HC Deb 04 July 1989 vol 156 cc210-49

Order for Second Reading read.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

I must inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.

7.13 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tim Eggar)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The main purpose of the Bill is to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the convention on the regulation of Antarctic mineral resource activities. The convention was adopted by consensus at Wellington on 2 June last year and was signed on behalf of the United Kingdom on 22 March. The Bill will prohibit exploration and mining development activities in Antarctica by British companies and nationals. It permits prospecting activities authorised by the United Kingdom Government or another contracting party to the convention. It enables the Secretary of State to grant licences for prospecting activities in accordance with the terms of the convention.

The Bill is technical and it seems unexceptionable. However, there are issues at stake in the Bill that are critical for the future of the world environment. It gives us an important opportunity to protect our environment. If we do not take that opportunity, we risk inflicting catastrophic damage on our planet. Those are truly apocalyptic assertions for a technical Bill. To explain and justify those assertions, I need to remind the House about the delicate situation in Antarctica.

Seven states—Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom—claim territorial sovereignty over sectors of Antarctica. Those so-called "claimant" states say that whatever minerals there may be in their respective Antarctic territories are theirs and theirs alone. Other states, most notably the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Japan, and the Federal Republic of Germany, do not recognise the sovereignty claims of the seven other states. Those non-claimant states say that they have a right to take minerals in the Antarctic wherever they may find them.

That difficult situation is further complicated by the fact that one sector in Antarctica is not claimed by any state. Another sector is claimed by three states: Argentina, Chile and the United Kingdom.

As a result of that complex situation, over 30 years ago President Eisenhower issued an invitation to II other countries to come to Washington to negotiate a treaty on Antarctica. The background was increasing super-power tension in Antarctica and escalating disputes over sovereignty. Shots had actually been fired in the Antarctic.

The outcome of the Washington meeting was the Antarctic treaty, which had two achievements. First, it created out of Antarctica a "continent for science". Secondly, it provided a means for managing what had become literally the explosive issue of sovereignty. The means consisted of a provision, article IV, which simply set the issue of sovereignty aside or, more colloquially, article IV freezes the issue of sovereignty. To give that some chance of success, the treaty also demilitarised Antarctica and provided for on-site inspection. Elegant and daring in its simplicity, the treaty has been described as, and has proved to be, one of the most effective of post-war treaties.

However, the Antarctic treaty said nothing about minerals. After many years of discussion, the treaty parties agreed on two points. First, they agreed that a total ban on mineral activity was simply not attainable and, secondly, because of disputes over sovereignty, a regime governing mineral activity had to be in place well before any mining activity or prospecting began. As far back as 1970, it was recognised that if at some stage important mineral resources were found, an unregulated and dangerous scramble could develop. That could obviously have a most damaging effect on the environment in Antarctica.

Sir Trevor Skeet (Bedfordshire, North)

It is apparent that most of the minerals in Antarctica have not yet been discovered and it is not likely that mineral licences will be granted for the next 50 or 60 years, so why take the power now? Will this be comparable to the Deep Sea Mining (Temporary Provisions) Act 1981 when we wanted manganese nodules from the deep of the ocean and the House therefore took powers to cover our own territory?

Mr. Eggar

No mining activity of any kind, including prospecting, has yet taken place. The Bill permits only prospecting, and then in defined circumstances only. If, following negotiation of a protocol, it was to be decided that exploration and development should be permitted, the Government would return to the House with another Bill specifically covering those two areas. If my hon. Friend will bear with me, I shall develop that theme later.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Is the Minister ruling out any possibility of making that area off-limits for mining? Many hon. Members feel that any mining in that area is unacceptable. Has that consideration been entertained? Are the British Government to fall in line with the French and Australians and with their attitudes towards the Antarctic?

Mr. Eggar

The French have not yet made their position clear. The Australian Government have said that they will not sign the convention. I shall comment on that later. We have made it absolutely clear that all that this Bill does is to allow prospecting under certain defined conditions.

Mr. Banks


Mr. Eggar

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, because this is a complex area and I should like to explain our thinking. However, I shall, of course, give way again if the hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied with the answers.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

Will the Minister ensure that he tells the House exactly what happened in the discussions with the Australian Prime Minister, so that the House has a full account of those discussions? Will he also tell us whether this matter will be raised with the President of France shortly, when the Prime Minister meets him?

Mr. Banks

If there is prospecting, surely there will also be mining.

Mr. Eggar

In answer to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), if he will bear with me I shah be dealing with the Australian view later. I shall give way at that stage if he wishes to intervene.

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

I wonder if the Minister would explain whether combustion gases from petrol and diesel oil used in prospecting and possible mining would not further damage the depleted ozone layer, and if there should be a volcanic eruption, sending sulphuric acid into the atmosphere, which happens every few years, would not that decimate the ozone layer? Will the Minister give a guarantee that no mining will be allowed until the moves to prevent further damage to the ozone layer have come into effect and time is allowed for the ozone layer to repair itself?

Mr. Eggar

The hon. Lady has made several jumps from one complex issue to another. I repeat the assurance that I have already given—this Bill does not permit mining; it permits only prospecting—[Interruption.] That is an important division. Perhaps the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) will bear with me.

As I have already said, the Antarctic treaty said nothing about minerals. It was recognised that we had to try to introduce a regime to govern future possible prospecting and mining activity before embarking on such activities. On five occasions in the 1970s, the possibility of a binding moratorium to prevent any minerals activity was discussed. On none of those occasions was there a consensus in favour of a binding moratorium.

As I have already said, there has so far not been any serious interest in exploiting minerals. However, the treaty partners were not prepared to rule out the possibility that minerals might one day be extracted from Antarctica under defined, environmentally sound conditions. It has been said that the convention, and in consequence this Bill, is some sort of miner's charter. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To demonstrate this, I want to go into some detail about the convention and the Bill. The convention provides for three stages of mineral activity: prospecting, exploration and development. Prospecting is aimed at identifying areas of mineral resource potential. It rules out deep dredging, excavations—that covers the point raised by the hon. Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon) —and drilling to depths of more than 25 m. In that context, it is important to realise that the ice cap in Antarctica is over one mile deep. Exploration is aimed at identifying and evaluating specific mineral resource occurrences or deposits. Development is what it says—the development of specific mineral resource deposits.

That distinction between prospecting on the one hand and exploration and development on the other is critical to the way the convention works. "Prospecting" is defined so as to ensure that the act of prospecting has no more effect on the environment than similar scientific research activity. Such research activity is already permitted and has been of immense value. It was, after all, the work by the British Antarctic Survey which identified the hole in the ozone layer. For that reason, prospecting is not subject to authorisation by the Commission or the other bodies which the convention will set up.

However, prospecting must be carried out in accordance with the convention. Prospecting bodies will have to comply with any relevant measures which the Commission may adopt in the future. It is the responsibility of the prospector's country to make sure that the prospector complies with the convention.

The convention naturally recognises that exploration and development involve far greater possible risks to the environment. The convention sets out stringent environmental controls of exploration and development processes. No exploration or development can begin until all member states of the commission unanimously agree that it should do so. Each state party—they include all Antarctic treaty consultative parties—therefore effectively has a veto on exploration and development within Antarctica.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

On the point about states having a veto on the agreement, I understand that Australia and France intend to use their veto. If that is the case, from what the Minister is saying, the agreement cannot proceed, so would it not be more sensible for the Government to decide not to proceed with this agreement but to argue for a different agreement, perhaps in the concept of a world park?

Mr. Eggar

If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I shall deal with those arguments later. I must correct him on a matter of fact: France has not declared its position, although Australia has done so.

Moreover, the convention bans any exploration and commercial development until a separate protocol on liability has been negotiated. That protocol will set out detailed rules and procedures governing the operator's liability if damage should be caused to the environment. The liability protocol will build on the liability provisions applying to prospecting already in the convention. Negotiations on the protocol have not yet begun, but when they do they will probably last several years.

When those negotiations are satisfactorily completed, the Government intend to return to the House with another Bill which will, of course, be debated in the House. That Bill will implement the liability protocol and provide for exploration and development in accordance with the convention. But that is for the future. Tonight the House is not being asked to enact legislation enabling British operators to undertake mineral exploration and development in Antarctica.

Mr. Tony Banks


Mr. Eggar

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way now. I shall give way later if he is not satisfied with the explanation by that stage.

The present Bill only covers prospecting. It actually prohibits for the first time any British national or company from undertaking any exploration or development activity. What is more, it bans all prospecting activity, except that which is in accordance with a licence issued by the Secretary of State. It provides that the Secretary of State shall not grant a prospecting licence unless he is satisfied that the activities he is asked to authorise will be consistent with the international obligations of the United Kingdom. Specifically, the Secretary of State must be satisfied that the authorised activities would not cause

  1. "(a) significant adverse effects on air and water quality;
  2. (b) significant changes in atmospheric, terrestrial or marine environments;
  3. (c) significant changes in the distribution, abundance or productivity of populations of species of fauna or flora;
  4. (d) further jeopardy to endangered or threatened species or populations of such species; or
  5. 214
  6. (e) degradation of, or substantial risk to, areas of special biological, scientific, historic, aesthetic or wilderness significance."
Neither can my right hon. and learned Friend issue a licence until he is satisfied that—and I quote again:
  1. "(a) technology and procedures are available to provide for safe operations;
  2. (b) there exists the capacity to monitor key environmental parameters and ecosystem components"
and so on.

