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Column 98there? If fire breaks out, it is extremely difficult to extinguish it. All the water has, of course, turned to ice, and other forms of fire-fighting equipment are very difficult to use in such extreme temperatures. That is yet another reason for caution. Where fires have broken out in some scientific stations, it has been impossible to put them out and the entire station has had to be allowed to burn out, with considerable consequent pollution.
Mr. Morley : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, whose knowledge of the Antarctic is considerable. He has raised an important point. I understand that there has been only one large-scale fire in the Antarctic, but in the event of one we would not know what the effects would be, and fighting it would be extremely difficult, especially if it were associated with an oil rig blow-out. Those are difficult to extinguish even in the most favourable circumstances, and the possibilities in the Antarctic make one shudder.
According to clause 2, prospecting activities also include "the use of remote sensing techniques and the collection of samples".
I am willing to be corrected by the Minister if I am wrong, but I suspect that the use of remote sensing techniques will involve the kind of geological survey that entails setting off an explosive charge. Sensors will be used to read the shock waves and to gain an idea of the geology of the area. I imagine that the Minister would feel somewhat anxious about any proposal to prospect for oil in this country and to set up explosive charges in, for example, Hyde Park for the purposes of establishing the geology of the area. The Bill permits companies to set up explosive charges without defining or controlling what that will do. My hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) told us that the ice build-up on the continental shelf is hundreds of thousands of years old. Explosive charges used for geophysical investigations could cause immense permanent irreversible damage and the history locked within the ice would be destroyed forever. The Bill does not contain adequate safeguards against that.
The Bill defines prospecting activity as "the collection of samples". I give it credit for dealing with
"dredging or excavation otherwise than for the purpose of obtaining small- scale samples"
I should like a definition of "small-scale". Dredging of the seabed can cause enormous damage of which we may not be aware. We know that the Antarctic seas are an important source of krill and shrimp and therefore the beginning of an important food chain. I am not sure that we understand the possible scientific impact of dredging along the seabed and disturbing it. The Minister may say that the Bill quite clearly deals with "obtaining small-scale samples", but I should like to know the definition of small- scale and how the operations will be defined and controlled.
The Minister should consider amendment No. 14 very carefully. In Committee it was quite clear that there was no difference between the two sides of the House in terms of protecting the sensitive and unique ecology of the Antarctic. I see no reason why the Government cannot accept the amendment. Bearing in mind the fact that the Bill deals with companies under United Kingdom control, the amendment would limit activities for the purpose of investigation to those which did not damage the Antarctic environment. That puts the responsibility on the
Column 99companies or individuals who apply for a licence to prospect. The pressure would be on those individuals or companies to demonstrate successfully that their prospecting would not destroy or damage the environment.
There are further safeguards in later amendments, but amendment No. 14 goes to the root of the problem by putting the onus of the people who want to go to Antarctica. It will be up to them to demonstrate that they will cause no damage. I believe that that would be difficult, and that the Government will therefore oppose the amendment, but if we are truly serious about preserving the ecology of the Antarctic, we must accept the amendment and make it clear that people who wish to exploit it must bear the responsibility of demonstrating that whatever they do will not cause ecological damage.
Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North) : I have listened with considerable interest to the arguments of Opposition Members in support of the amendments. Broadly speaking, I sympathise with the amendments, but there is a distinction between them and what Opposition Members have said about them. The amendments seek to make more certain the controls which are obviously necessary if scientific research continues and a process of prospecting is carried out under strict licensing, which surely must be better than a process carried out without those provisions.
In Committee, the Minister assured us that the Government accepted their responsibilities and would ensure that they would be exercised effectively by the commission. However, hon. Gentleman ought not to give the impression that there is something undesirable about scientific exploration of the Antarctic or of prospecting there. We have had years of statements that there is untold wealth in the Antarctic which could be exploited. As long as we are not sure that just what is there, where it is and what would be the difficulties of seeking to exploit it, we shall hear comments such as those reported to have been made by one political leader : "There is gold in the Antarctic and we want our share".
I do not know whether that is a fair interpretation of what that leader said, but it may represent the attitude of poor Third-world countries which find it much more difficult than relatively wealthy nations to take an objective view of preserving a wilderness and rejecting the opportunity for economic exploitation. If we are asking them to take an attitude similar to ours, we shall have to tell them that scientific exploration and careful prospecting is giving them the information that they require.
