Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply. Can we be sure that the Government are sufficiently aware that the effect of pollution and legal activity is already a severe threat to the viability of the small marine mammal populations around Europe and our own islands and that illegal actions make matters a great deal worse?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, there is no evidence that the deaths which have occurred have been due to any illegal action by fishermen. That is not to underestimate the importance of supporting the habitats regulations of 1994 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 were anyone deliberately to kill a cetacean. Fishermen are involved, in great detail and very willingly, in the current separator grids trials in the bass fishery. This will help to inform future policy. As I said, there is no evidence at all that fishermen are in any way deliberately killing cetaceans.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, can the noble Baroness confirm that British fishermen are doing nothing illegal when, in the course of their legitimate

12 Mar 2002 : Column 681

operations, they find marine creatures such as dolphins unintentionally caught and drowned in their nets, usually drift nets?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I can confirm that to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, in regard to British fishermen. We have no evidence that other fishermen are in any way acting illegally. That is why the industry is co-operating in the work that is taking place, particularly in the pelagic water levels, such as the sea bass fishing level, which appear to be the most specific and harshly identified threat to dolphins.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, will the Minister join with me in congratulating the fishermen in Looe, in Cornwall, on their strong promotion of line fishing? Does she believe that consumers buying fish receive sufficient information as to exactly what "dolphin friendly" means?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I suppose that on one level the noble Baroness would expect me to say that the most "dolphin friendly" approach would be not to take the fish at all. I am sure that, as with other food production, consumers want up-to-date and accurate information on origin. I share the noble Baroness's support for the commitment of those fishing in the Celtic Sea in their attempts to overcome a serious problem in terms of the dolphin population.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, has the Minister taken into account research by the New Zealand Government on the use of special netting in an attempt to reduce the number of sea lions in the catch? Is such netting suitable for trials here; indeed, are we using the same type of trial nets? Some of the experiments were set up in 1990. That is a long time ago. Twelve years on, we are still catching hundreds of dolphins. Does the Minister agree that now is the time to examine the broader question of discarded fish? I understand that 25 per cent of our catch is discarded. Is it not time that the Government took action?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Yes, my Lords, we all regret that this happens. We will support any successful action introduced to prevent unnecessary slaughter of fish stocks. Research indicates that the bycatch occurs in fisheries to which other EU vessels have access. Therefore, it is important that any action taken is at EU level. Under the terms of the relevant common fisheries policy legislation, any UK requirements could apply only to UK fishermen.

In terms of the work that is being done, yes, those involved in the research project are fully aware of the research undertaken in New Zealand. The work is of two types: one deals with sonic warning, which can only be effectively used to protect dolphins in the case of nets which are static; in the case of nets at the sea bass level and the pelagic level, it is important that the

12 Mar 2002 : Column 682

grid net trials continue. My understanding is that those grid nets have been developed with the benefit of a knowledge of the work being done in New Zealand.

Middle East

2.53 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations have been made to the Government of Israel to cease attacks on the property of the Palestinian Authority, which is essential to its obligation to maintain law and order in its territory.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): My Lords, we are greatly concerned by Israeli destruction of Palestinian Authority infrastructure and urge Israel to cease this action. It undermines the authority of President Arafat and the Palestinian Authority's efforts to dismantle terrorist networks, and disrupts Palestinian economic, social and humanitarian development. Following discussion by Ministers at the EU General Affairs Council on 28th January, the EU presidency has formally protested to Foreign Minister Peres over Israeli destruction of EU-funded infrastructure.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, in a situation where much of the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority paid for by the European Union has been destroyed—a situation which is sickeningly and terrifyingly getting out of control, with both sides breaking United Nations resolutions and in some cases threatening the whole nature of human values—I suggest to the Minister with great respect that that Answer does not reflect the extreme urgency of the situation. We are looking at a situation becoming so extreme that it could risk a regional world war. In addition, any extension of the war to Iraq could bring about an intensification, and indeed a breach of the anti-terrorist coalition. Will the Minister consider suggesting to the Prime Minister and to others who will be attending the Barcelona summit that the time has come for an EU/United States/friendly Arab power intervention? Sometimes, in situations like this, neither country can move, yet it is desperately necessary for the world, for Israel and for the Palestinian Authority that someone brings this terrible situation to an end.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the Government are profoundly concerned at the continuing violence in the Middle East. At least 92 Palestinians and 20 Israelis have been killed in the past five days alone. We understand the intense political pressures on the Israeli Government to respond to repeated suicide bombings, and our condemnation of terrorism in all its forms is unequivocal. We look to the Palestinian Authority for a 100 per cent effort to deal with the terrorism. However, a strategy aimed at inflicting maximum pain

12 Mar 2002 : Column 683

on Palestinian civilians is not acceptable. It is not an effective basis on which to build peace. I agree with the noble Baroness that we need to bring all the pressure to bear that we can. We are doing that through our own efforts through the European Union. The United States is also engaged. But none of us underestimates the gravity of the situation.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, I strongly endorse the wording of the Question. Does the Minister agree that there can be only an extremely negative impact on the international coalition, and on Muslim and Arab opinion generally, as a result of our apparent readiness to engage in discussions on an invasion against Iraq—apparently on the grounds that it has contradicted or ignored Security Council resolutions—when that is in contrast to our apparent inability and unwillingness to apply real and effective pressure to restrain Prime Minister Sharon from his appalling behaviour, his flouting of international law and Security Council resolutions and his disproportionate and provocative retaliation against Palestinian attacks?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I think that I have made it absolutely clear that we are profoundly concerned at the continuing violence and urge both sides to look for a peaceful solution. We are committed to the Tenet plan and the Mitchell plan. We cannot ignore the threat that Iraq poses to the international community, but, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, no decision has been taken to launch military action.

Lord Janner of Braunstone: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the only hope for the Middle East is if the parties are prepared to return to the negotiating table? Does she accept that attacks by both sides must stop if that is to happen? Has she considered the attacks by suicide bombers and other terrorists, unrestrained by the Palestinian Authority, before the attacks referred to by the noble Baroness? Does she consider that the suicide bombings occurred, and still occur, because the Palestinian Authority cannot prevent them, or could prevent them and does not wish to?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I hope that I have made myself absolutely clear. The British Government consider that the actions taken by the IDF in the past week have been excessive and counter-productive. But we also feel that the Palestinian Authority must make a 100 per cent effort to curb the actions of the armed extremists and prevent ceasefire violations. Both parties should de-escalate the situation, exercise restraint and start the work of consolidating the ceasefire and implementing the Tenet security workplan. There is also some hope in the Saudi initiative that has been proposed.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page