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Neil Carmichael MP: Reporting back from Antarctica

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 –


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