Oral Answers to Questions — Antarctica

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th February 1958.

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Photo of Sir Isaac Pitman Sir Isaac Pitman , Bath 12:00 am, 19th February 1958

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) to what extent it is now the policy of Her Majesty's Government that the British and other Governments concerned should seek agreement for a transfer of the sovereignty of their respective parts of the Continent of Antarctica to a single sovereign authority, if suitably initiated by the United Nations organisation, for the government of that Continent;

(2) in whom it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government that a single sovereign authority for Antarctica, with its governmental responsibilities and powers, should be made to reside; and to whom the rôle of continuing or withdrawing acceptance of government should be entrusted;

(3) what are the steps by which he intends to seek agreement in principle to the transfer of sovereignty in Antarctica and in due course to the establishment of an acceptable constitution for a single sovereign government, and the checks and balances upon such government.

Photo of Mr Joseph Reeves Mr Joseph Reeves , Greenwich

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what proposals he is making regarding the future international control of Antarctica; and to what extent the negotiations for them will take place under the auspices of the United Nations.

Photo of Mr Henry Usborne Mr Henry Usborne , Birmingham, Yardley

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what political mechanism he proposes for the control of Antarctica; and what sanctions it will be able to employ in order to preserve Antarctica as a free area not to be used for military purposes;

(2) how far it is his intention to propose that negotiations for control of Antarctica as a free area shall be conducted under the auspices of the United Nations.

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Oswestry

Any discussions towards achieving the aims mentioned by the Prime Minister in his answer to the Question asked by the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) on 18th February would be held in the first place between the countries principally concerned in Antarctica. The relationship between any machinery which might emerge from these discussions and the United Nations would be one of the principal questions to be settled. For the rest, I have nothing to add to what was said yesterday by the Prime Minister on this subject.

Photo of Sir Isaac Pitman Sir Isaac Pitman , Bath

As between the question of principle—whether Her Majesty's Government desire this policy or not—and the difficulties of the machinery, may we take it that it is our policy that the thing should be achieved if it can be achieved?

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Oswestry

I do not quite know what my hon. Friend wants to achieve, but the Prime Minister in his statement yesterday made it quite clear that we wanted to see two main principles established; first, that free development of science in Antarctica should continue; and, secondly, that there was a need to ensure that the area should not be used for military purposes.

Photo of Mr Henry Usborne Mr Henry Usborne , Birmingham, Yardley

In view of the fact that there is a universally-held view that the sovereignty of Antarctica should be taken over by the United Nations purposely and deliberately to protect the interests which the hon. Member has suggested, is it not a sensible thing to propose that a discussion of the matter should be held at the United Nations forthwith? Further, and precisely for that reason, is it not rather absurd to say that discussions upon the future of Antarctica shall be held only by those who make claims, since the reason for holding these discussions is to allow claims by all nations equally?

Photo of Mr William Ormsby-Gore Mr William Ormsby-Gore , Oswestry

We shall have a better idea whether that is the best way of proceeding when we have gone on with our consultations with the countries principally involved.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

Will my hon. Friend assure the House that the principle of self-determination by the inhabitants will be applied, and that if a constitution is issued there will be a "Penguin" edition?