|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 219thinking of other Governments--especially if we are to believe the Prime Minister, and she really has adopted the green mantle and suddenly discovered the importance of the environment and its protection. Even as early as Second Reading in another place, on a number of occasions my right hon. and noble Friend expressed his unease about the Bill and said that he would prefer all countries to agree to leave Antarctica alone and not to prospect and mine for minerals-- [Interruption.] I am paraphrasing my right hon. and noble Friend's speech as the rules do not allow me to quote it. It is naive in the extreme of the Minister to suggest that the Bill deals only with prospecting and that prospecting will not automatically lead to exploitation. Exploitation will follow prospecting as surely as night follows day. The Minister shakes his head, but he knows the inevitability of that happening. In the debate in another place it was not only my right hon. and noble Friend who expressed unease and reservations ; other Peers did so, too. For example, Lord Buxton, who knows a thing or two about the Antarctic, said that he supported the Bill without enthusiasm and that his instincts and his sympathies were with those who wanted the Antarctic continent protected as a world park.
Even the Foreign Office's commentary said that the convention, as a compromise, was accepted with some reluctance. However, Dr. Drewry of the British Antarctic Survey, Dr. Heap, my noble Friend Lord Shackleton and the Minister all argue that it is the best that we can obtain and that if we do not have it there will be an unregulated rush for minerals. I understand and respect the argument that half a loaf is better than none, but I do not agree with it. We question whether the convention is as effective as the Minister and others have claimed. We also question whether the ideal is any longer unattainable.
I shall deal with our specific concerns about the convention and, therefore, the Bill. First, we are concerned about the difficulties of enforcement and the lack of effective sanctions. There is nothing in the Bill or in the convention to stop rogue countries colluding with their mining companies to flout the convention. A country might wish to encourage its mining companies to do that, and it is entirely possible under the convention.
The legal mechanisms to enforce the provisions of the convention are long and extremely cumbersome. Although it is clear how national companies will be regulated, it is not at all clear how multinational companies will be regulated. If the inspection, which is very important, is to be carried out by personnel of the British Antarctic Survey, that may have an adverse effect on its scientific work. We are worried about the problems of enforcement. The semantic uncertainty that is characteristic of several key articles in the convention actually weakens it and could lead to endless confusion and dispute. For all those reasons we have doubts about the effectiveness and the enforceability of the convention.
The second area of equal concern is the imbalance of criteria in decision- making within the convention. The Foreign Office's commentary on the environmental aspects of the convention states : "The final decision is one that involves an overall balancing and judgment of the political and economic as well as the environmental aspects of the matter It is therefore proper that such decisions should be taken in the relevant political forum."
Column 220We accept that but, given the Government's record of putting economic considerations before morality, let alone environmental protection, we are worried that the pressures from mining and other economic interests will invariably prevail.
Our third area of concern is the fragility of the Antarctic ecosystem, the irreversibility of damage and the uniqueness of Antarctica. None of those is properly taken into account. Paragraph 2 of article 8 states :
"An operator shall be strictly liable for damage to the ecosystems."
It says that the operator must clean up and take action to restore the status quo ante. How on this earth can an ecosystem be restored once it has been damaged? How can it be restored by the operator? He can clean up in many ways, but he cannot clean up that sort of damage. The operator has a number of other get outs ; he can claim that the damage resulted from a natural disaster such as severe ice conditions, strong winds or seismic activity. There are loopholes galore.
We should listen carefully to Sir Peter Scott, who knows something about the Antarctic, who warned in a letter to The Times on 29 December 1986 :
"Damage to the fragile Antarctic wilderness from minerals operations, especially offshore oil exploitation"--
that is the particular interest in exploration--
"would in many circumstances be irreversible and no level of protection could be stringent enough to guarantee there would be no damage."
Mr. Eggar : Everything that the hon. Gentleman has said refers to exploration and development, not to prospecting, which is the issue dealt with by the Bill. Does he agree that the liability protocol will cover his questions about exploration and development?
Mr. Foulkes : No, I do not accept that. First, what I have said is not connected just with exploitation and development. Some of it was connected with the original prospecting. As I said earlier, prospecting is the thin end of the wedge. We know that there will be a move on to development and exploitation. We know that in discussions of that protocol the pressure from the minerals lobby will be strong. That is not just the view of Peter Scott. The respected French scientist Jacques Cousteau agreed. He said : "the environmental consequences of industrial exploitation would be incalculable and irreversible."
