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Lord Carter: My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Landmines Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests so far as they are affected by the Bill at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
Anti-personnel landmines kill. They maim. They kill and maim indiscriminately. They continue to kill and maim long after those who laid them have stopped fighting. We all know these facts. They have been
The scale of the problem is enormous. Indiscriminate, irresponsible laying of millions of anti-personnel mines across the world in unmarked and unmapped minefields has brought physical suffering, hardship and anguish to hundreds of thousands of victims and their families. Every 20 minutes, another innocent person falls victim to a landmine. About 60 million mines lay scattered in 70 countries, keeping refugees from their homes and wreaking havoc for many of those who take the risk of returning.
Last week, when this issue was debated in another place, fitting tributes were paid to Diana, Princess of Wales and others, including the Nobel peace prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Red Cross movement, in recognition of the tremendous effort they put in to ensuring that the world takes action to deal with this problem. I should like to take the opportunity today to endorse those tributes completely.
We can all be proud of the way that Britain has been at the front of the international campaign to turn words into action since this Government took office in May 1997. Among the first things we did was to address the landmines issue.
Within a week, the Foreign Secretary had made a joint statement with his French and German colleagues, confirming that we would give particular priority to banning anti-personnel mines worldwide. Two weeks later, we said there would be a domestic ban on the import, export, manufacture and transfer of landmines, an immediate moratorium on their use, and that we would destroy our stocks. We also said that we would take part actively in the Ottawa Process, with a view to signing an effective international ban on landmines.
We must also thank the Canadian Foreign Secretary, Lloyd Axworthy, for establishing the agenda for an international ban. He stood up at the close of the Ottawa conference on mines in October 1996 and set December 1997 as the target date for a convention. There can be no doubt that in doing so he galvanized the international community into action.
Britain was closely involved in negotiating the convention in Oslo last September. Securing agreement on a final text in less than three weeks honoured the memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died so tragically on the conference's eve. We were delighted to be among the first countries to sign the Ottawa convention last December. There are now 128 signatories: a truly remarkable achievement in so short a period.
Having helped write the convention, we now want to help bring it into effect. That is why we are here today. In passing this legislation now, we should ensure that Britain is among the first 40 countries whose ratification will secure the convention's entry into force; 24 states have already ratified. Several more are expected to announce their ratification soon.
If we and others can take this step quickly, the convention will be in effect early next year. That would be a wonderful tribute to the hard work and dedication of all involved in the campaign to rid the world of this deadly scourge. It would also send a powerful signal to those who have not signed the convention. It would make clear that the world community will not tolerate the continued use of anti-personnel landmines.
We need this legislation to implement the Ottawa convention. The Bill is entirely consistent with the convention. Clause 2 prohibits any British citizen from using, developing, producing, possessing or exporting landmines. And it also outlaws any assistance, encouragement or inducement for others to do any of these things. Anyone found guilty of breaking the law in this regard would be liable for a prison sentence of up to 14 years. That reflects the gravity of such and offence.
Concern has been expressed about Clause 5 of the legislation. Let me allay those concerns. Clause 5 does not provide British service personnel with any loophole to breach the convention. Any such breach would be punishable under the terms of this legislation. The rules of engagement under which UK service personnel operate will make this perfectly clear. What Clause 5 does do is provide British service personnel with protection against prosecution merely as a result of taking part in operations alongside troops of states not bound by the Ottawa convention who may lay such mines. Providing such legal protection for our forces is absolutely the right thing to do.
Of course, we want every country in the world to agree never to use anti-personnel mines again. We have made our wishes and views on this clear. Both by persuasion and example, we shall continue to encourage as many as possible to sign up to the Ottawa convention. But we cannot force others not to deploy such mines. And we cannot ask our servicemen and women, when risking their lives for our country, also to risk their liberty for doing nothing more than carrying out their duty. Without Clause 5, we would effectively be withdrawing Britain from any military operation alongside states which have not signed the Ottawa convention. What more comforting signal could we send to the tyrants of this world?
In drafting Clause 5, we have taken our cue from the Canadian declaration that accompanied their ratification of the Ottawa convention. That makes clear their understanding that Article 1 of the convention is not intended to rule out military co-operation with countries that are not bound by the convention. We know that the Austrians, who drafted the convention, take the same view. We intend to make a similar statement on ratification, reflecting the provisions of Clause 5.
Clause 5 also highlights the problem of trying to ensure that every country in the world bans landmines. When they have done so, our service personnel will not require the protection that Clause 5 affords. But we are a long way from that and our work to get as many countries as possible on board must continue. We are encouraging work in all appropriate fora, including the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, in pursuit of this goal.
But the Ottawa convention is not just about banning the use of anti-personnel landmines. It also provides for the destruction of stockpiles, the removal of laid mines, and care and assistance for mine victims.
On destruction, Britain has a very good story to tell. In accordance with the destruction programme announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence, the MoD has destroyed almost half its stocks of these mines since 1st May last year, and good progress is being made towards the target of destruction of all operational mines by 1st January 2000. As far as we are aware, no other government have done as much to destroy their stocks.
Britain is among the world's leaders in mine clearance assistance to the worst affected countries. Last October we announced that we would double expenditure on humanitarian de-mining from £5 million to £10 million per year. The purpose of our de-mining strategy is to reduce the social and economic impact of landmines on developing countries. Our first priority is to save life and facilitate resettlement in the most severely affected countries, such as Cambodia and Mozambique.
Our task then is to secure a truly global ban, which will lead to the elimination of these weapons and end this wholly unnecessary suffering. The best way to help to achieve this is to lead by example. This legislation and our subsequent ratification of the convention will do just that.
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, at the start of this Second Reading debate on the Landmines Bill, intended to implement the Ottawa Convention, I want to begin by saying how much importance we on this side of your Lordships' House place on this legislation and the opportunity for a full and thorough scrutiny of it. I am indeed grateful to the Minister for her opening remarks, which are most welcome. I believe that there will be a consensus in this House that it is vital to give proper consideration to any legislation which contains implications for British service men and women whom we ask to risk their lives.
Before I go any further, I should like to place on record the support of these Benches for the spirit of this legislation. We are united with the Government in our desire to see a global ban on landmines. A truly global ban on such inhumane and vicious weapons would represent the triumph of humanity over barbarity, of civilisation over chaos, and of the forces of peace over the pollution of war. From these Benches we are unwavering in our condemnation of the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel landmines. Landmines continue to wage an amoral war on the innocent and vulnerable long after the conflict that caused them to be put there has ceased.
Landmines respect no international humanitarian law or carefully crafted peace treaties, but instead violate them arbitrarily and without warning. They do not distinguish between the soldier and the civilian. They are truly the unacceptable face of war, the face of human suffering beyond belief, and the harbingers of social havoc and economic hardship writ large across dozens of countries in the world.
No one can fail to be moved by the tragic plight of the victims, as was so eloquently put by the Minister today. We are all only too aware of the random and cruel manner in which innocent civilians have been killed or maimed. Indeed, many Members of your Lordships' House have witnessed the appalling tragedy caused by the reckless use of these most destructive devices of war. I have no doubt that we will hear compelling and harrowing testimonies to this effect today. In the past my noble friend Lady Chalker has reminded us that:
The Minister was right to point out some statistics to set this legislation in context. Additionally, in mine-infested Angola and Cambodia there is more than one mine for each member of the population. In Cambodia there is one undetected mine for every four people. In Angola, one in every 334 persons is an amputee.
It is against this terrible background of destruction and devastation that I pay tribute to the pioneering and tireless work of individuals, campaign groups and non-governmental organisations alike who have done so much to raise the issue of a total ban on landmines in the public consciousness and who have worked so hard to ensure that this legacy of torn limbs and ruined lives is not one we bequeath to our children and our children's children.
A special mention must go to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Halo Trust, founded by the former Member of Parliament, Colin Mitchell, and the Mines Advisory Group. The contribution of the Nobel Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which has brought together more than 100 different organisations, likewise deserves global praise and recognition.
It would be quite wrong not to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the role of the British forces in providing mine clearance advice and support. In this country, we have always been one of the leading nations working to clear up landmines and we have committed some £22 million to mine clearance projects around the world since 1991. Excellent de-mining work has been done and is being done by so many, both in the voluntary sector and with the help of the services in this country. I am sure that the Minister will agree that
The Minister again was right to point out that in recent weeks much has been written and said about the unique and invaluable role played by Diana, Princess of Wales, who, in lending her support, her time and her commitment to this cause, brought the issue of landmines to the forefront of public awareness in a way that perhaps no one else could.
We would all like to see this legislation on the statute book as soon as possible. Indeed, the official Opposition has repeatedly stated that we support the spirit of the Ottawa Convention. As long ago as February we made it clear that we would co-operate with the legislation needed to allow the convention to be ratified and would not seek at any stage to obstruct it.
