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The United States has signed but has said explicitly that the statute in its current form should not be ratified. When, on the last possible day to allow the United States to remain in the negotiation process, President Clinton signed the Rome statute, he said:
The United States should have the chance to observe and assess the functioning of the court, over time, before choosing to become subject to its jurisdiction.
Given these concerns, I will not, and do not recommend that my successor submit the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent until our fundamental concerns are satisfied."
Mr. Corbyn: The right hon. Gentleman well describes the American wish to be part of the negotiations but not of the process. Will he go further and say that the United States ought to be part of the whole process and should not be allowed to exempt itself from it? If the US were allowed to get away with that, it would undermine the process.
Mr. Maude: The hon. Gentleman's use of language is somewhat puzzling; he refers to the US being "allowed to get away with it" and says that it should not be permitted to be exempt from the process. America is a grown-up country that can make its own decisions. If a country as committed to law and freedom as the United States is concerned that the process has what President Clinton--not some republican President--describes as "significant flaws", we at least owe the Americans the courtesy of listening to what they have to say, rather than asking questions from the comfort of Britain. Many more American than British citizens are committed overseas in their armed forces, so we should be ready to listen to their concerns.
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Although, as my right hon. Friend pointed out a moment ago, Israel is only a relatively recent signatory, on account of reservations that it entirely legitimately expressed at the 1998 Rome conference, will he confirm that the historical record shows that Israel has been an enthusiast for the concept of the ICC since the early 1950s?
Mr. Maude: I think that is correct. Israel's concerns--like those of the Opposition--do not flow from opposition to the concept of an international criminal court, but from anxiety as to how it will work in effect and about the dangers that could arise.
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie): The right hon. Gentleman criticised the language of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), but my hon. Friend's question was a good one. Do Her Majesty's Opposition urge the United States Government to overcome their difficulties and sign up to this law?
Mr. Maude: Rather than urge the US Government to sign up to something about which they have--as President Clinton put it--"fundamental concerns", I would urge them to engage in the negotiating process as their signature allows them to do, in order to negotiate, over time, changes that would remove their concerns. Many of the concerns expressed by US Administrations of both colours are similar to those of the Opposition and are, I suspect, shared by countries such as Israel.
Mr. Corbyn: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way again on that point. Surely it is a bit off that the United States signs up to the principle in order to be part of the negotiations, but on the penultimate day the President announces that he has not the slightest intention of submitting the matter to the Congress or the Senate, and urges his successor to follow the same course. There will be a sword hanging over the whole process for ever--will the US sign up or not? If everyone says that they want the criminal court process to work effectively, should not all nations be persuaded to sign up to it? Would it not help if the House sent out the message that we think the United States ought to sign up to and ratify the statute?
Mr. Maude: I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman should be haranguing me; he should take the matter up with the Prime Minister, who could put it to President Clinton. It was President Clinton who expressed concerns.
The hon. Member for Islington, North might like to be reminded of the words of the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz). We wish the hon. Gentleman well in his sad illness and hope that he will recover quickly. The Minister said:
Our first concern is that we have not been told what declarations--if any--will be entered into by the Government. It is odd that we are being invited by the Foreign Secretary to give a Second Reading to a Bill that will give effect to the statute of Rome when the Government have not actually got around to telling Parliament what declarations they will make. The Foreign Secretary says that, of course, the declarations are of no legal effect at all. In that case, it is odd that so many countries have entered into them, describing them as interpretative declarations that will have an impact on domestic law. We are dealing with domestic legislation, not just international law. Such declarations will have an impact on how the Bill and the statute of Rome are interpreted by our domestic courts. There will be an effect on domestic law.
It is regrettable that the Bill has already gone through all its stages in the other place and we have reached Second Reading in this place, yet we have still not been told by the Foreign Secretary what declarations the Government propose to enter. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the Foreign Secretary has not taken this opportunity to let the House into some of his thinking on
Mr. Cook: I am happy to stand by what I have already said. A declaration has no legal effect. On the general principle, we do not want to encourage international treaties that are made into a Christmas tree, hung with declarations, by those who accede to them. The great majority of countries which have signed up have made no such declarations. The right hon. Gentleman said that there were many such countries, but at present there are two. One of them is France, which made an interpretative statement; the other is New Zealand, which made a statement rejecting the French statement. In effect, the right hon. Gentleman asks us to accede to the French declaration.
Mr. Maude: The Foreign Secretary seems misinformed. My understanding is that Austria, Belgium, Belize, Finland, France, Israel, New Zealand, Norway and Spain have all entered declarations to the statute--[Interruption.] They may be relatively minor declarations; nevertheless all those countries have entered them.
Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West): Perhaps it would help if the right hon. Gentleman could move from a hypothetical discussion to a real one and suggest the type of declaration that the UK might use. For example, Israel, among others, made the declaration that politically motivated accusations could not entertained. Does he suggest that we should echo that declaration? Could he tell us what "politically motivated" might mean and who would judge what it is?