So we are talking only about prospecting; and then we are only permitting prospecting under extremely stringent conditions—so stringent that the Government believe that, provided the convention enters into force, no Antarctic mineral prospecting activity could take place which would significantly or adversely affect the Antarctic environment.

I have now reached the point raised by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West. The convention depends for its entry into force on 16 countries ratifying or acceding to it. The United States, the Soviet Union and the seven claimant states—including Australia—must be among those 16. As one of the claimants, it follows that our ratification of the convention is necessary.

That then is the position if the convention comes into force. I believe that the House will agree that the protection for the environment offered by the convention is very considerable. What would happen if the convention does not enter into force?

In 1977, the Antarctic treaty consultative parties decided that each of them should urge their nationals to refrain from all exploration and exploitation of Antarctic mineral resources while making progress towards the timely adoption of an agreed regime concerning Antarctic mineral resource activities". That 1977 voluntary moratorium was extended last year by the terms of the final act of the conference at which the Antarctic minerals convention was adopted.

The final act says: The Meeting agreed that all States represented at the Meeting would urge their nationals and other States to refrain from Antarctic mineral resource activities as defined in the Convention pending its timely entry into force". I want to underscore those words pending its timely entry into force". Therefore, the continued effectiveness of the voluntary moratorium on mining activity is conditional on the convention entering into force and upon it doing so in a timely manner. So if any of the key states were finally to rule out ratifying or acceding to the convention, that state would, by its actions, have destroyed the existing voluntary moratorium. That state would bear a severe responsibility for the consequences of its decision.

Those consequences are clear. At some stage, perhaps not so far in the future, some entity would go to Antarctica to find out whether Antarctica might contain mineral resources which could be exploited. Such prospecting, exploration and development would be entirely unregulated. There would be no control over that entity's effect on the environment. Mining would inevitably raise sensitive sovereignty issues and consequent dispute and possibly conflict. The Antarctic treaty system could begin to unravel. It was the thought of such mining activity that led to the negotiation of the convention in the first place.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

One of the things that one regularly finds when talking to oil companies about their decision to invest in a particular place is that they look for what they believe is a stable political regime. That is why they have been prepared to invest in the North sea. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that, without any legal or licensing framework or without any security as to the political regime—for example, if there were questions of sovereignty hanging over it—those companies would be prepared to put at stake considerable investment?

Mr. Eggar

The point is that we do not know whether companies would be prepared to prospect. It is far better to take measures now on a worldwide co-ordinated scale so that, if they wish to go down there and prospect, they can do so with proper environmental safeguards. If we do not have those environmental safeguards, entities could go down there and cause unlimited damage.

Mr. Morley

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Eggar

If the hon. Gentleman will let me continue, I shall be willing to give way later, but I must be allowed to develop this part of the argument.

One of the main concerns of both sides of the House is to ensure the protection of the Antarctic environment. The fulfilment of that aim requires that international harmony in the Antarctic be maintained. Indeed, our first priority must be to maintain that harmony. If the United Kingdom were not to ratify the convention, we would be contributing to future discord in the Antarctic and therefore jeopardising the protection of the Antarctic environment.

The House is aware—Opposition Members have already intervened to make the point—that the Australian Government have recently announced that they believe that there should never be any mineral resource activity in the Antarctic of any kind. The Australian Government want the Antarctic to be declared a wilderness park in which only scientific research and a small amount of tourism would be allowed.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)


Mr. Eggar


The Australian Government aspire to a comprehensive Antarctic environmental protection convention that would ban all Antarctic mineral resource activities. As has already been said, as a claimant state, Australia's eventual ratification or accession is essential for the convention to enter into force.

The British Government are disappointed at Australia's decision, particularly since Australia played a major role in agreeing the convention. Despite the views put to us by the Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, we believe that the Australians have not considered the possible consequences of their action and have not taken account of the possibilities offered by the convention to meet Australia's stated public objectives.

The Antarctic treaty has succeeded over the past 30 years because every member of that treaty system has exercised forbearance and no member has pushed its interest beyond the point where it can be tolerated by others. The treaty system has also depended on an implicit assumption that, once an agreement has been reached by consensus, all parties to that consensus will confirm and implement the agreement. The Australian move has gone against both of those tenets of the Antarctic treaty system.

The Australian case rests on an unsubstantiated assertion that Antarctic mineral resource activity is now suddenly environmentally unacceptable. The idea of maintaining the Antarctic as an unsullied frozen paradise free of environmentally damaging mining activities is attractive. It is an easy political slogan, especially for hon. Members such as the hon. Member for Newham, North-West.

But the Australians cannot claim the moral high ground resulting from some sort of conversion on the road to Damascus, because the purpose of the convention is precisely to avoid environmental damage from mining in Antarctica. Perhaps Australia does not believe that rational objection to mineral activity will be effective when decisions come to be made under the convention. We find that puzzling, to say the least.

Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley, East)

Leaving aside the merits of what the Australians may or may not have said now or in the past, is it the case that, if the Australian Government refuse to ratify the convention, it will not come into effect?

Mr. Eggar

The Australian Government have said that they will not sign the convention, but they have not ruled out ratification or accession to the convention—

Dr. Gilbert

A technical difference.

Mr. Eggar

It is more than technical—it is an important difference. I want to explain why we believe the Australian decision is inappropriate and why, despite that decision, we are determined to press ahead with the Bill.

Australia's Antarctic partners have a right to ask Australia for its reasons for inflicting damage on the consensus machinery of the Antarctic treaty system. They have a right to ask Australia why it has taken a path that could result in a collapse of that treaty. What is more, the Australian alternative, a ban on all mineral activity, is simply unattainable. The route of a ban on mining activity was tried throughout the 1970s, but it proved impossible to reach an agreement on such a ban. The fact is that the convention is the only attainable means to ensure the protection of the Antarctic environment.

Even if an outright ban on mineral activity could be negotiated—we do not believe that it could—it would be extremely unlikely to work. In a world of increasing population and increasing pressures on a finite resource base, prospecting for minerals would continue. Instead of such prospecting being carried out openly within Antarctica and subject to proper control, as laid out in the convention, it would be done covertly under the guise of scientific research. No one would be able to use scientific research techniques, such as seismic investigation of the structure of the continental shelf of Antarctica, or conduct a geological investigation without those perfectly viable scientific research techniques raising questions as to whether they were prospecting activities in disguise.

At this stage, the world needs not a grand gesture, however superficially attractive it might be, but an example of how environmentally properly internationally negotiated sustainable development can be pursued. The Antarctic minerals convention is just such an example. In shorthand, what the convention says to mining entities is, "Yes, you can go to the Antarctic and, under strict environmental controls, you can find out whether the Antarctic has any minerals in it that might be worth exploiting. You should know, however, that if you think you have found anything, the primary and overriding concern of the convention is to ensure the protection of the Antarctic environment." Any proposed activity that posed significant risk of damage to that environment would be stopped.

Mr. Morley

Earlier, the Minister read out a list of areas in which protection would operate, and it sounded fine. Who will control the conditions of the actual prospecting? Will we operate that control as a Government or as partners to the treaty? As the Minister said, the treaty says that such prospecting will not take place if it causes significant adverse effects to the environment, but how does one define what is significant? Surely that is an enormous loophole in the treaty.

Mr. Eggar

I have already outlined the procedures that must be followed to obtain a prospecting licence. As the hon. Gentleman knows, they are elaborate and, before the Secretary of State gives such a licence, he must be satisfied that all the procedures have been met. If we were to introduce a Bill that governed exploration and development following the successful negotiation of the liability protocol, such exploration and development would come under the terms of the convention and they will be controlled by the commission and the other various convention bodies set out in that convention.

Earlier, the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) asked me whether the convention was effectively dead as a result of the Australian decision. We do not believe that that is the case, and there are three reasons why that should not happen. First, we do not accept that our Government should accept that a treaty system which is bound by the consensus rule should enable one state to dictate to the other treaty states. We believe that the consequences of the Australian decision must be debated and resolved in the same spirit of compromise and mutual accommodation which are the essential prerequisites if the Antarctic treaty system is to survive.

Secondly, we believe that the Australian decision is wrong in principle. We believe in the convention and we hope that the Australians will change their minds. Demonstrating our belief in the convention is the best way to proceed, and we intend to do so by giving ourselves the enabling powers to ratify that convention.

Thirdly, there are many other ways in which to protect the Antarctic environment. Such protection can be afforded by dealing directly with such issues as pollution from ships, waste disposal at Antarctic stations, the environmental effects of tourism and so on. Most important of all, however, a start should be made on the negotiation of the liability protocol called for by the minerals convention. The convention says that the rules and procedures developed in that protocol shall be designed to enhance the protection of the Antarctic environment. If the Australians are serious in their concern about the environment, they should be in there fighting for their particular points during the protocol negotiations.

If we fail to pass the Bill, we shall throw away the only practical means of regulating mining activity in the Antarctic. We shall ensure instead that issues of territorial sovereignty will arise in an unmanageable form. The Antarctic treaty system may well crumble and the international harmony and co-operation that have been the hallmark of matters relating to Antarctica in the past 30 years will come to an end.

If we give the Bill a Second Reading tonight, we cannot of course thereby guarantee that the convention comes into force and that the possible adverse consequences will be avoided. Whether the convention comes into force will depend on others following our example. By passing the Bill, however, we shall give a necessary and important signal of our continuing faith in the Antarctic treaty system. Furthermore, it will be a signal that patient international negotiation is the way in which to preserve the environment in Antarctica—not grand and ill-thought-out gestures.