As I said, from these Benches we fully support the moral motive behind the convention and behind this legislation. That is why we will continue to support it today. But the Bill must be placed in context. Its purpose is to ratify an international convention which will impose a partial ban on certain weapons. This imposes two imperatives on us. First, because those weapons will continue to be in widespread use, considerations for the safety and the integrity of British troops must be paramount. Any relevant legislation requires meticulous drafting. Secondly, any Bill drafted to implement an international convention signed by the Government must have no inconsistencies with that convention. If it does, we would be most remiss in our duty of legislative scrutiny if we did not ask why, for the signature of the Government of the UK binds us legally and morally to legislate to implement that convention faithfully. This, then, is the task we embark on today.
I should like to point to the work that has been done prior to today in building up to the consideration of this Bill by previous administrations. Like the previous administration, in the absence of a global ban, the Government in this Bill appear to recognise the legitimate use of anti-personnel mines under certain extreme circumstances and to distinguish between modern deployment of them by responsible military powers, such as the UK in the Gulf War and the irresponsible use, often during civil wars, by warring factions and guerrilla forces. Even today, buried in the financial memorandum of the Bill before us, the Government acknowledge the need to examine and procure alternative technologies to meet the military capability previously provided by anti-personnel mines.
On that note, I wish to ask what steps the Government will take to ensure that the ban does not lead to greater dependence on air-blast bombs and booby-traps which can be equally indiscriminate, last just as long and be harder to defuse than modern mines. Furthermore, can the Government confirm the date on which their right to use anti-personnel mines, if the security of British forces is jeopardised without their use, as stated in the May
We favoured the conference on disarmament route because of the limitations of the convention that resulted from the Ottawa process. It is not churlish to recognise those limitations; indeed, it is essential if we are to be successful in taking the process further. At least a quarter of the world's states have refused to sign the convention. Many powerful and significant countries are not signatories, critically including the United States of America, China and Russia. None of those countries has accepted Ottawa. The convention cannot therefore introduce a truly global ban; it can only hope to lead by good example. It is a fact of international life that, unless all the major manufacturers and exporters of mines agree to a ban on their sale and use, landmines will continue to be used as an inexpensive means of denying territory to opposing forces.
In 1996 the previous administration managed to go a long way towards persuading China to agree not to export undetectable landmines. I shall be interested to hear from the Government today what steps they are taking to address the problem of how to persuade countries that export, produce or misuse landmines to change their policies in a similarly successful way.
I now turn to the areas of specific legislation before us, which, from these Benches, we intend to scrutinise more fully in Committee. Those areas include Clause 1 which provides definition of the main terms used in the Bill; Clause 5, which the Minister has already flagged, which provides a defence to a Clause 2 offence relating to certain international military operations; and certain other questions on the wider international legal implications of a breach of the convention; the destruction of mines in the Falkland Islands; the storage of non-state party landmines in the United Kingdom; and the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill.
Let me make myself clear at this point. It is not the scope or the content of the legislation which we wish to examine carefully. Nor is it a question of separating the Bill from the convention it is designed to implement and seeking to weigh up the merits of what it does or does not achieve. It is the inconsistency between the legislation and the convention which it purports to reflect faithfully which we shall want to examine in detail when we return to the Committee stage next Friday.
I hope that by next Friday we shall have a little clarification from the Government regarding definitions. Broadly speaking, for the purposes of the Bill, an anti-personnel mine is a victim-operated device.
The Foreign Secretary confirmed that JP233 anti-personnel landmines, used in association with anti-airfield weapons, are prohibited by the Bill. Likewise, the US Gator type is prohibited. However, I understand that the Shielder vehicle scatter-launch mine system, which is produced by the same company as the Gator system, is not covered by the Ottawa Convention since it is for anti-tank use. US Claymore-type directional fragmentation mines are also permitted because they are not victim activated but are remote-command detonated by soldiers.
During Committee stage it will be helpful if we consider the opinions of experts--such as Colin King, editor of Jane's Mines and Mine Clearance--who do not believe that such a black and white line can be drawn to distinguish anti-personnel mines from anti-tank mines, given that Claymore mines can easily be adapted to anti-personnel use simply by screwing in a fuse and given that the mine used by Shielder has a highly sensitive magnetic-influence fuse which would cause a person stepping on it to set it off immediately.
Furthermore, in Committee I shall be pressing the Minister to tell the House what status is accorded to booby-traps under the Bill, given that the distinction between mines and booby-traps is often unclear. Many booby-traps operate on similar principles to mine fuses. Some mine fuses can be used as booby-traps and, as I understand it, the two are frequently interchangeable.
We must also compare the Bill with the treaty that it is intended to put into effect. We shall need to examine in detail the relationship between the Ottawa Convention and the Bill. For the most part, the clauses within the Bill reflect and mirror those in the convention, with--as already signalled by the Minister--one glaring exception; namely, Clause 5. I am grateful to the Minister for comments which certainly added to the Government's position as explained in the House of Commons last Friday.
From my perspective, Clause 5 sets out certain exemptions to prohibited conduct during international military operations and is intended to provide a defence for anyone who would otherwise be guilty of conduct that is prohibited by Clause 2 of this legislation. I should like to say straightaway that this is not a question on the merits or necessity of Clause 5; it is solely a question about the consistency of the Bill with the convention. Article 1.1 of the Ottawa Convention was clear and unambiguous. It reads,
The Foreign Secretary in another place said that there is no inconsistency between the Bill and the convention--I am grateful to the Minister for repeating that assertion this morning. The Foreign Minister said that the Bill gives full effect to the terms of the Ottawa Convention and Clause 2,
Clause 2 certainly does serve that purpose. It not only prohibits British service men or any other British citizen from using, developing, producing, possessing or exporting a landmine, but it also prevents them from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone else to do so. However, in Clause 5 we have exemptions. It sets out the exemptions for international military exercises and states that a soldier would not be guilty of a crime as long as he is not actually laying the mines. That defence applies to joint operations conducted overseas with the armed forces of another government in the course of which there is or may be some deployment of anti-personnel mines by members of the armed forces of one or more states that are not party to the Ottawa Convention.
If Clause 5 is consistent with the Ottawa Convention, where is the corresponding clause in the convention? Perhaps the Minister can help me, for I have been unable to find it. There is no getting round it: the Foreign Secretary said that Clause 5 has a limited purpose to provide British service men with a shield against unreasonable prosecution if, for example, they took part in a NATO exercise in which US troops deployed landmines and that it does not provide British service men with any loophole to take part in the deployment of landmines. Whether or not it is intended to have a limited purpose, the fact remains that the wide drafting of Clause 5 expressly permits conduct which the convention expressly forbids.
Can the Minister confirm that, according to Clause 5 as it stands, British forces are permitted to do anything other than actually lay anti-personnel mines? Is it not the case that they can procure, transfer, modify, adapt or even prime landmines as long as they do not actually lay them? How is it possible to argue that Clause 5 as it is currently drafted is purely prudential and serves only to protect British troops from being criminalised by the actions of troops from non-signatory countries who may be taking part in the same operation?
We shall return to this in very significant detail next Friday. But let me make it clear that I have no doubt that the Ministry of Defence had good reason for the inclusion of Clause 5 and the need for British troops to be able to operate in this way. No one is suggesting that British service men who place their lives in jeopardy should in any way find that their liberty is placed at risk as a result of this legislation. This is not an issue of whether Clause 5 is needed, although I would like
One of the great advantages signalled in another place last Friday was the ability of great legal minds to bring their powers of analysis to bear in your Lordships' House. I have no doubt that both today and next Friday we will hear from those Members of your Lordships' House. But there are wider implications of international law which they will be more able to address than certainly I can. The inconsistency between the convention and the Bill drafted to implement it throws up a number of wider legal issues and implications which I am sure the House will examine.
Can the Minister confirm that, if other state parties determine that Clause 5 amounts to an exemption or reservation from the Ottawa Convention, which under Article 19 allows for no reservations and is therefore inconsistent with the UK's obligations under the convention or, more generally, inconsistent with the spirit of the convention, those state parties will be able to take up the procedures for verification of compliance and settlement of disputes as set out in Articles 8, 10 and 11 of the convention?
These articles provide that if there are concerns about a state's compliance with the treaty, clarification may be sought through the UN Secretary-General and, if necessary, a meeting of state parties may be held. This meeting can decide to send an obligatory fact-finding mission to the relevant territory of the state concerned for up to 14 days. On the basis of the mission's report the meeting of state parties may propose corrective actions or legal measures in accordance with the UN Charter. A definitive opinion might then be sought from the International Court of Justice. Although the Ottawa Convention does not contain a jurisdictional clause explicitly conferring jurisdiction on the International Court of Justice, Article 8.19 does provide for the initiation of appropriate procedures in conformity with international law. Given that the United Kingdom has issued a declaration accepting the compulsory jurisdiction of the court, can the Minister confirm that it could be open to another signatory to initiate proceedings against the United Kingdom in the ICJ if it felt that the UK was in breach of the convention?
