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28 Jan 1998 : Column WA35

Written Answers

Wednesday, 28th January 1998.

Nuclear Weapons: Policy

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will propose an international convention banning the manufacture, deployment and use of nuclear weapons.[HL121]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Her Majesty's Government are examining all aspects of our nuclear policy in the Strategic Defence Review and elsewhere.

Geneva Conventions: Additional Protocols

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have ratified the additional protocols to the Geneva conventions.[HL339]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I am pleased to be able to inform the House that the United Kingdom instruments of ratification of the two additional protocols of 1977 to the Geneva conventions of 1949 for the protection of war victims are today being deposited with the Swiss authorities in Berne.

The necessary legislation, Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act 1995, received the Royal Assent on 19 July 1995.

A copy of the note accompanying the instrument of ratification has been placed in the Libraries of the House. The note contains the statements made by the United Kingdom on ratification of additional protocol I on international conflicts. In most cases these reflect similar statements made by the United Kingdom on signing Protocol I in 1977.

I wish to draw the attention of the House in particular to the statement concerning nuclear weapons, which is in the following terms:

"It continues to be the understanding of the United Kingdom that the rules introduced by the protocol apply exclusively to conventional weapons without prejudice to any other rules of international law applicable to other types of weapons. In particular, the rules so introduced do not have any effect on, and do not regulate or prohibit the use of, nuclear weapons."

Statements to similar effect have been made by NATO partners and others when ratifying protocol I. They reflect the basis upon which the conference which drew up additional protocol I took place and statements made at the conference by the United Kingdom delegation among others.

I would also draw the attention of the House to statement (m) on Articles 51 to 55 and statement (n) on

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Articles 56 and 85, paragraph 3c. These statements reserve our right to threaten reprisals if attacks were launched against our own civilians or civilian targets and remove the virtual immunity under the protocol for attacks on dams, dykes and certain nuclear facilities such as nuclear power stations, even when they are a significant part of the enemy's war effort. Both reservations have been drafted with great care to show that these would be measures of last resort, to be decided upon only if all else had failed, and requiring high level authorisation. Our actions would still be subject to the classic rule of proportionality.

I would also draw the attention of the House to statement (d) concerned with Article 1, paragraph 4 and Article 96, paragraph 3, which extend the application of the Protocol to armed conflicts "in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination."

To guard against the possibility that terrorist organisations may seek to misuse these provisions the statement makes clear that the term "armed conflict" is understood as denoting something clearly beyond the commission of ordinary crimes including acts of terrorism, and that the United Kingdom will not be bound, in relation to any situation in which the United Kingdom itself is involved, unless it expressly recognises the adversary as genuinely an authority representing a people engaged in an armed conflict of the type referred to in these articles.

In accordance with the powers conferred in Section 7 of the 1957 Geneva Convention Act, as amended by Section 4(7) of the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act 1995, the Government will certify in an Order in Council the terms of the statements made on ratification.

Article 90 of Additional Protocol I establishes an international fact-finding commission and provides that the high contracting parties may at the time of ratification or subsequently declare that they recognise, in relation to any other high contracting party accepting the same obligation, the competence of the Commission to inquire into allegations by such other party of facts alleged to be a grave breach or serious violation of the conventions or the protocol. The Government intend to make a declaration of acceptance of the competence of the fact-finding commission. It will be necessary first to bring before the House legislation to confer upon the members of the Commission and their staff the necessary privileges and immunities.

Arms Embargoes

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list all arms embargoes currently implemented by the United Kingdom and their scope.[HL338]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Kingdom currently enforces 18 arms embargoes. Under the United Nations charter, we have a legally binding obligation to enforce arms embargoes imposed by the

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Security Council under Article 41 of the charter. Other embargoes are imposed on a national basis or following agreement within the European Union (EU) or the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (formerly CSCE).