Mr. Morley : There is a clear difference between scientific exploration and prospecting, which goes to the heart of the debate. Opposition Members do not object to scientific exploration, although there should be safeguards. The hon. Gentleman says that we need to know what is in Antarctica and that, until we know, there will always be pressure for exploration. There may be some truth in that, but surely the best way of finding out is through various scientific institutions and organisations rather than prospecting, which will be led mainly by multinational corporations which are in it for their own gain rather than for scientific knowledge or for the greater good of the entire community.
Column 100future advantage. But that applies to prospecting whether or not it is licensed. Because there are human frailties and the desire to take advantage of whatever wealth there may be, and perhaps not all countries will take the same view as the Government have taken in the Bill, we need to write in safeguards. I suggest that Opposition Members, in addressing their amendments, should not talk about oil rig blow-outs as the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) did. Nothing in the Bill would permit an oil rig to drill for oil, or a blow-out. Such comments are unhelpful because they refer to something which the Bill would never permit.
Mr. Tony Banks : I shall pick up a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) in his excellent speech. I always knew that my hon. Friend was a great supporter of green issues, but I did not realise that he was quite as green as he reveals himself to be. He was very green if he cheered the Prime Minister and believed what she said about her sudden conversion to environmental issues. In my opinion, the Prime Minister is about as environmentally friendly as bubonic plague.
Mr. Hardy : In my own defence, I got off one platform and got on another, because my train arrived at King's Cross. I was there as a member of the council of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, although I had no part whatsoever in the invitation that was extended to the right hon. Lady to address that gathering.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) rose --
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : Thank you very much. I have in my possession a letter from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister welcoming the formation of the Conservative Conservation Society, which was written in the middle 1970s. My right hon. Friend is by no means a new convert to this concept. As she is a scientist, she knows a great deal more about it than most hon. Members here today.
Mr. Banks : I accept what the hon. Lady says. If the Prime Minister wants to support the Conservative Conservation Society, that is a good thing. Personally, I would be happy to see the Prime Minister stuffed, mounted, put in a glass case and left in a museum, and I look forward politically to that day. The Prime Minister's wandering into King's Cross station was in itself an event--not only because she was there for the anniversary of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, but because that was the closest she has been to a British Rail train for a long time. She does not like travelling on trains and had not travelled on one since February 1987.
It merely goes to show that the Prime Minister is not the best source to quote when talking about the environment or the sincerity with which she holds views about the environment, in which we have suddenly found her so
Column 101interested. Like many other Conservative Members, she realises that there are votes here. They are green if they believe that we are so green as to believe that the conversion of the Prime Minister or the Conservative party is genuine.
Through the Bill, the Conservative Government are once again supporting the interests of the great mineral developers and prospectors. That is what the Bill is all about. We shall come later to the philosophy behind the Bill, but I will point out now that the Minister is saying in effect that there will be exploitation of the Antarctic. Rather than trying to stop that happening, he says that we should try to regulate that exploitation. He says, "Let us have it exploited, but let us do it on our terms."
Amendment No. 14 seeks to probe how genuine the Government and the Minister are about protecting the Antarctic. If one looks at clause 2(2), one realises that the definitions of "prospecting activities" come from existing mining legislation in this country and not from definitions within the terms of the convention. That is why we are so worried and why we seek to limit the definitions and terminology in clause 2. We want to be certain that there will be genuine protection for the environment.
Amendment No. 14 is specific, referring to
"activities for the purposes of further scientific investigation which do not cause damage to the Antarctic environment or dependent or associated ecosystems".
That seems perfectly reasonable and I wait with great interest to hear what the Minister will say about the amendment if he is not prepared to accept it.
So much evil is being done in the world at present under the guise of scientific investigation. One thinks, for example, of the Japanese, who, in the so-called interests of science and scientific whaling, are proposing to slaughter 300 minke whales to find out how large the minke whale population is. I can tell them straight away that it will be 300 less than when their ships started slaughtering the whales. What is happening there--
Mr. Banks : What is happening there is precisely what will happen in the Antarctic in the name of scientific investigation. There will be commercial exploitation, or a movement towards it, precisely as the Japanese are doing now in whaling. I will say one thing for the Government and Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food : he is doing his best to prevent the Japanese from getting away with that blatant commercial exploitation of whales under the guise of scientific investigation. All we are saying is that we do not want the same to happen in the Antarctic.