I commend the Bill to the House.

7.48 pm
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and add instead thereof: 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 on the Regulation of Antarctic Minerals Resource Activity (CRAMRA) including the Exxon Valdez disaster, increased public concern about ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect and the declaration of opposition to signing the Convention by the governments of Australia and France, and fails to make provision for Her Majesty's Government to join new negotiations for a comprehensive Environmental Protection Convention. The amendment declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill for the stated reasons, but I should make it abundantly clear that the Opposition in no way imply any criticism of the excellent work undertaken by United Kingdom officials in negotiations to achieve the convention to which that Bill relates. We pay tribute to the diligence, patience and sincerity of them all. I hope that I will be excused if I pick out Dr. John Heap, an Edinburgh graduate—[Interruption.] Scottish Members will know why I choose him. In all seriousness, he has played a central role throughout the negotiations.

Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford)


Mr. Foulkes

I have hardly begun my speech.

Mr. Burns

I am sorry to intervene so early in the hon. Gentleman's speech. Does he agree that there has been a dramatic turnabout since 20 April, when the Bill had its Second Reading in another place? On that occasion the Opposition spokesman welcomed the Bill and said that he would assist it throughout its passage.

Mr. Foulkes

I was wrong to give way and the hon. Gentleman was right to apologise for intervening. I shall be dealing with the speech of my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Cledwyn in a few moments.

Since the agreement was made in Wellington on 2 June last year, some dramatic events and substantial changes in public opinion must be taken into account in considering our approach to the Bill, the convention and to Antarctica in general. It should be noted that it is thanks to the Opposition that we are debating the issue on the Floor of the House at a reasonable hour rather than in the middle of the night. We arranged that because we wanted to acknowledge the importance of the changes.

The dramatic events and the changes in public opinion have influenced our thinking, and they should influence the Government's thinking as they have influenced the thinking 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. We 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 given 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?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

I am very interested in what the hon. Gentleman says, but that is not a point of order for the Chair. There has been no breach of our Standing Orders.

Mr. Foulkes

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), but the Minister needs all the information and advice that he can get from whatever quarter.

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 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 Australians 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.

8.11 pm
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 CO2and 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. In 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 nation 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 he 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.

8.23 pm
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 Conservancy 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 mean 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.

8.33 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.

Mr. Burns

I am grateful to you for giving me that advice, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was not aware of the rule.

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 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.

Mr. Foulkes

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a statement by the French Prime Minister followed by a similar statement by the French President should be enough to convince him, if not the Minister, that it is the view of the French Government?

Mr. Burns

I understand the hon. Gentleman's problems. He is clutching at straws in an effort to restore the credibility of the Opposition's amendment. However, the Minister announced today that up to this moment the French have not made an announcement about their intentions. That assurance is good enough for me.

The Bill is of far greater significance than the number of hon. Members who are in the Chamber would suggest. Its ramifications are significant. They will affect the Antarctic and the rest of the world. It is important that the Bill should be passed so that the convention on the regulation of Antarctic mineral resource activities can be ratified. The Bill is a far-ranging environmental protection measure. It will prohibit mineral prospecting activities in Antarctica by British companies and nationals, apart from prospecting activities that are authorised by the United Kingdom Government. That displays a great degree of foresight.

Although interest in the desire economically to exploit minerals in the area is negligible at present, that may not always be the case. Although traces of a wide range of hard rock minerals have been found in Antarctica, none has been found in amounts that would merit serious commercial interest. However, what is not known is whether any hydrocarbon resources exist in economically interesting amounts. Without the protective measures that are provided for in the convention and the Bill, there could be a free-for-all that would greatly damage the environment and the ecological balance of the Antarctic. That is why the Bill displays great foresight and is an important insurance policy for the protection of the future of that region.

I welcome the fact that under article 3 of the convention no mineral resource activities may take place, except those specifically authorised. That procedure is further strengthened under article 13 which prevents mineral resource activities in any area that is designated as a specially protected area or as a site of special scientific interest, or in any other area that is designated by the convention as a protected area because of its historic, ecological, environmental or other values. All the checks and balances on mineral resource activity are weighted in favour of environmental protection. I warmly welcome the fact that in every case the interests of the environment will be put first and will be given the benefit of the doubt, if any doubt exists. To my mind, that is an extremely important safeguard. It will have serious ramifications, in that effectively it will ensure the genuine environmental protection that all of us, I believe, passionately desire should be provided for the area.

I know that there is a school of thought that believes that there should be a total ban on mineral resource activities, or a turning of the Antarctic into a world park. In reality, neither proposition would be workable, even if the latter proposition were desirable. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) cared to listen instead of shouting from a sedentary position, he would have the benefit of the knowledge that I am about to impart to him.

Attempts to negotiate such a ban failed on five different occasions between 1972 and 1979. That is a powerful enough example of how a ban would not work. If time after time agreement cannot be reached, there is no point in continuing to hit one's head against a brick wall. The present convention took seven years of hard slog to negotiate. Failure to ratify it would lead to a dangerous and damaging free-for-all, which would leave the Antarctic at the mercy of irresponsible prospectors from all over the world who would not give a fig for the damage that they might do to the environment. They would be in the Antarctic for purely selfish reasons—to try to maximise the amount of money that they could get from successful mineral prospecting.

Similarly, I share the Government's view that to give the Antarctic a new designation as some sort of world park would not protect the environment. It must be borne in mind, as an argument against the creation of a world park, that the Antarctic treaty has worked effectively for over a quarter of a century. It would not be wise to go down a path that we do not know. That is what we would do if we adopted that course of action.

I congratulate the Government on the speed with which they have introduced the Bill. I trust and hope that the other nations that have an interest in the Antarctic will pass similar legislation so that the convention can be ratified as soon as possible, notwithstanding the problems that we have with Australia. The Bill will be an important step towards providing further protection for the environment of that region. It will be welcomed by all reasonable people, who see the need for such a measure.

8.47 pm
Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

The analysis given by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) of the relevant position of the Labour party in this House and the other place is of some passing interest, but for him to have to resort to the arguments that he used when he criticised the amendment moved by the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) showed that his case is as thin as some parts of the ozone layer over the Antarctic.

The Minister said that this was a technical measure, but according to the arguments used in the debate, it is a technical measure of considerable significance. The point which is at the heart of the debate is the Government's assertion that the Bill relates only to prospecting. In a technical sense, that may be true. However, as the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) said so clearly, no company or nation will embark on prospecting just for the sake of prospecting: they will do so only if they can see an ultimate end in sight. Perhaps, many years from now, the House will be presented with yet another Bill to take us one step closer to that end, which is the development of Antarctica's mineral resources.

Even if we accept that the Bill is designed purely to allow for prospecting, those activities will lead to many onshore activities. Pollution will result from the disposal of waste. The number of prospecting activities is not spelled out. Those activities could proliferate. The Minister has not said anything about the extent of the prospecting activities and their pollution consequences.

Extensive use is made of drilling muds in the North sea. Drilling in Antarctica might involve similar materials, which could lead to a limited or even to a large amount of pollution.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

Does my hon. Friend not acknowledge that the temperature in the Antarctic is such that, almost inevitably, prospecting companies would have to use oil-based rather than water-based muds and that that would increase the pollution risk in ways that cannot now he envisaged?

Mr. Wallace

My hon. Friend has considerable expertise in North sea oil matters. I accept his point, which the Minister did not address.

The question has been raised as to what would happen if there were no regulation. In some respects that is the best argument that has been presented, but it appeared to be something of a scare story. As I said in an earlier intervention, it is quite clear from the activities and the policies of oil companies that they look for areas of political stability before investing substantial sums of money on which they expect a return. I do not believe for one moment that they would invest vast sums of money in an area where they feared that there was not that stability and where there were arguments about sovereignty.

The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Summerson) said that the Soviet Union might set up a drilling base and take the oil back to the Soviet Union. Of course, a national Government are in a different position from a company, but the Soviet Union was not one of the countries that claimed territorial sovereignty in Antarctica, and it was an early signatory to the Antarctica treaty. Given its history of dealing with the area, it would be very loth to take a provocative stance in asserting mineral right claims. That argument was something of a red herring.

Enforcement is a very important issue. For some comparison, I looked at the eighth report of the Royal Commission on environmental pollution published in 1981, which dealt with oil spillages at sea. It considered the problems of controlling oil pollution at sea. There had been some suggestion that the North sea should be designated a special area to help enforcement procedures. In paragraph 7.83, the report reached this conclusion: The problem is not the standards set…for discharges to European waters, but the possibility of enforcing them. More stringent requirements would not reduce the latter problem: indeed, the experience in the Mediterranean shows the limited value of more stringent requirements while waste disposal facilities in ports are lacking, and the ability to deter offenders is poor. The report continued: There are two aspects to this problem. The first, which we considered, Chapter VII, is the jurisdictional difficulty arising in dealing with vessels which for the most part travel outside territorial waters, and which are often not registered in the UK. The second, which we consider below, is the practical difficulties of detecting an offence and securing a successful prosecution. I accept that there are some differences between mobile vessels and stations in Antarctica, but the main issue is the same: if it is impossible to try and enforce pollution control in the pond of the North sea, how in the world will we ever properly enforce it in the vast continent of Antarctica?

