HL Deb 01 May 1967 vol 282 cc738-66

4.33 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I have been invited to pilot the Antarctic Treaty Bill through this House following its passage without amendment in another place. I should like to pay a personal tribute to Sir Clive Bossom who has so skilfully carried this Bill through to its present stage. I have been informed that the last occasion a Bill was sponsored from the Episcopal Benches in your Lordships' House was in 1927. The title of that Bill was the Liquor (Popular Control) Bill. This Bill is of a rather different character, and I hope that it will be more successful than the one to which I have alluded.

My own interest in the Antarctic Treaty Bill arises from having had the opportunity to live and travel in the Antarctic through three summers and two winters as a member of the British Graham's Land Expedition of 1934 to 1937, under the leadership of Mr. John Rymill. Subsequently, in the years immediately after the war, as Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, I was in touch with a number of expeditions engaged in Antarctic exploration and research which have steadily increased our knowledge of this remote and magnificent continent. I should therefore, in that sense, declare an interest and I hope it will not be thought inappropriate to sponsor from these Benches legislation which is designed to enable international co-operation in scientific discovery for peaceful purposes and to protect wild life.

I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is back from Aden and has his name down to speak, not only by reason of his father's notable contribution to Antarctic discovery but also by reason of his own experience and his own part in Polar exploration in the Arctic. There is great interest in this subject, and the list of speakers ensures that the Bill will be considered from the governmental, legal, scientific, conservationist and world Government point of view. I am grateful to those who will contribute to our consideration of this Bill from these various points of view.

The main purpose of the Bill is to give effect to measures for the conservation of Antarctic flora and fauna upon which all the Antarctic Treaty Governments— twelve in number—agreed at a Consultative Meeting held in Brussels in 1964. So far, four other Governments have approved these measures: Argentina, Norway, South Africa and the Soviet Union. If this Bill is passed, and so gives effect to these measures for the United Kingdom, it is to be hoped that the remaining signatory nations will soon follow suit. When that happens, the wild life of the whole Antarctic continent will be subject to a set of principles and rules which embody the most advanced thinking in conservation.

Before considering the terms of the Bill I think it may be helpful if I say something of the background which led, in the first place, to the Antarctic Treaty signed on December 1, 1959, and then to the Bill now under consideration. When I was in the Antarctic thirty years ago, I was combining geological and glaciological work and the role of chaplain. My parish might have been said to cover 5½ million square miles. At all events, we were the only human beings on the continent—sixteen men for the first fifteen months, and (after our sailing ship left for a refit) nine men in the last year. Now, thirty years later, the population has grown and there are thirty-one permanent stations operated by ten nations within the Treaty Area. The number of men involved has risen to more than 3,000 during the Antarctic summer, with a winter population of about 700.

There have been several reasons for this increased activity in Antarctica. During the war, and for a number of years after, it looked as if the Antarctic might become a source of serious international conflict. Before the war five nations, Australia, Britain, France, New Zealand and Norway, had each made mutually recognised territorial claims to sectors of the continent. During the war Argentina and Chile had also laid claims to sectors which overlapped, not only with each other, but also with that claimed by Britain. None of these territorial claims was recognised in the United States or by the Soviet Union. Both these countries had become actively interested in the Antarctic and wanted a new deal. The form in which claims were made, and the protests of infringements of alleged rights were registered, reflected inter-governmental friction of quite a serious kind, though in the Antarctic itself they sometimes had a somewhat Gilbertian character: a formal protest could soon be followed by drinks all round.

Despite these mounting political problems, my Lords—and perhaps to some extent because of them—exploration and research were going on. This country has throughout taken an active part, notably in the work of the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, now known as the British Antarctic Survey, and in that remarkable journey across the continent led by Sir Vivian Fuchs. But one expedition was significant for its international character with aims which were purely scientific, the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition to Queen Maud Land of 1949–52, which was inspired by the Swedish glaciologist, Professor Hans Ahlmann.

Leading scientists throughout the world were coming to realise that the Antarctic held the key to many scientific problems, some of them of global magnitude. This was specially true in the field of geophysics, and a large and important part of the programme of the International Geophysical Year, in which no fewer than 66 nations were involved, took place at a number of stations in the Antarctic in 1957–58. This operation, the International Geophysical Year, undoubtedly gave an impetus to the view that nations could do so much more in scientific research if they co-operated; and in particular it prepared the ground for the Antarctic Treaty signed by all the twelve nations which had particular Antarctic interests in 1959. The preamble to this Treaty says that: It is in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue for ever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. The second Article of the Treaty, which your Lordships will find imprinted as Schedule 1 to the Bill, ensures that the whole continent shall be free for scientific investigation without regard to nationality.

Since that Treaty has come into force steady progress has been made on both political and scientific matters of common interest to the nations concerned. One of the most urgent of these questions is, of course, that of wild-life conservation. Your Lordships will be familiar with Alan Moorhead's recent book, Fatal Impact, with its dramatic description of what followed in the years after the voyages in the Pacific and in the Southern Seas of that great and humane English explorer, Captain James Cook. On the Antarctic seals Cook had said they were: all so tame or rather so stupid as to suffer us to come so near as to knock them down with a stick. Within sixty years there was carnage on these seal beaches, with hundreds of sealing vessels involved; and in one season two vessels with 60 men on board demolished 45,000 fur seals. My Lords, that sort of thing could happen again. The Antarctic may not long be immune from the ravages of commercial exploitation, and this Bill offers an opportunity of legislating to control the otherwise inevitable and possibly devastating pressures which will be brought to bear on Antarctic life before they occur. I am convinced that we are wise to anticipate these dangers by introducing this legislation now.

