Acid exchanges in whaling row

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The Independent Online
PASSIONATELY held views about whaling last night spilled over into what Betty Boothroyd, the Commons Speaker, would call an unparliamentary slanging match between John Gummer and his Norwegian counterpart, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

A pre-election accusation by the Norwegian environment minister, Thorbjoern Berntsen, that the Secretary of State for the Environment was 'the biggest shitbag I have met in my life' was uttered as part of an attack on Britain's contribution to the acid rain polluting Scandinavia.

Confirming his use of the swearwod 'drittsekk', Mr Berntsen told Norway's national news agency: 'I usually say things directly so that people understand what I mean.'

Speaking equally directly from his Suffolk home, Mr Gummer said the real issue at his only meeting with Mr Berntsen, in New York three months ago, was the fact that the United Kingdom had fought against whale hunting: 'I think in an election campaign he recognises how isolated Norway is on the subject of whales.' The Norwegians have refused to accept the International Whaling Commission's ban on killing whales for profit.

In Mr Berntsen's version of events, Mr Gummer was 'insolent' after it was pointed out that most of Norway's acid rain came from England.

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