We are told that clause 8 makes provision for inspectors, so we can assume that the inspectors will be trying to enforce it. The paragraph of the explanatory and financial memorandum which deals with manpower states: The Bill is unlikely to have a significant effect on public sector manpower. Depending on the number and timing of licence applications, it is anticipated that the necessary administration will be carried out by existing staff. Inspectors and observers will be appointed on an ad hoc basis but are unlikely to be needed for some years or in great numbers. So they will not be appointed for some time, and when they are appointed it will be on an ad hoc basis. That does not appear to be a regime that would sensibly or effectively enforce proper environmental consideration.

Mr. Summerson

Is it not quite clear that an inspector will be appointed when a licence is granted?

Mr. Wallace

My point is clear from the explanatory notes. It is not envisaged that there will be a vast army of inspectors who will be appointed only on an ad hoc basis. Given the vast square miles of the Antarctic continent, it does not appear that that will be an effective means of enforcing environmental control.

What is meant by "significant damage"? The hon. Member for Walthamstow referred to what the French did last year in blasting a wildlife area to make a hard runway. As far as I am aware, little has been done in response to that. Even the present enforcement cannot be accepted as entirely satisfactory.

The protection of the environment is of paramount consideration in Antarctica. Hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that, as it has been undisturbed for so many years, it is almost an ideal place to test pollution and to make comparisons which are not possible in other parts of the world: the hole in the ozone layer was discovered by British scientists over Antarctica. But even with the best will in the world, we cannot exclude the possibility of an accident. Even a very tight regime enforcing control cannot exclude an accident. An Argentine tanker hit rocks near Palmer Station south of Cape Horn only last year and caused an oil spill. The Exxon Valdez caused tremendous damage to the ecosystem in the Arctic. Those risks cannot be excluded, even with a properly enforced environmental protection regime. Therefore, we should not take the risk of moving towards prospecting and development.

As for timing, in an intervention in the Minister's speech, the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, North (Sir T. Skeet) pointed out that prospecting would not take place for a considerable time. That point is echoed in the explanatory memorandum reference to manpower. If it will not happen for a long time, what would be lost by withdrawing the Bill? If Australia does not sign the convention, the Bill will be defunct anyway. We have time to try to achieve something more worth while. I cannot accept that, because it was impossible to reach agreement in the 1970s, it will be impossible to reach agreement in the 1990s. The right hon. Member for Dudley, East expressed that far more clearly.

In 1972, the Minister was the chairman of the Cambridge university Conservative association. So much has happened since then. The following year there was great speculation as to whether the price of petrol would reach 50p a gallon. The world has changed enormously since then. We have become much more aware of the environmental conditions and the damage which man's activities can do to the atmosphere. That sensitivity has prompted the Australian Government to take the stand that they have, and the French Government to show signs of doing the same.

A comprehensive environmental protection policy would be far more easily achieved today than it was in the 1970s. We should make the effort. We should not allow the failures of the past to distract us from trying to achieve some success for the future. I do not believe that future generations will thank us if, having kept one part of our planet still relatively intact, we embarked upon a course of action that would ruin it.

8.58 pm
Mr. Timothy Wood (Stevenage)

I welcome the Bill. I share the fears about the environmental horrors that could result if we do not have controls and constraints. We must pay great attention to that part of the world which, fortunately, has been preserved largely intact without great damage to its systems. I share the Opposition's worries about possible developments but, unlike the Opposition and Greenpeace, I believe that the Bill's proposals and the convention are steps towards bringing, rather than reducing, control. Greenpeace is utopian in wishing for a quick agreement on a world environmental park, perhaps under the control of the United Nations. Over the past few years, we have had a treaty that has enabled reasonable control to be maintained. The Bill, which underlines the convention, strengthens that treaty's effects and we should support it for that reason.

It is all very well people saying that in an ideal world we should be able to get everyone everywhere to agree that there will be no exploitation of resources in Antarctica. In the difficult world of international relations, it is vital to achieve consensus, such as that achieved during the work on the convention. As one of my colleagues rightly said, during the 1970s there were several attempts to have a moratorium on any form of mineral exploitation. Those attempts failed. Six or seven years had to elapse before the convention was achieved.

I hope that our work does not stop and that we will proceed with Australia, France and other countries—in the hope that they are not being hypocritical—towards achieving absolute bans on mineral extraction. That is my preference, but we have a convention now. We should take what agreement has been reached rather than cast it aside and say that we want a utopia that is not immediately realisable.

I have heard the comments about prospecting and the suggestion that people will not prospect until they see a possibility of exploitation, but that argument can be used both ways. Any major company that thought that there was a prospect of mineral exploitation would be optimistic if it thought that it could therefore justify spending substantial sums on prospecting. I do not think that there will be significant prospecting activity in Antarctica, although, as my hon. Friend the Minister said, it may be difficult to distinguish between prospecting and research, which is a legitimate activity. We could get into an enormous muddle if, while imposing a blanket ban on prospecting, we tried to inhibit legitimate research activities.

I am not concerned about the prospecting option that is left in the Bill, which can apply only with the permission of the United Kingdom Government. After all, unless there is an assurance that companies can develop the Antarctic prospecting possibilities, why should they go ahead? That opening avoids the complications that could arise from scientific research. Prospecting is not the threat to the Antarctic environment that the Opposition have suggested.

I welcome the Bill because it provides much-longed-for controls on mineral exploitation in the Antarctic. It is a major step towards preventing mineral exploitation and it should be welcomed by the House.

9.4 pm

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

The House is trying to find the best way of protecting one of the last unspoilt wildernesses on the planet, so I am sorry that some hon. Members have tried to turn the debate into a knockabout. I accept that, if we can get only certain kinds of agreements, we should participate and try to get the best Bill that we can. That is why Labour peers in the other place participated, negotiated and tried to be constructive. However, it has become apparent that there is a distinct likelihood that the agreement could fail because some states may boycott it. If that is the case, it is reasonable for the Government to re-examine the matter and try to take a different view.

As one hon. Member has said, the ideal would be to protect the Antarctic from any mineral exploitation. I do not accept that we are talking only about investigation and that it is a low risk. When firms and various people go to the Antarctic and take samples and conduct tests, drilling and boring there will be disturbance, damage and risks. An oil spillage occurred last year from the Argentine ship that was carrying supplies to a scientific base. The worst damage was caused by the spillage of diesel fuel that it was carrying for generators on the base. If people begin to prospect in the Antarctic, we must supply them with materials. They are normally supplied by sea. Because of the Exxon incident, we know the risks, no matter how careful or regulated the movements are.

We do not have the same intense sunlight as that in the Antarctic, nor do we have the high rise and fall of tides or the same wind patterns. Spills of oil and various wastes, including human waste, do not biodegrade to the same extent as they do in the northern hemisphere. They can be left there for years without changing. If we looked round the Antarctic hard enough, we could probably dig up tins of corned beef that were taken there by Captain Scott's expedition. They have not been broken down or degraded at all. They will lie there, almost for ever.

The Antarctic is a terribly fragile ecosystem. We do not fully understand the importance of the Antarctic to the well-being of the planet. For example, we do not understand how important it is to weather patterns or how it influences the rest of the hemisphere. We do not fully understand the movement of krill and plankton in Antarctic waters and their roles in the food chain throughout the southern or northern hemispheres. However, we know how important the Antarctic is to various species of birds and marine mammals, many of which are unique to the area.

To exploit the Antarctic we require sea ports that are ice-free for part of the year and some land on which to drill and work. Those very areas have most wildlife, such as penguin rookeries, sea bird colonies and seal breeding areas. We want to protect those areas.

I accept that there has been a genuine attempt to build in the best possible safeguards but, with the best will in the world, there will inevitably be accidents, pollution and environmental damage. There is no way that we can legislate for that.

Mr. Wood

I sympathise with a number of the points that the hon. Gentleman has made, but would it not be better to agree a convention and have legislation to back it up and then to proceed to further controls, rather than trying to achieve further controls while refusing to sign the convention?

Mr. Morley

I do not agree. Even if we agreed a convention, how would we impose the safeguards once firms started to go to the Antarctic to prospect? Firms will not go there and commit their money for nothing. It will be the thin end of the wedge—the beginning of the rape of Antarctica. Firms will go there not for the good of the environment but to get something out of it. If we are that desperate to find minerals to exploit, we are scraping the barrel. It would be better for the Government to encourage the multinationals to start looking for alternative means of energy replacement. Instead of putting their money into non-renewable sources, they should put it into research and development of renewable sources. That is the way forward, not opening up the Antarctic for exploitation.

It appears that we have reached a deadlock. We have talked about the difficulties in negotiating arrangements for a world park. That being so, what difficulties would there be in agreeing mineral exploitation in the British sector? The Government will have to negotiate with Argentina and Chile. That is hardly the basis for easy or successful negotiations to limit mineral exploitation. Surely it would be better to negotiate for a world park, and perhaps to hand the whole thing over to the United Nations and negotiate a convention to deal with all the conflicting demands. I hope that the Government will take a lead in arguing for the protection of Antarctica and a world park.

9.10 pm
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

I apologise for not having been here for the first part of the Minister's speech, although I got the sense of his remarks from the second part of his speech.

Mr. Foot

The first half was better.

Mr. Corbyn

My right hon. Friend tells me that the first half was better.

I support the amendment. [Interruption.] I shall not rise to that piece of muddy old bait.

When history starts to examine the growth of concern about the environment in the 1970s and 1980s, people will surely ask, "Was it right and was it necessary to consider every piece of land and every corner of the earth as a place that could be exploited for minerals?" Perhaps people will say that this was the turning point, at which society as a whole began to realise that it could not go on exploiting every place on earth for oil, gas, coal, diamonds and uranium. Ultimately the process is self-defeating because of the damage that it causes to the environment. We are already beginning to realise that about the rain forests, and I hope that, as a matter of urgency, we shall realise it about Antarctica.