The Antarctic is the least spolt continent in the world. The limited but increasing amount of human activity in the Antarctic could, if not regulated, all too easily upset the balance of Nature, because many species are susceptible to extermination. Furthermore, various of the species congregate for breeding, sometimes in vast numbers, which means that they would be especially vulnerable to introduced parasites and diseases. Many of the species of seal and all the species of penguin do not recognise man as a potential enemy. They are so utterly trusting that they lay themselves open to wilful exploitation. For instance, the Adélie penguin, one of the species which breeds further South, is an inquisitive bird. It does not run away from you: it follows you around.

I can recall, my Lords, a day when I was geologising on a small island below high-tide mark, which was the only place where the rocks were exposed, when I became aware that I was being observed. I looked up and there were 60 or 70 Adélie penguins peering over the ice foot. I spent the day hammering the rocks, and every time I looked up there were my "faithful flock". Their curiosity was constant but evidently unsatisfied. Not only are the birds themselves vulnerable by virtue of their tameness, but they lay their eggs in exposed positions. The same is true of the petrels, the skuas, the terns, and many of their eggs make quite delicious eating. It is not fanciful to imagine the time when these could be put on the market, either as rarities or as delicacies. The main purpose of the Bill, therefore, is to give protection to these creatures.

Clause 1 sets out the heart of the matter in that it prohibits without a permit the killing, injuring, molesting or taking of native birds or mammals. This provision is designed primarily for the protection of the six species of seal—crabeaters, Weddells, the leopard seal, the Ross seal, the elephant seal and the fur seal; and four species of penguin, the emperor, the Adélie, chinstrap and Gentoo, as well as ten species of birds which fly and which nest in the Antarctic, particularly the shags, petrels, gulls, terns and skuas. Similarly, it prohibits the gathering of any native plant within a special protected area or driving any vehicle in any such area.

The Secretary of State would be able to issue permits under Clause 3 to allow animals and birds to be taken so as to provide specimens for scientific research, for zoos and for museums, as well as to provide food for men and dogs where necessary. He would also have authority to delegate his powers over the issue of permits to the Director of the British Antarctic Survey and also to the leaders of British Antarctic survey stations, and of other British expeditions. The British Antarctic Survey, known formerly as the Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey, has been working in the Antarctic for 23 years. In that time it has undertaken a wide and substantial programme of scientific research including biology, and one of their stations, Signy Island, in the South Orkneys, is equipped with a first-class biological laboratory where some twenty scientific projects are being worked on. As part of the survey policy of linking their work with interested departments in the Universities, the writing up of this biological work is carried out by a special unit in Queen Mary College at London University. There are similar units for geology at Birmingham University, for geophysics in Edinburgh University, and for glaciology in the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge.

A month ago the Secretary of State for Education and Science announced in another place in answer to a question that ministerial responsibility for the British Antarctic Survey had been moved from the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs to the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I feel that it is a wise decision to consider the scientific work we do in the Antarctic in the context of the civil scientific effort of the country as a whole. This move also bears testimony to the way in which the Survey has developed under the experienced leadership of Sir Vivian Fuchs, and I should like to pay tribute to him and to the staff of the Survey, both past and present, for the outstanding results they have achieved.

The Bill provides in Clause 7 for Orders in Council being made to designate specially protected species and specially protected areas. The first lists of such species and areas as are now to be designated are given in Annexes A and B. These Annexes were recommended by the fourth consultative meeting representing the Treaty Governments, held in Santiago last November, on the advice of the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research. Annexe A lists two species as specially protected, both of them seals—the fur seal and the Ross seal. Annex B gives 15 specially protected areas on the continent and off-lying islands.

The reasons why these areas are so designated are of some interest. In two cases it is a question of protecting unique plant communities, for as your Lordships will be aware there is relatively little plant life in the whole of the Antarctic—there are a few species of grasses, mosses and lichens, and what there is is for the most part near the coast or on islands, the greater part of the continent being covered by permanent snow and ice. One area is designated to protect an Emperor penguin colony, two more because they are breeding centres of the fur seal, and three others to protect representative habitats for scientific study.

One important power is also provided with a view to making the protection of certain species effective; namely, the power to extend their protection to the whole area, including the high seas south of the Sixtieth Parallel of latitude. I refer to Clause 7(3). This is a necessary safeguard to protect species like the crab-eater seal, which breeds on the pack ice far from the shore, and which is extremely tame. I ought to make it clear, however, that the agreed measures referred to in this Bill do not include whales, and this deliberately, because whales are the subject of separate international agreements between a different group of nations from those involved in the Antarctic Treaty.

I should draw attention—and this I will do briefly—to one further purpose of this Bill; that is, to give effect to the United Kingdom's obligations under Article VIII of the Treaty by making British observers and exchange scientists subject to United Kingdom law and jurisdiction. The Treaty provides the right for any of the signatory nations to appoint observers to inspect the Antarctic stations of other Treaty Governments. This, of course, is an important right. It is designed to ensure that the intentions of the Treaty on peaceful purposes, the prohibition of nuclear explosions and the disposal of radioactive waste are strictly complied with. Moreover, British scientists may be exchanged from time to time with foreign scientists. Supposing a British observer commits an offence at, say, a French Antarctic station, he would be immune from French jurisdiction under the Treaty but when he returned home he could be prosecuted under our law for the offence by this clause. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, who I am delighted to see is going to take part in this debate, will refer to this aspect of the Bill; so I will say no more about it.

I hope that from what I have said your Lordships will appreciate the need for this Bill. I can well remember the arguments we had in the Antarctic about whether the fur seal would ever recover from the slaughter of the nineteenth century, and I am glad to be in the position of sponsoring a Bill in your Lordships' House designed to ensure, with the support of similar measures on the part of other signatories of the Antarctic Treaty, that the fur seal will never again be subject to near-extermination.

