FORMER American vicepresident Al Gore has waded into a row over plans to move the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) to Southampton.

Under the proposals the BAS would merge with the National Oceanographic Centre (NOC) by 2020 to create a single body responsible for marine and polar science.

It is expected that if the two combine, the newcentre would be based in Southampton.

The NOC – which employs around 5,000 people through its centres in Southampton and Liverpool – currently has its main base at Dock Gate 4.

But Mr Gore believes any moves that could weaken the “globally significant” BAS would be a mistake.

Fears have also been raised that reducing the British presence in the Southern Ocean could also encourage Argentina to step up its claim over the Falkland Islands.

The polar research unit has been the UK’s operation in Antarctica since 1962, its scientists first to discover the hole in the ozone layer in the 1980s.

Mr Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for environmental campaigning, has joined scientists and politicians in speaking against the merger.

He said: “In my view retaining the core elements of the BAS, integrated into a single unit with strong leadership, is of supreme importance, both as a UK national and international asset.”

The issue will be decided by the Government-funded Natural environment Research Council which welcomed the former vice-president’s input.