He added :
"This continent revealed its fragility due to the extreme simplicity of its ecosystems during a mission of our oceanographic vessel, the Calypso."
People who understand the area are worried about the kind of operation that will inevitably follow from the prospecting which, as the Minister says, is included in the Bill.
Fourthly, among our concerns is the reliance on consensus and unanimity, of which the Minister makes great play. But that is not as much of a safeguard as it appears and as the Minister claims. The requirement in the convention for the chairman to mediate in the case of a veto means that the pressure on the country exercising that veto will be intense. We have already seen that in another context with the Minister's pressure on the Australians today. We know from our experience of the EC the sort of pressure that can be brought to bear upon a country that exercises a veto. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) says, the Prime Minister, for all her bluster and her claims to be firm, has
Column 221given way on a number of occasions under such pressure. Moreover, the power of veto is likely to be used selectively. A nation refusing activities in one area will know that it might suffer the same fate when it wants to exploit in another. Therefore, it would be cautious about exercising a veto.
Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore) : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have just witnessed the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary being consulted by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), then going to a Box to which we are not supposed to refer, being advised and coming back to give the information to the hon. Gentleman. Will the information from the Box behind you be made available to all Back-Bench Members? If not, can we be told why such information is being passed?
The convention begins to look more like a charter for mining companies to explore and exploit than a charter to protect the environment.
Since the convention was signed, significant developments have changed political, public and environmental perceptions. First, the public outrage- -that is not too strong a word--at the oil spillages of the Exxon Valdez and, to a lesser extent, the Bahia Paraiso, has been dramatic. In the Exxon Valdez incident the scale and extent of environmental destruction overwhelmed the world community. The public came to realise that they had been lulled into a false sense of security and into believing the repeated assurances that an accident of such magnitude could never happen and that contingency clean-ups would work well and as planned.
The promised emergency response system failed completely and people round the world were shocked at the oil company's complacent and cavalier attitude towards the environmental catastrophe that it had brought about. The lessons for the Antarctic are there to be learnt from the Arctic disaster and from the damaging effect of the relatively small spillage of the Bahia Paraiso in the Antarctic itself.
Those lessons, together with increased awareness of environmental issues generally as well as other pressures, are resulting in second thoughts in other countries. In April 1989, the French Prime Minister, Mr. Rocard, said that France would not ratify the convention unless it contained stronger environmental safeguards, and President Mitterrand reaffirmed that on 13 June. I was surprised that the Minister seemed unaware of that today. Those statements are on the record, clear and unequivocal.
In May this year Australia announced it would not sign the convention and in a joint ministerial statement the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Minister of the Environment stated that Australia is
Column 222"dedicated to the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and in that context our strong commitment is that no mining at all--including oil drilling--should take place in and around the continent."
They said that it was both desirable and possible to seek stronger protection for the Antarctic environment than the minerals convention would provide. In place of the minerals convention, Australia proposes the development of a comprehensive environmental protection convention to be discussed at the 15th Antarctic treaty consultative meeting in Paris next October.
The Minister tried some scare tactics on us today and said that the moratorium on mineral prospecting would lapse if we did not go ahead with the minerals convention. It is inconceivable that the moratorium would not continue while a new convention was under negotiation. Of course, there would be a continued moratorium. As the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), one of the Democratic Members, said-- [Interruption.] They keep changing their name which creates difficulties for all of us, but even more for them. He made a good point when he said that oil companies would be reluctant to go in while the legal title was unclear. The moratorium would continue and it is wrong for the Minister to adopt scare tactics to try to deflect us and the Australians from our aim.
The Australian proposal would ban all mining activity and establish an Antarctic wilderness park which would be developed within the framework of the Antarctic treaty system. It is important that it should be developed within that framework. With no disrespect to the United Nations, under whose auspices it has been proposed that the park should be developed, we, like the Australians, think that it would be easier and much more practical to develop it within the framework of the Antarctic treaty system.
The Minister tried to imply that that would stop legitimate scientific investigation. That is not the case. All legitimate scientific investigation would be possible. It is the aim of the Australians and those who support them to make sure that that would take place.