The Antarctic treaty represented a step forward because it meant a halt to the developments that might have taken place at the time. It was introduced because people recognised the difficulty of controlling any development in Antarctica. The tiny number of people in Antarctica already give rise to a serious pollution problem. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) pointed out, there are two sorts of climates that are not conducive to biodegradability. They are extreme desert conditions and extreme cold. Virtually intact mummified bodies have been found in the Sahara and the deserts of northern Chile after 1,000 or 2,000 years because the climate has been so stable. The problem in Antarctica is that human and other waste does not biodegrade as it does in more temperate climates. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe said, during his expedition in 1957 Sir Vivian Fuchs reached Scott's various bases and opened and ate some tins of corned beef that had been exported in 1912. I do not know whether he suffered from salmonella or botulism, but I know that he found the food perfectly preserved.

There is considerable waste from the scientific bases. There is human waste, food waste and spilt diesel fuel, which cause enormous damage. We must recognise that any exploitation, whether in the form of survey work or exploration for possible mineral deposits, will create a problem. Only 2 per cent. of the land mass of the Antarctic is ice-free and that is the crucial area for breeding grounds of many birds and various migratory species, yet that is the very place where companies will seek to put their bases.

If the Bill goes through and if exploration licences are granted, there will be a serious environmental problem, which we must examine. I will give a simple example which I am sure that others have used. An oil spill took place in the Alaskan oilfield which caused the most enormous damage, not only because of delays in cleaning it up, but because of its remoteness, the extreme temperatures and the difficulties of access to that region. If an oil spill took place in the Antarctic, especially in the water as the ice cap was expanding, the oil could flow under the ice and quickly cover thousands of square miles. The oil might never go away. Those who ask why it matters, as it would affect only a few fish here and there, should realise that whenever one species is destroyed, we are destroying part of the sustainable life of the earth. We should think more seriously about the Antarctic and not see it merely as a potential goldmine for various oil companies.

The Minister said that he wanted to preserve the Antarctic, that he did not want it to suffer environmental damage and that he was keen on environmental protection generally. However, he then said that that was why the exploitation of minerals in the Antarctic would be controlled by restricting the licences granted to oil companies. Surely to god, if a number of nations can get together, sign the Antarctic treaty and agree on various measures, they must also agree that any exploitation is dangerous and likely to cause pollution. Surely they should support the welcome change in the Australian Government's position to support for the idea of a world park. I hope that New Zealand and other countries will also support the Australian Government's idea. Why cannot we say that we recognise that the Antarctic is an important wilderness and that we support the idea of a world park? The idea that to control the exploitation there is a pragmatic protection of the world park is unconvincing. Pressure comes from the oil companies and the exploiters of mineral resources around the world, who are trying to get their hands on the Antarctic.

I hope that the House will support the Opposition amendment. If the Bill as drafted is given a Second Reading, we shall continue the arguments in Committee and I hope that I shall be a member of that Committee so that I shall be able to continue those arguments. We will continue to argue for the preservation of the Antarctic as a world park. I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe that, at a later stage, the Antarctic could be handed over to an international agency, such as the United Nations, so that it does not become the property of a nation state, which could hand parts of it over to companies such as Exxon and BP, or any other oil or mining company. Mining companies and exploitation companies do not go to the Antarctic to preserve the environment. They may be environmentally conscious, but I always remember the amount that the Central Electricity Generating Board spent on publicity to show that it was preserving bees alongside a nuclear power station. I am grateful to it for defending the habitat of those bees, but appalled by the nuclear power station and the pollution that comes from it.

Mr. Burns

What pollution?

Mr. Corbyn

The hon. Gentleman may wish to divert me, and I would be happy to be diverted, but I think that you would stop me, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

We must say that we do not support exploitation in the Antarctic. The Minister says that only exploration would be involved and that that is not necessarily exploitation, but why on earth would companies seek to find out how much coal, oil and minerals were there if they did not intend to mount an exploitation of those resources at a later stage?

Those who opposed the railway prospectors in the last century in north America and in this country because their proposals would cross their land did so because they knew that, once a route had been worked out, somebody would try to build that line. That is why people such as myself oppose road building plans. We know that as soon as the plans are drawn up, those roads will inevitably be built. Exactly the same process is involved now in relation to the Antarctic. If assessments are made of the mineral wealth there, and if minerals are discovered, the pressure will be on to exploit that mineral wealth.

It is time that we started looking at this a little differently. We should recognise the value to us of the information that we have gained from the Antarctic, such as the information about the problems with the ozone layer that were discovered by the British Antarctic Survey team. We should also recognise that we cannot continue to exploit the world's natural resources at the rate that we are at the moment. We must recognise the principle of sustainable development. We need to devote resources to recycling and to renewable sources of energy. Resources must be devoted to sustaining life and sustaining development instead of having this mad grab to exploit what is one of the last great wilderness areas of the world because if we exploit that area in the way in which this proposal will inevitably lead to there will be a disaster.

An awful lot of people all around the world are watching what is going on, not in the debates in this House, but in debates taking place about the Antarctic as a whole. People are genuinely concerned. They recognise that the rate at which we are exploiting the resources of this planet is unsustainable and that in the end it will cause disasters of various sorts. People recognise that every time that we destroy a plant or animal species, we are destroying some sustainability in our own life system.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) pointed out, temperate and tropical zones can recover from ecological disasters to some extent, but the environment cannot recover in Arctic or Antarctic conditions. We are in danger of causing irreversible disasters in the Antarctic if we allow oil exploitation to go ahead.

I hope that the House will turn its attention to this problem tonight and that it will support the Opposition amendment. I hope that we will succeed in saying that we, too, support the principle of a world park in the Antarctic and that we shall do everything that we can to persuade other countries to do the same. I hope that for once we will put the needs of our environment before the profit motives of large numbers of mineral companies all around the world.

9.22 pm
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) spoke with sincerity and passion, but I hope that he will recognise that Opposition Members do not have a monopoly of concern about the environment or conservation. I hope that the entire House will agree that we are agreed on the end—on what we want the Antarctic to remain—and that we are divided only about the means.

It is not good enough to make grand unilateral gestures while ignoring the progress that has been based on quiet patient negotiations. I remind the hon. Member for Islington, North that those negotiations succeeded in producing the Antarctic treaty. However, no hon. Member has mentioned what it achieves in any detail. Article 1 of the treaty dedicated the Antarctic to peaceful purposes only. Articles 1 and 5 demilitarised and denuclearised Antarctica. In articles 2 and 3 the signatories agreed not to press their conflicting views about territorial sovereignty in Antarctica and opened the way for freedom of scientific co-operation and research in Antarctica on a long-term basis. Article 9 provided that the essentially scientific and peaceful principles and objectives of the treaty were to be pursued at regular meetings.

The treaty was the result of years of patient negotiation. If we were to reject the Bill tonight and accepted the reasoned amendment tabled by the Opposition, we would be placing in jeopardy the similar efforts that have been made to regulate mineral exploitation in Antarctica, and that would be a potential disaster for the environment.

Mr. Corbyn

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, although a step forward was made in the Antarctic treaty in terms of denuclearising Antarctica and making it a zone of peace, we are now saying, "Let us take another step and have no exploitation at all"? I and many of my hon. Friends believe that, if the Bill is passed in its current form, it will be a step backwards, because it will open the door to mineral exploitation of the Antarctic.

Mr. Leigh

I shall repeat what I said in my opening remarks. We are agreed on the ends, but were we to take the advice of the hon. Member for Islington, North to pursue unilateral action, I am convinced that, far from achieving his objective, we would put in jeopardy all that we have achieved after seven years of patient negotiations.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that, when opening the debate, my hon. Friend the Minister said that countries would refrain from mineral exploitation pending the timely entrance into this treaty. Therefore, were we unilaterally to reject that treaty and follow the path advocated by the hon. Member for Islington, North, we might put in jeopardy all that we have achieved, which has been much. For instance, the consulting parties under the Antarctic treaty negotiated the convention on Antarctic marine living resources, adopted in 1980, under which total allowable catches were allocated to countries wishing to fish in Antarctic waters. It is not good enough to say that all that we have achieved under the Antarctic treaty cannot be achieved under this convention.

As my hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow (Mr. Summerson) and for Stevenage (Mr. Wood) have made clear, it is important to put these matters into perspective and to recognise the enormous barriers that exist to the commercial exploitation of minerals in the Antarctic. As my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow also made clear in his pertinent remarks, it is important to recognise that a tiny percentage of the Antarctic land mass is capable of exploitation. Let us put the matters into perspective and recognise the progress that has been made after years of patient negotiation. Let us recognise, too, the fact that only prospecting will be allowed.

I do not believe that any hon. Member has yet detailed exactly what prospecting would mean if the treaty were to be signed. Prospecting would mean activities, including logistic support, aimed at identifying areas of mineral resource potential for possible exploitation and development, including geological, geochemical and geophysical investigations and field observations, the use of remote sensing techniques and collection of surface, seafloor and sub-ice samples. Such activities do not include dredging and excavations, except for the purpose of obtaining small-scale samples, or drilling, except shallow drilling into rock and sediment to depths not exceeding 25 metres…'Exploration' means activities, including logistic support, aimed at identifying and evaluating specific mineral resource occurrences or deposits. Therefore, prospecting would not include activities that could be said to be deleterious to the environment of Antarctica.