Furthermore, is it not the case that if this were to go against the United Kingdom, the Government would have the choice of amending domestic legislation or withdrawing from or seeking to amend the convention? In the light of that, what consultations and discussions did the Government have with other state parties on the inclusion of Clause 5 in the United Kingdom legislation to implement the convention? I will be returning to that point in greater detail at the Committee stage next week.
Again, with courtesy to the Minister and her officials, I should like to flag up two points that we wish to raise through the procedure of amendments next week. Given that the convention obliges the Government to clear mines laid in the Falkland Islands, and given the strong arguments that resources for global mine clearance should be prioritised in accordance with risk, what are the Government's intentions on the many thousands of landmines that remain in position in the Falklands? Given that the United States has stockpiles of anti-personnel landmines in Britain, what are the legal implications of the Ottawa Convention for the storage and stockpiling of anti-personnel landmines by non-state parties in the United Kingdom or in the UK's dependencies, such as in Diego Garcia?
In Committee I shall also be raising questions concerning the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill. For example, can the Government offer any estimate of the costs that they expect to arise from the need to examine and procure alternative technologies to meet the military capability previously provided by anti-personnel landmines? Is there any estimate of the costs of cancelling any supply contracts, which are referred to in the memorandum? There is the possibility that industry will face compliance costs. But, according to the Government, those have yet to be quantified. When do the Government expect to quantify such costs?
These are all important matters and must be addressed. But from these Benches we give an undertaking to support the Government in their intention and to have a speedy progress of the Bill through the relevant stages into law. We shall honour that undertaking even though the Bill as it stands, without explanation, appears to suffer from some major and serious defects of drafting. In its current form the Bill contravenes the Ottawa Convention and would then put the country in breach of its obligations under that convention and make us depart from our long-standing tradition of honouring, ratifying and implementing in every detail the treaties and conventions that we have signed. For that reason we would be derelict in our legislative duty if we settled for cursory scrutiny and chose to ignore the serious defects.
I assure your Lordships that at the Committee stage of the Bill we shall not be pushing these specific points to votes, but I hope that we shall have the opportunity for a comprehensive and serious debate to seek answers to the many important points that have been raised in another place and to some of the issues that I have raised today.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I am most grateful for the comprehensive speeches made by the Minister and by the speaker for the Opposition with regard to this important Bill. I wish to add my words to what they have said about the effect of landmines. In many ways landmines are the scourge of the poorest countries in the world and the poorest people in those
In another place the Foreign Secretary made the dramatic point that in the course of the period in which he was speaking no fewer than 20 people would have been blown up by landmines and that many of those people would have lost their lives or lost their capacity ever again to lead an active and full life. So it is right and appropriate that we are addressing the Landmines Bill. I echo what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. No one in the House wishes in any way to impede, obstruct or delay the passage of the Bill. Certainly, speaking for my party, I give a pledge that we will do everything we can to assist the Government in getting it on the statute book.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, I wish to say a word of thanks to all the individuals, many of them unknown and unsung, who have made a tremendous contribution to this convention and the instruments that now follow to ratify it. Apart from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Mines Agency, the Halo Trust and the Mines Advisory Group, it is appropriate to mention two individuals. One is the noble Lord, Lord Deedes, who has made a great contribution to bringing this matter to the attention of the public; and no one at this solemn moment can forget the astonishing capacity of Diana, Princess of Wales, in being able to illuminate causes and turn them into matters that attracted and brought behind them the full commitment of many thousands of human beings.
I want to pay tribute to Canada. As the Minister said, that country has played a crucial part in the creation of the momentum that made this convention possible. One should also add that Canada has played a most distinguished role time and again in world diplomacy on issues of human rights, humanitarian behaviour and in trying to end suffering. We are proud to see Canada as a member of our Commonwealth and recognise all that she has achieved, and continues to achieve, in this field.
I wish to say a word about the consistent commitment of my own party to landmines legislation. It is fair to say that before any other party, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, who has himself frequently visited Bosnia and other parts of the world, has investigated and studied the laying of mines and whether they can be lifted and disposed of. He deserves tribute on this occasion because his engagement has not been simply that of a legislator but as an active seeker after an attempt to end this particular form of warfare.
We are delighted that the Government have now taken this opportunity. I hope that it means they will enable the United Kingdom to be one of the crucial signatories as one of the first 40. The speed at which
Having said all that and having added the great tribute that we wish to pay to Her Majesty's Government for having already destroyed, as I understand it, over half of the existing stockpile of landmines in this country and for the work that they have done in training some 2,000 workers in the training offices of the Ministry of Defence in an attempt to try to correct this scourge, it is right and proper that we thank the Minister, the Foreign Secretary and indeed the Chief Whips in both Houses for getting this legislation through at a rapid pace.
I now turn to three difficulties which arise under the Bill. Because the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has gone into great detail on this, I do not need to repeat everything he said. However, from the point of view of a party which is passionately in favour of this legislation, I wish to say something about why we in another place took the view that the present outcome in Clause 5, which qualifies the Bill, raises questions about compatibility with the convention, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said. In that connection I wish to pursue one or two aspects of that clause for a moment or two.
I believe that it is very important, as far as possible, to have legal views on this matter from this House, which is particularly well qualified to give them. Two questions arise and one was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. We share his concerns. Clause 5, in a sense, appears to pick out the one action of laying mines as the one objection that could be raised to British troops being engaged in joint actions, joint peacekeeping operations and possibly even joint military operations like those in the Gulf. Does it suffice to meet the convention simply to specify this one action of specifically laying mines and make that the centre of the issue of the legal objection to British troops being involved in that single aspect of such exercises? As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out, and as the convention says quite explicitly in Article 1.1, there is a whole range of activities that the convention clearly rules out. It makes it clear that that is without reservation, qualification or any capacity to amend the statements in the convention. They do not include only the laying of mines.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, quoted Article 1.1, but I again remind the House of it. The activities include the use of mines, their procurement and a whole range of associated operations. In Clause 5 we are taking out just one of those activities. We are, to use a common phrase, "cherry picking" one activity only and saying, "This is the one on which we shall concentrate and it is this one that will be in breach of the convention should a joint exercise involve British troops in so doing".
I was very disturbed by the statement made by the Minister for the Armed Forces in another place. He specifically said--I believe I have his words before me--that Clause 5 would not prevent British forces engaging in co-operation in military exercises; in planning and arranging exercises which might involve the laying of mines by non-signatories to the convention--by those countries which have not ratified it even if they were conscious and aware that landmines were being laid in that joint operation. He made it plain that in his view that would not be caught by this Bill. I find that quite hard to understand.
I move on to the second point. I do not want to labour the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. The second point as regards Clause 5 is a very different one. We know--and we may as well be honest about it in this House--that the main reason for Clause 5 is that the United Kingdom is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and that the central and most significant power in that organisation is the United States. We also know that, partly because the United States perceives the laying of mines as a crucial defensive posture with specific regard to the borders between North and South Korea, and because she does not yet see an alternative form of defence against what is unquestionably a very strange rogue state in the shape of North Korea, at this stage the United States is reluctant to agree to sign the convention.
There is a second reason which the United States gives--and I pay tribute to this--that she has destroyed all the landmines in her arsenal that were not self-destructive. Indeed, we have the word of the American Defense Department on 30th June that the remaining 80 landmines in the American arsenal that were not self-destructive were in fact eradicated. There are now no mines in the American arsenal that are not supposed to be self-destructive. As many noble Lords know, the problem is that the belief in mines being self-destructive has an element of euphoria about it. It is not quite correct that all so-called self-destructing mines in practice do self-destruct. One cannot allow civilians back into agricultural areas, their own towns, villages and cities if, say, 10 per cent. of landmines may not have been cleared. That is the difficulty. While I recognise that the United States is trying to move in the spirit of reducing the consequences of landmines, she herself would admit that she sees no possibility of ratifying the convention, to use the words of President Clinton, before the year 2006. That represents a great many innocent civilian deaths.