I also understand that India has come out in favour of that stance and that the Belgian foreign affairs committee has recommended that no Belgian company should participate in any commercial or industrial exploration of Antarctic mineral resources. That recommendation was approved by the Belgian Parliament last Friday. The Minister did not seem to know about that, but the Belgian Parliament is well ahead of us on that issue.
There is a groundswell of support behind the Australian initiative which Britain should join. The possibility of achieving a whole loaf rather than half a loaf is becoming a reality, and it will be even more likely if the United Kingdom's weight is behind such an endeavour.
It seemed likely that the convention on the regulation of Antarctic minerals resource activity would be ratified by sufficient parties, but many took the view, which we understand, that it should be accepted as the only feasible option and that we should concentrate on strengthening its environmental safeguards. But now the Australians and the French are not just signalling that they will use their veto on the minerals convention ; they are leading the movement for an alternative environmental protection convention. That is a lead that we should follow. The Minister has not said, in response to numerous questions from my hon. Friends, what the alternative will be if the
Column 223Australians and the French refuse to sign the convention and if it is not ratified. It is neglectful and irresponsible of the Government not to provide an alternative.
Britain is rightly proud of its pioneering role in Antarctica. In the last century as well as in this century, we have contributed to the understanding of environmental dangers, and more recently British scientists discovered the hole in the ozone layer. We should be in the vanguard of environmental protection in that last remaining, relatively unpolluted part of the globe--rather than be dragged along behind.
The Australian Government, with their practical record and mining experience, are not taking the initiative out of any starry-eyed idealism but in the realisation that unless action is taken there is a danger of irreparably damaging our planet for future generations. I challenge Conservative Members to put concern for the environment before profit for the mining companies. The Bill is an acid test of the Government's supposed commitment to green issues. If they press ahead with it, they will have failed that acid test.
Mr. Hugo Summerson (Walthamstow) : As was said by my hon. Friend the Minister, the Antarctic treaty is a model of world co-operation. It has worked extremely well since 1961. It solved, for the time being, problems of territorial sovereignty, territorial integrity and territorial disputes. This evening, I shall discuss some of the convention's ramifications.
Antarctica is a marvellous laboratory for the study of global phenomena. Among them are the ozone layer--and let us not forget the British scientists who discovered the hole in the ozone layer--and global atmospheric warming. If the entire Antarctic ice cap melts, sea levels around the world will rise by 150 metres. Antarctica is a uniquely favourable site from which to study the magnetosphere, which is that part of the ionosphere most affected by solar storms and which has such a bad effect on radio communications.
Geological and geophysical investigations lead to a greater understanding of the refinement of plate tectonic processes that remain active. The southern ocean is of global importance in respect of its behaviour as a major sink, particularly for carbon dioxide, for which the estimated uptake is of the order of 30 per cent. of that discharged into the atmosphere.
In addition, there are biological studies into stocks of krill, fish and squid. I quote from the publication, "Antarctica 2000," which is the Natural Environment Research Council's strategy for Antarctic research. Section 9 on page 3 describes the Antarctic ice sheet :
"The ice sheet presents unparalleled scope for the study of past climate and environmental conditions extending back to possibly one million years BP. Isotopic ratios of oxygen and hydrogen within the frozen water molecule are diagnostic of palaeotemperatures ; acids and insoluble particulate matter indicate periods of volcanic activity ; gas bubble pressures assist in estimating the former elevation of the ice sheet, whilst the included gas provides insight into the composition of the Earth's ancient atmosphere. The analysis of ice cores also traces the inexorable rise of CO and other gases such as methane, nitrous oxides, other oxides of nitrogen and sulphur since pre-industrial times, some of which contribute to the greenhouse effect. In addition, heavy metals such as copper, lead, zinc and cadmium can be measured to levels of picograms per gram. Ice core chemistry of this sensitivity is thus able to monitor changes in the global background levels of these chemicals, which are transferred to Antarctica by atmospheric circulation."
Column 224In order to put some flesh on those bones, I may add that my brother worked for the British Antarctic Survey for five years and spent nearly three years on-station in Antarctica. His was an object lesson in the work done by the survey in measuring world pollution levels. The survey knows full well that, at a certain depth in the ice sheet, one can recover samples of snow that fell hundreds of years ago, and do so very precisely. In that way, one can identify the level of a particular pollutant 100 years ago and its level today. Antarctica is the only place in the world where it is possible to do that.