My hon. Friends have made it clear time and time again that, whatever we may want to achieve and whatever may be our ambitions for Antarctica, we must be realistic and conscious of what has been achieved and what has not been achieved in history. There are especially the five separate occasions in 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1979 when there was a failure to agree a moratorium on mineral exploitation.

I agree with Opposition Members that the proposal is not ideal, but politics, like international diplomacy, is the art of the possible. It would be a tragedy for Antarctica and for international co-operation, on which the future of Antarctica depends, if we took unilateral action and rejected the Bill.

9.28 pm
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

This has been an important debate. Essentially the difference of opinion turns on the different judgments made by each side of the House on how the unique ecosystem of the Antarctic can best be preserved. We must decide whether it will be preserved by the Bill and the convention that it implements or by a bolder step, as now seems possible given the new demarche of the Australians and others.

This debate, valuable as it has been, would not have taken place in prime time had it not been for the Opposition and our concern for the environment. The Government appear to question who could criticise a carefully constructed compromise worked out over a number of years—an international convention that cannot be renegotiated. The convention, as the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) appeared to suggest, is the only show in town. The Government have urged, therefore, that we should support it.

The Government might argue that the issue was given a fair wind in the other place. In April my colleagues in the other place adopted a critical but accepting line to the Bill and it is reasonable to ask, as the hon. Member for Chelmsford has done, what has happened since then. The answer can be succinctly put by the Australian Foreign Minister, Senator Gareth Evans, who said: We believe in short that what might have seemed impossible—or unobtainable—a few years ago, or maybe even a few months ago, has really now come within reach of the possible. We are talking about a wholly different set of circumstances. Although in April it could plausibly be argued that the Bill was the only possibility, now we are in a different position.

Mr. Burns

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Third Reading debate in the other place was on 8 June. Then the Opposition spokesmen did not say they opposed the Bill; they gave it the same support as they had given it on 20 April.

Mr. Anderson

In response to his textual analysis, the hon. Gentleman should be aware that, on Third Reading in the other place, the Leader of the Opposition asked about the new set of circumstances. In response Lord Glenarthur said that the Government were rather hesitant about what they called an unexpected turn of events."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 June 1989; Vol. 508, c. 945.] The Government appeared to accept that there was a new set of circumstances. During this debate the least we could have hoped for was that the Government would not simply plough along the same furrow ploughed in April, but would recognise those different circumstances.

In the other place, the Minister said that they would want to discuss this matter in depth, but thus far there is no suggestion that the Government are ready to have such a discussion. They are simply fighting yesterday's battle when the fighting ground has moved on.

There are important reasons why the unease about this matter must be articulated and many of them have been deployed with great competence tonight by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Fundamental to this debate is the recognition that our generation will be called to account by successor generations on the state of the planet that we leave. Can we look future generations in the eye and say proudly that the convention is the best possible means of protecting the vast natural wilderness of the Antarctic from commercial pressures? Other hon. Members have already dealt with its fragile ecosystem, the danger of irreversible damage and the pressures on that 2 per cent. of its land mass that is not covered by ice.

Our amendment refers to the Exxon Valdez disaster. Despite all the technical expertise and competence available to the United States, it still suffered a vast spillage in Alaska causing so much damage. Imagine how much greater the damage would be in Antarctica because of the difficulty caused by the slow rate of biodegradation. If prospecting within the Antarctic were intensified there could be such a spill from a tanker or from a supply ship. If oil drilling were permitted in those stormy seas it would be difficult to avoid leaks. There is always the human factor, as was shown so tragically in the Exxon Valdez incident.

Mr. Summerson

It will not be possible to drill for oil in those seas. Down in the Antarctic the wind gets up to the highest rate in the world, the water freezes as it is blown off the top of the waves and is frozen by the time that it hits an oil rig, temperatures are so low that metal shears if a hammer is dropped and icebergs the size of the Principality of Wales come floating by. There is simply no prospect of oil rigs in the southern ocean.

Mr. Anderson

I hear the hon. Gentleman's arguments, but the same arguments were deployed 20 years ago about the North sea. Technology advances and as we move into a scenario where the price of oil may increase substantially and resources become depleted, there could well be pressures to search for new areas, regardless of all the technical difficulties involved.

Other concerns include the Government's motives. Indeed, they set out their motives with brutal frankness during the debate in another place on 20 April. Lord Glenarthur said: It has been our objective throughout the negotiation of the convention to ensure that the UK, as a claimant state in Antarctica, should have the largest possible share of any benefits from minerals activity within the British Antarctic territory."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 20 April 1989; Vol. 506, c. 929.] That is the clear motive. There is no primacy to environmental considerations; it is a narrow, national commercial interest, set out with brutal frankness, to ensure that when the carve-up comes Britain has its piece of cake.

The prospecting defined in the Bill still rather assumes that it will lead to something else. The Government are not involved in an academic exercise or a scientific exploration for the good of mankind. Clause 2(1) states that clause 1 does not apply to purposes connected with the identification of suitable areas for the further exploration or the exploitation of mineral resources in this Act referred to as 'prospecting activities'". It is clear that in that incremental process prospecting is considered to be but the start of it. We see that slippage easily, albeit with a possibility of a further debate if another convention is worked out—[Interruption.] There will be further pressures at that stage and it will be easy to move from one stage to another. It may be only prospecting now, but development is just further down the line.

It is said that prospecting means avoiding deep dredging and that there will be no drilling lower than 25 m. The whole problem of inspection has been set out by my hon. Friends. Essentially, the international authority sub-contracts to national Governments. It is difficult enough at local level for planning authorities to ensure that those to whom they give licences act within the ambit of those licences. Will countries have the motivation to ensure compliance with the licences? There is a real danger of collusion between national Governments and companies. For example, during the convention negotiations the parties refused to ban state subsidies for prospecting by the various companies. Do the countries have the resources adequately to monitor those activities?

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) said, during negotiations, environmental considerations, certainly within the British negotiating team, were given a low priority. The Nature Conservancy Council was not part of the team, nor was it adequately consulted. The Department of Energy and the Department of Trade and Industry were part of the team, but the Department of the Environment was not. Again, that suggests that narrow commercial motives rather than environmental considerations were paramount for the Government.

How, then, would the Government seek to restrain the multinationals? Clause 4 gives the power to revoke, vary or suspend licences, but insufficient attention is given to monitoring and compliance with the licence permission. There is a real danger of collusion, particularly when Governments are searching greedily for resources.

We recognise the ultimate dangers—the danger that there could be a new Klondyke in Antarctica and the dangers of military strife between powers because of uncertainty over existing claims and the unwillingness of many countries to accept the claims made by the countries that were first in on the act. But because of the current price levels of relevant minerals or the state of technology, there is no suggestion that countries are about to embark on serious developments. Therefore, there is no pressure on Governments to proceed with the convention now.

An international agreement is necessary and we accept that such an agreement is best pursued within the Antarctic treaty structure, not within the United Nations. But why the Government's haste?

The key question that I leave with the Government is this. Who can deny that new circumstances have now arisen as a result of the Australian Government's decision? The Minister's answer on that point was weak. The Australian Government, which must give its assent, effectively has a power of veto. Therefore, we are back at the starting gate. The convention will not be operative as long as the Australian Government maintain that veto with the possibility of being joined by other countries such as France.

In response to those new circumstances, the Minister could only say that the treaty system was based on compromise and mutual concerns so that a veto was not contemplated. In fact, a veto exists. Given the Australians' strongly held position, there is no way in which between now and October they will say that they have reconsidered the matter and now think that their original position was correct. That is not possible given the Australian temperament and the practicalities.

The Minister's second point was that Australia was wrong in principle and that he hoped that it would change its mind. It will not do so and the Government had better be clear that they are now in an entirely different ball game.

As I said at the beginning, Senator Gareth Evans's statement that events have now changed means that the Government should formulate a new position in the new circumstances. Faced with a convention that could open the way to mining, it is surely time to reflect afresh and to prolong the moratorium which has stood the test of time since 1977. We need to negotiate from scratch. It is clear that Australia will not sign the treaty. It is surely a pipe dream to say, as the Minister did, that, although Australia may technically not sign, it may nevertheless join the treaty. The Foreign Office had better get that idea out of their minds, because Australia will maintain its opposition and the convention as drafted will not be ratified. Australia is a major claimant state, with 42 per cent. of Antarctica's land mass.

We urge the Government to accede to our reasonable amendment. There is no urgency, because we know that at the 15th Antarctica consultative meeting in October Australia will propose the development of a comprehensive environmental protection convention. That proposal will be on the table, and the British Government had better start working out their response to it now.

There is nothing dishonourable about having second thoughts in changed circumstances, particularly if they are a pragmatic response to new realities. In no case have the Government appeared to take the initiative in a matter of importance relating to the environment, despite the Prime Minister's brave words last September. Here is a chance for the Government pragmatically to respond to new circumstances and to accept the Opposition amendment.

9.46 pm
Mr. Eggar

Concern has been expressed by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House about the need to protect Antarctica's environment. I welcome the nature of the debate, which generated sensible discussion about how best to achieve a common goal. I join the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) in paying tribute to Dr. John Heap, who heads the polar regions section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. As the hon. Gentleman said, Dr. Heap was involved in every stage of the six years of negotiations on the treaty, and has been involved in matters relating to Antarctica for more than 25 years. He is recognised throughout the world as a leading expert in matters relating to Antarctica, and his dedication to the cause of preserving its environment is matched by many officials in the other states that are parties to the Antarctic treaty. It is right that we should recognise the work that they have done on behalf of us all for a long time.