Perhaps this Bill may have some interest by reason of the fascination—and it is a very real one—which the Antarctic Continent by its very nature exercises over people's minds. But apart from this, and more particularly, the Bill arises from a notable and growing collaboration between explorers and scientists of many nations, whose partnership is being fostered, and indeed enabled, by the first significant Treaty between the East and West since the end of the Second World War—namely, the Antarctic Treaty. This in itself is an encouraging step in international relations. And now, pursuant to this Treaty, this Bill, if it is approved by your Lordships, will constitute one further practical step in our share of the responsibility for the proper safeguarding of the natural life and resources in Antarctica. I feel sure that the basic objectives of the Bill will commend themselves to your Lordships, and I hope that, after due debate, the Bill may be given a Second Reading. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(The Lord Bishop of Norwich.)

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, it is a very great satisfaction to me that I should have returned to this country to be able to welcome this Bill on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. It is nearly twenty years since I first started, with friends, to advocate the importance of bringing the Antarctic under some form of international control. I should have liked control to be extended to international sovereignty, if that does not seem to be too much of a contradiction in terms. In those days, those who objected to such a course raised a number of arguments, including the argument that it was liable to involve the Soviet Union in a part of the world where at that time they had no presence.

It was inevitable that all the major countries should take an interest in the Antarctic, and so far from being a source of friction, as the right reverend Prelate made clear, it has been the occasion for satisfactory and encouraging collaboration. The right reverend Prelate is himself a distinguished geologist, who has explored both in the Antarctic and the Arctic. As Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute for many years, he has as great a knowledge as anybody in the world of this subject. The Scott Polar Research Institute is possibly the greatest centre in the world for Polar studies and it has made a striking contribution to the happy state to which we have now come. Not so many years ago—indeed, it may have been when the right reverend Prelate was in the Antarctic—shots were actually exchanged in anger, and in those days conflicts on the sovereignty of the Antarctic, particularly between Argentina and Chile, seriously threatened international good relations. It is striking to-day that the issue of sovereignty has literally been put into cold storage, under the Antarctic Treaty, That Treaty is already in force, but this Bill gives effect to certain agreements made under the Treaty, and therefore is very welcome.

I am afraid that I shall not be able to stay for the whole of this debate, but there are two or three points to which I should like to draw attention and which might be of concern to your Lordships. Your Lordships will have noticed that under Clause 2, it shall be a defence to prove that the act in question" — that is, the taking of an animal— was done or attempted in a case of extreme emergency involving possible loss of human life … This is a somewhat tight requirement, although it can well be got round by unscrupulous people. I remember when in the Antarctic the musk ox was protected—a very mild and rare animal which had never been known to attack a human being, but also a very edible animal—and there was an extraordinary outbreak of ferocity on the part of the musk ox and a number were killed in "self-defence". But the requirements and the obligations under this Bill are so strict that I do not anticipate any evasion of the Act for this purpose.

I would therefore draw particular attention to subsection (6) of Clause 3 which requires that anybody who exercises under a permit the right to take animals should provide a report to the Secretary of State. This means that we shall know the extent to which the collectors and anyone else exercise rights under their permits for scientific purposes, and it will ensure that this is not abused. I am sure, in fact, that it will not be abused.

The other point—and here I embark with some anxiety on Clause 5 in the presence of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce—is the application of the criminal law to observers and exchange scientists. On the last occasion when we debated the Antarctic I remember that I had an exchange on a point of international law with the noble and learned Lord, Lord McNair, as to which I subsequently found, having been rather dashed, that I was right and he was wrong. The point, as I understand it—and it will be interesting to hear the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce on this subject—is that part of British municipal law does apply to British nationals within that area of the Antarctic where we have legislation under British Antarctic legislation. This refers, in particular, to what used to be called the Falkland Islands Dependency (I am not sure if it is still called that), which covers an area of the Antarctic over which we claim to exercise sovereignty. The position of sovereignty of countries who made claims in these areas is at the moment frozen. We keep our claims, and we do not seek to pursue them. There is no doubt that the appropriate law applies to British subjects in these "British" areas. But outside, and particularly in an area where there is possibly no jurisdiction at all, it is arguable whether there are not offences that could be permitted. I understand that for the offence of murder you can he brought hack and tried in this country as if the murder had been committed here. I am sorry to say that I cannot remember whether it is rape or bigamy—




It is bigamy, which can be safely committed in certain areas of the Antarctic. But this clause will ensure that this will not be possible, at least if you are an observer or an exchange scientist, because British criminal law will still apply.

To turn to a serious point, it is important that jurisdiction should be established; and, in a sense, it provides a certain protection for British exchange scientists and observers similar to that provided, for instance, under the visiting forces arrangements. This Bill therefore contains matters of real substance, and it is one which I am sure will be welcomed by noble Lords, both for its purpose of preserving wild life and, furthermore, as an indication of satisfactory international co-operation in this area, which certainly bodes well for similar cooperation in other areas, possibly not on the earth's surface. Therefore the Government are happy to welcome the Bill, and I congratulate the right reverend Prelate for the very knowledgeable—as one would expect—and pleasant way in which he introduced it.

5.6 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his clear explanation of what this Bill does. I am particularly grateful, because it means that my remarks need not be long. I am certain that all your Lordships and, one might say, almost all civilised people will welcome the purpose of this Bill. It is really quite an occasion to-day. We have the right reverend Prelate, who is an expert on Antarctica, who introduced the Bill, and we have just listened to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who is not only an explorer himself but the son of (I do not say this in any derogatory sense) an even more famous explorer. It is not often, even in your Lordships' House, that we have a Bill of this kind spoken to by two such experts. I dare say the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, these days rather wishes he was in the Antarctic instead of where he is apt to be: at any rate, it would be cooler.