Following ratification of the Antarctic treaty in 1961, three additional legal instruments emerged, which together form the Antarctic treaty system. They are the agreed measures for the conservation of Antarctic flora and fauna of 1964 ; the conservation of Antarctic seals in 1972 ; and the convention on the conservation of Antarctic marine-living resources. I mention them in detail because they were the forerunners of the convention on the regulation of Antarctic mineral resource activities, which is what all the fuss is about.
We have a strong voice in the British Antarctic Survey which, since 1961, has undertaken an integrated and coherent programme of first-class research. It is worth listening to the survey's views, but now I quote from a letter from Greenpeace. I thank Greenpeace for writing to me and appreciate the trouble that it has taken. The letter comes to me from Mr. Dougie Patel, Antarctica campaigner, who writes :
"given the unresolved issue of sovereignty in Antarctica, very few if any operators would have risked investment in exploration and development without a clear legal system for licensing and some security for realising their investment."
That point has already been made, but it is complete nonsense. Any nation deciding to exploit Antarctica's world resources--if they are there to exploit--might decide that it would keep the oil for its own use. One can imagine the Soviet Union, for example, getting up the oil and taking it back to Russia, not for resale but for its own use. In that case, arguments about a "clear legal system" are nonsense, for who is to enforce such a system? Mr. Patel continues : "This Bill commits"--
note the use of the word "commits"--
"the UK to accept future mineral exploitation of Antarctica by other nations, even in UK claimed territory".
The Bill does no such thing. Mr. Patel adds :
"In effect Parliament is being asked to commit the UK to support an Antarctic mining regime without the opportunity for full debate on the future consequences of our ratification of the Convention." That, too, is nonsense. I suspect that Mr. Patel has not read the explanatory and financial memorandum, which states :
"The Bill prohibits any activities in Antarctica for, or for purposes connected with, the exploration or exploitation of mineral resources, except prospecting activities authorised by the United Kingdom Government or by another State which is party to the Convention."
In other words, Mr. Patel has made an assumption about the Bill, and has taken it to be the truth.
Mr. Patel goes on to comment on the position of Australia and France. On Australia, he says :
"Prime Minister Bob Hawke has declared that his Government will not sign CRAMRA."
That is true so far : the Australians have not signed the convention, and I feel that we are entitled to ask what factors are at work there. Can the reason be the rise of the green factor in Australia, or perhaps the fact that that
Column 225nation has long exploited its own primary mineral resources? Can Australia be looking across the southern ocean towards Antarctica, hoping to apply its expertise there? As for the French, they can hardly talk ; driving a new airstrip across Antarctica hardly presents a good example to the rest of the world.
Belgium currently has a Bill going through its Parliament which will make it illegal for any Belgian national to prospect for or exploit any minerals in Antarctica. Bully for Belgium, I say. How ridiculous : such a law would be completely unenforceable. Finally, Mr. Patel says :
"Or the UK can choose to open up a truly pristine wilderness for minerals mining. Any participation in a policy of burning more fossil fuels demonstrates that the UK Government has not yet made the commitment to develop, (or encourage others to develop) alternatives to fossil fuels and to mitigate the process of global warming." I need only mention the two words "nuclear power", which, of course, will drive anyone from Greenpeace completely insane.
Why is there a need for the convention? It would decide in advance whether the risks are acceptable. The procedure gives the benefit of the doubt to the protection of the environment--otherwise, as my hon. Friend the Minister has said, there is the strong possibility of an unregulated scramble for the Antarctic's resources.
The importance of the convention is shown by the fact that the treaty's consultative parties took six years to reach agreement in Wellington on 2 June 1988. At present there is only a voluntary moratorium, and if agreement is not reached that may go by the board.
Let us consider the resources of the Antarctic. It must be remembered that only 1 or 2 per cent. of its land mass is above ice ; most of it is covered by a sheet of ice up to 5 km deep. To the best of my knowledge, the technology is not available for the process of drilling through the ice to the rock beneath to be possible. It should also be borne in mind that the ice is constantly on the move. The Americans say that they reckon that Antarctica's continental shelf has oil reserves amounting to 45 billion barrels. That is nonsense. The continental shelf is comparatively small ; moreover, the formation of the continental ice sheet has meant that the sediments normally deposited to form oil and gas have not been produced. The American assessment is pure fantasy--nor are the technology and resources available for coal, copper or any other mineral to be obtained in such inimical conditions.