I must ask the Minister my next question quite directly. Why does the United Kingdom feel--I understand that it is on the basis of legal advice to the Foreign Office--that we have to go as far as Clause 5, when other loyal members of NATO see no obligation to undertake such a very wide-scale exception from the terms of the convention? We know that France has signed the convention without making any such exemption in legislation. Although not a full member of NATO, France is a planning and strategy member. Germany, which is a full member of NATO, has not, as far as I know, introduced legislation along these lines. We know that Canada, the author and begetter of the
When in another place my honourable friend the spokesman on defence and foreign affairs for the Liberal Democrats raised the issue of whether it is possible to define the provisions of Clause 5 more narrowly by referring to "active engagement in the laying of mines in military operations", he was told (for reasons which to me are not adequate or clear) that that did not have the Government's support. I have to ask why, if the legislation unqualified on the one hand or a declaration attending upon ratification on the other hand are adequate for our allies in NATO, they are not adequate for us and why we have to go this further step which appears--here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan--possibly to put at risk the full-hearted ratification of this crucial convention. I ask in all good faith since I am not, thank God, a lawyer whether the Government can throw more light on why they believe that it is essential to take this further step.
I do not want to detain the House, but perhaps I may raise briefly two or three other issues to which we shall return in Committee. I refer first to whether the provision for training does not appear to go rather far in terms of the provision for landmines which will be accepted within our ratification of the convention. I should like to probe a little the Government's reasons for believing that considerable numbers of landmines must be preserved for the purpose of training. Perhaps they feel that that is essential if we are to provide also for the training of other countries. Here, I pay a warm tribute to the Secretary of State for Defence for his great attention to the fact that Britain can provide expert help to other countries in dealing with this scourge.
I shall not pursue my second question in detail now. It relates to the difficult issue of anti-tank mines. I raise this because I have spoken to the United States authorities and I understand that they believe that their most recent form of anti-tank mine, which includes within it an anti-handling device, is, unfortunately from their point of view, caught by the convention because of that mine's specific configuration. This point was raised in another place. I understand that the method called Shielder, which is the British form of anti-vehicle and anti-tank mine may (or may not) be so caught. There was no clear answer to this question when it was raised by Members of another place. It would be helpful if the Government could throw some light on the distinction between anti-vehicle and anti-tank mines which are or are not caught by the convention. Merely referring to whether the mine in question does or does not have an anti-handling device does not answer the question, given that the American system, which is caught by the convention, contains an anti-handling device.
My final question is more positive. I understand that a number of countries are now researching and working on devices which may be able to find and destroy mines in the many existing minefields around the world. I understand that one such system involves clasping the
I cannot think of any area of scientific research that would be more to the credit of this country, with its remarkable capacity in this area, than that. I am delighted that Her Majesty's Government have provided more money in their recent Comprehensive Spending Review for what is sometimes called "blue sky" or pure research. Could the Minister tell us something about research in this critical area? I can think of nothing that would be more to the credit of the country that invents successful devices for dealing with both plastic mines and the more traditional forms. Perhaps the Minister will be able to say a little more about the current research and how promising she believes it to be.
The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I rise briefly to say how much people in the Churches welcome the Ottawa convention and its ratification in this Bill. This is not the time to elaborate on the devastating effects of such weapons. They are well summed up in the description of General Sir Hugh Beach that they,
In 1994 there was some ambiguity in the then Government's position on so called "self-destruct" mines. As we have just been reminded by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, with a failure rate of one in 10, those mines can have terrible consequences for civilians. I take it that that ambiguity has now been eliminated. Nevertheless, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, reiterated, there are still ambiguities about certain classes of weapon and about whether or not they are included in the provisions. It would be good to hear from the Minister whether there is any such ambiguity and, if so, whether it can be eliminated.
As we have heard, Clause 5 was the focus of some serious exchanges in the other place. We have heard compelling reasons as to why this whole issue needs to be examined thoroughly. I can understand why the Ministry of Defence wishes to protect our troops in this way. I also appreciate the answer that the Foreign
However, whether or not that clause is compatible with the convention, none of us would want its provisions to lessen the sense of urgency about getting the convention fully ratified by the whole international community. As I understand it, major manufacturers of landmines, such as China, Russia and Pakistan, have not yet signed the agreement. As we know, the United States will not be signing it until 2006.
This is one of those issues on which dedicated campaigning organisations have achieved a most notable breakthrough and the Government are giving a clear lead. The unequivocal words spoken in another place are worth repeating. It was said that this Bill,
It is good to hear those words. Yet two major tasks still lie before us: to persuade the whole international community both to sign and abide by the convention and to clear the existing minefields. We know that about 60 million landmines lie scattered in more than 70 countries ready to kill or maim innocent civilians.
I hope that the Government will feel encouraged, first, to use every effort to persuade other countries to ratify the convention and, secondly, to contribute all possible resources to clearing existing anti-personnel mines as quickly as possible.
I most warmly welcome the Bill and congratulate my right honourable friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Secretary of State for International Development and all their ministerial colleagues on fulfilling a further manifesto commitment.
This measure is widely seen outside Westminster as the "Princess Diana Memorial Bill" and deservedly so. Her humanity was nowhere more eloquently expressed than in her work to limit the appalling human cost of landmines. Estimates vary but one is that more than 100 million landmines still lie scattered in 70 countries across the world, indiscriminately killing and maiming their innocent victims, even as we speak here today, and further impoverishing many of the world's poorest nations by preventing the growing of food and reducing the availability of clean water supplies.
Diana, Princess of Wales, became the patron saint of landmine victims with her high profile visits to Angola and Bosnia. Yet one year later nothing much has changed. The funding of operations to clear mines is still woefully inadequate, and over 300,000 of the people so far injured by them are still left waiting for the help they need. Sadly, more and more of them die unregarded and unhelped with every passing week.
Ken Rutherford and Jerry White of the Landmine Survivors Network--themselves both victims of landmines--recall the Princess accepting their suggestion that she should visit Bosnia with them to meet other victims and how, to no avail, some people in Whitehall tried to dissuade her from going.
This reminds me of the raucous and persistent attempts made to dissuade the Co-operative Bank from its ethical stance in campaigning to end British involvement in the making and selling of landmines--an offence that will now be punishable, under the terms of this Bill, by a prison sentence of up to 14 years. The bank's moral leadership, so clearly vindicated by the Bill, is honoured by everyone who recalls today the extent and ferocity of the criticisms to which it was subjected. I do so as former President of the Co-operative Congress, the movement's highest office. At the same time, I pay tribute now, as I did then, to my noble friend Lord Thomas of Macclesfield. He was then, as Terry Thomas, the bank's chief executive and acted in the highest traditions of the Co-operative movement.
and wanted to get her hands dirty. In doing so, both in Bosnia and Angola, she gave hope to landmine victims everywhere. One of those she met, 15 year-old Mirzeta Gabelic, lost her right leg when she stepped on a landmine as she took a short cut across a field on her way to the market. "She had real feeling", says Mirzeta. "It wasn't like talking to an important person and Diana said she would help us get the materials we needed for a new bedroom". But since the Princess's death, three weeks after her visit, Mirzeta's lot has not improved much. "For a time", say Ken Rutherford and Jerry White, "those she visited felt someone cared, someone who could make a difference ... governments wanted to get on board and there were big promises of money. Then Diana was killed and the phones didn't ring any more. We've lost the momentum".
I hope profoundly that this debate may be of some help in restarting the momentum. Princess Diana wanted and worked tirelessly not only for a total ban on landmines but for meaningful help for their victims. We owe it to her and to them now to address their needs with renewed urgency. Not to do so will be to leave the severely disabled people to whom Diana gave hope both doubly disadvantaged and in double despair. I am sure that in her reply my noble friend will want to endorse the urgency of their compelling claim to our attention.
Today's debate is a most appropriate occasion for reminding ourselves also--I speak as a former Minister of War Pensions--how deeply indebted all of us are to the victims of landmines for whom the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association (BLESMA) speaks with such well-merited authority. The Bill is about saving people from mutilation. BLESMA's work is about giving more dignity to the remaining years of limbless ex-service people, mainly war pensioners over 70, who are already mutilated. They lost their limbs, acting on our behalf, that others across the world might live in peace and security. Your Lordships' House needs no
With advancing years the problems of disability intensify and multiply. BLESMA recently put to my noble friend Lady Hollis and her department a proposal for two new age additions to the war pensions of ageing war pensioners. It would be deeply appreciated by the ex-service community as a whole if acceptance of that proposal could be timed to coincide with the enactment of this Bill as further evidence of the Government's commitment not only to ban landmines but also to make life better for their victims.
Total spending on war and war widows' pensions will cost £137 million less this year at constant prices than in 1993-94. This is not because the value of individual pensions and allowances has been reduced, but because the number of pensioners is falling year by year as their average age increases and more and more of the war disabled and bereaved die.
The new help, of minimal cost, now sought by BLESMA for the most needful of its members could thus very easily be met without increasing the totality of spending on war pensions in the year ahead. To help them would be a most fitting way of giving irrefutable proof that this Government really do care.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I speak in this debate with a good deal of emotion, but I first declare three interests. I am the honorary Colonel of 156 North West Transport Regiment of the Royal Logistic Corps, and as such have a great deal of contact with young soldiers, particularly some of those giving their time as TA soldiers in Bosnia. I am a trustee of the board of the British Red Cross, and I am a non-executive director of the BayGen Power Group, the relevance of which will become clear later.
