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Antarctic Treaty

Volume 655: debated on Tuesday 13 March 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the extent and assumed economic or other value of the Antarctic area now formally deemed a British Colony; whether it will have any permanent human settlement; and what agreements have been reached with other Governments in respect of the peaceful use of British territory and the whole Antarctic region.

The new British Antarctic Territory, which was formerly part of the Colony of the Falkland Islands and Dependencies, consists of the land and islands lying south of latitude 60° South and between 20° and 80° of longitude West. No minerals of economic importance have yet been found, but the territory is valuable as a site for scientific work. I do not expect that there will be permanent habitation in the foreseeable future though there are several permanent research stations in the territory.

The Antarctic Treaty to which the United Kingdom is a party came into force on 23rd June, 1961. Article 1 of that Treaty provides that Antarctica should be used for peaceful purposes.

Her Majesty's Government accepted all the recommendations made at the first Consultative Meeting of Antarctic Treaty Powers held in Canberra last year. I will place a copy of the report in the Library of the House.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say how many people are living in this area? Secondly, is it not almost grotesque that, having divested ourselves of a colonial empire, we should now, apparently, be trying to compensate ourselves by acquiring this waste land? Has not the right hon. Gentleman considered the possibility of the whole Antarctic area being placed under some kind of international supervision rather than being divided up into colonies?

There is some misunderstanding here. We are not in any way seeking to extend our territory but to rename and divide a particular part of it, the reason being that our Antarctic territory bore previously a name derived from the disputed area outside the Treaty area. We thought it better to change it in the interests of general agreement and working together in the area.