The Antarctic treaty has worked well, but it can continue to work only if it is supported by the consultative parties. My final word is that Australia and France should think twice about the effects that their refusal to ratify the convention will have on the future of the treaty.
Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley, East) : I am deeply suspicious of the way in which Her Majesty's Government have reached their own decision on this matter. As I understand it, they have had singularly little discussion with non-governmental organisations that are quite properly concerned about environmental matters. I am also told that the United Kingdom delegation in Auckland did not include a single representative from the Nature
Column 226Conservancy Council or any other non- governmental organisation--or, for that matter, from the Department of the Environment, although, given the way in which the Department is run nowadays, that might be a blessing. The Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Energy were represented throughout, as well as the Foreign Office. It is clear that there is a good deal going on about which the Minister has not come clean.
My suspicions are heightened by the Minister's statement that the Bill will regulate what goes on. He must know that--as has been made clear by my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) and many others--any regime that permits prospecting must envisage the ultimate possibility of exploitation ; otherwise there would be no point in prospecting.
The Minister is an amiable fellow, and I know that he is intelligent enough at least to understand that point. He says that the Bill permits prospecting, but he does not say how many people will be allowed to prospect. Will it be on a gold rush scale? The Minister also said that drilling would be permitted only down to 25 m, which he hoped would reassure us that things would not be too bad. Unfortunately, it appears that he has not even read clause 2 of his own Bill. Subsection (2) states :
" prospecting activities' includes field observations, geological, geochemical and geophysical investigations, the use of remote sensing techniques and the collection of samples, but does not include drilling to depths exceeding 25 metres or such other depth as the Commission may determine".
There is nothing to say that the limit must be 25 m ; the Commission may determine a limit of 50, 75 or 100 m on any day of the week.
The Minister said that a complete ban on mineral exploitation was impossible to achieve, and let it slip that it had been tried throughout the 1970s. For his information, in less than six months' time we shall be moving into the 1990s. In the 1970s, people had hardly heard of the ozone layer, and they certainly did not know that there were any holes in it. They were not as concerned about environmental matters then. The Prime Minister had not even heard of the Green party in 1970 ; she was still going around taking children's milk away from them.
It is absurd to pretend that public opinion throughout the world has not moved on since the 1970s. The Minister frowns and shakes his head. If he really believes that public opinion has not moved on since then, I do not know what world he has been living in. Public opinion--not only in this country but in the United States, western Europe and Japan--has moved on dramatically in the past decade on many different environmental issues, and I see no reason why Her Majesty's Government should not at least attempt to see whether a complete ban on mineral exploitation may not still be feasible.
Unlike the Minister, I am informed that the French Government's position on the convention is clear, but we shall see who turns out to be right in the event. I certainly endorse what was said by the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Summerson) : I think that there is more than a little hypocrisy in the French Government's attitude, given that they are already conniving at the defiling of the Antarctic environment with the airstrip that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.
I am concerned about the phrase "significant adverse effects" which appears in the convention. Nowhere do I see it defined, and it is an extremely elastic phrase, which could
Column 227mean all things to all men. It would be helpful if the Minister could define it for us, as he has not done so yet-- although, to be fair to him, he talked about the various categories of adverse effect.
In that connection, let me again echo the hon. Member for Walthamstow by quoting an article written last year by Miss Cassandra Phillips of World Wildlife Fund News. It states :
"The operations would have to be based on the narrow coastal areas which are ice-free for part of the year, and which comprise only about 2 per cent. of the total land area. Some of these refuges are already overcrowded with scientific research stations, and they are also the areas used by the vast breeding colonies of penguins and seals."
My hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley drew attention to the possibility of oil spills. I am sure he does not believe that we shall see super-tankers cruising in that part of the world. But a nasty accident could occur with a small survey ship, or there could be the sort of accident we saw at Spitsbergen recently with a major cruise liner. Cruising activities are becoming more popular in that part of the world. Even without hitting another ship, a modern liner can run into an iceberg.
I do not believe that in the northern hemisphere there has been an accident giving rise to a severe pollution problem. In the southern hemisphere, however, the air and sea currents are different. There, any pollution is less likely to be dispersed, which is one reason why we have the ozone effect over the south pole rather than over the north pole. Any clean-up operations down there would be extremely difficult.
