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Lord Houghton of Sowerby: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Houghton of Sowerby.)

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

7.36 p.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The VISCOUNT ALLENBY OF MEGIDDO in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Amendment to Section 1 of Act of 1957]:

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare moved Amendment No. 1:


Page 1, line 5, leave out subsections (1) and (2) and insert:
("( ) Section 1 (grave breaches of scheduled conventions) of the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 (in this Act referred to as "the 1957 Act") shall be amended as follows.
( ) In subsection (1) for the words from "any such" to "aforesaid" (in the second place it appears) there shall be substituted the words "a grave breach of any of the scheduled conventions or the first protocol shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction on indictment—
(a) in the case of a grave breach involving the wilful killing of a person protected by the convention or protocol in question, shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life;
(b) in the case of any other grave breach".
( ) After subsection (1) there shall be inserted the following subsection—
"(1A) For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section—
(a) a grave breach of a scheduled convention is anything referred to as a grave breach of the convention in the relevant Article, that is to say—
(i) in the case of the convention set out in the First Schedule to this Act, Article 50;
(ii) in the case of the convention set out in the Second Schedule to this Act, Article 51;
(iii) in the case of the convention set out in the Third Schedule to this Act, Article 130;
(iv) in the case of the convention set out in the Fourth Schedule to this Act, Article 147; and

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(b) a grave breach of the first protocol is anything referred to as a grave breach of the protocol in paragraph 4 of Article 11, or paragraph 2, 3 or 4 of Article 85, of the protocol." ").

The noble Lord said: Since the Second Reading was moved, British Red Cross representatives have met with officials from relevant government departments. Their meetings have been constructive and amendments to the Bill have been agreed. Although there are a large number of amendments to the original Bill, they are largely technical in nature. The result is the limitation of legislation to what is essential to enable the United Kingdom to ratify the two 1977 protocols additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions; and to bring up to date certain provisions of the Geneva Conventions Act 1957.

The Committee will remember that the enactment of the necessary changes to British law to enable ratification of the protocols was always the primary object of the Bill, and the amendments to be put before the Committee do not detract from that central purpose.

Moreover, many of the intended effects of the original Bill are improved by the amendments which the British Red Cross is happy to support. I am particularly grateful to the Home Office and the Minister and other officials who have worked long and hard to achieve that objective, together with my Red Cross colleagues. With the permission of the Committee, I shall name three of them who have worked so hard in the 150th year of the Red Cross to see that the Bill reaches the statute book before they go to the major convention in Geneva in December. I thank them personally. They are Sir Alan Munro, Mr. David Wyatt and Mr. Michael Meyer.

The Bill, as now amended, is fully endorsed by the British Red Cross, as the prime mover in bringing this Bill before your Lordships' House, and is also fully endorsed by Her Majesty's Government. It represents a careful and thorough package which the Committee is asked to accept as such. It is of course for the Committee to decide whether to approve the Bill as now amended. But I have to say that if changes are sought, it could lead to the whole exercise unravelling, and would then leave insufficient time for the protocols to be ratified before the crucial conference of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent in December, when it will be in the interest of this country to be able to announce at that time that the ratification process is complete.

I also wish to explain to your Lordships that when the Bill was originally published there were a number of printing errors—I repeat, printing errors—as helpfully drawn to our attention by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, in the Second Reading debate. Most of these printing errors pertain to the schedules to the Bill, which are simply reprints of existing treaty texts, and not to the Bill itself. However, I am able to assure your Lordships that the Public Bill Office will reprint the Bill before the Report stage.

With the permission of the Committee, I shall now move to Amendment No. 1 and also speak to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. Although these amendments may appear substantial and perhaps a little cumbersome, they do not significantly alter the substance of the original provisions of the Bill, at least in terms of the effect they will have in amending the Geneva

14 Jun 1995 : Column 1863

Conventions Act 1957. Perhaps the most substantial difference between the original draft of the Bill and the amended version of Clause 1 is that the proposed new subsection (1B) has been dropped. This provided that reprisal could not be relied upon as defence. But the United Kingdom wishes to retain the right to take reprisals in certain closely defined circumstances. The Government intend to enter a reservation to this effect on ratification of the protocols. The proposed new Section 1(1B) would have been incompatible with this and has not therefore been retained in the amended Clause 1. The other slight changes that have been made will, as I have said, simply update and tidy the provisions. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I rise not to consider the amendments in detail. I understand and appreciate that they have been discussed between the Red Cross and the Home Office and I am satisfied with that. I shall not pursue the matters in detail. However, I want to reaffirm what I said at Second Reading and what the noble Lord, Lord Archer, has repeated today. The most urgent thing is to get the Bill through. At Second Reading I undertook to consult my honourable friends in another place about that. I am happy to confirm that, having made those consultations, both the Labour Front Bench and the Labour Whips Office will do everything in their power to see that the Bill progresses in another place without delay. I am advised that, provided the Bill is presented there not later than 14th July—I would hope that it could be earlier than that—there is no reason why it should not proceed through all its stages in a single day. Incidentally, I understand that my honourable friend Mark Fisher knows nothing of the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Archer, has made arrangements for a Member of the House of Commons to present it there.

Baroness Seear: We on these Benches are also very glad to support these amendments.

Baroness Blatch: The Government are committed to ratification of the additional protocols to the Geneva Convention and have always been in total accord with the principal aims of the Bill. I simply want to put on record from the Government Benches that I am enormously grateful for the collaborative work between Red Cross officials and my own officials in the Home Office and also to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and all those who spoke at Second Reading who are coming together—I shall not say uniquely, but it is heartening to think that all parties are coming together, which I hope will be repeated in another place—to give the Bill the smoothest possible passage. If I may beg the indulgence of the Committee, I would suggest that we do not address the details of the amendments but give them the swiftest possible passage through the Committee so that the Bill can make its way to another place for an equally smooth passage.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare: I thank the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for their support. Perhaps I may join the Minister and say that this is perhaps a comment on the

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amazing work that the Red Cross does. I know it will appreciate the support of the House and, it is to be hoped, the support of another place as well.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

7.45 p.m.

Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Mare moved Amendments Nos. 2 and 3:


Page 2, line 15, at end insert:
("( ) In subsection (3)—
(a) for the words from the beginning to "jurisdiction" there shall be substituted the words "In Scotland, the sheriff shall have no jurisdiction"; and
(b) for the words "Attorney General" there shall be substituted the words "Director of Public Prosecutions".").
Page 2, line 16, leave out subsection (3) and insert:
("( ) In subsection (4), for the words from the beginning to "applies)" there shall be substituted the words "If in proceedings for an offence under this section any question arises under Article 2 of any of the scheduled conventions or Article 1 or 3 of the first protocol (which relate to the circumstances in which the conventions and protocol apply),".").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Certain contraventions to be treated as grave breaches]:

On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?


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