Under UK law, binding UN embargoes are implemented by prohibiting the export of goods and technology on the military list which forms Part III to Schedule 1 of the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994, as amended. In addition, the supply of such items from the UK or supply abroad by UK registered companies and nationals is prohibited by Orders in Council under the United Nations Act (1946). From time to time, the contents of the military list may change, for example, to reflect technological advances or continuing international efforts to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Orders in council extend such embargoes to the Crown dependencies and the dependent territories. A licence is required for each export or supply from the UK or abroad by a UK registered company or national.

National embargoes and those agreed in the EU and the OSCE prohibit only the export of goods covered by the embargo. With the exception of the embargoes on China and Iran, the UK interprets the scope of all such embargoes to cover goods and technology on the military list as defined above.

There are currently seven binding UN arms embargoes:


    Angola (a), Iraq (b), Liberia (c), Libya (d), Rwanda (e), Somalia (f) and Sierra Leone (g).

There are currently seven EU embargoes:


    Afghanistan (h), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (i), Burma (j), China (k), Nigeria (l), Sudan (m) and Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) (n).

The UK currently implements two embargoes as a result of decisions by the OSCE:


    Armenia (o) and Azerbaijan (p).

There are currently two national embargoes:


    Argentina (q) and Iran (r).

I shall keep the House informed of current arms embargoes and their scope on a yearly basis. All new embargoes or any amendments to existing embargoes will be announced at the time. We shall also shortly be laying in the Library of the House a revised list of all UK policy commitments to control strategic exports, including embargoes. An updated version will be laid in the Library annually (or more frequently if policy changes require a revision). This statement will also be used to inform British industry. Footnotes: (a) Implemented in the UK on 1 October 1993. Products covered by the scope of the embargo can be supplied through named points of entry on a list provided by the Government of Angola; (b) Implemented in the UK on 9 August 1990 as part of comprehensive trade sanctions; (c) Implemented in the UK on 22 July 1993;

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(d) Implemented in the UK on 15 April 1992 as part of a range of sanctions (following an EU arms embargo imposed on 14 April 1986); (e) Implemented in the UK on 24 June 1994. The embargo does not apply to the sale or supply of arms and related material if under licence to the Government of Rwanda. But it does cover the sale or supply of arms and material to persons in states neighbouring Rwanda (i.e. Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo) if that sale or supply is for the purpose of the use of such arms of material within Rwanda; (f) Implemented in the UK on 22 July 1993; (g) Implemented in the UK on 1 November 1997; (h) Implemented in the UK on 17 December 1996; (i) Implemented in the UK on 26 February 1996. This embargo does not extend to transfers of equipment needed for demining activities; (j) Implemented in the UK on 29 July 1991; (k) Implemented in the UK on 26 June 1989 (although a national embargo was announced on 6 June 1989). In the absence of agreement amongst EU partners on its scope, interpretation of the embargo was left to national discretion. The UK interprets this embargo to include:


    lethal weapons such as machine guns, large calibre weapons, bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles;


    specially designed components of the above, and ammunition;


    military aircraft and helicopters, vessels of war, armoured fighting vehicles and other such weapons platforms; and


    any equipment which is likely to be used for internal repression (l) Implemented in the UK on 20 November 1995 (although a national embargo was announced on 11 November 1995); (m) Implemented in the UK on 15 March 1994; (n) Implemented in the UK on 7 April 1993; (o) Implemented in the UK on 28 February 1992; (p) Implemented in the UK on 28 February 1992; (q) Implemented on 3 April 1982; (r) Implemented on 1 March 1993. In addition to the military list as defined above, the scope of this embargo also covers items entered in Group O in Annex 1 of European Council Decision 94/942/CFSP on the export of dual-use goods, as amended.

There are two exceptions to this embargo:


    goods essential for the safety of civil aircraft and air traffic control systems;


    radioactive material in the form of sources for medical equipment and deuterium labelled compounds for medical use.

Licences are not approved for any equipment where there is knowledge or reason to suspect that it would go to a military end-user or be used for military purposes. The exception is equipment which would not normally require an export licence but is deemed licensable under

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the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) end-use control and where WMD concerns are not subsequently substantiated.


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