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(iv) any difficulties, such as technical deficiencies or lack or know-how, encountered in compiling any specified information. In paragraph (e), "effects" includes secondary, cumulative, short, medium and long term, permanent, temporary and negative effects. (8A) Where further information is included in an environmental statement pursuant to (7) above, a non- technical summary of that information shall also be provided.
(9A) The British Antarctic Licensing Commission shall not grant a licence to any person unless it is satisfied
(i) that the person is suitably qualified to hold a licence ; and (
(ii) that the carrying on by that person of the authorised activities will be consistent with the international obligations of the United Kingdom.
(10) A licence shall be granted for a maximum period of two years and subject to such conditions as the British Antarctic Licensing Commission thinks fit.".'
No. 20, in page 3, line 5, after with', insert all'. No. 27, in page 3, line 6, at end add
and that such a licence shall not be granted unless the Secretary of State is completely satisfied that no pollution will result from its implementation'.
No. 22, in page 3, line 16, leave out such loss or', and insert any'.
No. 24, in page 3, line 17, after activities', insert
such loss or other damage'.
No. 25, in page 3, line 17, leave out and'.
No. 29, in page 3, line 18, leave out providing for' and insert requiring'.
No. 26. in page 3, line, 19, at end insert
(d) requiring the licensee, within twelve months from the grant of his license and prior to commencing any prospecting activities, to prepare, and from time to time modify, a statement setting out the manner in which he proposes to prevent damage to the environment or ecosystem of Antarctica arising out of the carring on by him of authorised activities ; and
(e) requiring the licensee, before preparing or modifying a statement, to consult with the Commission and with the Nature Conservancy Council or such other body as the British Antarctic Licensing Commission shall consider appropriate.'.
No. 28, in page 3, line 19, at end add
(d) and that a bond equal to twice the sum required for insurance purposes shall be deposited before a licence is granted and which shall be forfeited if there is any oil spillage or other significant pollution as a result of or during the exercise of that licence'. No. 46, in page 3, line, 19, at end add--
(any licensee must give a report each six months to the Inspectorate and the Environmental Protection Agency on the effects of the exploration and its environmental impact.'.) No. 47, in page 3, line 19, at end add--
(the numbers of persons involved in the exploration shall be agreed with the Secretary of State and names involved submitted and agreed by him.'.) No. 48, in page 3, line 19, at end add--
(all license applications must be reported to Parliament by the Secretary of State and his subsequent decisions.'.) No. 49, in page 3, line, 19, at end add--
(the license shall specify the exact quantities of minerals that may be extracted for samples ; all extracted minerals remain the property of a license commission appointed by the Secretary of State to oversee all licensees.'.)
No. 50, in page 3, line 24, at end add--
(7) No person found guilty of an offence under section 10 below shall be permitted to apply for a licence.'.
No. 30, in clause 4, page 3, line 30, after complied with' insert
or is likely not to be complied with'.
No. 31, in clause 4, page 3, line 33, at end add
(c) that evidence provided by individuals or organisations maintaining interest in these matters is such as to suggest that the exercise of the licence may or will have disadvantageous effect upon the environment.'
No. 45, in clause 4, page 3, line 36, at end add--
(4) Before any licence is operated there shall be an opportunity for environmental protection groups to visit the site(s) and at any other time during the life of the licence.'.
No. 51, in clause 8, page 4, line 36, at end add--
There shall be sufficient inspectors to ensure that each licence has a detailed inspection of its activities every six months in whatever part of the Antarctic it is sited.'.
Mr. Anderson : This is a crucial series of amendments. They are the key to providing safeguards in the Bill and a test of the Government's environmental intentions through the Bill and the convention.
We oppose the Bill in principle because circumstances have changed, but the Government have been inflexible and not prepared to move in tune with those changed circumstances. Although we voted in favour of the principle of the Bill on Second Reading, our prime motives since then have been to "green" the Bill, to put each clause through an environmental sieve and to provide as many environmental safeguards as possible. We also want, as far as possible, to remove the discretions available to the Minister.
Column 118The amendments relate to the licensing provisions. They are essential because, as the Minister confirmed in Committee, Britain is further down the legislative road towards implementing the convention than the other countries which intended to ratify it. The safeguards that we build into the Bill will therefore set a precedent for other countries to follow.
When the Minister winds up, perhaps he will confirm that that is so. As we are leading the field, it is all the more important that we get the Bill right, build in safeguards and not allow loopholes to remain which are ripe for exploitation by people with no concern for the Antarctic's unique ecosystem.