The Bill gives the Government powers over United Kingdom nationals and companies, but I am not sure where they can exercise those powers. Will they be constrained to exercise them purely in the territories claimed by the United Kingdom, or will they be able to roam all over the Antarctic seeking to enforce the provisions of this measure and of any licences granted by Her Majesty's Government? Equally, if the convention comes into effect and other countries, such as Argentina and France, sign it and appoint inspectors, will they have inspectors running all over British Antarctic territories trying to enforce regulations against their citizens and nationals wherever they might be prospecting throughout the Antarctic territories?
What powers would our inspectors or the inspectors of any other signatory states have over companies not incorporated in any of those signatory states? It appears that there could be completely open hunting for a company that incorporated itself, for example, in Luxembourg or in some other tax haven and then engaged in prospecting--or any other activities for that matter--in that part of the world. The Bill is probably a model for the sort of legislation that other countries are being invited to pass. It seems that it will be powerless to deal with such a situation.
I endorse the views of the Australian Government. I do not want to see any prospecting or any mineral activity in the southern ocean. The Minister is being defeatist in saying that what was not possible in the 1970s cannot be attempted in the 1990s. Antarctica needs to be placed under United Nations trusteeship and the whole area--land, water and the continental shelf-- should be policed by a United Nations agency.
Column 2288.33 pm
Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford) : I do not want to ruin an illustrious future career on the Opposition Front Bench for the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), but I wish to extend to him my deepest sympathy for having to move, with such discomfiture, an amendment which shows that the Labour party is hoist on its own petard.
The Opposition amendment is, sadly, a false prospectus, for reasons that I will describe. Also, it is clear from the remarks that the hon. Gentleman made at the outset of his speech, when trying to garner support for the about-turn by the Labour party--praying in aid comments made in the other place--just how difficult his task was. But I give him credit for doing it with great bravado and a degree of panache.
I will describe the problems that the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley had and how he tried to get round them. He quoted some remarks made by Lord Buxton of Alsa in the other place and said that the noble Lord had said on Second Reading on 20 April that he supported the Bill without enthusiasm. That was true, but the hon. Gentleman omitted to quote from the noble Lord's speech, or had failed to see, a point that the House might find illuminating. Discussing the Bill, Lord Buxton said :
"I welcome the Bill because it probably provides the only hope"--[ Official Report, House of Lords, 20 April 1989 ; Vol. 506, c.934.]
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I draw the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that he should not quote directly from the Official Report of the other place. Perhaps he can paraphrase the passage he has in mind.
Lord Buxton welcomed the Bill because, he said, it was the best measure possible in the circumstances of human nature. That is different from suggesting that he did not like the Bill and that he supported it without enthusiasm. I agree that it was without enthusiasm, but that was because he was a realist and understood human nature.
The Labour Leader in the other House, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, also welcomed the Bill. In addition, he congratulated the Government and their officials on agreeing the convention and assured their Lordships' House that he would do all he could to assist the Bill to have a swift passage. We can appreciate from those remarks the problems that faced the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley.
That brings us to the Opposition amendment. To be charitable, one might say that it is littered with mistakes and inaccuracies because Labour Members were too quick in trying to get it tabled so as to cover their tracks. The amendment says :
"That this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which fails to take account of major changes since the signing of the Convention".
"What a difference a day makes," in the words of the song. But what a difference an amendment makes in merely three months, since Lord Cledwyn promised his support for the Bill. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no signing of the convention. It was adopted on 2 June, but there has not been a signing. That is mistake number one.
Next, the amendment talks about taking
Column 229"account of major changes including the Exxon disaster". The Exxon disaster took place at Easter time this year, almost a month before Lord Cledwyn's promise of support for the Bill. The amendment goes on to talk about
"increased public concern about ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect".
The Prime Minister as long ago as September last year spoke of the important environmental issues and problems facing this country and the world and raised the whole problem of the ozone layer. She held a conference at No. 10 Downing street in March of this year, probably two months before Lord Cledwyn promised his support for the Bill. The amendment goes on to talk about
"opposition to signing the Convention by the governments of Australia and France".
We have discovered from the Minister's remarks tonight that France has not yet publicly declared its position, although Australia has declared its interest, so I congratulate the Opposition on getting right one out of six points in the amendment.