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Lord Kennet: My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. Does he agree that the solution to that problem might be a wider use of the Privy Counsellor system whereby the leadership of the Opposition parties is taken into the confidence of the
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, that would be one solution. However, when we are ratifying such an important treaty, whose main aim is to guide others into signing it in order to bring about a universal ban on landmines, should we talk about secrecy? Matters should be out in the open. Perhaps the rules of engagement should be published openly. Without such publication, there is a major problem with other states seeing our ratification of the convention as being in the spirit of the convention.
Has representation been made to the British Government by any other countries concerning Clause 5? I understand that Australia and Canada have shown some disapproval of the clause. Will the Minister publish those representations and place them in the Library, or at least make the House aware of them?
It would be wrong to say that we believe that Clause 5 is a reason for preventing this legislation going through. I merely wish to make the Government aware of the problems I have mentioned. I do not believe that they have any intention but to follow the clear principles set out in the Ottawa convention.
However, one unfortunate point was that in the debates in another place there seemed to be a total neglect of one of the principles set out in the preamble, which is universalisation. That is one of those ugly words, but in this context it is extremely important. No ratification of the Ottawa convention will mean much if the major producers of anti-personnel mines do not ratify the convention. It is those countries that we must get on board.
It is my hope that, through ratifying the convention and through the body of support behind it, if the Government will take a lead, one day the anti-personnel mines will be seen with the abhorrence that chemical and biological weapons are now seen.
Lord Burnham: My Lords, this is not one of those Bills which will require the Lord Privy Seal to remind your Lordships that in certain circumstances there is something called the Salisbury convention. It is a Bill which has attracted, it seems, almost universal support. I can assure the Minister that we are here to help; that is our sole object.
Noble Lords are united in support of what has been an impressive debate which has avoided, I believe I am right in saying, a certain amount of the incomprehensible nastiness which arose in the debate in another place. But speeches in your Lordships' House today fall into two types: first, those from noble Lords like my noble friends Lord Campbell and Lady Chalker based on personal experience of the horrors of the anti-personnel landmine; and others who have taken a practical approach to the solution of the undoubled difficulties in the Bill.
My noble friend Lord Moynihan provided a comprehensive study of all matters concerned with the Bill, and anything that he did not say has been said by other noble Lords. It is therefore possible for me to be relatively brief. I am deeply sorry that we have not had the opportunity of hearing my noble friend Lord Deedes, who has done more than anyone else to help with the problem. I have sat at his feet for 40 years, in the early days literally, and I wish we could have heard him today.
The Bill is not easy; it presents many problems. That was accepted in the other place by the honourable Member, Mr. Menzies Campbell, who said that the Government had better get their tin hats on before they faced the "legion of lawyers" in your Lordships' House. If I were the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, or one of her officials, I would be extremely gloomy about the amount of work I had to put in before next Friday in order to anticipate some of the amendments that will be raised and answer the enormous number of questions which have been raised during the course of the debate today.
The Bill looks a little as though it had been put together at speed without too much thought. Its aims are desirable, of course, but there was not too much thought on the detail. What is an anti-personnel landmine, and how do you protect the interests of the British serviceman who may be working alongside an American on a NATO exercise? Clause 5 is undoubtedly designed to provide British servicemen with a shield against unreasonable prosecution as a result of working with representatives of other countries who have not signed the Ottawa convention. Whether the clause will effectively do so will no doubt be tested during the debate next week. It is probably true to say that in such circumstances our servicemen are expected to keep operations including landmines at arm's length, but how long is your arm? I apologise, but I cannot resist picking up a remark from the noble Baroness during the course of her opening speech. She said that we must not expect servicemen to risk their liberty for carrying out their duty. That is exactly what this Government and the previous government have been doing in certain cases which have come to your Lordships' notice recently.
Clause 5 permits a wide range of activity, in fact everything, it would seem, except actually laying a landmine. That will need to be explained. The terms of the Bill, as several noble Lords pointed out, are not in accordance with the wording of the convention and there are many inconsistencies that will have to be explored. Some aspects of the Bill seem to resemble the old but important question of how many angels can be fitted on the point of a pin. British personnel would seem to be allowed to be involved in planning an operation provided they do not carry it out themselves. Perhaps they will keep coolies for that.