The purpose of the amendments is to establish the British Antarctic Licensing Commission and set out its terms of reference, which include an obligation on companies seeking licences to provide an environmental impact statement of their intentions before their licences can be considered. The concept of a licensing commission is not new, in either international or domestic law. The convention itself proposes a commission to regulate the exploration and exploitation of Antarctica. Under the Cable and Broadcasting Act 1984, for example, the Cable Authority is charged with allocating franchises on criteria which include standards of decency and impartiality. The British Antarctic Licensing Commission, or BALC, will be accountable to the Secretary of State, though its decisions are more likely to come under judicial scrutiny. Clearly it would be more practicable for the commission's decisions to be taken by way of judicial review than by the Secretary of State. We envisage the accumulation by case law of much more stringent environmental safeguards.
Other amendments relate to the commission's terms of reference. They are set out in extenso in amendment No. 19, but it is not my intention to describe them in detail. Suffice it to say that the amendment begins by setting out the commission's proposed membership. It stresses :
"The Chairperson and two other members of the Commission shall be persons appearing to have no financial or commercial interests " Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have stressed the extent to which people with commercial interests could easily intrude, particularly in respect of licence applications. Amendment No. 19 goes on to stipulate :
"An environmental impact statement comprises a document or series of documents providing for the purpose of assessing the likely impact upon the environment of the activity proposed to be carried out". The information required for the environmental impact statement is also detailed, and the amendment describes certain discretionary activities.
Finally, amendment No. 19 states :
"A licence shall be granted for a maximum period of two years and subject to such conditions as the British Antarctic Commission thinks fit."
It is important that the licence should not be held indefinitely. The suggested maximum of two years will concentrate the licensee's mind, and provide a requirement additional to that in clause 4, which empowers the Secretary of State to revoke or suspend a licence if he is not satisfied with the activities of the licensee.
Amendment No. 19 also sets out organisations which could suitably be represented on the licensing commission. They might include the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the International Whaling Commission, the Nature
Column 119Conservancy Council, the Natural Environment Research Council, the Commission for the European Communities and the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research.
We believe that the requirements set out in the amendment, although lengthy, are very reasonable and are standard environmental impact assessment criteria. The format has not been snatched from the air or devised by people whom Conservative Members might label eco-freaks. It has been drawn from the Government's own precedent--the statutory instrument, Town and Country Planning (Assessment of Environmental Effects) Regulations 1988. Those considerations for environmental impact assessments on new developments in the United Kingdom are a legal requirement.
We feel that the criteria developed in Britain are equally relevant internationally. Although the Government may be tardy in translating such criteria from the domestic to the international stage, we believe that that translation must inevitably come. In any case, the convention requires contracting states sponsoring prospectors to submit advance notification of prospecting, along with an environmental impact assessment, which must be circulated to all contracting parties.
In our judgment, this is not an onerous requirement, but rather a litmus test of the Government's commitment--so much trumpeted of late--to the environment. As I said earlier, our Government have taken the lead in terms of implementing the convention domestically. They now have the opportunity to set a worthy precedent for other Governments to follow.
Mr. Hardy : I shall try to make a shorter speech than I made on the previous set of amendments, but I think that it would be appropriate for me to make some comments, as amendments Nos. 27 to 31 are in my name.
My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said that these were the most crucial amendments before the House, as they--quite properly- -sought improved safeguards for the Bill. I remind the House that, in the short time that has elapsed since the debate started a little after 7 pm, at least a dozen species on the planet have become extinct--species that may have lived on earth for a thousand years, or perhaps for as long as the ice has existed in Antarctica. That pace of extinction is normal on our planet.
Mr. Hardy : I have certain reservations about zoological gardens. Britain has a reputation as the country where conservation was born. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East has reminded us, we are the lead Government in that regard. Surely it is reasonable to suggest that we give a new lead in seeking to retain the position that we once enjoyed.
We have been pretty cavalier with the environment in many parts of the world. I have referred to the tropical rain
Column 120forests and the encroaching desert. I have only to look at parts of my own constituency to see what untrammelled commercialism can do, as 1,000 acres of land have become derelict and very little is being done.
It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
That, at this day's sitting, the Antarctic Minerals Bill [Lords] may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.-- [Mr. John M. Taylor.]
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
Mr. Hardy : We have enough evidence in these islands of what can happen if greed is untrammelled, legislation is unsatisfactory and Government priorities are inadequate. We are fearful of what may happen in Antarctica. When he replied to the debate on the previous set of amendments, the Minister expressed some anxiety about what might happen if there were inadequate controls.
