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The Arctic

Volume 727: debated on Tuesday 31 January 2023

We are looking to publish a refreshed UK Arctic policy framework in the coming weeks. It will be an evolution of the existing 2018 framework, “Beyond the Ice”, integrated with the UK’s contribution to Arctic security, as set out in the Ministry of Defence’s “The UK’s Defence Contribution in the High North”, published in March 2022.

A glance at the retreating ice in the Arctic amply demonstrates the realities of climate change. When this report comes out, which I very much hope it will, will it highlight the outstanding excellence of British science and the contribution that British science—both the British Antarctic Survey and the superb university scientific departments—can make to halting and reversing climate change?

I can confirm to my hon. Friend, who is the esteemed chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the polar regions and sits on the Environmental Audit Committee, which held an inquiry into this area, that the refreshed UK Arctic policy will showcase the UK’s significant contribution to Arctic science, with a particular focus on understanding the implications of climate change, where we have a leading position.

The Minister will be acutely aware that Russia poses a huge threat, and Norway, in particular, is in tune with what that threat might mean. What co-operation is taking place between Norway and the United Kingdom to ensure that the Russian threat is not made a reality?

We work very closely with Norway, not through the report that we are talking about but through other bodies, and we will continue to do so because, as the hon. Member says—it is a very important point—Russia is increasingly militarising its Arctic territory. We expect Russia to comply with international law, and we will collaborate with our partners and allies to protect our interests and theirs.

I am glad to hear that the report is forthcoming, and I hope it takes good note of the Scottish Government’s 2019 Arctic strategy. For the reasons we have heard from Members on both sides of the House—there is a lot of agreement on this—the Scottish Government recognise the significance of the High North and the Arctic to us; it is our backyard, and we are a willing partner to work with the UK. We have different views on Scotland’s best constitutional future, but it is our High North, it is our backyard, and it needs a lot more attention. The Scottish Government are working on it, and I urge the Minister to redouble his efforts.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his points, of which we will of course take note. I reassure him that the Foreign Secretary for the United Kingdom—the whole of the United Kingdom—is taking an active interest in that subject.