When the United States of America, Russia and China, among other countries, sign the convention the situation will be very much easier. At present there are 24 signatories and, as we know, the convention becomes valid at 40. But which 40? It is important that those countries which might be thought likely to use anti-personnel landmines should be among those who
Numbers and types of landmines also present difficulties. Explanations will be required as to which types fall inside or outside the convention and the terms of the Bill. I cannot resist the remark that such considerations are easier to debate and to consider within your Lordships' House than in the field. The Mines Advisory Group names six varieties of scatterable mines used by the Americans alone. They may or may not contain anti-handling devices which turn them from legitimate anti-tank mines into indiscriminating anti-personnel mines. To what extent does the fitting of an anti-handling device bring the weapon into proscription under the terms of the Bill? Drawing the line between the different devices is extremely difficult, not least because of the problems of definition. Not unnaturally the Ministry of Defence considers details of the fusing mechanism to be classified information and will not release it.
I am sorry that we have not had the opportunity of hearing the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, although I am grateful to him for being in his place throughout the debate. There is undoubtedly the question of how far the defence requirements of this country are damaged by banning anti-personnel landmines. My noble friend Lord Vivian touched on that point. With respect to him, the Bill is an emotional question and not a strategic defence question, but there are problems which I should have liked answered.
The different kinds of weapon will be covered in Committee, such as the Claymore mine. If it is fired by trip wire it is banned by the Ottawa convention, if by command wire it is not. It is not that difficult to change the system between one and the other. Soldiers in the field may well feel, when they get there, that the preservation of their lives by the use of anti-personnel mines, by converting a non-anti-personnel mine into an anti-personnel mine, may outweigh the importance of the chance of prosecution under the Bill.
We have two problems in the Bill: the definition of mines and Clause 5. There is a third problem, which is the destruction of landmines. That is a very important point. However, I would like to say to the Minister that obviously we entirely support the Bill. If there is any help, advice or constructive criticism or answers to constructive criticism which arise between now and next week, we will be only too delighted to do everything we can to assist the proper progress and completion of the Bill.
The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, is correct in saying that my noble friend and I will have to look carefully at the points raised. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, that, although he was deprived of the wisdom of my noble friend Lord Gilbert today, he will have it in full measure next week. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, for reminding me that I too should declare my membership of the Red Cross, and I do so now.
My noble friend Lord Rea asked about the numbers involved. Let me reiterate that 122 countries signed the convention when it opened for signature in December last year; the figure is now 128. Of those countries, 24 have to date ratified the convention and several more have indicated that they will do so soon. However, I cannot give my noble friend an exact figure.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vivian, raised some points not raised by other noble Lords. The Government accept that the worldwide elimination of anti-personnel mines will have some consequences for British military capability. However, the Government's view is that the limited utility of anti-personnel mines is far outweighed by the suffering they cause.
Perhaps I can clear up another point. I thought, though I may have been wrong, that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, indicated that the United States did not intend to sign the Ottawa convention. Although the United States has not signed, it announced that it is actively exploring ways to deal with anti-personnel landmines with a view to being able to sign the convention in the year 2006. The noble Lord is right that the historical producers and exporters of anti-personnel mines--for example, China, India and Russia--have also not signed the convention. They argue the need for them to defend their borders. But Her Majesty's Government will continue to urge as many countries as possible to sign and ratify the convention while pursuing the wider ban in other fora, including the conference on disarmament.
In relation to the conference on disarmament, a special co-ordinator has been appointed to gather members' views on how best to take forward work on landmines and it is due to report shortly. We hope that early agreement can be reached on the establishment of a committee to work on landmines, perhaps beginning with a ban on transfers.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and one or two other noble Lords, raised the question of de-mining the Falkland Islands. The Ottawa convention requires us to de-mine all areas under our jurisdiction and control within 10 years, unless we can show good reason why we cannot. Those reasons may include humanitarian, environmental, financial or technical considerations. Those are important points to remember. We are looking carefully at that question and intend to carry out a study into the feasibility and cost of de-mining the islands and are currently considering the best way to take that forward.