The convention is not the product of a piratical or exploitative design by a series of rapacious mining companies. Nor is it the case, as has been implied by many Opposition Members, that the non-governmental organisations or the Department of the Environment were not involved in the United Kingdom's preparations for negotiations on the convention. The non-governmental organisations were consulted, and the Department was involved.

The convention is a supreme example of foresight of the need to protect the Antarctic environment, which first became evident in the 1960s. It also recognises the unique fragility of the Antarctic environment and that Antarctica could easily fall prey to those who have no respect for its environment but regard the continent only in terms of its potential mineral riches.

Mr. Summerson

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that the Prime Minister of Malaysia is on record as saying, "I have heard that there is gold at the south pole, and I want a part of it."

Mr. Eggar

I am aware of those reported remarks, but that is one reason why this country believes in continuing with the present Antarctic treaty system—an approach which I note is supported by the Opposition Front Bench spokesmen, although not by a number of Opposition Back-Bench Members.

The convention would prevent mineral exploitation, except when it is agreed unanimously that such activity can proceed safely and without substantial risk to the environment. In short, the convention makes it very difficult to exploit Antarctica's mineral resources. There are those who say that it is biased. They are right: it is heavily biased in favour of protecting the Antarctic environment. The Opposition amendment shows no understanding of the objectives of the convention or, indeed, those of the Bill.

I agree with Opposition Members that the world is more concerned about environmental matters than it was even a year ago, but I think that they are making a fuss in a way that the Opposition in the Lords did not only a few weeks ago. It is the convention's primary objective to meet environmental concerns, including the desire to prevent disastrous environmental damage such as occurred in the Arctic from the accident involving the Exxon Valdez.

I have stressed that what we need in Antarctica is first-class scientific research such as has been carried out by the British Antarctic Survey. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Summerson), who pointed out graphically how critical that work is. The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) also mentioned it. If we are to have first-class scientific research in Antarctica, however, we need peace and harmony in the region, and only if the Bill is passed and the convention ratified will that essential peace be assured. If the Bill is not passed the convention will not come into force, and we shall enter uncharted areas of uncertainty, not only with the convention but with the Antarctic treaty system as a whole.

The Government are always prepared to consider new initiatives for the protection of the Antarctic environment, and in doing so we shall of course take account of the views and interests of all our Antarctic treaty partners. An important element in environmental protection is that any proposal for mineral activity must go through a rigorous four-stage process, in which each state will have a veto on exploration and development. In other words—this point has been overlooked by Opposition Members—any state will be able to stop exploration and development.

Opposition Members have expressed some scepticism about the veto mechanism. I could go through the elaborate four-stage process step by step, but unfortunately time does not permit that. Let me assure Opposition Members, however, that this was extremely difficult to negotiate. The four-stage mechanism allows any one party to the treaty to veto at any of the four stages: thus states that wish to stop exploration and development can do so on their own and in their own capacity, without fear of being pressurised by other states—or by own companies. That process rules out the risk of a particular country's colluding with its nationals or its national companies to despoil the Antarctic. Frankly, it is surprising that Opposition Members should use that argument when they know that, if the convention does not come into force, then, and only then, will it be possible for individual states to collude—the word that they have used—with their nationals and companies.

The safeguards do not end there. Any proposal to explore or develop must pass the sufficiency of information test. That is the key element in the convention's environmental protection armoury. No activity at those stages can take place unless enough information is available to allow informed judgments to be made on what its environmental consequences will be. That applies as much to prospecting as to exploration and development.

In relation to prospecting, the state sponsoring the activity must vouch for the adequacy of information available to it. The commission set up under the convention can challenge the sponsoring state in that area. In relation to exploration and development, the advisory committee is specifically required to say whether adequate information exists.

The right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), who is no longer in his place, asked about enforcement. Inspections by each state are possible anywhere in Antarctica. Any state can bring another state to the arbitration tribunal if it believes that that state has broken the rules. The arbitration tribunal can make urgent binding measures to protect the environment.

I assure the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), who was concerned about the role of inspectors and who asked whether the British Antarctic Survey would act as inspectors, should that be necessary from Britain's point of view, that that is not the case. It is the intention to appoint inspectors who are not associated with the BAS.

Many hon. Members have suggested that Antarctica should be designated as a world or wilderness park. My answer is that what matters is that activity in Antarctica should be in harmony with nature and should be carried out with due regard to the environmental consequences. The Antarctic treaty system has been committed to the protection of the Antarctic environment for nearly 30 years, long before Greenpeace came on to the scene.

The Government do not believe that sticking a label on the Antarctic would help to ensure its future. They do not believe that it is right to rule out the possibility that we might want to extract minerals at some time in the remote future. For those reasons, the Government believe that Antarctic environmental protection is best achieved by practical initiatives aimed at particular threats to nature.

It has been suggested that if the United Kingdom maintained its opposition to a complete ban on Antarctic mineral resource activity, we could find ourselves in the minority or even isolated. Our soundings of our partners in the treaty system do not support that assertion. The responses that we have had to specific inquiries show that the majority, including the United States, the Soviet Union, China, Brazil and seven other consultative parties, strongly support the entry into force of the convention. A minority, including France, have yet to make up their minds about signing the convention. No other countries have committed themselves to supporting the Australian position. Some have suggested that we should go for a ban now and reconsider mining later, when there is a need for Antarctic minerals. That is not a practical alternative. The convention bans all Antarctic mineral activity, except in accordance with its strict terms. Moreover, even if it were to be a practical alternative, we believe that it would be contrary to the interests of Antarctic environmental protection.

By passing the Bill we have an excellent opportunity to make real progress on the protection of the environment in Antarctica. This is the first piece of legislation to prohibit mineral exploration in Antarctica by British nationals and companies. The Government therefore strongly support the convention and intend to ratify it.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 121, Noes 217.