It has always seemed to me that man has behaved in a particularly revolting way in the Antarctic as regards animal life and fauna. It was, as the right reverend Prelate said, virtually an uninhabited area, unlike the Arctic, where many parts of the region have always been inhabited. Man has done his best, or his worst, to destroy some species of animals. As a rule, he has had some sort of excuse: either that the wild animals were interfering with cultivation which he needed for his own living, or, if he was going to raise cattle, the wild animals were a danger to the cattle. But there has been no excuse for the massacres that have occurred in the Antarctic. One reason was to get rich quick. But, as usually happens, even without this Treaty, this is not now a very satisfactory method of gaining one's livelihood in the Antarctic, because these people have killed the goose that lays the golden eggs—not entirely, but they were on their way to doing so. What makes it even worse is that, so far as man is concerned, those wild animals are such harmless animals. The human race has behaved very badly in that area.

But things have got better in recent years, partly because certain species have become rarer, but also because the nations have started to get together. However, as the right reverend Prelate said, there is an urgency about this Bill and this Treaty, because civilisation, although slowly, is starting to move into the area and civilisation, just by being there, could, unless care was taken, do almost as much damage as, for instance, the sealers hunting the fur seals. So this is a most important Bill and Treaty. It is an important Treaty, too, because countries which, in theory, have been enemies, have decided not to seek sovereignty but to work together. So, my Lords, I am going to ask the noble Baroness who is to reply for Her Majesty's Government only one or two questions to which I should like an answer, and I know that your Lordships will support the Bill. I am a little surprised, I must say, to see only one member of the Liberal Party on the Liberal Benches, because in reading the Treaty I noticed that one of the Protected Areas was the Byers Peninsula. However, perhaps that slipped their notice.

The questions I want to ask the noble Baroness are simply these. The right reverend Prelate said, I think, that four other nations have passed legislation. Can the noble Baroness tell us the stage the other signatories have reached in their legislation? Secondly, are the penalties under the legislation of the other countries which have so far passed legislation equivalent to the kind of penalties that our nationals will suffer if they misbehave? I think there is a feeling that they should be at any rate more or less as rigorous, although they need not be the same. My final question is this. Is anything being done, either at the United Nations or as between countries separately, to persuade other nations which are not signatories to this Treaty to join the Treaty and to sign it in the near future? I know that the countries which signed were those which are at present involved in the Antarctic, but there are one or two quite major countries which are not signatories, and which have not so far been very much involved. They might, however, well be if the seal population, for instance, increases very rapidly owing to the protective methods we are now taking. Further damage to the breeding of seals, and so on, might be caused in the future. Subject to those questions, I hope that your Lordships will support this Bill and give it a Second Reading.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, I am very happy to add a few words in support of this Bill from the legal angle, in order to emphasise, if I may, the very great interest which lawyers generally, and international lawyers in particular, have in this type of legislation and in this subject. Conservation is not of course a new problem, in any sense. It arises from the fact—it is a legal fact of life, if you like—that the high seas are considered free. All those things that are in the high seas or in the air or on icebound continents are what the law calls res communis; anybody may take them. But, even so, these things are not inexhaustible, and if not protected they are exposed to what the noble Lord has just described as the predatory instincts of man. So we have had a long series of treaties, conventions, and agreements, starting from the North Seas Fisheries Convention of 1882 and going down to the Geneva Convention on Fisheries and Conservation in 1958, and dealing with such varied subjects as fur seals, halibut, sockeye salmon and, of course, whales. So the problem is also very much in the thoughts of international lawyers.

It is interesting to notice the progress which is marked by this particular Agreement in our scale of values. Let us take the Geneva Convention of 1958—only nine years ago. That defines "service" as: an aggregate of the measures rendering possible the optimum sustainable yield from those resources so as to secure a maximum supply of food and other marine products". It goes on to refer to the necessity for securing in the first place a supply of food for human consumption. It is interesting to compare with that what one finds in the Agreed Measures in Article VI (which appears in Schedule 2 to the Bill), which says: Such permits shall be drawn in terms… only for the following purposes: (a) to provide indispensable food for men or dogs in the Treaty Area in limited quantities…". Then it goes on to refer to scientific study and cultural purposes, and later on, in paragraph 4, it talks about maintaining: the balance of the natural ecological systems existing within the Treaty Area and the necessity of maintaining them; and in Article VIII: in order to preserve their unique natural ecological system. So this Agreement does mark by way of progress, from the rather materialistic considerations of the Geneva Convention, a realisation that ecological values must rank with, or perhaps even above, material values of food and industry—a realisation which one could sometimes wish was present nearer home than the Antarctic.

The right reverend Prelate, in introducing the Bill, referred to the collaboration which this shows between explorers and scientists. I should like to add that it marks also collaboration between law and science in our producing a more civilised world. Lawyers all over the world are doing a great deal of work in these outlying marginal fields, such as the depths of the sea or the environment of man and the atmosphere, and other parts which are not subject to sovereignty of nations, and, of course, progressively in relation to outer space, in order to regulate these areas and bring them within what is a reasonable control.

I think it would be appropriate to recognise in that connection the work of international bodies like the International Law Commission and the International Law Association, and, in this country, the British Institute of International Law and the David Davis Foundation, which have done a great deal of seminar work and propaganda work in getting lawyers interested in this type of subject. That has had the result, which is a happy one, that this country is taking the lead in giving legal effect to this particular type of measure and in giving effect to these treaty obligations.

I was asked to say something about the jurisdictional aspect, but there is not a great deal that it is necessary to say, because, as one would expect, the right reverend Prelate got the matter completely right in what he said. The Bill proceeds on the perfectly sound basis of founding jurisdiction on nationality. We find that in Clause 1 of the Bill. Then there are the provisions to which the right reverend Prelate referred for bringing observers under the jurisdiction of the State to which they belong.