The noble Lord also raised questions in relation to booby-traps. The Bill prohibits the use of any weapons classified as anti-personnel mines under the Ottawa convention. An improvised mine placed in or near the ground and detonated by the presence of an individual, whether by pressure, trip wire or other methods, would therefore be covered. Several noble Lords raised that point and I hope that the definitions are helpful. The wider category of booby-traps which have different characteristics from those of anti-personnel mines and are used for different purposes was deliberately not addressed by the Ottawa convention, which focused solely on anti-personnel mines. Use of booby-traps by British forces is constrained by the restriction set out in amended Protocol 2 of the UN Weaponry Convention.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, also asked about costs. I do not want to detain the House too long, but while I can answer some of these points it may be helpful to do so in preparation for next week. Four main categories of cost arise from the convention. There are the administrative costs which will fall to the SCO. They relate to the UK contribution to the costs of meetings of state parties and UK delegations attending such meetings. Such costs are not expected to exceed £75,000 over the next five years. The immediate implementation costs of the convention are £5 million for the destruction of UK anti-personnel landmines--I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, in this regard--which fall to the MoD. As has been noted, we are nearly halfway through that programme of destruction already.
The costs of the MoD filling the capability gap for our Armed Forces in the longer term are still under study and depend on the outcome of operational analysis. Lastly, long-term mine clearance costs could also arise in the Falkland Islands, as I have already indicated. There may also be some costs which arise from the need to review certain support contracts and those will depend on commercial negotiations. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, mentioned the JP233 service contract, which would fall into just that sort of category.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, also asked about other states' anti-personnel mines stored in the UK. There are none, nor will there be any in the future. However, a rather different point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, in relation to United Kingdom overseas territories. We made clear out commitment to the Ottawa convention and our allies--I believe the noble Lord was thinking particularly of the United States--are well aware of that. The United States knows that we hope that it will sign and ratify the convention as quickly as possible.
The Bill applies outside the UK only in respect of UK nationals, Scottish partnerships and bodies incorporated under the law of the UK. There is a power in Clause 29(4) to extend that by means of an Order in Council to our overseas territories and we shall be consulting with the territories and proceeding with the extension as soon as possible.
The noble Lord, Lord Burnham, asked about other mines. The HB876 and the M181A Claymore are classified as anti-personnel mines and are therefore banned by the convention, in what I understand is called the victim initiated mode. Those are horrible words, my Lords, but that is the definition. The UK does not have and will not acquire the Gator mine system. It is not part of the Shielder system, which I have just described. The A2 is an anti-tank mine. The PJRAD Claymore-type mine is command detonated and is not therefore covered by the Ottawa Convention. That is also true of the M181A Claymore in command-detonated mode. I hope that that has given your Lordships extra and helpful information on those points. On a rather different point, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that as far as we are aware--as he was speaking I checked with my officials--every minefield with which the United Kingdom has been involved since the war, whether anti-personnel or anti-tank, has been accurately recorded.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked what we are doing to speed up mine clearance. The UK is supporting efforts to improve de-mining techniques. Ways to do things more cheaply, more safely and indeed more quickly need to be developed and we are looking at technology which will be appropriate in that respect. My colleagues in the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Defence are looking at new initiatives ranging from sophisticated multi-sensors to very simple clearance tools. Research is going on in British universities. We are currently supporting a project at Warwick University's development technology unit to develop equipment that will speed up mine clearance activities. The equipment is now ready to undergo trials overseas. I hope that that answers some of the points quite rightly raised by the noble Baroness about our research effort in that respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, asked a number of questions about consistency between the convention and the legislation. He is quite right. Some of the language used in the definitions and in the Bill is different from the definitions used in the convention. We have sought greater clarity where appropriate but without changing the substance of the definitions. We believe that, if anything, the language in the Bill is tighter than that used in the convention. For example, the Bill covers components which the convention does not.
It is the Government's view that our legislation is in accordance with the aims and conventions of the Ottawa Convention. The kinds of things that have been described as possible abuses of the convention, because of the protection afforded by Clause 5, are not in the Government's view a correct understanding of the legislation before your Lordships. The legislation faithfully and fully puts the Ottawa convention into British legislation. Let me repeat this to your Lordships. It prohibits from using, developing, producing, possessing or transferring anti-personnel landmines or assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone else to do so. That provision will be clearly expressed in the rules of engagement for British troops, a very important point which the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, mentioned and one to which I shall come in a moment or two.