To ensure that we set an example as the lead Government, we have tabled amendments which would toughen environmental protection within the Bill. The five amendments in my name would require the Secretary of State to be completely satisfied that no environmental damage would follow the issue of a licence. My amendment seeks to remove the word "providing" and replace it with the word "requiring", which makes the restriction a little tighter. In my view, a bond is required to ensure that there will be sufficient resources to make good what damage is done and at the same time to build another hurdle against the force of greed.
Antarctica should remain an international reserve or wilderness area as we do not have enough of those. I have never visited Antarctica, but I once had the magnificent opportunity to fly over the North pole on an extremely clear and cloudless day. That gave me ample ground to intervene in the debate to say that, when we consider the environment of Antarctica, we should consider the topography and the landscape, which should not be cluttered with all the rubbish that may be produced even by scientific research which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North said, is inadequately controlled.
I am also concerned about the retention of species. Most people are aware that there are penguins in Antarctica ; the Minister will know that there are seven species of penguins there. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West has already referred to the gentoo penguin raiding the cold store of a vanished scientific station. Altogether, 43 species of birds are seen regularly in Antarctica. Some of those birds range far more widely than the Southern ocean. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe is not in his place, because he is a highly skilled ornithologist. Earlier today I asked him whether he had ever seen the wandering albatross, which is a bird of the Southern ocean, and he was fortunate enough to have seen one. It is a very large bird with a 11 ft wingspan. Even birds with 6 or 7 ft wingspans, such as the other members of the albatross family which are large and formidable creatures, are extremely vulnerable to loss of food reserves or the despoliation or poisoning of habitat.
Mr. Corbyn : Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a belief that "The Ancient Mariner", written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was inspired by Cook's voyage to the Antarctic and that one interpretation of the voyage of the
Column 121ancient mariner is that we should protect the natural environment and not destroy what we do not know or understand?
"Water, water, every where nor any drop to drink."
We are not suggesting that water will disappear, even if it is privatised, but it may be unfit to drink. DDT and other pesticides are already found in Antarctic waters.
The degree of commercial exploitation on which some seem eager to embark could lead to the destruction of krill, which is the basic food supply of many of the species that inhabit Antarctica. The development of commercial exploitation in Antarctica will not merely disfigure the environment and make an area that should remain an outstanding international wilderness ugly and unpleasant, but that it will eventually destroy the food supplies and poison the environment of the four types of seal to be found there and the 43 species of birds based there, although they sometimes visit European areas. The cape pigeon is one such bird. It was seen in the Netherlands not long ago. I am sure that it is a true pigeon, but my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe could comment on that. It is an interesting species. If it sees itself under threat or likely to be treated badly, it spits at those who present the threat. I wish that we had some cape pigeons in the House this evening.
Mr. Corbyn : Does my hon. Friend accept that one of the problems of wildlife in the Antarctic when the first human beings arrived was that they had no fear of them? The penguins stood still while sailors walked up, one after another, and clubbed them to death in their thousands. The seals were treated in the same way, because they came across an enemy about which they had no notion.
Mr. Hardy : My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Many penguins today are not very suspicious, although, as he has explained, they have great cause to be. I remember taking some children to a zoological garden. It was many years ago, because I have been in the House for a long time. One boy asked me, "Sir, are penguins dangerous?" I said that they were not. I picked one up and the children handled it. They expected it to be oily and unpleasant, but it was quite attractive. That penguin should not have allowed any human to pick it up because we have treated that species barbarously. We have treated all the wildlife of our planet barbarously until relatively recently. The green movement that we have discerned in Britain relatively recently suggests that an increasing proportion of the population requires the higher standards that I hope are embodied in our amendment.
Mr. Tony Banks : My hon. Friend was referring to penguins in the Antarctic. I have an extract from Time magazine of 23 January which talks about the destruction of 1,000 Adele penguins through the construction of the French research base at Dumont-D'Urville. An airstrip is being built at Pointe Geologie. There is a picture of the earth movers and the penguins are standing there being destroyed. They obviously do not know what is confronting them. I wrote to the Minister with a number
Column 122of questions about the destruction of the penguins at Pointe Geologie. I know that it is the responsibility not of the British Government, but of the French Government. However, it emphasises what my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth is saying.
