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MPs give approval to Antarctica Bill

A New law to increase environmental protection in Antarctica has cleared the Commons, paving the way for new obligations on British visitors to the continent.

Tory Neil Carmichael brought forward the Antarctic Bill to bring into force new commitments under the Antarctic Treaty.

The Bill seeks to impose a requirement to deal with any environmental emergencies linked to the UK and require visitors to take preventative action and plan contingencies for environmental damage.

Mr Carmichael's Bill, which was given an unopposed third reading, also creates obligations to protect historic monuments in Antarctica.

The Stroud MP said: "We do care about the future of Antarctica, we do recognise its vulnerability as well as its awesome size and climate.

"I think to have such widespread agreement for the Bill is really quite impressive and reassuring to me and to others."

Mr Carmichael said he had visited Antarctica and spent time with British Antarctic Survey teams on the continent.

He added: "We need to know how things are being influenced by our changing climate and what the consequences might be for that continent and for the various wildlife that live on Antarctica."

Mr Carmichael said he was proud of the way Britain had lead "from the front and centre" on moves to protect Antarctica, and said the Bill would assist in continuing that work.

He added: "It's important to note that other nation states are becoming interested in Antarctica – originally there were just 12 nation states right at the very beginning in 1959 signing the treaty." There are now more than 50 countries expressing an interest in Antarctica, he said.

The Bill will now be sent to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

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