James with representatives of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards during a Welcome Home Event for 20th Armoured Brigade
James at The Springfields Academy
James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament
James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation
Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Conservative): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important and timely debate. He is of course right to say that we must do all we can to protect and preserve the fragile environment of the Antarctic. Does he agree that that does not necessarily equate to doing nothing there? There are those who would ban any form of human activity in a fragile environment of that kind, but properly controlled fishing and exploration for oil and minerals may well be beneficial in some ways to the economy and the environment of the Antarctic.
Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. The key point is that we need to ensure that, if pollution occurs, the polluter pays. We must also ensure that they go with insurance, rather than worry about it after an accident. That is a critical part of the legislation I have brought forward. It underlines the fact that although we need people down there, they must conduct responsible activity in a responsible way that protects the Antarctic and does not threaten or damage it. I thank him for giving me the opportunity to underline that point.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mark Simmonds): I want to confirm, as this relates to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr Gray), that, absolutely without question, the Government agree about the importance of peaceful human activities in support of peace and science. Tourism and fishing are very strictly regulated, and hydrocarbon extraction is prohibited under the Antarctic treaty. Given the fragile environment—a key point made by other hon. Members—we fully support the continuation of this indefinite prohibition.
James Gray MP: It is of course very important that hydrocarbon extraction could be prevented in the Antarctic. However, it does occur in the south Atlantic, and it is terribly important that the strongest possible environmental controls should be applied to oil exploration off the Falklands and down towards Antarctica to prevent oil spills and so on from affecting that continent.
Mark Simmonds: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. That is one of the main focuses of the first part of the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, which will be debated on the Floor of the House later this year. It is absolutely essential that we maintain the prohibition within the Antarctic treaty area.
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