I welcome the Bill. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Moynihan for the thorough speech that he made, which means that I can be all the briefer. I, too, believe that there are some tributes to be paid. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, paid a tribute to my noble friend Lord Deedes, who is not able to be in his place today, but his willingness to go into some of those unpleasant places, which I know all too well, and then to write about them, talk about them and explain them has had a great deal of effect on the work that has been done.
I pay tribute also to Chris Moon--an amputee who has been helping the British Red Cross to get this message across. The message that must emanate from this debate and our debates next week must be on three counts. It is not just the banning of landmines which is critical; it is education about landmines; and the clearance of landmines. There is a threefold message that we must send from this House.
There is one more thank you I wish to express. It is to the Secretary of State for Defence. When the right honourable George Robertson attended the landmine conference only a few weeks ago on 24th June, which he will remember well the Bill was not on our parliamentary agenda before the Summer Recess. The questioning in the opening session, which he handled remarkably well, convinced him that something had to be done, and it has been done. Although I was sad that he was unable to announce that morning that the Bill was coming forward, it is now with us, and we must be grateful for that.
There are many aspects to the work that has gone on in order to arrive at this point. As my noble friend Lord Moynihan said, I have seen the ravages caused to innocent people by landmines. It was in 1991 that I first went to Angola and saw the destruction of anything that one could call life for those already exceedingly poor people. There was a lack of prostheses at that time and a huge need.
But I suppose that it was Bosnia in 1992 and, thereafter, Somalia, particularly around Hargeisa in Northern Somalia, Mozambique and many of the other countries to which this country has for many years given good advice and sound development assistance, which impressed on me the need for this landmine ban above all else.
I remember the first time I visited the fields outside Lobito in Angola. I walked along, with guidance obviously, to the area which was then being de-mined. I heard from the Halo Trust, which has done such outstanding work, just how long it takes to clear a hundred square metres of what should be agricultural land. I was shown a small landmine. I nearly brought a casing with me this morning, but I believe that it is against the rules of the House to do so, so I refrained. A small landmine was tucked in under the bank of a pathway. People had walked along that path for some time--children to school, women to collect water. They were people going about their daily business. Nothing had happened. Then one day, perhaps because of rain or because the soil had begun to break up, a foot was placed at a slightly different angle at the edge of the path and the entire area and the people walking along the path were blown apart.
We have a real problem with children, farmers, and water carriers, but also refugees. Refugees, by their very nature are fleeing from their own conflicts. They go to adjacent areas which, frequently, have been mined. We shall only be able to tackle those problems when the banning of landmines has been achieved across the world.
We have heard many statistics today. I shall not repeat them, but I will give one or two others. The UN Landmine Action Centre considers that at present only 50 per cent. to 60 per cent. of the land minefields of Bosnia-Herzegovina have been identified. We have soldiers there. Many others have soldiers there. There is a huge job to be done. I mentioned that, because it is important to realise it is not just a question of long-past wars, but recent wars have exacerbated this problem to a huge degree.
We know that metal detectors, prodders, and trained dogs do an excellent job, but it is not enough, when every 20 minutes one victim is killed or maimed. It is worth concentrating our efforts also on finding new ways of detecting landmines. That is where the BayGen Power Group connection comes in. Many noble Lords will remember the wind-up radio invented in this country. That technology is now being produced in radios and torch lanterns in South Africa by disabled people. It is being extended. In the battle to get rid of landmines, a discussion with the American Department of Defense led to a new research opportunity for BayGen with Battelle Industries in the USA. I am glad to say that work is proceeding well, although slowly, on a wind-up landmine detector. That is important because no electricity is required. It is always in the hands of the operators. Noble Lords will be aware that there has to be back-up power because of the delicacy of operation which will be undertaken by such a piece of equipment.
With new equipment, and indeed education on how to observe where landmines might be, and with the Bill, we may be able to achieve real success. I believe above all that it is not just the research that I and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, have mentioned that is important; it is vital to educate even illiterate people about the dangers of landmines and how they can be avoided by diagrams and methods that people can understand. It is through education in the schools of those countries so badly affected by landmines that we can make a real difference and at least reduce the number of people who are being killed or maimed.
I very much welcome the Bill. Your Lordships' House has an excellent record for sorting out those matters in legislation which, perhaps through rushed presentation in another place, have not been finished properly. We look forward to doing that. But do not let us stop just at banning the anti-personnel landmines. Let us do those things that my noble friend Lord Moynihan and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, stated. Let us make sure that we educate, and undertake proper research, in order to get on with the huge job of clearing all those mines we know are hidden across the world which can destroy and hinder life for so many people.
Lord Kennet: My Lords, we have had a remarkably constructive debate; and I hope to keep it that way. We have had the inevitable and justified song of praise for the landmine treaty and the actions of our own Government in complying with it in advance, in destroying the mines and ceasing training in mine warfare. That praise is due, and the rejoicing is justified.
I turn to one practical point about the Bill: Clause 5. Almost every speaker has found fault with Clause 5. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, found extraordinarily vigorous fault with it. He described what was wrong with the clause with a force and precision which are unusual in this House. I know that it was meant constructively. I hope that it will be taken that way and that we shall benefit from what he said. It seemed to me that he had the right solution.
First, I address a mythical character. He is the man I think of in my mind as "that sapper". He was mentioned in the House of Commons debate and has been mentioned here outside the Chamber. He is a sapper who has built a bridge, having been ordered to do so and with no particular idea what it was for. He then finds that the American or Turkish army--let us not forget that there are two NATO powers who are non-signatories--has taken a landmine across it. According to this contentious myth, he would then become liable to 14 years in prison under Clause 5 of the Bill.
There is an easy way out of that: it is to read down to Clause 6. We find that anyone who inadvertently helps America or Turkey towards laying a mine is in the clear. From the language in the Bill, so long as he did not know that what was in the box was a landmine, he is in the clear. That surely would apply to building a bridge. So long as he did not know what was intended to go across it, he would be in the clear. I think that that argument need not hold us up too much.
The position of the Government on this is rather broad. The Bill allows the British Army to assist and encourage the laying of landmines or to take part in the transfer, acquisition or disposal of landmines for the purpose of laying, by a non-signatory country. It allows it in the sense that anyone who does that is not liable to the penalties as described in Clause 5. It is Clause 2 which sets out the offences.
We have to ensure that British people operating alongside the Americans are not open to prosecution. The best way to do that--it may well be the only way--is to ensure that they should not operate alongside the Americans in any operation or exercise where the Americans want to lay mines. There is not likely to be any country in Europe where they wish to do that; and I do not envisage NATO going frequently to Korea. We all have reason to hope that the Americans will soon forget all about landmines: once they have a Korean settlement, which may well now be within their grasp.
There is not, and will not be, a consensus in NATO for laying mines. All but two NATO members are adhering to the convention. Much the simplest solution to the problem is that NATO operations should not include the laying of landmines. There is wide support for that. There has been a questionnaire to NATO member governments, during the drafting of the convention. I have not seen the responses; I have seen the questions. They are extremely thorough. Presumably the responses to that were overwhelmingly positive to
But let us remember also how enthusiastic President Clinton used to be for a total ban. "America will lead", he said. Then the Pentagon said no, remember Korea where millions of mines are planted, and millions more could be if the North Koreans came pouring down the peninsula. We owe it to the world to encourage the Americans to return to their early enthusiasm. It is not conversion that is required, but simply a return to the justifiable position they earlier occupied.
I wish to raise a new point which has not been mentioned in the debate. It is about the effect of Article 5, and the policy based on it, on other arms control conventions that the United States has not signed. I refer in particular to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to the inspection regime of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Senator Helms will not allow either of those, and if they are joined on the shelf by a third--what would be the general effect in the world?
If we allow our soldiers to collaborate with a non-signatory in preparing for the latter to lay mines, how can we object to the Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons tests? They have not signed the non-proliferation treaty. The United States has not signed the Landmines Convention. But unless we are categorical about the latter convention, how can we be categorical about the others? If our legislation contains loopholes for the sake of collaboration with the United States in one area of arms control, what is to stop others producing loopholes for anything they please?
I want to quote something Dr. John Reid said in the House of Commons debate when asked what would happen if an American commander gave the order to lay landmines to British troops under his command. He answered:
I heard what the Minister, in introducing the Bill, said about the need for a provision such as Clause 5. But let us take courage from the fact that, as far as I know, no other country has found it necessary to have such a clause in its legislation taking on board the convention. Germany will not be taking any step in this direction. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, has already pointed that out. The French will not be taking any step in this direction and will not be co-operating with the Americans in any exercise or plan which involves the Americans laying landmines.