As my hon. Friend the Member of Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) said, field observations are acceptable within limits. However, geological, geochemical and geophysical investigations require far more tightening of definitions in the Bill. I am not a scientist or a geologist, but I know that, because the Bill is drafted so slackly and imprecisely, all sorts of activities may be carried out. I am assured that we shall vote against the Bill on Third Reading, but if we are attempting to make the unacceptable remotely acceptable, the amendment must be carried.
Clause 2(2) says that prospecting does not include
Column 102"drilling to depths exceeding 25 metres or such other depth as the Commission may determine for particular circumstances".
What circumstances are meant? The Bill is imprecise. If somebody said that he wanted to go to a depth lower than 25 m, he would need only to ask the commission and the commission could determine that he could do precisely that.
Clause 2(2) also excludes
"dredging or excavation otherwise than for the purpose of obtaining small- scale samples."
An enormous amount of damage can be done to the ecosystem by the use of dredgers to obtain small-scale samples. Clause 2 does not set a limit on the size of dredgers, the scale of dredging or the scale of excavation.
Given what we have said earlier about the Prime Minister and her failure to match her actions to her words--one judges politicians not by what they say, but by what they do--we do not believe that the Prime Minister or the Government are genuine in their concern for the environment. We believe that they are paying lip service to the issue because they realise suddenly that it threatens their electoral position. Nothing concentrates the minds of politicians more that the thought of losing votes. We are not prepared to accept the Bill as it stands. We wish to tighten up the definitions in precisely the way that amendment No. 14 seeks to do.
Mr. Corbyn : Amendment No. 14 and several others go to the heart of the Bill. We are not talking about an end to all scientific exploration in the Antarctic, as the Minister and Conservative Members know. We are talking about an extension of those activities which will become part of prospecting activities and also about the damage to the environment already being done by a lack of control over many of the scientific experiments carried out in the Antarctic.
I have here an excellent report, produced by the Greenpeace Antarctic expedition of 1987-88, on the conditions that it found at each of the bases it visited in the Antarctic. I wish that amendment No. 14 had been in operation some years before, because the damage being caused by irresponsible expeditions, which leave behind fuel drums and rubbish, which incinerate waste instead of taking it home and which are not sufficiently monitored, calls into question the commitment of many of the signatory nations to the treaty to preserving the environment as it is, never mind to averting the dangers that will flow inextricably from allowing any prospecting and thus, at a further stage, exploration for minerals in the Antarctic.
"Rescue or rape for the last wilderness?"
It makes the precise point that my hon. Friend is making. It talks about Britain's abandoned base at Port Lockroy which had been broken into and from which coal had been stolen. It turned out that it was gentoo penguins which had stolen anthracite nuts to make their nests. The anthracite nuts did not hurt the gentoo penguins, but they might have taken something else that could have caused enormous damage to the penguin colony.
Mr. Corbyn : My hon. Friend makes an important and valuable point. No nation comes out of the Greenpeace report very well. That report contains examples of dangerous scrap metal, food waste and glass being left
Column 103behind. On occasions, there has been incineration and if a large amount of plastic is included, dioxins are given off and pollution occurs. There is also at least one example of sewage being pumped raw into the sea from a base. Even when the sewage is chemically treated before being pumped out, the danger to the environment is still serious.
Tragically, we are not dealing with an unpolluted place, but with a place that has already suffered some pollution and exploitation. We should cast our minds back into the history of European habitation of the Antarctic. In 1775, Captain Cook returned, having announced his discovery of the land mass of the Antarctic, as far as it was known then. By 1800--only 25 years later--17 ships were killing whales and seals in the Antarctic and had killed 122,000 seals. Only 22 years later, during the Weddell expedition to the Antarctic, 1.2 million seals had been killed, the fur seal population had become almost extinct, and the elephant seal population was damaged. The whaling industry then went in and carried out its carnage. The Antarctic has already suffered the most appalling carnage.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) mentioned penguins. He was perfectly right to do so because the sealing companies that went to the Antarctic to exploit the fur seal and the elephant seal used to boil penguins alive because they found them combustible. They destroyed those animals to provide themselves with oil. The carnage of wildlife in that period was appalling, and the carnage would continue today if the wildlife was still there to be exploited in such large numbers and if such activities were not controlled.
