Willetts to make flying visit to the Falklands

Willetts  02/09/11 (AN)''David Willetts who is the MP for Havant speaks to the News.'Pictures: Ian Hargreaves  (113127-2)
Willetts 02/09/11 (AN)''David Willetts who is the MP for Havant speaks to the News.'Pictures: Ian Hargreaves (113127-2)
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HAVANT MP David Willetts is to become the first minister to visit the Falklands Islands since renewed tensions arose between Britain and Argentina.

Mr Willetts will make a stop off at the islands on the way to visit researchers in Antarctica in his role as science minister.

His trip to the world’s most inhospitable continent coincides with the 100th anniversary of Robert Scott’s fateful Antarctic expedition – and the 30th anniversary of the Falklands invasion.

‘I will be staying with the Commanding Officer of the British troops based on the Falklands and I’m sure we will be discussing a whole range of things,’ Mr Willetts said.

‘Coming from a naval constituency I meet a lot of veterans who served in the Falklands and I will be taking their very best wishes with me.’

The visit to the Falklands will include dinner with Nigel Haywood, the governor.

The Tory MP may also meet Prince William who is posted there as a search and rescue helicopter pilot.

Mr Willetts is travelling with Dr Mike Pinnock to the British Antarctic Survey base at Rothera to experience first-hand the UK’s world-leading Antarctic research.

The UK spends £40m a year on research and Mr Willetts will meet scientists at the base and brave freezing temperatures out in the field.

He said: ‘Our presence in the Antarctic is of great significance.

‘The British Antarctic Survey is a scientific mission where we have, during the summer months, 200 British scientists and in the winter it falls to below 100.

‘They carry out world-leading research into climate change.

‘Changes in the ice to help us understand what’s happening to the earth’s climate.

‘They are the people who found the hole in the ozone layer in the 1980s.

‘Of course this is the 100th anniversary of Scott’s mission to the Antarctic and the public were fascinated by David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet which was filmed heavily in the region.

‘So it’s a great time to be going out there.’

Mr Willetts flew out of RAF Brize Norton on Wednesday and is due back in the UK early next week.