The Canadian Government declaration is attached to the text of the convention, and it stops short of our wording. In my opinion, it is a preferable form. It does not dwell in detail on the many ways in which we shall be able to help a non-signatory. With the leave of the House, I should like to read it into Hansard. The declaration states:
That is Article 1 of the convention. I suggest that that form of words is fully satisfactory and does not carry the disadvantages which appear in Clause 5 of the Bill. I hope that in Committee a solution along those lines will prove possible.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, for the way in which she explained the Bill so clearly. Throughout, she made it clear that the Bill applies only to anti-personnel mines. I hope that the Bill will be passed before the Recess and I fully support it. Today, we have an opportunity to ask for more information and to put questions to the Government about the effects of the Bill.
I am a former military person. I was in the Army, in uniform, before World War II. I served throughout, until I was wounded and partially disabled at the end, the day before Hitler committed suicide. I acquired an unenviable familiarity with enemy mines, including anti-personnel mines. My first observation is that the Bill is deliberately restricted to anti-personnel mines and does not apply to all landmines and to other types of mines. That is because it follows the Ottawa convention.
However, during the Second Reading debate in the other place, the right honourable gentleman the Foreign Secretary, in introducing the Bill, referred throughout simply to landmines. The words "anti-personnel" did not pass his lips. He said:
The Bill attempts to separate and to define anti-personnel mines as distinct from anti-tank and anti-vehicle landmines, which are not prohibited by the Ottawa convention. I congratulate the noble Baroness today on first using the words "anti-personnel" and for continuing. She avoided the possible misunderstanding.
Did he really mean our stockpile of all landmines, or does that figure apply only to the anti-personnel mines which we possess? That must be made clear. Will the Minister confirm that our stocks of anti-tank and other types of landmine are not affected by the Bill? That is important because the British Army should not be deprived of the other categories of landmine until perhaps another international convention applies to them and until all the major military nations have accepted it. The Ottawa convention has not been signed by the United States or by the main exporters of landmines; that is, Russia, China and Pakistan. We will be setting a very good example to the rest of the world by enacting the Bill.
A fact that has not yet been made sufficiently publicly clear is that the United Kingdom has not sold or provided any of the anti-personnel mines which have caused the most distressing injuries to civilians and children in areas where what I call "tribal wars" have taken place; for example, Cambodia, Angola and the former Yugoslavia. I ask the Minister to confirm that fact. Nor have British troops laid any of these mines. Any mines laid by the British Army in the past 60 years have been fully recorded and are later lifted.
In the reverse direction, the British have taken the initiative in removing these mines. British voluntary organisations started the international movement to lift anti-personnel mines laid indiscriminately during the tribal wars to which I have referred, in particular the organisation Halo, to which my friend and colleague, the late Colonel Colin Mitchell, devoted the later years of his life. That organisation still carries out that life-saving and limb-saving work. Besides our military connection, Colonel Mitchell was my PPS in the other place during some of the time when I was a Secretary of State.
It is my understanding that no British firms have exported anti-personnel mines for the past 25 years or more. I should be grateful for confirmation of that. British troops have had the difficult task of clearing mines in the Falkland Islands since the 1982 war. They are all Argentine mines, not ours; and they are not just anti-personnel mines, they are anti-vehicle mines, too.
I ask government spokesmen and parliamentarians to avoid making general statements about a global ban on landmines without making it clear whether they are referring only to anti-personnel or to all landmines. Otherwise, they will be inadvertently misleading or confusing the public.
My first experience of anti-personnel mines was in the last two years of World War II. The Germans had introduced a small, sensitive mine made of wood. It did not respond to our mine detectors, which registered only metal. It was called the schuhmine. In Holland, in October 1944, after some tough fighting, we found that the enemy had withdrawn during the night. At first light, leading troops of the Scottish Infantry Division, in which I was serving as a Major, advanced, disturbed only by some desultory shelling and mortaring. I was on foot with my walkie-talkie and radio operator. The soldiers in front were sweeping with their mine detectors. I was suddenly aware of an unusual explosion,
The schuhmine, as would be expected from its name, blew the foot and boot off the soldier who stepped on it. Of course, we continued our advance. That was the wisest option. I reported the situation by radio to warn others. The medical section and the stretcher bearers had to take the same risks in order to reach the casualties.
We had been briefed about that new German anti-personnel mine, but at that time our detectors were useless against them. Your Lordships will understand why I have a special interest in banning anti-personnel mines concerning which this Bill is the first step. Your Lordships may now be thinking that I stepped on a mine myself, my disabled legs and sticks being a legacy. That did not happen. I was wounded months later by a bullet through my middle.
Anti-tank mines casually laid in recent global wars can be dangerous too. Here I come to a case that I knew well. Only a few years ago, a young cousin of my wife, Mr. Alan Stewart, leading a television team covering the civil war in the Sudan was killed when his Land-Rover hit a randomly laid mine. That was not an anti-personnel mine; it was an anti-vehicle mine. Your Lordships may remember that incident or the notices about the subsequent memorial service at St. Columba's, Pont Street.
That brings me to the vague dividing line between anti-vehicle mines and anti-personnel mines, those to which this Bill applies. The anti-tank mine can be fused to be sufficiently sensitive to be detonated by a single pedestrian. It can also easily have a booby-trap attached to it which virtually converts into an anti-personnel mine. I very nearly went up on two occasions on anti-tank mines. I was credited with very good eyesight. Looking over the front of my operational half-track vehicle, I was able to observe, and stopped the driver just in time, the tops of German tellermines just visible ahead.
I also draw attention to Clause 5 which is intended to protect British troops, especially in situations where they are operating with the troops of our allies and other countries which are not party to the convention. Doubt has been expressed again today as to whether the clause has that effect legally and even whether it is consistent with the Ottawa convention. Opinions by eminent lawyers have taken opposite views and I shall not pursue that. But it is an extremely important point.
In an allied operation of that kind, the rules of engagement would also be a factor for Britain. Agreeing upon those has proved a very difficult and worrying task in hostilities of recent years for governments of this country and for commanders in the field involved.
A vital matter of concern, if this Bill is enacted as I hope it will be, is whether in future British troops would be deprived of a weapon which was still possessed by hostile countries with which we might be in conflict. Anyone who has commanded troops in action in war, especially in World War II, would want to protect his
I remind the House that landmines were an essential part of the defence of this country at the time of the Battle of Britain in 1940 and later. Our Scottish Division, which noble Lords may now think was ubiquitous, was defending the beaches in Southern England after Dunkirk and into early 1941. I saw those mines being laid on the beaches, combined with concrete and metal obstacles. We hope that we shall never be in that situation again, but it is worth remembering.
Noble Lords may regard me as an old soldier reminiscing about times past. However, I have spent the past two days taking part in a conference at the new Joint Services Command and Staff College at Bracknell. I have been at the previous annual conferences held by the three separate staff colleges at Camberley. I am invited to speak and answer questions on the major battles of World War II in which I fought. The conference is named "The Realities of War". I took the opportunity this week to hear from senior sapper officers who were there about technological developments in mines. Of course, the Royal Engineers have been the arm of the forces mainly responsible for laying and lifting mines. I am very glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, here. I can tell him from what I have seen at Bracknell that the merging of the three staff colleges seems to be proving very successful. He and I were both in the Commons at the same time and I hope it will not embarrass him if I say that I was glad about his appointment to the Ministry of Defence; I wish him luck; and I feel reassured that he is there.
Another reminiscence about mines which I bring in has a happier ending. It also illustrates the adaptability and ingenuity of the British soldier. In the group that I was commanding, I introduced methods of creating dug-outs, trenches and large gun pits by the calculated blowing of holes with high explosives. That replaced laborious digging, especially when the ground was very hard and saved time and lives in getting below ground level quickly. When my soldiers realised how much hard digging was being saved, they soon became experts in explosives and detonating systems. Finding the necessary high explosive was often a problem. However, our sappers, after lifting the enemy's anti-tank mines, tellermines in most cases, would stack them at the roadside and, with their permission, we helped ourselves to them. We then made use of those enemy weapons as explosives for our own benefit.
I hope that noble Lords expected some personal experiences in my speech as I believe that I am the only speaker in this debate old enough to have been in the forces throughout the last world war. We should support the Bill and give it the early passage requested by the Government. It is a first step and may have to be modified later. I shall not be surprised if there is a Landmine (Amendment) Bill in a few years' time. But the Bill is setting an example to the rest of the world.
Lord St. John of Bletso: My Lords, I add my wholehearted support for the Bill, especially after the moving speech of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, with all his personal experiences and expertise on the subject.