Mr. Banks : I have just remembered a pathetic scene that I saw on television. Penguins were herded up a ramp and had to jump into a vat where they were being rendered down for oil. It was absolutely disgusting. The people who did that were the forerunner of the companies that the Bill would allow to run riot in the Antarctic. Having seen what was done in the past, and knowing what is done now, I am not prepared to let such companies into the Antarctic in the future.
Mr. Corbyn : My hon. Friend is perfectly right. Considerable damage was done to the environment in that period. When the whaling industry did its damage to the environment, it was only international pressure--not Government action--and pressure from ordinary people, like the many hon. Members who are concerned about such matters, that in the end forced the International Whaling Commission to put a ban on whaling. My hon. Friends have already pointed out the corruption of that system by so-called "scientific whaling", which even today threatens certain species of whale.
I wish that the House were being televised now. Many people outside the House would be horrified that the House was about to agree a badly drafted Bill which will allow not only further exploration but prospecting for minerals in the Antarctic. I firmly believe that there can be only one reason for looking for various minerals and hydrocarbons in the Antarctic, and that is to exploit them at a later date for commercial purposes. We shall be saying that in one area of the world, which we know has a fragile ecosystem and an environment fraught with danger,
Column 104because we allow the exploitation of minerals, we are prepared to allow prospecting, with all its implicit dangers, to go ahead, too. I hope that the Government will at least give us credit for tabling amendments seeking a proper environmental investigation before any further "scientific" explorations for minerals take place because I believe that the damage from such explorations will be enormous. We are dealing with a dry continent and with a fragile place that has no human habitation on most of its land mass. My hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) said that ice remains there many thousands of years. A proper examination of that ice would allow us all to learn something about the history of this planet and from that, we could begin to look at some of the horrors of what we are doing to the planet. It is not a question of regarding every place on the planet as a potential place where the free market can let rip. We should look at the planet with a view to protecting it, because in so doing we are protecting our own lives and those of everybody and everything else.
The Bill is fundamentally and badly flawed. Although the Government say that they are concerned about protecting the environment, they are simply opening the way for its commercial exploitation. The Government continue to say that it is reasonable to allow people to look for minerals. In debates on later amendments and on Third Reading, we shall point out the fundamental change that the Bill would bring about.
The Antarctic treaty, which was willingly signed by a number of nations, went an awfully long way towards protecting the Antarctic. It made it a zone of peace. It stopped military overflying and the potential for nuclear testing. It stopped the area being used as a military base and allowed scientific exploration if the published results were circulated among all the signatory nations. That was an enormous step forward. However, I doubt whether all the information has been made available to all the signatory nations. Much of the scientific exploration there could rapidly become commercial exploration for minerals.
I am looking for an Antarctic protection Bill from the Government which would limit and control any signs of exploration, which would ensure that all the results were published and that the exploration did not relate merely to commercial purposes.
The crucial point of the amendment is that such information is supposed to be of a scientific nature. It is supposed to be published and circulated. There is supposed to be close co-operation between all the signatory nations. However, the Greenpeace survey of the Antarctic has suggested that that co-operation is not as close as it might be. The Bill simply allows those who have been granted a licence--from earlier debates, we know that they could be multinational companies or anybody--to maintain commercial secrecy about what they have discovered. Instead of the principle that the Antarctic should be a place of common heritage and common knowledge, it will become a place of commercial venture and commercial knowledge. Nobody can tell me that any oil company, mining company or anybody else will put in the money that is required for exploring the Antarctic for gold, coal, manganese or hydrocarbons, if they do not believe that they will ultimately be granted an exploration licence for the Antarctic.