Division No. 277] [6.58
Abbott, Ms Diane Canavan, Dennis
Allason, Rupert Cartwright, John
Allen, Graham Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Alton, David Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Anderson, Donald Clay, Bob
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Clelland, David
Armstrong, Hilary Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Cohen, Harry
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Ashton, Joe Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Corbett, Robin
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Corbyn, Jeremy
Battle, John Cousins, Jim
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Crowther, Stan
Beckett, Margaret Cryer, Bob
Beith, A. J. Cunningham, Dr John
Bell, Stuart Dalyell, Tam
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Darling, Alistair
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bermingham, Gerald Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)
Blair, Tony Dewar, Donald
Blunkett, David Dixon, Don
Boateng, Paul Dobson, Frank
Bradley, Keith Douglas, Dick
Bray, Dr Jeremy Dunnachie, Jimmy
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Evans, John (St Helens N)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Buckley, George J. Fisher, Mark
Caborn, Richard Flannery, Martin
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Flynn, Paul
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Foster, Derek McAvoy, Thomas
Foulkes, George McCartney, Ian
Fraser, John McFall, John
Galbraith, Sam McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Galloway, George McKelvey, William
Garrett, John (Norwich South) McLeish, Henry
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Maclennan, Robert
Godman, Dr Norman A. McWilliam, John
Golding, Mrs Llin Madden, Max
Gordon, Mildred Mahon, Mrs Alice
Gould, Bryan Marek, Dr John
Graham, Thomas Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Martlew, Eric
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Maxton, John
Grocott, Bruce Meacher, Michael
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Meale, Alan
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Michael, Alun
Heffer, Eric S. Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Henderson, Doug Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Hinchliffe, David Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Hood, Jimmy Morgan, Rhodri
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Morley, Elliott
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Howells, Geraint Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Mowlam, Marjorie
Hoyle, Doug Mullin, Chris
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Murphy, Paul
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Nellist, Dave
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) O'Brien, William
Ingram, Adam Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Janner, Greville Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Pendry, Tom
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Pike, Peter L.
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Prescott, John
Kilfedder, James Primarolo, Dawn
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Quin, Ms Joyce
Kirkwood, Archy Randall, Stuart
Leadbitter, Ted Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Richardson, Jo
Lewis, Terry Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Livsey, Richard Robertson, George
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Robinson, Geoffrey
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Rooker, Jeff
Loyden, Eddie Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McAllion, John Rowlands, Ted
Ruddock, Joan Vaz, Keith
Sedgemore, Brian Wall, Pat
Sheerman, Barry Wallace, James
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Walley, Joan
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Skinner, Dennis Wareing, Robert N.
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E) Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam) Wilson, Brian
Snape, Peter Winnick, David
Soley, Clive Winterton, Nicholas
Spearing, Nigel Wise, Mrs Audrey
Steel, Rt Hon David Worthington, Tony
Steinberg, Gerry Wray, Jimmy
Stott, Roger Young, David (Bolton SE)
Strang, Gavin
Straw, Jack Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Mr. Frank Haynes and
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Mr. Allen Adams.
Turner, Dennis
Adley, Robert Colvin, Michael
Aitken, Jonathan Conway, Derek
Alexander, Richard Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Amess, David Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Amos, Alan Cope, Rt Hon John
Arbuthnot, James Cormack, Patrick
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Couchman, James
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Cran, James
Ashby, David Critchley, Julian
Aspinwall, Jack Currie, Mrs Edwina
Atkins, Robert Curry, David
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Baldry, Tony Day, Stephen
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Devlin, Tim
Batiste, Spencer Dorrell, Stephen
Bellingham, Henry Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bendall, Vivian Dover, Den
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Dunn, Bob
Benyon, W. Dykes, Hugh
Bevan, David Gilroy Eggar, Tim
Biffen, Rt Hon John Emery, Sir Peter
Blackburn, Dr John G. Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Evennett, David
Body, Sir Richard Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fallon, Michael
Boscawen, Hon Robert Favell, Tony
Boswell, Tim Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bottom ley, Peter Fishburn, John Dudley
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Forman, Nigel
Bowis, John Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Forth, Eric
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fox, Sir Marcus
Brazier, Julian Franks, Cecil
Bright, Graham Freeman, Roger
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter French, Douglas
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Fry, Peter
Browne, John (Winchester) Gardiner, George
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Gill, Christopher
Buck, Sir Antony Glyn, Dr Alan
Burns, Simon Goodhart, Sir Philip
Burt, Alistair Goodlad, Alastair
Butcher, John Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Butler, Chris Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Gorst, John
Carrington, Matthew Gow, Ian
Carttiss, Michael Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Cash, William Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Gregory, Conal
Chapman, Sydney Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Chope, Christopher Grist, Ian
Churchill, Mr Ground, Patrick
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Grylls, Michael
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hague, William
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mitchell, Sir David
Hampson, Dr Keith Moate, Roger
Hanley, Jeremy Monro, Sir Hector
Hannam, John Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Moore, Rt Hon John
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Morrison, Sir Charles
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Hawkins, Christopher Moss, Malcolm
Hayward, Robert Moynihan, Hon Colin
Heathcoat-Amory, David Mudd, David
Heddle, John Neale, Gerrard
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Nelson, Anthony
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Neubert, Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hind, Kenneth Nicholls, Patrick
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Holt, Richard Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hordern, Sir Peter Norris, Steve
Howard, Michael Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Oppenheim, Phillip
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Page, Richard
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Paice, James
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Patnick, Irvine
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Patten, John (Oxford W)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hunter, Andrew Pawsey, James
Irvine, Michael Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Irving, Charles Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Jack, Michael Porter, David (Waveney)
Janman, Tim Powell, William (Corby)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Price, Sir David
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Raffan, Keith
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Redwood, John
Key, Robert Renton, Tim
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Riddick, Graham
Kirkhope, Timothy Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Knapman, Roger Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Roe, Mrs Marion
Knowles, Michael Rossi, Sir Hugh
Knox, David Rost, Peter
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Rowe, Andrew
Lang, Ian Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Latham, Michael Ryder, Richard
Lawrence, Ivan Sackville, Hon Tom
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Lee, John (Pendle) Sayeed, Jonathan
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Shaw, David (Dover)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lightbown, David Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lilley, Peter Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shersby, Michael
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
McCrindle, Robert Soames, Hon Nicholas
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Speller, Tony
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Squire, Robin
Maclean, David Stanbrook, Ivor
McLoughlin, Patrick Steen, Anthony
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Stern, Michael
Malins, Humfrey Stevens, Lewis
Mans, Keith Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Maples, John Stokes, Sir John
Marland, Paul Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Marlow, Tony Sumberg, David
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Summerson, Hugo
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mates, Michael Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Maude, Hon Francis Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Temple-Morris, Peter
Miller, Sir Hal Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mills, Iain Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Miscampbell, Norman Thorne, Neil
Thornton, Malcolm Watts, John
Thurnham, Peter Wells, Bowen
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wheeler, John
Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath) Whitney, Ray
Tracey, Richard Widdecombe, Ann
Tredinnick, David Wiggin, Jerry
Trippier, David Wilkinson, John
Trotter, Neville Wilshire, David
Twinn, Dr Ian Winterton, Mrs Ann
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Wolfson, Mark
Waddington, Rt Hon David Wood, Timothy
Wakeham, Rt Hon John Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Waldegrave, Hon William Yeo, Tim
Walden, George Young, Sir George (Acton)
Walker, Bill (T'side North) Younger, Rt Hon George
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Walters, Sir Dennis Tellers for the Noes:
Ward, John Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones and
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill) Mr. Tony Durant.
Warren, Kenneth
Division No. 278] [10 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Allen, Graham Clay, Bob
Alton, David Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Anderson, Donald Cohen, Harry
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Armstrong, Hilary Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Corbyn, Jeremy
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Cousins, Jim
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cryer, Bob
Bermingham, Gerald Darling, Alistair
Blunkett, David Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bradley, Keith Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Dewar, Donald
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Dixon, Don
Buckley, George J. Dunnachie, Jimmy
Caborn, Richard Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Callaghan, Jim Fisher, Mark
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Foster, Derek
Canavan, Dennis Foulkes, George
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Galbraith, Sam
Galloway, George Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Mullin, Chris
Godman, Dr Norman A. Murphy, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin O'Brien, William
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Pendry, Tom
Hinchliffe, David Pike, Peter L.
Howells, Geraint Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hoyle, Doug Prescott, John
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Primarolo, Dawn
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Quin, Ms Joyce
Ingram, Adam Robertson, George
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Rowlands, Ted
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Ruddock, Joan
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Sheerman, Barry
Kennedy, Charles Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Skinner, Dennis
Lamond, James Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Lewis, Terry Smith, C. (Isl'ton &F'bury)
Livsey, Richard Soley, Clive
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Spearing, Nigel
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Steel, Rt Hon David
Loyden, Eddie Steinberg, Gerry
McAllion, John Strang, Gavin
McAvoy, Thomas Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
McCartney, Ian Vaz, Keith
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Wall, Pat
McKelvey, William Wallace, James
McWilliam, John Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Marek, Dr John Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Wilson, Brian
Martlew, Eric Winnick, David
Maxton, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
Meale, Alan Wray, Jimmy
Michael, Alun Young, David (Bolton SE)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l &Bute) Tellers for the Ayes:
Moonie, Dr Lewis Mr. Robert N. Wareing and
Morgan, Rhodri Mr. Frank Haynes.
Morley, Elliott
Alexander, Richard Butterfill, John
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Allason, Rupert Carrington, Matthew
Amess, David Carttiss, Michael
Amos, Alan Cash, William
Arbuthnot, James Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Chapman, Sydney
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Chope, Christopher
Ashby, David Churchill, Mr
Aspinwall, Jack Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Atkins, Robert Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Baldry, Tony Colvin, Michael
Batiste, Spencer Conway, Derek
Bellingham, Henry Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Benyon, W. Cope, Rt Hon John
Bevan, David Gilroy Couchman, James
Blackburn, Dr John G. Cran, James
Boscawen, Hon Robert Currie, Mrs Edwina
Boswell, Tim Curry, David
Bottomley, Peter Davies, Q. (Stamf'd &Spald'g)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bowis, John Day, Stephen
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Devlin, Tim
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Brazier, Julian Dover, Den
Bright, Graham Dunn, Bob
Brown, Michael (Brigg &Cl't's) Durant, Tony
Browne, John (Winchester) Eggar, Tim
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Evennett, David
Buck, Sir Antony Favell, Tony
Burns, Simon Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Burt, Alistair Fishbum, John Dudley
Butcher, John Fookes, Dame Janet
Butler, Chris Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Forth, Eric Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Fox, Sir Marcus Norris, Steve
Franks, Cecil Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Freeman, Roger Oppenheim, Phillip
French, Douglas Page, Richard
Garel-Jones, Tristan Paice, James
Gill, Christopher Patnick, Irvine
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Gow, Ian Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Greenway, Harry (Eating N) Porter, David (Waveney)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Powell, William (Corby)
Gregory, Conal Raffan, Keith
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Grist, Ian Redwood, John
Ground, Patrick Riddick, Graham
Hague, William Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Roe, Mrs Marion
Hampson, Dr Keith Rowe, Andrew
Haselhurst, Alan Ryder, Richard
Hawkins, Christopher Sackville, Hon Tom
Hayes, Jerry Sayeed, Jonathan
Hayward, Robert Shaw, David (Dover)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Heddle, John Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Hind, Kenneth Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Holt, Richard Shersby, Michael
Hordern, Sir Peter Skeet, Sir Trevor
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Howarth, G. (Cannock &B'wd) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Stanbrook, Ivor
Jack, Michael Steen, Anthony
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Stern, Michael
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Stevens, Lewis
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Kilfedder, James Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Kirkhope, Timothy Sumberg, David
Knapman, Roger Summerson, Hugo
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Knowles, Michael Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Lang, Ian Temple-Morris, Peter
Latham, Michael Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Lawrence, Ivan Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Thornton, Malcolm
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Thurnham, Peter
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Tracey, Richard
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Tredinnick, David
Maclean, David Trippier, David
McLoughlin, Patrick Trotter, Neville
Malins, Humfrey Twinn, Dr Ian
Mans, Keith Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Maples, John Waller, Gary
Marland, Paul Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Warren, Kenneth
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Watts, John
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Wells, Bowen
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Wheeler, John
Meyer, Sir Anthony Whitney, Ray
Miller, Sir Hal Widdecombe, Ann
Mills, Iain Wilkinson, John
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Wilshire, David
Mitchell, Sir David Winterton, Mrs Ann
Moate, Roger Winterton, Nicholas
Monro, Sir Hector Wolfson, Mark
Morrison, Sir Charles Wood, Timothy
Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester) Woodcock, Dr. Mike
Moss, Malcolm Yeo, Tim
Moynihan, Hon Colin Younger, Rt Hon George
Mudd, David
Neale, Gerrard Tellers for the Noes:
Nelson, Anthony Mr. David Lightbown and
Neubert, Michael Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Nicholls, Patrick

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on Second or Third Reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).