This is not a time for mentioning the plethora of statistics, but the chilling fact that there are about 60 million landmines scattered around 70 countries which have killed and maimed an estimated 26,000 civilians, half of whom have been women and young children, has certainly highlighted the need for a worldwide ban on anti-personnel landmines.
Certainly the scourge of landmines has worsened with the proliferation of civil and tribal wars. The link between landmines and guerilla warfare has turned the landmine from a conventional weapon into an instrument of civilian terror. The Foreign Secretary aptly summarised the situation when, in his Second Reading speech in the other place, he said that after the trauma of war, landmines pollute the peace.
My interest in this subject stems from my having lived most of my life in Southern Africa and having spent a lot of that time in Mozambique and Angola--both countries which have suffered from this extremely serious landmine problem.
Most of the mines in Mozambique and Angola have been laid without markings or warnings to the civilian population. A large proportion of them have been laid in such a way that their victims are almost guaranteed to be civilians. The full impact of the devastating effects of landmines on civilians, particularly on young children, was vividly displayed when I visited Luanda earlier this year.
Facilities for the emergency treatment and social rehabilitation of landmine victims in both Angola and Mozambique are totally inadequate and certainly are not improving. Quite apart from the physical suffering caused in these two countries, landmines will certainly continue to present severe obstacles to the much needed economic development and economic recovery of these countries, as well as the implementation of relief programmes and, of course, the return of refugees, a point strongly reinforced by the extremely powerful speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, with all her experience of Africa.
As the Bill stands, there will need to be a number of amendments in order to ensure that the Bill is consistent with the wording of the Ottawa Convention. Several speakers have mentioned--and I do not want to go over powerful points that have already been raised--that the convention makes clear that a state party undertakes never under any circumstances to assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any prohibited activity. The United Kingdom Working Group on Landmines sent a brief, which I am sure many of your Lordships will have
Despite the assurance of the Minister in her opening speech, I also share the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, regarding Clause 5 on the protection of British troops. I do not, as I have said, want to go over many of the points that have already been raised, but I should like to touch briefly on three issues.
Concern has been expressed, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that the definition of landmine contained in the Bill differs from that in the Ottawa Convention. The definition in the Bill appears to be based on the design of the mine and not on its effects. The United Kingdom Working Group on Landmines feels that this Bill should certainly contain a far stronger definition of anti-personnel mines that is closer to the reality of mines.
My second concern is that of jurisdiction. I do not think earlier speakers have mentioned this point. Can the Minister tell the House in which territories the Bill will apply? I ask that because it probably applies to a number of British dependent territories, but not to territories such as Diego Garcia, where United States ships are reported to contain stocks of anti-personnel mines, or to the Falklands.
I should like to conclude by joining in congratulating the Government both on introducing the Bill and also on the fact, as the Minister mentioned in her opening speech, that Britain has halved her stockpile of landmines and doubled her contribution to the clearing of landmines throughout the world. I should also like to pay my respects to the sterling work done by the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who succeeded in bringing this problem to the centre stage of public awareness; and also for all the work done by the noble Lord, Lord Deedes, with 40 approvals, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, mentioned--just what he needed to make the Ottawa Convention binding in international law. It is to be hoped that, once Britain has ratified the treaty, this will encourage other countries that signed the convention to follow suit as soon as possible.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, first I must declare an interest in that I have been an active member of the British Red Cross for more years than I would like to mention. I wanted to contribute to this debate today as we have been discussing in the Red Cross problems of landmines since the beginning of the 1990s. The ICRC became heavily involved as a result of the experiences of its field staff, especially the surgeons who were
As the result of an international symposium on landmines which was held in April 1993, and a subsequent public call for a total ban on anti-personnel landmines, the ICRC not only raised public awareness around the world of the growing problem caused by the widespread and feckless use of anti-personnel landmines, but also set out to persuade governments of the urgent need for a total prohibition of these terrible weapons. This was a brave move, as it was considered by some, even of its own members, to be a political move, out of character for the ICRC, which had always prided itself on being a strictly non-political body.
We have heard today from many speakers, especially my noble friend Lady Chalker in her eloquent and moving speech, about these landmines and the horrors that they inflict on innocent citizens. I know, too, what they are talking about as I nursed for several years, and part of my training was at the Roehampton Artificial Limb Centre. There can be no question that the indiscriminate laying of non-self-destructing or non-self-neutralising anti-personnel mines should be totally banned. They are probably one of the nastiest weapons invented. That said, to quote the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, responding to a question during the Strategic Defence Review Statement:
He hoped, too, for a world which had no bombs, bayonets or machine guns. He might even have said bows and arrows. In the best of all possible worlds, of course we would agree with him. Weapons are horrible, war is horrible; but, unfortunately, we live in a world which, alas, is not always peaceful and beautiful.
Even the United States, a non-signatory to the treaty, announced at the end of June that it was to detonate about 80 non-self-destructing landmines as part of ceremonies commemorating the final destruction of the US stockpile of more than 3.3 million non-self-destructing landmines. Moreover, along with the People's Republic of China, the Americans reaffirmed their commitment to ending the human suffering caused by the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel mines. Neither of these two countries has signed the Ottawa Treaty.
There has been a series of international treaties regarding the banning of different types of weapons, the use of which had come to affront the conscience of mankind--from poison gas to napalm to dumdum bullets. I shall not recite here today the long, long list. We are discussing the Ottawa Treaty which was signed by the Government in 1977 but which has yet to be ratified by the UK. The treaty is now obviously causing the Government some problems. We have yet to discover whether those problems are moral or legal. However, there is obviously enough in the treaty to trouble them in that we have in the Bill today Clause 5 which does not fall in line with the treaty, especially Article 19.
I have just a few simple questions for the Minister. First, will this Bill, attached to the treaty, stand up in international law? Secondly, how will our forces co-operate in manoeuvres with those of our NATO allies whose governments are not party to the convention? Thirdly, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, how have the French and the Germans, who have signed the treaty, dealt with this problem?
Finally, is it not the case that the real reason that we have this treaty is that so many states have, with almost frivolous irresponsibility, failed to observe the requirements of those most important previous treaties concerning landmines; namely, the Geneva Convention and the inhumane weapons convention? Both drew a clear distinction between the indiscriminate laying of non-self destructing anti-personnel mines and the use of "smart" anti-personnel mines directed at military targets which are properly marked or mapped. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy for pointing out the difference so clearly today. Some say that banning the latter removes a vital defensive system without which soldiers lives are placed at risk. They add that there is a difference between laying mines in times of war for sound tactical reasons, as opposed to indiscriminate mining which is so abhorrent.
I should be grateful to the Minister if she could provide answers to my questions, but I should like to assure her that, like my noble friend Lord Moynihan, I support the spirit of the Bill and look forward to going into further detail during the Committee stage next week.
Lord Rea: My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, and other noble Lords who have spoken, I am very pleased that the Government have managed to squeeze this Bill in before the Recess. As a doctor, it might be expected that I should describe the graphic details of the effects of anti-personnel landmines, but noble Lords will be pleased to hear that I shall desist!
The preamble to the convention itself summarises quite effectively the reasons why it is necessary, as well as describing the previous protocols and United Nations declarations, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, which preceded it and led to its adoption and opening for signature last December.
It has been a very long campaign led, to a large degree, by many non-governmental organisations concerned with international development and human rights. In this country, I personally would single out the Mines Advisory Group from Cockermouth as doing especially good work. The UK Working Group on Landmines lists, at the foot of its notepaper, 55 British NGOs which have been involved in the landmines issue, and there are hundreds more worldwide. Princess Diana was actually quite late on the scene but no less important, because her involvement meant that the whole world became aware of the problem. Her stance was courageous (as it had previously been with AIDS victims) but, at the time, it certainly displeased some Members of the party diagonally opposite to me.
If names are to be mentioned, I think that my noble friend Lord Puttnam should not be forgotten. He was a pioneer in raising awareness dramatically and movingly when, in "The Killing Fields" set in Cambodia, the recently orphaned small boy being carried to safety was killed by an anti-personnel landmine while, incidentally, acting as a shield and saving the life of his rescuer Dith Pran, the main character in the film.
Quite apart from the direct impact of anti-personnel landmines on non-combatants, especially children, several noble Lords have pointed out the important indirect effect that they have on food production by making large tracks of potentially useful agricultural land into no-go areas, so increasing the need for food aid and inhibiting the return of refugees, thus putting back development for years after the conflict itself has ended.
Before discussing the Bill itself, perhaps my noble friend the Minister could give the House some idea of the proportion of countries which have signed the Ottawa Convention likely to ratify it? There are 126 countries on the list, as printed in Article 22 of the convention. Can my noble friend say how many more have signed since December 1997, and how many countries have ratified? Further, do we know how many more have actually announced their intention to do so?
