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Carmichael NeilNeil Carmichael is the Member of Parliament for Stroud and a member of the Education Select Committee. Follow Neil on Twitter.

This January I joined the British Antarctic Survey
for a week’s visit to their station in the Antarctic.  The background to this visit was my Private
Members Bill
and the work behind-the-scenes with the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office. Reaching the continent is not easy, and often impossible, but also
necessary to ensure appropriate support for people based there for lengthy
periods of time. I was moved by the reception we got and also by the obvious
commitment of our scientists and logistics teams to promoting our interests in
such an isolated place.

My first objective was to learn more about the
likely implementation and impact of my Antarctic Bill. Focussing as it does on
protecting the environment and strengthening international commitments, I was
impressed by the level of support for the Bill from those directly involved in
day to day work in Antarctica.

Our
scientists are working in extreme conditions and are exploring some
fundamentally important questions as we confront and debate climate change. We
are fortunate to have so many scientific disciplines represented and supported
in Antarctica. It was a privilege to meet them as a representative of our
Parliament.


My
second objective was to signal Parliament’s continued support for the British
Antarctic Survey (BAS). Its future was in the balance following an attempted
‘merger’ by the National Environmental Research Council, but I and several
colleagues successfully defended BAS on the basis of its record and capacities.
To see at first hand the work they do was inspiring and I remain fully
committed to their cause.
My
third objective was to understand was to more clearly understand the regional
issues and associated international relationships. This is especially important
as Argentina is agitating about the Falklands and several states are beginning
to show a not altogether responsible interest in Antarctica. This matters
because the basis for continued protection of the continent is the Antarctic
Treaty – there is no Antarctic government – and constructive cooperation must
be encouraged at all times.

The
Antarctic Bill returns to the House of Commons for its third reading tomorrow, Friday
18th January, with strong support crossing the political spectrum
from Andrew Rosindell, Chair of the All Party Polar Regions group, to Jeremy
Corbyn MP.  It is fitting that a century
after Robert Scott’s ill fated Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole, and
thrity years after we reclaimed the Falklands, that Britsh politicians are
signalling their continuing commitment to protecting the environment and our
interests in the region, which are at the cutting edge of scientific
exploration.

If
you are interested in the issues raised above, please visit my website – www.neilcarmichael.co.uk

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