Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Friday, 2 November 2012

Antarctic Bill part one

Conservative MP Neil Carmichael has described his Antarctic Bill as "a further demonstration" of the UK's long-standing interest in the continent.

Opening the second reading debate on his private member's bill on 2 November 2012, Mr Carmichael told MPs: "I am committed to protecting the Antarctic. I am committed to the British presence in the Antarctic."

The bill would implement a new annex to the Antarctic Treaty that was agreed in 2005, which requires anyone undertaking activities in Antarctica to ensure measures are in place to prevent any environmental damage and to have contingency plans should any damage occur.

The Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961. The countries who now adhere to the treaty undertake not to pursue territorial claims in Antarctica and to protect the continent's flora and fauna.

When asked by fellow Conservative Christoper Chope why the bill did not mention Argentina and what he alleged were its territorial claims in Antarctica, Mr Carmichael argued that "we are strengthening our own British presence" through the treaty and the bill.

He added that nations including China and South Korea are becoming interested in Antarctica and UK interests must be safeguarded.

Labour's Jeremy Corbyn welcomed the bill and described the Antarctic as a "zone of peace" which belongs to the world, but suggested some Conservative MPs were showing a "slight degree of xenophobia and nationalism in their approach".

Seven countries - the UK, Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand and Norway - have made territorial claims in the Antarctic, which have been put on hold by the Antarctic Treaty.

The British Antarctic Territory is the largest of the UK's overseas territories. It has no indigenous population but is home to UK research bases and those of other nations.

Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the British Overseas Territories, said "we all too aware of the claims by Argentina to all three of our territories in that region".

Mr Corbyn pointed out that Argentina had signed the Antarctic Treaty.

Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert, a co-sponsor of the bill, said it had the "potential to provide lasting safeguards for the whole continent" and urged fellow MPs to support it.

The session opened with a division on a motion to allow the Commons to sit in private, which is sometimes used as a procedural tactic to test the quoracy of the House, and was interrupted for a ministerial statement.

You can watch part two of the debate here.

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