Column 105I realise that some of my amendments have not been selected and therefore cannot be debated directly, but I hope that we can have a strict licensing regime with the genuine circulation and publication of all scientific and other information relating to the Antarctic. Above all, I should like a declaration such as the Australians have made, that we consider the Antarctic to be the common heritage of the whole world, not just a few nations or companies, and that it will be protected for ever.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth referred to what Sir Peter Scott said about these matters. He said that we should leave well alone and he is right. Any exploration in Antarctica will cause damage. Recently a ship carrying diesel fuel to a base in the Antarctic suffered a spillage. It was very difficult to find out what had happened. What would happen if there was a major accident involving an explosion, or spillage of chemicals--they are required in exploration work--or a seismic test explosion went wrong in a volcanic area? No one knows what would happen. Supplies could not be rushed in to deal with what might be an appalling catastrophe. Such an accident might be caused by the ignorance of Members of Parliament here, thousands of miles from Antarctica. It might be a result of our blind stupidity in allowing exploration to go ahead in the full knowledge of the great danger that that might pose to the continent. I hope that the Government will be prepared to accept the amendment as part of an environmental protection regime for the Antarctic and as part of the turning point in our attitudes towards all wildernesses. We should learn what we can from Antarctica and see it for what it is. Similarly, we should learn what we can from the rain forests instead of chopping them down to supply a little hardwood to make garden seats. We should learn from Antarctica, and we might gain more than all the temporary wealth that might arise from exploring for gold, manganese, coal or oil.
This amendment goes to the heart of the Bill and I hope that the House will accept it.
Mr. Cryer : I want to refer to amendments Nos. 34 and 36, because the criticisms by the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Griffiths) were unfair. The amendment moved by my hon. Friend (Mr. Hardy) seeks to exercise supervision and jurisdiction over the Secretary of State. My hon. Friend demonstrated his great interest and expertise in this subject when he moved the amendment. The Minister seeks to give the House assurances today, but he may not hold his office much longer because there is about to be a reshuffle and he may be pushed on somewhere else during the kaleidoscope of plotting in which the Prime Minister is currently engaged. She wants to keep herself surrounded by friends and supporters so that she is not stabbed in the back before the next general election and replaced by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine).
Mr. Cryer : My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) describes that as a diplomatic illness, and it may arise as a result of the machinations in Cabinet. We cannot guarantee that the Under-Secretary of State for
Column 106Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will still hold his office after the reshuffle, no matter how earnest and honest he considers his entreaties and assurances today.
Amendment No. 34 would add the words :
"and especially if there is any risk of environmental damage" to the end of clause 7. That qualifies the directions which the Secretary of State may give to persons or licensees. That qualification is sensible, especially if there is a risk of environmental damage.
No doubt the Minister will cavil and object to some of the comments of Opposition Members to the effect that the Bill gives sufficient leeway for the multinationals to exploit the Antarctic which we want to keep as a wilderness. The Antarctic should be a preservation area so that the damage that has been wreaked by unchecked and uncontrolled multinationals elsewhere on our planet is not repeated in Antarctica.
Mr. Cryer : My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover is quite right. Amendment No. 34 adds that qualification and ensures that the Secretary of State has that attitude at the forefront of his mind when giving directions.
We must also consider the powerful multinational companies which have representatives in this place and down the Corridor. I was once a member of a Cabinet sub-committee which dealt with the mining of manganese nodules. There was much concern about obtaining important minerals and there was a north-south dialogue in which the deprived countries claimed that the minerals should be shared more equally among the nations on our planet.
During our discussions, a Member of the House of Lords who died several years ago said, "I saw Peter in the Corridor and Peter said to me, We are anxious about the decision over the mining of manganese nodules because we are uncertain about our investments'." The Peter concerned was Peter Carrington, who was chairman of Rio Tinto-Zinc. There was a direct input into the Cabinet sub-committee, but that was rejected by the other sub- committee members. None the less, there are influences at work in the corridors of power. We want to make sure that the Secretary of State is bound by legislation that he cannot edge round because people are getting hold of his elbow in the corridors of power and saying, "Look here, old boy, what about allowing a bit of excavation and exploration? It will be only preliminary, of course." Those people are ready to seize mineral rights and plunder them for profit, because that is the main motivation of the multinationals.
Clause 8(1) would allow the Secretary of State to
"appoint as inspectors to discharge such functions as may be prescribed"
people who appear to him to be appropriately qualified for the purpose. Amendment No. 36 says :
" among whom shall be individuals nominated by either or both national or international organisations which have standing in the field of environmental protection.'."
That ensures that the Secretary of State's absolute position under the legislation is qualified. Surely that is not unreasonable. The Minister may say that this is United Kingdom legislation and ask whether it is reasonable for
Column 107a Government to be subject to nominations by national or international organisations, but they are already subject to that sort of thing in a variety of ways.
