International Criminal Court Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Battle: The hon. Gentleman mentioned Canada, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and other countries. Is the hon. Gentleman really going back to the old argument of size and ``might is right''?

Mr. Blunt: This is a unique statute. The right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Mr. Maclennan) said on Second Reading that it was one of the most important measures he had seen in his 35 years in the House of Commons. We should not underestimate its importance, and the importance of the institution it sets up. It is all very well for the Minister to say that there is no intention of introducing legislation by the back door, and that that is not the purpose of the Bill, but the amendments to clause 1 would protect the position of Parliament, decades ahead.

In 1951 when the Government negotiated the European convention on human rights, we did not know that 50 years later it would change how we choose to administer discipline in our armed forces. The changes might, or might not, be right on their merits, but that is a different argument. The issue is whether it is a vital interest of the United Kingdom to be able to organise her armed forces as she sees fit. No one who negotiated the convention in 1951 identified that point. The Minister talks about seven years being some time down the road, but when we consider the Bill, we must look further ahead than seven years, which is but a blip in diplomatic terms. In that time, the proposal will not even be up and running; no form of jurisprudence will have been established and there will be no record on which to make a judgment. How it works, and its consequences, will become clear only decades down the track. That is why it is important for the Bill to include the same safeguards for Parliament that the Government have negotiated for themselves. That would be the effect of the amendment.

Members of the Committee should bear in mind the size of the countries involved. The hon. Member for Ilford, North—

Mr. Gapes: It is Ilford, South.

Mr. Blunt: Ilford, South is a rather better prospect than Ilford, North for the Labour party. The hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that if we are one of the 60 nations that ratify the treaty, the total population of the smallest 30 nations will be 12.9 million and of the largest 30 nations, 2 billion. Thus nations representing half of 1 per cent. of the population of the major nations of the world will be those whose votes decide the appointment of judges, to which we shall return later.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point about the disparity in voting. The Minr paid far more attention to the fact that France, Spain, Italy and Germany signed the treaty than to the fact that the key player in the defence of freedom and in keeping the world a safer place, the United States of America, sees the dangers in having the court, and has not signed the treaty. Is not that much more important to take into account? This country is much more likely to be affected than the San Marinos of the world.

Mr. Blunt: My hon. Friend is right. [Interruption.] I understand what the Minister is going to say and he will correct me if I am wrong: the United States has signed the treaty, but it is plain that it will not ratify it.

Mr. Battle: It is important to understand the difference between signing and ratifying; a substantial number of states—139—have signed the treaty, including the United States. We should not pre-empt whether they will ratify it in future.

It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

        Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cook, Mr. Frank (Chairman)
Battle, Mr.
Blunt, Mr.
Browne, Mr.
Cranston, Mr.
Day, Mr.
Ellman, Mrs.
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Gapes, Mr.
Garnier, Mr.
Gillan, Mrs.
Hendrick, Mr.
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
King, Ms Oona
Lammy, Mr.
Maclennan, Mr.
McNulty, Mr.
Naysmith, Dr.
Worthington, Mr.

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