There are some interesting provisions, if noble Lords want to pursue this aspect of the matter, in the Treaty itself. It seems to me very well designed, because there are always problems of jurisdiction where one is dealing with persons who are outside national territory—people in aircraft, people in spacecraft, and so on—and it is not always easy to see how they should he brought within the jurisdiction of States. But if one looks at Article VIII of the Treaty, one sees that, first of all, that sets the principle of nationality: that the observers and staff are brought under the jurisdiction of the State to which they belong. Then, recognising that there may be certain gaps or difficulties, it says that the Contracting Parties are to consult together with a view to reaching acceptable solutions before an arrangement has been made under Article IX. Article IX 1(e) puts Contracting Parties under the obligation to consult together in order to concert measures to deal with: questions relating to the exercise of jurisdiction in Antarctica". So one has this position. The basic principle is nationality. There may be difficulties or gaps or overlaps, but there is a flexible system which the Treaty Parties are under an obligation to operate: to consult together and to agree either a general measure or ad hoc measures in order to produce an ordered state of affairs.

As regards the crime situation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred, I am afraid that on account of a premature intervention on my part he got the crimes the wrong way round. For "bigamy" he should have said "rape", and for "rape" he should have said "bigamy". However, I do not think that will give rise to any great difficulty. Legally, if I may say so, the Bill seems to be well constructed and to provide an adequate and practical measure of enforcement, and it only remains for me generally, and not only as a lawyer but as one greatly sympathetic to these objectives, to add my voice in hearty support of the Bill.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity of saying a few words in support of this Bill. A few hours ago I was in some doubt as to whether I should be able to do so, as I was waiting on what seemed to be the coldest station platform in England. It seemed at any rate appropriate that I should be anticipating speaking on the Antarctic Treaty Bill, but with the passage of time I began to doubt whether I should be here to take part in the debate at all. However, eventually the train arrived, and it was only an hour and a half late. Therefore I am here in time to listen to, and to take part in, the debate but unfortunately—and I very much regret it—I was unable to hear the right reverend Prelate make his opening speech. I shall therefore be brief.

Last week I was speaking on the subject of international collaboration in a rather different context. This is most certainly a good example of international co-operation. I think we have reason to be thankful that the Antarctic is not—and I hope never will be—a battle ground for power politics. It seems fitting that there should be co-operation in the realm of scientific research and the preservation of the flora and fauna of the Antarctic. I welcome the Bill, and I also welcome the preamble to the Treaty, which reads: It is in the interests of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue for ever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord. I think it is not original on my part to say that I hope that will prove to be a precedent for the international control of the peaceful exploration and use of outer space. Certainly this Bill is a step in the right direction, and there are only two questions I wish to ask.

One question has already been raised; namely, how do we bind other countries in the future who are not parties to the Treaty? And, a slightly different question, how do we deal with a possible dispute between a signatory and nations which are not signatories to the Treaty? It may be that there is an answer in the Bill, but I have not found it. I wish this Bill well, I hope it will have a speedy passage, and I congratulate the right reverend Prelate on introducing it.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, I think it is a matter for congratulation in this House that when we find ourselves debating what can be regarded as rather a remote subject, we have a Bill introduced, welcomed and replied to on behalf of the Government by two of the most distinguished Polar explorers in this country. I, too, welcome the road that Britain has taken—the interesting innovation that science seems to bring nations together more easily than politics. The four countries which have already taken administrative action in this matter were mentioned by the right reverend Prelate—Russia, South Africa, Norway and the Argentine. They are not four countries one would ever get together in any political lobby at any moment in the foreseeable future.

In welcoming this Bill I should like to say a few brief words in regard to some confusion which may exist, not in your Lordships' House, but in the public mind, as between the Arctic, where I have spent some of the happiest times of my life, and the Antarctic, where I have never had the opportunity to go as yet. For 300 years, since Henry Hudson discovered Hudson's Bay, this country has become reasonably familiar with people travelling to and from the Arctic, with the animals that live in the Arctic, and the men who live in the Arctic—in fact everything in the Arctic. There came an heroic age when Antarctic exploration started. It was only in the closing years of the last century that the Antarctic and what it contained was ever heard of in Britain. Therefore, to those who are inclined to mix up the problems of the two, I will risk saying a brief word.

In the Arctic, man is part of the fauna. There he has always been. He is a predator—by far the most dangerous predator, because he is the craftiest. Because of that the fauna of the Arctic has a resilience to being hunted and killed which, so far as I can make out, the fauna of the Antarctic lacks entirely. Although there are certain animals which, while they are not tame in the sense of confiding, are extremely vulnerable, like the musk ox, the caribou and ptarmigan. Yet as a whole they have managed to live together, man and that which he hunts, for a good many centuries.

Then men came from outside with totally different weapons. The whalers came. Rather more than a century ago the harpoon gun was invented and fitted on to steam-driven whalers. By the end of the 1914–18 war the whales had virtually disappeared altogether. The hunters came and hunted the sea otter off Alaska, an animal with a tremendously valuable pelt which is extremely vulnerable because it cannot put to sea in a gale. The whales and the sea otters were virtually obliterated in the first half of this century.

Then the Eskimos managed to acquire rifles, instead of hunting with bows and arrows. Her Majesty the Queen has no more cheerful subjects than the Eskimo. I have spent some of the happiest hours of my life in Eskimo company, and I have travelled the best part of 3,000 miles with a dog team with one Eskimo in particular. I shall mention him in a moment. The Eskimo is a man who has one dimension less in his life than we have, in the sense that it is possible to say that time and space are the same thing with him. Utterly oblivious of the past, utterly indifferent to the future, always abundantly cheerful, what he is doing and where he is doing it is one and the same thing. He is therefore the worst conserver of wild life, because he never looks into the future at all. With the rifles the Eskimos managed to acquire they virtually annihilated the caribou and made tremendous inroads on the herds of walrus and herds of seals.

