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Antarctic Treaty

Volume 639: debated on Wednesday 3 May 1961

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asked the Lord Privy Seal whether complete agreement on an Antarctic Treaty has now been reached with Argentina and Chile to ensure the peaceful administration of the Antarctic territories, including the Falkland Islands Dependencies.

As the House is aware, the Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington on 1st December, 1959, between the Governments of 12 countries including the United Kingdom, Argentina and Chile. Article I of this Treaty lays down that Antarctica shall be used for peaceful purposes only. Ratification of the Treaty has now been completed by all signatories with the exception of Chile where the Senate has approved it unanimously but where the decision of the Lower House is still awaited. The Treaty will come into force upon the deposit of the instruments of ratification by all the signatory States.

Now that this welcome agreement has been reached on freeezing territorial claims south of latitude 60 in the Antarctic, is there a reasonable hope that Argentina will be rather less tiresome than she has recently been about the status of the Falkland Islands and the Falkland Islands Dependencies?

The position of the Falkland Islands, as I am sure my hon. Friend appreciates, is in no way affected by the treaty, but I hope that the stabilising action of getting agreement about the treaty will be of general help in the area.

Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what he means in the treaty by "peaceful purposes"? Can he also tell us what value, other than strategic, this area is to us?

What I was referring to was largely scientific purposes. There is a great deal of scientific investigation in which a number of countries are interested going on in the area, and I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that this can be for peaceful purposes.