The fact is that Clause 5 simply recognises the reality of the situations in which our forces may find themselves. It does not allow UK personnel to use anti-personnel mines; nor does it allow them to assist, encourage or induce anyone else to do so. My noble friend Lord Kennet used the example that was used by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in another place last week of the sapper, and he seemed to be a little sceptical about that example. I shall give him a second example. Perhaps it is a rather more dramatic example but it is an example of why we need the clause.
In a combined operation British troops may find themselves operating alongside United States forces who are laying mines to protect themselves. If the latter were then to come under enemy fire it is unthinkable for British troops not to defend them, but clearly, that would not be deliberate assistance in laying mines. In those circumstances British troops should not be punished for it. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that that was all very well, but why not publish the rules of engagement? To do that would put our troops at risk. The rules of engagement are set for individual situations and within the general context. I have assured your Lordships what that will be in this respect. We never have published--nor do I believe that any government ever would publish--the rules of engagement for British forces.
The noble Lord also asked about the use of the certificate. It is a way of proving who participated in an operation. It is not a condition of the defence, which is what the noble Lord seemed to imply. The certificate would only be issued when the question of who participated in the operation arose during the course of criminal proceedings. I hope that that helps the noble Lord on that point.
Several noble Lords have asked: if we are to have Clause 5, why do not other countries have it? One noble Lord suggested that some countries had gone so far as to protest to the United Kingdom. I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, who said that there had been Canadian or Australian disapproval on that point. I can assure noble Lords that no such disapproval has been expressed to Her Majesty's Government. However, we spent some time discussing the Canadian interpretive statement on ratification. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was good enough to detail that statement to your Lordships. It should also be remembered that Austria,
The question then arose as to why there could not be a similar declaration in respect of the United Kingdom. The Government take the view that the mere incorporation of a declaration along the lines of the Canadian declaration, simply would not give British troops the unequivocal protection they need when participating in the conduct and planning of operations with countries not bound by the convention.
The spirit of Clause 5 is very close to the declaration, but the clause takes a form appropriate to our domestic law. It takes account of the complications of that law such as the potential liability for a conspiracy or aiding or abetting.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary in another place last week made it very clear that the law officers concurred with the points made in Clause 5. My right honourable and learned friend the Attorney- General explicitly made his own position clear last week. He agreed entirely with what my right honourable friend said on this point. I and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, may not be lawyers, but very learned lawyers indeed have been able to give us the benefit of their advice on this point.
Perhaps I may cover the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on the use of mines for training. The Bill does not set out how many mines may be retained for training purposes in de-mining. It allows the minimum number necessary to be retained. The convention allows them to be retained for training, detection and clearance purposes and also destruction. The Bill does no more than reproduce that position in the convention.
My noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester asked about mine victims. We have contributed to the international assistance for victims of landmines through our support of the ICRC, the World Health Organisation and non-governmental organisations. Last year we contributed £1.15 million to the ICRC for programmes to assist these victims.
Much of what we have discussed has been about NATO inter-operability. As I have said, the United States has said that it hopes to sign the convention in the year 2006. But it is not just about operating alongside the Americans. Without Clause 5 our troops could not operate alongside forces belonging to states which are not bound by the convention. In NATO that includes Turkey. Elsewhere it might include Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait. I am sure that noble Lords are not really suggesting that any state, which is not a signatory of the Ottawa convention, thereby forfeits any expectation of assistance from allies or friends were such a state to be invaded.
I think that I have covered all the main points, so I turn finally to de-mining. The United Kingdom has an extremely good record in terms of assistance to the global humanitarian de-mining action. We are one of the world's leading bilateral donors. The DfID is doubling expenditure on de-mining activities and the FCO has
Many noble Lords have singled out those whose contributions to bringing us to the point of this legislation have been quite outstanding. I should like to pay one further tribute, to Mr. Christopher Howes, a brave British man who was involved in de-mining work in Cambodia. He was kidnapped and he lost his life by doing that valuable, selfless, difficult and dangerous work. His is not a famous name; it is not really well known, but he was one of the true heroes.
We should all remember the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, with all his experience and expertise, when he said that what we need now is to set a good example. I commend the Bill to the House.