Now the Eskimo is ceasing to be a hunter. He is taking up a more sedentary form of life and, sure enough, with the tremendous resilience that the Arctic fauna has, it is coming back. The Eskimo with whom I used to travel was in his thirties at the time—just before the war—and he told me that as a child the caribou used to come down beside the coast where he lived, and he used to shoot them with a bow and arrow from behind a rock. Twenty years later we had to go 200 miles to find one. Four years ago I was back in that part of the world and the caribou had ceased to be hunted. Their numbers had proliferated and they were back, almost as they had been in my friend's childhood.

I mention that to show the resilience which I believe is lacking in the Antarctic. The Antarctic is very little known. It has all been seen from the air, but that is a tremendous difference from being explored. People forget its enormous size—the size of the United States of America and Europe put together. It is an enormous mountainous mass—so mountainous that Chile based her claim to Antarctic territory on the proposition that the Antarctic is in fact a continuation of the Andes. It is a place with 90 per cent of the world's ice, but in spite of all that it manages to have a pretty rich and varied fauna. It is in a sense, as I understand it, an enclave, but not entirely so, because about half the 80 varieties of birds migrate, and the whales seek the northern and warmer waters from time to time. But to a great extent they are locked into the Antarctic and are, as the right reverend Prelate has said, absolutely tame and absolutely defenceless. Before the heroic age of Antarctic exploration no man went there; there were only one or two expeditions. Now, as the right reverend Prelate has said, in the Antarctic to-day the population of men is 700 at the least, and something around 3,000 at the most.

To shield the fauna from man's disruptive incursions is the purpose of the Bill which I think we can all support most warmly. I am told by a leading scientist that we have in fact made our presence felt ahead of us, in the sense that of the poison sprays and the like which are getting into the system of birds in this country, traces have been found in the birds in the Antarctic. We have a pretty considerable responsibility in this matter. The fauna of the Antarctic seem to have been a unique problem, in the sense that they have their own particular continental characteristics.

One penguin, I was informed by a well known scientist, taken from its colony to a colony 3,000 or 4,000 miles away on the other side of the continent, managed to return in the course of one Antarctic winter to its original colony. So the fauna appear to have a curiously stratified society, about which as time goes on we shall know more. When we put into effect what is an international Treaty to do what every one of us would wish to do, there is little latitude for originality.

But this Bill is admirably drafted. The right reverend Prelate in introducing it, so skilfully and charmingly, said that this is probably the last unspoiled continent. Let us do the best we can to keep it so.

5.32 p.m.


My Lords, like other noble Lords, I want to welcome this Bill and to thank the right reverend Prelate for introducing it, particularly in view of the authority which he brings to it himself, and to follow my noble friend Lord Shackleton and all he stands for in terms of his father. Like the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, I am an Arctic man myself, but we are very broadminded, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Tweedsmuir, said, what has happened in the Arctic over the centuries is a reminder to us that at least in looking at the other frozen continent or area we should, in those terms and in the terms of this Bill, safeguard what is still intact.

This is an occasion for a fanfare of muted trumpets. It may seem a very modest Bill, certainly a very romantic Bill in the sense of the area we are dealing with; but I would suggest to your Lordships that this is in fact an historic Bill. It is an endorsement of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, and in its expression and embodiment into our law, and in the extension of your Lordships' jurisdiction to 60 degrees South, it represents a very big advance in the approach to the rule of law in global terms. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, has stressed this. He stressed what I also would stress: beyond the co-operation of the scientists and explorers, the co-operation of the lawyers, the recognition that here, out of one of the greatest experiments of our time, which was in fact the International Geophysical Year, in this fantastic cooperation of the scientists of the world, in every part of the world, and notably in the Antarctic, comes this Treaty, this combination of influence of the scientists, and through the scientists of the lawyers, on public opinion.

We now have something which is profoundly significant. It is not a renunciation of sovereignty. The Treaty very tactfully, if I may say so, and very successfully, avoids raising issues of sacrifice of sovereignty. The existence of the overlapping claims of Chile, Argentine and Britain in terms of the Falkland Islands or Graham's Land is quietly overlooked, and I think this is as it should be. In the working out of the Bill we are now discussing, in the application of that in the conservation of the continent itself, we shall get a working relationship which will override politics. It has been agreed under this Treaty that: No acts or activities taking place while the present Treaty is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty… or create any rights of sovereignty. No new claim, or enlargement … and so on. This is tremendously important because, as has been pointed out, there are real possibilities of very considerable substantial commercial exploitation of Antarctica.

I should say that the most imminent one—though not one that need necessarily give us serious concern—will certainly be the development of aviation. This is the grand circle route which is going very drastically to alter the flying routes of our planet. But over and above that—and I think many noble Lords will recognise it—the Antarctic Continent has in fact very substantial resources. The resources are still buried under perhaps 10,000 ft. of ice, but they are certainly exploitable. My noble friend Lord Shackleton's father in 1908 discovered coal seams 8 ft. thick at the top of the Beardmore Glacier. There have been more coal seams found in Antarctica, showing that this area was an area of tropical primæval forest.