We know that three major powers--Russia, China and the United States--will not sign and ratify it at present; though, as we have heard, the USA will do so but only by the year 2006. Unfortunately, most of the countries in which conflict is currently in progress, or where there is considerable international tension, are not among the signatories. In fact, 11 countries in the Middle East, 13 out of 15 countries of the former Soviet Union, 12 countries in Africa, 12 in Asia and just two in the Americas have not signed. Their populations together total more than half the population of the world.
I suggest that those countries would be much more likely to sign or ratify the convention if the potential conflicts both inter and intra-state, which are troubling them, could be settled. It is very gratifying to know that Cambodia, Angola, Mozambique, Uganda, Croatia and Bosnia, which were recently in severe conflict situations and where landmines had a terrible impact, are now at peace and among the signatories. Thus, I suggest that the United Nations has a further incentive to strengthen its role in conflict resolution.
A large part of the debate in another place last week--as well as this afternoon--concerned Clause 5. My noble friend has explained why the Government think that it is necessary. As my noble friend Lord Kennet has mentioned, the Canadian Government have entered a declaration of understanding in the convention for the same purpose. Like my noble friend, I prefer their wording to the wording in the Bill. Their parliamentary Bill--passed by the Canadian House of Commons--permitting ratification, includes the following phrase with regard to participation in joint military exercises with a non-signatory state,
The words "active assistance" will cover a wider area than Clause 5(b), which disallows only the actual laying of anti-personnel mines. However, I am quite sure that all this will be discussed at length next week during the Committee and Report stages (if we have a Report stage). At this juncture it is worth reminding my noble friend that, if the Government introduce an agreed amendment, they will still have a week in which to send it back to another place where it can be speedily agreed if there is all-party support.
Finally, I should like to comment on humanitarian de-mining. I realise that the Bill itself is not the place where this should be discussed, although the destruction of stockpiles and rules for fact-finding missions, for example, are covered. The convention contains two important articles, Article 5 on the destruction of anti-personnel mines in mined areas, and Article 6 on international co-operation and assistance. I know that the Government have played a major part in training--both the previous government and this Government even more so--and have devoted some £20 million to the task of de-mining. Can my noble friend outline future plans? I gather that some other countries have spent even more than we have, particularly in relation to their GDP. It is money well spent. If properly done, whole areas of agricultural land are opened up again, helping to achieve food sufficiency in poor countries, and even, potentially, exports of rice for example, so that funds now used for food and other humanitarian relief can be diverted to their proper purpose of supporting development projects which, if properly targeted, will help to lift people out of poverty.
I commend the Bill to the House. It may well be possible to improve it, but I believe it allows us to ratify the convention as it stands. Any doubts about its effectiveness for that purpose can be examined in detail in Committee.
Lord Vivian: My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships and to the House for speaking in the gap but I had a longstanding appointment this morning which prevented me yesterday from putting my name down to speak. As a result I regret I have heard only about half of your Lordships' debate, but I would like to make three points.
First, as a recent serving soldier I am well aware of the horrific effects of anti-personnel mines and the appalling damage and lifelong suffering which they cause. However, in war in a defensive position where there may not be sufficient military units on the ground and where there are large areas that have to be denied to the enemy, these anti-personnel marked minefields are a defensive protection. Without them the lives of our soldiers are more at risk.
Secondly, I believe the laying of marked and recorded anti-personnel conventional minefields in accordance with the Geneva conventions in times of real warfare such as World War II and the Gulf should have been retained until we have a new weapon system to replace them. Unlike indiscriminate and horrific anti-personnel minefields laid in guerrilla, tribal, civil and terrorist
Thirdly, some piece of legislation along the lines of Clause 5--I apologise to your Lordships for not hearing the arguments on both sides concerning Clause 5--is essential to this Bill if our servicemen and women are to be protected from facing a possible 14-year penal sentence. It will enable our Armed Forces to take part in exercises and operations involving anti-personnel mine measures with allies such as the United States of America, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, who are not signatories to the treaty. Under these circumstances it would allow them to become involved in the planning, procuring, transporting, using and handling of anti-personnel mines, but not the action of laying them.
Without some clause to protect our Armed Forces the fighting spirit and morale of the Army and our Armed Forces could diminish. One day we may not win a future war because we have denied our Armed Forces the appropriate weapons to defend themselves in battle. Mines are cheap to manufacture and in my opinion it will never be possible to prevent all countries making mines. I expect they will be present on the battlefield for the foreseeable future. Some provision in the Bill is essential to protect our Armed Forces on the field of battle when operating with nations who have not signed the Ottawa convention.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord has struck the one note of discord with regard to keeping anti-personnel landmines. I believe there is a great deal of consensus around the rest of the House that these weapons must be got rid of.
Many people who have been involved in this campaign have been mentioned. I wish to pay tribute to those noble Lords who over the years have taken part in many debates on landmines. I was hoping that the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, would be in her place at this point because on at least three occasions I have debated with her the question of landmines. I also wish to mention many of the NGOs, such as the mines advisory group which has worked hard on the convention. There are also groups which are involved not so much with words but with the deeds of removing anti-personnel landmines, such as the Halo Trust, which has already been mentioned.
It should not be forgotten that this treaty is not at odds with the mood in the country. A number of campaigns have been run in national papers such as the Sun and the Express. I believe that public opinion has been a contributory factor in giving the Government the necessary impetus to implement the treaty as quickly as possible. I congratulate the Government on bringing forward this legislation at the present time. It would be extremely unfortunate if we did not have this legislation at a time when so many countries are in the process of ratifying the treaty. I believe that over 30 countries will have ratified the measure. We shall be one of the 40 countries that are needed to bring about the convention's implementation.
Over the past year the Government have shown they are prepared to take a lead on the issue of landmines. Their destruction of half the stockpile of British landmines is an extremely valuable example of that. That has a cost implication. It has already cost £5 million to undertake that destruction. The Government have provided an extra £5 million, taking to £10 million the amount spent on landmine clearances. Although that is a drop in the ocean compared to the number of landmines that have been laid, it is an extremely valuable contribution.
My experience of landmines was during the period when I was monitoring elections in Mozambique. I had the unfortunate experience of driving a truck 10 miles down a 20-kilometre road only to discover that the road was not the one that the guide had thought but was a mined road. I am not a brave person by any means, and I experienced a quivering of the stomach. However, I gained a knowledge of the feeling that landmines produce in people. They have horrific consequences. Between two polling stations we counted 35 people walking to the stations who had only one limb.
But the consequences of landmines go further. Being terrified when driving along a road is one experience; but there are places where people will walk only along beaten paths, and will not enter fields used for cultivation; they will not step one millimetre off the path because of the very real risk of stepping on a landmine. The fear of landmines is real to everyone who lives in a mined region.
I wish to concentrate on the detail of the ratification of the convention. I speak as a serving officer in the Territorial Army. I wish particularly to examine Clause 5. There are major problems with the clause, though I also understand the reasons why the Government included it. It contains a necessary defence of service personnel. Nevertheless, the clause has rather worrying aspects.
Clause 5 has to be seen in the light of the reason for its original inclusion in the Bill. It was as a result of the Americans citing their use of landmines as a barrier against North Korea. We should be aware of the debate that is going on between the American military and the American Government over the need to retain landmines as a weapon of war. I base my comment on a statement made by General Clark, the US Army Commander in Chief, United States European Command, before a committee of the House of Representatives in March this year. He said:
My difficulty with Clause 5 is that it is extremely wide in its application. I am not a lawyer. I merely put forward questions for clarification from the Minister. It is stated that under Clause 5 the Secretary of State shall
As drafted, Clause 5 could be seen as contrary to Article 19 of the convention, which would be seen as a reservation. I must admit after hearing the debate in another place last Friday that there was a degree of unease associated with the remarks of the Armed Forces Minister. He stated:
It is not my intention to cast aspersions and suggest that the Government's intention is anything other than to stick to the strict principles of the Ottawa convention. However, Clause 5, as drafted could allow a soldier to undertake the planning of an operation, the transportation of landmines, the positioning of the landmines, and even have soldiers prime the landmines so long as troops from a non-ratifying state were those who had actually laid the mines. That would be rather strange. We have talked about the loophole: the example given was of a truck being driven over a bridge built by a sapper. That loophole is wide enough in itself for a truck to be driven through it!
I understand that the second half of the check and balance on British service personnel taking any part in such operations would be under the rules of engagement. That presents a problem. I am not sure that it can be said that the Ottawa convention has been ratified until the rules of engagement have been published. I shall accept advice; however, I believe that if the rules of engagement are published--normally they are not--how can the Government say that in Clause 5 they are sticking to the principle of the Ottawa convention? Perhaps in this case the rules of engagement can be published and made available and, unlike other rules of engagement, be set in such a way that they cannot be changed from one operation to another--
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