No doubt the Minister is a supporter of the European Economic Community and the Government have to accept nominations from the EEC. They make nominations to the EEC and the present Commissioner, the former Member for Richmond, Yorks, Sir Leon Brittan, was nominated by the Prime Minister as a reward for services rendered. It is not uncommon for nominations to be made by other bodies to this country and by this country to other bodies. There is nothing extraordinary in saying that the Government should have to appoint among the inspectors and advisers people of standing in the world of environmental protection. The Government should not merely accept that-- they should welcome it because it will ensure that whatever the view of the Minister, who may well be in favour of the clause--
Mr. Cryer : As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover says, the Minister may be here today and gone tomorrow. The amendment would provide some certainty for the future and would realise the purpose of my hon. Friends by ensuring environmental protection.
Mr. Hardy : My hon. Friend may like to refer to other examples. We are not suggesting that people should come here from abroad, command enormous salaries and immediately become captains of large sections of British industry. The powers to do that exist. The Government appointed an American citizen to head coal and steel and Canadian citizens have been appointed to head other great national industries. By now some of them may be helping to run the National Health Service. We are talking not about that sort of example, but about the precedents have been well established by the present Administration.
Mr. Cryer : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. There is the important qualification that these persons must be nominated by national or international organisations with standing in the world of environmental protection. That will bind the Secretary of State so that he will have to have that sort of nomination in mind and make those appointments. It will ensure that there cannot be any back-door dealing, with the multinationals putting suitable people forward. That is the Government's record. They have been ruthless in appointing placemen and women to virtually every body in the country. They kicked out of the National Health Service people who were of any independent sort of mind and, of course, they booted out immediately anybody with a Labour pedigree and appointed their own hacks. I have strong suspicions that when the advisory group is appointed it will contain the representatives of capital and the multinationals so that they can edge round the restrictions in the legislation.
Mr. Cryer : I am receiving some helpful suggestions from my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, who will bear with me when I say that the sad record of the Government is of appointing lickspittle sycophants to positions of importance, whereas they should be appointing people of independence. Anyone who shows any independence of mind is kicked out and replaced by some wooden-headed, blank-faced, blank-minded, incompetent sycophant, whose strings can then be pulled. One example is the management of British Rail, who have created the present conflict because of the determination of the Government.
Mr. Cryer : The Cabinet's record of complete subservience to the Prime Minister and its lack of any sign of independent thought makes it even more important that amendment No. 36 should be carried. [Interruption.] I hope that the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman), who as usual is trying to break the democratic rules of Parliament with continual disgraceful shouts and disdainful sneers from a sedentary position, will reconsider her antagonism and decide to vote for the amendment.
I support all the amendments, but amendments Nos. 34 and 36 suit me especially because they are modest, conformist improvements to the legislation. I suspect that the Minister will be determined to oppose them, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) will have at least one token vote on this set of amendments, because they are important. We too often complain about the actions of Ministers, but Ministers are given power by this legislative body. We should qualify and contain that power if we are concerned about this issue.
Mr. Corbyn : I am sure that it was a slip of the tongue by my hon. Friend, but many Opposition Members strongly and seriously oppose what the Bill is doing to a vital area of the world. There will be no token votes-- they will be serious votes in favour of a scheme to protect the Antarctic rather than to pave the way for its commercial exploitation.
Mr. Cryer : My hon. Friend makes a good point, but he has misunderstood what I said earlier. I was not saying that it was a token vote in the sense of a vote being a token--I meant that we would probably not vote on every amendment. The amendment on which we vote will encapsulate all the amendments, including the ones on which we do not vote. Our vote will represent a token of support for all the amendments, even though we choose to vote only on, for instance, amendment No. 14. If my hon. Friends so desire, I shall be happy to vote on all the amendments. We shall have to see how things work out.
If, however, the Minister is reasonable and he says that he will accept the amendments, obviously a vote will not be necessary. There will not then be any accusations about the Government being an elective dictatorship and bringing in the rather seedy collection of estate agents and merchant bankers who constitute the Conservative majority here today to wend their way through the Lobby and trample on every decent amendment. My guess, however, is that they will do just that. We intend to ensure that all the amendments are treated with the seriousness