I do not think any of us here, or any scientist, seriously thinks that in fact the world has tipped or that the equator was once at the South Pole. What it does mean is that the continent itself has moved. I think those who follow the present discussions on the Wegener theory on continental drift, which is now being very substantially borne out by scientific evidence, will recognise that what we are considering to-day is even more romantic than the right reverend Prelate has put it—the lost Continent of Gondwanaland. The area fits back in the jigsaw puzzle to make the one complete land mass which the Wegener theory assumes existed and then broke up. There has always been one part missing in what is now the Indian Ocean, and very beautifully Antarctica fits in; and once you have fitted it in you realise the tremendous possibilities. This is the bridge of the Rand and Broken Hill; this is the pipes of diamond. There is evidence, apparently, of the existence of petroleum which would link up again with the Persian Gulf.

It is a very attractive picture, and I am afraid that in commercial terms it might prove over-attractive. But at least in this new Treaty, which we are helping to implement through this Bill, we have something which is a contradiction of what was the political predatoriness of the nineteenth century. One could consider 1855, the Conference of Berlin, carving up the Continent of Africa. Here in our terms is the combination of politically and ideologically separate countries taking part in deciding that Antarctica shall not be carved up. I think this is a tremendous advance in our approach to the rule of law in the world and a fine example.

I would follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, in stressing also that this is now the beginning of a whole series of such treaties. Out of the International Geophysical Year which gave us the Antarctic Treaty we also have now the Treaty on Outer Space, which embodies pretty well the same principle, so far as space is concerned, as the one we are discussing to-day. I want to go further. I believe that, with the inspiration of the Antarctic Treaty, with the inspiration of the recently agreed Treaty on Outer Space, we should now go into a Treaty on Inner Space. Such a treaty would provide control of the deep seas, not just the high seas but the deep seas, with the incredible wealth, which belongs to no one, which lies beyond the Continental Shelf, and which many believe will provide unlimited minerals, not just oil under the North Sea but almost prefabricated ores, in the shape of the nodules, thousands of millions of tons of which we now know exist in the great depths of the oceans.

This is a problem for mankind. This is not a national problem. No one is going to expand the Continental Shelf claims to the ultimate depth of the sea if any thinking people can stop him. It is here that great activity is going on in inner space, as it has been called, in contrast to outer space. I have here a list of some 30 underwater vehicles of various kinds which are now available for the exploration of the deep, and the extension of the example which was set by Cousteau only a few years ago. In deriving from this Treaty this Bill which we are now discussing, with its admirable intentions, we are also exemplifying a new attitude to the responsibilities of mankind.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, it is my pleasant duty to support this Bill by declaring an interest as President of the Fauna Preservation Society, of which Mr. Peter Scott is our chairman. As your Lordships know, over many years our Society has helped to foster and encourage conservation over parts of the world, precisely the object of the right reverend Prelate's Bill, to which, therefore, our Society gives wholehearted welcome. The Agreed Measures in the Bill for the vast Antarctica are essential, and I hope will become the envy of experts. So far, measures in other parts of the world have come too late, but this continent may remain an example of how conservation can come in time. Therefore, besides our thanks to those who have prepared the Bill in another place and here, I think we should add our thanks to the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research at Cambridge, who started their work many years ago, to the Joint Research Department of the Foreign Office and the Central Office of Information, all of whom have been helpful to those interested in the safe passage of the Bill. I am sure they will agree that all the work that they have done has been in a worthy cause.

As regards Dr. Roberts of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge, I should like in closing to quote a few of his words from our Journal Oryx. He says: Meanwhile, let us do our best to preserve for our successors some of the most interesting and exciting biological spectacles to be found anywhere on earth: the great seal and penguin colonies; the soaring of the wandering albatross; the fantastic evening flight of uncountable millions of birds, and: …a small Colobanthus flowering in isolated desolation—those who have been fortunate enough to witness these things will never forget the joy they evoked

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that every one of your Lordships will join with me in congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich on the admirable way in which he introduced this Bill to-day. I must say that I personally was charmed by his story of the penguins, and one would wish that the observers we appoint to these far corners of the world were as peaceful in their habits as are these gentle birds. We are indeed fortunate in having as sponsor of the Bill one who has had such a close connection with the Antarctic, both as a field scientist and as an administrator in the years when he was Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. We are also deeply grateful to the many noble Lords who have taken part in this debate on this occasion, distinguished not only in their own fields of operation but in the contributions that they make to the debates in this House.

The questions put to Her Majesty's Government are not many in number, and I shall attempt to reply to them. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, inquired as to the stage reached in regard to the other signatories. Four nations have already given effect to the Agreed Measures: the Soviet Union, the Argentine, South Africa and Norway. France has just passed a decree, and Belgium has begun to legislate. Her Majesty's Government are in touch with Australia, New Zealand and the United States, who are preparing legislation. On the second question, concerning penalities, the Russians and the French do not specify penalties. The Argentine personnel, apart from their scientists, are subject to military law. The South African penalties are, again, not known to us. But I should like to assure the noble Lord that Her Majesty's Government will bring the question of parity of treatment of offenders to the notice of the next consultative meeting under the Antarctic Treaty which is to be held in Paris in 1968.

The noble Lord's final question was whether anything is being done to persuade other nations to sign the Treat), and approve the Agreed Measures. So far, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Denmark have acceded to the Treaty. No pressure is being brought to bear on other countries. But if I may remind noble Lords, under Article X of the Agreed Measures, set out on page 19 in the Bill, each of the contracting parties: undertakes to exert appropriate efforts, consistent with the Charter of the United Nations, to the end that no one engages in any activity in the Treaty area contrary to the principles or purposes of these Agreed Measures". The noble Lord, Lord Wade, asked how we deal with a dispute between a party to the Treaty and a non-party. If a nonparty acts in a manner inconsistent with the Treaty, it would be open to the parties, individually or collectively, to bring pressure to bear on the non-party. This is provided for in Article X of the Treaty. In practice, a meeting of the parties might also be called under Article IX of the Treaty. Of course, Her Majesty's Government have a close interest in the Antarctic Treaty, which was rightly described, when it was signed seven years ago, and has been described this evening by so many noble Lords, as a remarkable example of international co-operation recognising, as it does, that: it is in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord. This Treaty, which effectively prohibits the importation of any arms for military purposes, has close and continuing relevance to our efforts to make progress in the fields of arms control and disarmament. It is, I think, instructive to look at what has happened under the Treaty in the light of the debate in your Lordships' House in 1960, before the United Kingdom's Instrument of Ratification was deposited. The subject was introduced at that time by my noble friend Lord Shackleton. At this point I should say that other business in a less peaceful part of the world has regrettably prevented him from accepting this Bill on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, although I am delighted that it was possible for him to take part in to-day's debate.