Mr. Hardy : As my hon. Friend will be aware, from time to time we disagree with some of our French colleagues in the parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I can think of a good reason, as can my hon. Friend, to pursue that aspect of French Antarctic policy at a relatively early stage, perhaps when we meet next in September. We could draw this matter to the attention of the French Government, especially since Mr. Mitterrand--rightly in this connection--holds up France as a model. Despite what my hon. Friend has said, I am sorry to say that the position of the French Government is a great deal more attractive and honourable than our own. Therefore, we should suggest to our French colleagues that their position would be improved by stopping the destruction of the Adele penguin. I am worried about the seals. Although I said that there were four types of seal, the elephant seal is not strictly an Antarctic creature. The seals are vulnerable. Although their numbers may not have been reduced on the scale of the seals in the Mediterranean, where the numbers deteriorated fairly rapidly not many years ago and are now a matter of serious concern for European conservationists, a threat does exist, not merely because of disturbances to the environment, but because of the other problem in the Antarctic, which is the proper control of the resources of the marine heritage--the krill and the fish. If there is overfishing greedy eyes are certainly fixed on that marine resource-- [Interruption.] It is no good hon. Members disputing that, because only a few years ago some experts demanded the annual harvest of thousands of tonnes of krill, which could not have been supported for more than a short period. We are entitled to expect the Government to recognise that, as my hon. Friends have said, they are in a lead position in relation to the environment. We should not surrender that lead and watch Australia and France adopt entirely commendable positions while laying ourselves open to serious criticisms as a nation.
The amendments do not go anywhere near as far as some people might like. However, as was the case with the previous batch of amendments, I believe that they have merit and should command attention from this Administration, together with the acceptance that we must demonstrate that Britain will retain high standards, that we fully recognise the environmental inheritance that the Antarctic offers and that we will not, through inadequacies in our own legislation, provide a threat which future generations--and perhaps, in time, our own--will find grievously unacceptable and utterly inadequate.
Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion) : I apologise for not having participated in much of the debate. I feel a good deal of sympathy with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) and with the natural desire to keep the Antarctic in its virgin state for longer. I see that point. However, there are vast resources there that cannot easily be extracted. They are under the ice cap, but they could help millions of people, such as the millions of
Column 123people in Africa and elsewhere, who are suffering from drought or hunger or war. We must strike a balance in this matter.
The whole object of the treaty is to make it possible to exploit the wealth that is in the Antarctic, although that it is difficult to do. My noble Friend Lord Shackleton--perhaps I should not call him my "Friend" because he is a Labour Peer, but I have worked with him for many years--Lord Buxton and others have left me in no doubt that extracting the wealth is an extremely difficult operation. That wealth exists and we should not make it impossible to develop the resources of Antarctica in the interests of mankind as a whole, particularly when we consider what has happened in Ethiopia, Somalia or the Sudan. I intervene in this debate partly from filial piety. My father annexed great chunks of the Antarctic to the British empire. He did that because he thought that nothing could be done with it in those days, but he wanted to stake a claim in case an opportunity arose in time to develop the wealth in that part of the world. 10.15 pm
Less than 10 years ago, we had a conflict with Argentina over the Falklands. The Falklands are the nearest that I have ever been to the Antarctic. The Argentines and the Chileans also have claims on Antarctica, some of which overlap with ours. I have sometimes wondered, in the interests of Anglo-Latin American friendship in the south Atlantic, whether we might enlist the co-operation of Argentina, Chile and other countries in the gradual development of Antarctica and its resources as laid down in the treaty. The Falklands under British sovereignty could provide a base for doing just that, with their airfield and improved naval facilities. The Falklands are perhaps the nearest modern developed location to the Antarctic continent.
We should not forswear the possibility of co-operation with Latin American countries and others which have interests in the ultimate development of Antarctica, so long as that is well policed and organised under the Antarctic treaty. The resources of the Antarctic might be made available for the benefit of all mankind and perhaps specifically benefit this country and our citizens who participated in its development.
Mr. Hardy : If the right hon. Gentleman is taking the long view and saying that, in X number of centuries, we might need the reserves in Antarctica, perhaps I could agree in large measure with what he has said. However, our anxiety is that man's greed outstrips his common sense at the moment. Although the Exxon oil disaster off the Alaskan coast was some distance from civilisation, it was a great deal nearer the technical and physical resources necessary to contain the spillage. Even so, it had a dramatic impact on that part of our planet. If such an experience was repeated in the present state of man's capacity and knowledge in the Antarctic peninsula or in the Bellingshausen or Weddell seas, the damage might be colossal and we would not have sufficient resources close enough to such a disaster to respond to what would be a tragedy.
Column 124Gentleman's recipe, we would not exploit anything. The Californian, Latin American and South African goldfields would not have brought wealth to the local populations or to the world as a whole. We cannot ignore the need of people who are dying today in central Africa and sub-Saharan Africa simply to preserve a national or universal park for ever. As I understand it, the Antarctic treaty offers all the safeguards that are required for a reasonable and logical approach to the problem.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : I abstained in the Division on the last amendment. I find myself somewhat out of tune with hon. Friends whose causes I normally support. I should like to explain to them and to the House why that is so. The convention is the best that we are likely to get- -and heaven help us if we do not get it, because people could run amok.
