§ Mr. McLoughlin
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what are the Government's plans for the Natural Environment Research Council's British Antarctic survey; whether any part of the additional monies that he has made available to the science budget will be allocated to the survey; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker
The Government's aim is to sustain the outstanding scientific research carried out by NERC's British Antarctic survey, as part of the United Kingdom's due contribution to a better understanding of the natural environment and man's impact on it. Thus part of the additional expenditure over the three years will be used to enhance the survey's air facility at the Rothera station, the 135W main base for geophysics work. The present ice skiway will be replaced by a gravel airstrip. This will increase the range of weather conditions within which the present Twin Otter aircraft can safely operate and the size of aircraft that can use the runway. An additional, larger aircraft will be purchased, greatly extending the range of the survey's geological field survey parties within the British Antarctic territory.
There will also be additional expenditure for the rebuilding of the Halley station which is the main centre for continuing the survey's important study of the ozone hole that develops over Antarctica during the Austral spring. The weight of compacted ice has greatly reduced the safe life of the existing buildings; and rebuilding is proving more difficult than expected because of the deterioration of the ice shelf near the base. It is important that the new accommodation should be completed as quickly as possible to ensure that there is no break in the continuous monitoring of the weather and of the ionospheric conditions.
I have accordingly allocated an additional £10 million in 1989–90 with planning additions for a further £8 million in 1990–91 and £5 million in 1991–92. These sums will be made available for the survey through the Natural Environment Research Council.