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Rothera Point

Volume 172: debated on Thursday 17 May 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what assessment he has made of the implications for wildlife from the construction of the airstrip at Rothera Point.

An assessment of the implications for wildlife from the construction of the airstrip is given in the final comprehensive environmental evaluation published in September 1989 by the Natural Environment Research Council, prior to placing the contract for the construction. This document was referred to in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo) on 19 October 1989, Official Report, column 189, and a copy is in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many seals are killed each year by personnel at the British Antarctic Survey station on Rothera point; how many deaths are classified as intentional, and how many as accidental; what is the purpose of the intentional deaths; what is the explanation for the accidental deaths; and if he will make a statement.

No accidental seal deaths have ever been reported from Rothera. Meat from some 140 seals is however used annually to feed about 30 sledge dogs at the Rothera base. There is full compliance with the agreed measures for the conservation of Antarctic flora and fauna of the Antarctic treaty.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the origin of the materials being used to construct the British Antarctic airstrip at Rothera point; and if he will make a statement.

The origin of materials being used to construct the airstrip at Rothera point is given in the final comprehensive environmental evaluation published in September 1989 by the Natural Environment Research Council, prior to construction. A copy of the report is in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what company is constructing the British Antarctic strip at Rothera point; on what basis the contract was awarded; and what safeguards exist in the contract relating to environmental protection.

Pelly Construction Company of Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada is constructing the airstrip at Rothera. The contract was awarded by competitive tender and in consideration of experience, expertise and cost. Environmental safeguards were incorporated into the tender exercise and thence into the contract. They are given in the final comprehensive environmental evaluation published in September 1989 by the Natural Environment Research Council, prior to construction. A copy of the report is in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with other countries in respect of measures to ensure environmental protection in connection with the operation of the British Antarctic airstrip at Rothera; and if he will make a statement.

A draft comprehensive environmental evaluation for the Rothera airstrip was circulated to all Antarctic treaty consultative parties for comment in 1989 —as well as to environmental, non-governmental organisations such as Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has a provisional estimate of the number of aircraft likely to be using the British Antarctic airstrip at Rothera.

A provisional estimate of the number of aircraft likely to be using the Rothera airstrip is five, all operated by the British Antarctic Survey in support of its science programme. I would also refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave on 11 May, Official Report column 243, on the use of the airstrip.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what precautions have been taken to prevent fuel spills at the British Antarctic airstrip being built at Rothera point; and if he will make a statement.

Precautions to prevent fuel spills at the Rothera airstrip are given in the final comprehensive environmental evaluation published in September 1989 by the Natural Environment Research Council, prior to construction. A copy of the report is in the Library.The fuel handling and emergency containment facilities are designed to Canadian Arctic standards. Facilities will exist to contain any spillage considered likely to result from national operations.