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British Antarctic Survey

Volume 555: debated on Thursday 20 December 2012

9. What steps he plans to take to protect and support the work of the British Antarctic Survey following his decision not to merge that body with the National Oceanography Centre. (134544)

I saw the important work of our scientists when I visited the Falklands and the Antarctic last February. The Natural Environment Research Council has committed to maintain funding of the British Antarctic Survey at £42 million a year for the rest of this spending period. The NERC should, in future, have a discrete funding line for the Antarctic from within the ring-fenced science budget, subject to future spending reviews, to ensure that there is a visible UK commitment to Antarctic science and our presence in the region. It is a fitting tribute that the southern part of the British Antarctic Territory has been renamed Queen Elizabeth Land in honour of Her Majesty the Queen at the end of a glorious jubilee year.

The whole House and the entire nation will be delighted at the Government’s announcement that part of the British Antarctic Territory will be named after Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in this diamond jubilee year. The House is also delighted that the British Antarctic Survey has been rescued from the previous proposals. Is it possible for the British Antarctic Survey to work more closely with the Falkland Islands? Does the Minister recognise the importance of having British sovereign territories in that region of the world to conduct scientific research and endeavour?

I appreciate my hon. Friend’s work on behalf of the Falklands and the British presence in the Antarctic. There is already practical co-operation. I have seen for myself the support that the Falklands Islands provides to the British Antarctic Survey. While I was in the Falklands, I met the director of the newly created South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute in his office at Stanley cottage. Although the NERC cannot legally fund the institute, we are offering non-financial assistance by giving advice, hosting visits and facilitating partnerships with British universities.