I am greatly influenced by the good fortune of having been able to attend a conference on the Antarctic at Ditchley about a year ago. At that conference I listened not only to the Americans arguing strongly and with considerable information the case for such a convention, but also to the best of my recollection to the representations of the Germans and certainly --without doubt, because I checked my notes--to the representations of the Australians. It is a bit rich for Australian politicians now to say that they want to keep the Antarctic in pristine condition when we all know very well that the real influence was the victory in Tasmania of five Greens in a local election. That does not reflect great credit on Australian politics or on the Australian politicians of all hues who tried to appear as knights in shining armour.
I am concerned about certain problems. I have a strong recollection of the powerful argument advanced at Ditchley and Edinburgh by Dr. Steele, the distinguished Scottish-American director of the Woods Hole laboratory. He said that the problem of waste is very real. I agree with my hon. Friends that the shit of Gentos penguins is not so bad as human excrement or many of the things that will remain for years.
First, what will be done about waste? Secondly, I am somewhat put out--I put it no higher--to see my hon. Friends producing the Scott letter. I agree with them that there must be some answer, and when Sir Peter Scott writes such a letter there must be a fairly full reply. Equally, powerful colleagues of ours, of whom Eddie Shackleton is one, take the view that I and others put forward--and not, in many respects, the view of my hon. Friends. However, there are distinguished experts on both sides. I should like an answer to those questions.
Mr. Corbyn : I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) for setting out his views. I have an enormous respect for his work in exposing the Government's deviousness over the Falklands and on many other issues. I am sorry to say that I do not agree with him on this issue, but I have great regard for what he says. Essentially, his argument boils down to the fact that he and I agree on the need to preserve in its entirety the environment of the Antarctic. He believes that the convention which is on offer is the best way to protect that environment, because he thinks that it is achievable and can be done now. A few years ago, many of us might have agreed with that view, but things have moved on. We have
Column 125seen the change of view by the Australian Government, who say that they now support the wilderness park idea that New Zealand promoted some time earlier.
The amendment proposes a licensing authority, which would be free from the commercial pressures, as far as that is possible, that we think are implicit in everything that the Government have so far put forward. My hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) said that amendments Nos. 17 and 19 were the important ones in the group--which they are. Amendment No. 17 provides for the setting up of a British Antarctic licensing commission. Amendment No. 19 goes through the details of that commission and the environmental impact surveys that it will be expected to undertake. As my hon. Friend pointed out, everything said on environmental impact surveys in the two pages of the amendment--it is one of the longest that I have seen--is taken from existing British Government legislation-- the regulations contained in the Town and Country Planning Acts. Therefore, it is all eminently sensible and achievable.
We are saying that, before any exploitation, be it prospecting or what we believe will lead on to the exploitation of minerals in the Antarctic, an environmental impact assessment must be made. It must go into all the aspects involved, such as the type of activities proposed, information on the site, the size and scale of that activity and the data that will be necessary to identify the main effects, and then it must consider the possible effects of all the matters mentioned.
It is easy to say that what we are talking about is the search for minerals, but clearly many other matters arise from that. If there is mineral exploration in a particular ice-free or partially ice-free area of the Antarctic, inevitably that will also be the wintering ground for many birds and other wildlife. If there is any human habitation, that could drive the wildlife away--which, of itself, may upset the ecosystem.
For example, if shoals of fish are driven away, penguins may leave too, because there will be insufficient fish for them to eat. They may go somewhere else where there is insufficient food, so they, too, may start to decrease in numbers. That phenomenon is recognised in many other places.
There must be a serious examination of all the effects. We must not just examine the possibility of oil spillage from a ship going to the site, serious as that would be, but we must examine all the knock-on effects on the wildlife. It is for those reasons that we have put forward a detailed series of proposals. I would be disappointed if they were not accepted by the Government as a reasonable basis for the survey.
Equally important, we say that the members of the proposed licensing commission shall be people who do not have a commercial interest in what is going on in the Antarctic. We do not deny, and we never have, that we are prepared to support and recognise the use of the Antarctic as the basis for scientific research. Indeed, if it had not been used for such research, we would not know of the damage that we are already doing to the environment through the destruction of the ozone layer. We would not know much about the increase in carbon dioxide within the atmosphere, because we would not be able to take accurate samples of air that has been untouched for possibly 100,000 years. It is essential that it be pure research and that the information gained should be publicly and freely available.