended to ensure that any future whaling only takes place on a sustainable basis and under the full control of the IWC;

Any quotas granted under the RMS should be restricted to coastal areas of nations that are currently whaling, creating a de facto ocean sanctuary.

Any quotas should be for local consumption only, to prevent the development of international trade in whalemeat.

So-called "scientific whaling" should be phased out over a period.

Regulations for whalewatching should be prepared to minimise disturbance to whale populations.

There was a preliminary discussion of these ideas. The UK made it clear that while we were ready to explore all ways of improving whale conservation, we would only support measures which we were convinced would contribute positively to this objective. We wished to see the current moratorium on commercial whaling made permanent, which we believed would be the most effective way of creating a global whale sanctuary, and we strongly supported ending scientific whaling. On the other hand, we had serious reservations about the Irish ideas on coastal whaling, and could not accept any definition of coastal whaling which would allow it to take place up to 200 miles from the coast.

While there was a good deal of support for Ireland's wish to break the current deadlock, a number of other delegations expressed reservations about particular aspects of the proposals. The Irish Commissioner, who was elected IWC chairman at the end of the meeting, will now consider how best to carry matters forward before the next IWC meeting in Oman in May 1998.

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The UK delegation remains to be convinced aspects of the Irish proposal will assist whale conservation.

At recent IWC meetings the UK has, with New Zealand, been pressing Japan to end the use of the electric lance, a device used to kill whales wounded but not killed by an explosive harpoon. We believe that there is conclusive evidence that use of the electric lance is inhumane. At this year's meeting we again raised this issue, and we are pleased to say that Japan has undertaken to end use of the electric lance, except in exceptional circumstances, from the start of the next whaling season. We believe that this is a significant success and demonstrates what can be achieved by persistence linked to sound science.

As in previous years the UK delegation made clear our opposition to the whaling activities of Norway and Japan. We supported a resolution calling on Norway to reconsider its objection to the moratorium and to halt all commercial whaling operations. We also supported two resolutions strongly criticising Japan's scientific whaling programme and calling on Japan to end scientific whaling.

The IWC agreed a number of new aboriginal subsistence whaling quotas. These include a quota for grey whales, for which the United States have been seeking a small quota for use by the Makah Indians. Since the IWC sets quotas for particular stocks of whales, the quota ultimately agreed also took account of a bid by Russia for a quota for use by the indigenous people of the Chukotka peninsular in Siberia. In discussion, the UK pressed for a reduction in the level of quota sought; we also argued that the Makah, who have not whaled for over 70 years, have not established a valid claim for an aboriginal quota. We are pleased to say that the quota finally agreed is significantly lower than was originally proposed; in agreeing it the UK made it clear that our agreement did not imply that we accepted the validity of the case made on behalf of the Makah.

New quotas were also agreed for bowhead whales and for whales hunted by aboriginal subsistence whalers in Greenland.

During these discussions the UK expressed concern about the humaneness of aboriginal subsistence whaling. In the light of these concerns, we proposed a resolution which, while welcoming the steps taken so far to reduce the pain and distress caused to whales by these hunts, called for further improvements. The resolution, which was adopted by consensus, also ensures that this issue will be revisited annually by the IWC.

A number of other issues were discussed during the meeting. The UK promoted a resolution on small cetaceans, calling on all member countries to take appropriate steps to reduce by catches and directed takes and to encourage further scientific research. We also supported a resolution endorsing the work of the scientific committee on threats posed to cetaceans by climate change and pollution and encouraging further research.

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Northern Iraq: Turkish Troops

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they, or the European Union, have taken or intend to take any steps in support of the United Nations Secretary-General's statement of 1 October urging Turkey to withdraw its troops from northern Iraq as soon as possible; whether on 20 October the road between Dohuk and Shaqlawah was closed while Turkish military vehicles delivered arms and ammunition to the Kurdish Democratic Party, and whether any of this material was irregularly diverted from NATO supplies.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My colleague, Doug Henderson, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, met the Turkish Foreign Minister on 14 October and underlined our concern that Turkish troops should withdraw from northern Iraq as soon as possible. We are not aware of any closure of the Dohuk/Shaqlawah road.

Tibet: Forced Sterilisation Reports

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What reports they have received about forced sterilisation in Tibet, and whether they will refer the matter to Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, its cause and consequences.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are deeply concerned about reports of forced sterilisation in China, including Tibet, and strongly oppose any form of coercion in family planning. Although we have no plans to refer the matter Ms Coomaraswamy, the Government would expect the special rapporteur to take an interest in this matter. The UK co-sponsored a resolution calling for the elimination of violence against women, in all its forms, at the Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva in March/April 1997.

We also fully endorse the need for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) to improve the understanding and practice of standards of family planning agreed at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development.

FCO: BBC Monitoring Service Reports

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many copies of the BBC Monitoring Service's Summary of World Broadcasts are taken by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We receive 1,254 printed copies each week. We expect that most of our requirement will, in due course, be met electronically.

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FCO: "Le Monde Diplomatique" Reports

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many copies of Le Monde Diplomatique are taken by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean : We take four copies.

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