HL Deb 12 October 1971 vol 324 cc305-6

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what decisions have been reached regarding the future of the atoll of Aldabra.]


My Lords, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister indicated last December, there has been no change in the decision announced in November, 1967, not to proceed with a military installation on Aldabra. In July, 1968, the Royal Society was granted permission—and, subsequently, financial help—to establish a research station there, and the island has been classed as a nature reserve by the British Indian Ocean Territory Administration.


My Lords, is the Minister aware that, a little unusually, I have tabled this Question in order to express appreciation of the fact that both the military and commercial uses of this island have now been abandoned, and that its unique flora and fauna are to be preserved? Also, may I ask the Minister this question? Can he give any information on the progress of the negotiations for the transference of the lease of the atoll from the Seychelles business firm, which was to use it for commercial purposes, to the Royal Society as a research reserve?


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for explaining why he put down the Question. Had I known the reason earlier, it would have saved my mind working overtime wondering what the purpose of his supplementary was going to be. But to answer the noble Lord's second supplementary, in fact the Royal Society took over the lease which had previously been in the hands of the company to which he referred, and they are now in process of negotiating a new lease direct with the B. I. O. T. A.


My Lords, are Her Majesty's Government aware that Aldabra will have no future at all unless the scientists have success in their battle against the Crown of Thorns which threatens to wipe out all the coral islands of the world?


My Lords, I think Aldabra is unique, and it is certainly the hope that it will stay unique.


My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that at least one rare species of bird has been collected on the island by scientists and, as a result. is now believed to be extinct? While appreciating the enthusiasm of scientists to conserve, will the noble Earl ensure that they really do conserve?


My Lords, I am not quite certain to which species the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, referred. But there are a number of very curious species, including the upside-down jelly fish.

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