In 1960, your Lordships were concerned with a Treaty which was not then in force, but which held out hopes for scientific co-operation between the nations working in the Antarctic. In the six years since the entry into force of the Treaty, these hopes have been largely fulfilled. Political differences have receded into the background, due largely to Article IV of the Treaty which, as explained by the right reverend Prelate, "froze" the situation as it affected territorial claims. On the positive side, the exchange of scientists between different nations' stations contributes significantly to the increase in mutual trust and co-operation. Over the last ten years of scientific work in Antarctica, an impressive body of scientific results has been built up through the international exchange of data and through internationally planned research projects. Under the aegis of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings and the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research, exploration has now reached the point where, with minor exceptions the whole continent has now been seen, at least from the air, and much of it has been mapped. We can now expect a shift in emphasis from exploration towards long-term detailed scientific studies, particularly in the fields of geophysics and Antarctic biology.

I should like also to refer briefly to our experience under those provisions of the Treaty which are specifically concerned with ensuring the peaceful use of the Antarctic continent. The principal provisions are Article I, which provides that Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only and goes on to prohibit the establishment of military bases, and Article V, which prohibits nuclear explosions. The Antarctic Treaty is of the greatest significance and is especially topical now because those provisions are backed up by a working system of inspection enabling each party to verify that the prohibitions are being respected. Under Article VII of the Treaty any Treaty Power may appoint observers to visit and inspect the Antarctic stations established by any other Treaty Government. Under the same Article all Treaty Governments exchange information on their planned operations for the coming year. Information is also required on ships, aircraft, vehicles, armaments, small firearms, military personel, and scientific equipment. Such information amounts to a reasonably complete inventory of all the items which could conceivably conceal a military operation which would be contrary to Article I of the Treaty. The information is in the hands of the observer when he is making his inspection and may be checked by him, on the ground, for accuracy and completeness.

Your Lordships will be aware of the difficulties concerning inspection that have arisen in international discussions on disarmament. We have here in the Antarctic a working system which has already been used by the United States, Argentina and ourselves. The United States exercised her rights in 1963 and again in 1967, and inspections have included Argentine, Australian, Chilean, French, Japanese, Soviet, South African and United Kingdom stations. We have also exercised our rights twice to inspect United States stations. Our inspectors have been Lieut. Commander Erskine, R.N., who inspected the America stations at McMurdo Sound, Byrd and at the South Pole in December, 1963. In February, 1966, Captain Sandford, R.N. and other officers of H.M.S. "Protector" inspected the American station at Anvers Island on the West side of the Antarctic peninsula. Argentina has also inspected a United States station. None of these inspections has shown any activities contrary to the spirit and purposes of the Antarctic Treaty. It was not, of course, expected that they would, but they have provided experience of the practical possibilities of inspection which is applicable to wider and more urgent problems.

This is a valuable provision in the Treaty and it has formed the precedent for similar provisions for inspection of stations in outer space in the Space Treaty recently signed in Washington, Moscow and London. In the future, inspection is likely to become more usual as a means of policing international agreements, and I hope that other Antarctic Treaty Powers will make use of the opportunities offered to them under the Antarctic Treaty to gain experience in this field.

Another way in which the Treaty is operating smoothly is shown by the friendly relations that have developed at the four Consultative Meetings which have been held so far. It was at the Third Consultative Meeting, held in Brussels in 1964, that the text of the Agreed Measures (forming, Schedule 2 to the Bill) was drawn up. The Fourth Consultative Meeting at Santiago last November, recommended, in the light of scientific advice given to Governments, that the special protection envisaged under the Agreed Measures should be extended to the two species and fifteen areas set out in the Annex to Schedule 2 to the Bill.

I should like to thank your Lordships for the valuable points that have been made in this debate about the Treaty and the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic fauna and flora. I should say at once that the provisions of the Agreed Measures are fully supported by Her Majesty's Government and that we support the passage into law of this Bill designed to give effect to them.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, there is little I need say, in replying, other than to express an indebtedness to all your Lordships who have made contributions to this debate. I am grateful that in every case this Bill has been supported and that questions which have been asked have not been by way of criticism of the Bill itself but designed merely to get further information. This pays tribute to the way the Bill has been drafted. It passed without comment in the other place, and speeches during the Second Reading and Committee stage contained no criticism of the Bill itself. Therefore, we owe much to Dr. Roberts and others who have assisted in drafting the Bill and to members of the Consultative Meetings and the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research.

I am glad the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, drew attention to the importance of the co-operation and contribution of lawyers in this matter. The noble Lord himself speaks as one who has taken an active part in International Law, and I am grateful that he was able to take part in this debate and emphasise this aspect. Since the Antarctic Treaty came into force, happily the turn of events has been from a good deal of international friction which had existed before the Treaty came into force to international co-operation which has been progressively strengthened. This in itself is something greatly to be welcomed. Apart from this, I hope that your Lordships will support the Bill which will do something to preserve this continent and its wild life for posterity.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.