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Baroness Williams of Crosby: Nothing is as tedious as repetition in a House which wishes to consider this Bill urgently. Therefore I shall not repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has eloquently said. I merely want to put one question and advance one other argument briefly in support of what he said.

The Ottawa Convention is, as he pointed out, extremely tightly phrased. Article 1 makes it quite clear that to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party under this convention, to assist, encourage or induce the laying of landmines or the use of landmines is contrary to the convention. Article 19 states, in terms, that no reservation of any kind is accepted to the convention. That is a tight wording and was intended so to be.

Our concern about Clause 5 is quite simple. We are concerned whether it is legally compatible with the acceptance and signature of the convention. In the other place the Foreign Secretary said,


The real problem with this statement of similarity is that the Government of Canada are relying upon a statement and not upon primary legislation to express their concern about some aspects of the convention with respect to joint operations. The United Kingdom Government is being asked to pass primary legislation to ensure that that reservation is made.

Therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, has done, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, has indicated, and as I indicated on an earlier amendment, it is legitimate to ask whether Her Majesty's Government are wholly satisfied that Clause 5 is legally compatible--and not subject to challenge in the international courts--with the signature of the convention. Although we all wish to see this convention on the statute book and to accept that this Bill is a vehicle for doing that, it is reasonable to ask that question because it would be embarrassing for Her Majesty's Government if that question cannot be answered in the affirmative.

Baroness Rawlings: I welcome the opportunity now that we have moved into Committee stage to speak to our first amendment on Clause 5; to be able to scrutinise this Bill more closely; and to have the opportunity to put once again my questions that were left unanswered at Second Reading.

I have read the Minister's wind-up speech carefully in Hansard but have failed to find the answers to my three simple questions. I do not wish to question the very able Minister's competence. However, I see the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General on the Front Bench and the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. We all have great confidence in the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, and of course in the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. I wish to ask them some questions.

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Will this Bill, attached to the treaty--as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, said--stand up in the international courts? How will our forces co-operate in manoeuvres with those of our NATO allies whose governments are not party to the convention? How have the French and Germans who have signed the treaty dealt with this problem? Have they made a declaration? Have they ratified the treaty with a similar Clause 5? If neither is the case, will their failure to have done so necessarily exclude them from participating in NATO manoeuvres? We were promised a declaration by the Minister in the other place but have not yet received it. However, I understand from the noble Baroness in her speech at Second Reading--I quote a little more at length than the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich--that,


    "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".--[Official Report, 17/7/98; col. 541.]

Why do we need a declaration then? Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, could tell me.

I have a few more problems with which I hope he may be able to help me. I know that landmines have been touched on by the first amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Burnham. However, an ICRC pamphlet entitled The Ottawa Treaty Explained states,


    "The definition of an anti-personnel mine laid down in the Ottawa Treaty--see Articles 2, paragraphs 1 and 2--covers all personnel-activated mines irrespective of whether they are placed in the ground, in marked minefields, or remotely delivered over large areas. It also includes the so-called Smart anti-personnel mine, mines which have the capacity to self-destruct or self-deactivate, i.e. mines that are programmed to automatically explode or become inert after a set period of time. However, owing to recent developments in landmine technology"--

which I think was mentioned earlier by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig--


    "the traditional distinction between anti-personnel mines and anti-vehicle mines is becoming blurred. Several types of mine have been developed which can be considered to have dual purpose".

If this is so, how will our forces be able to guarantee their security and defensive positions when under pressure from opposing forces? The minefields that our forces deploy are, I gather, recorded in great detail and marked on the ground.

A friend of mine has just returned from one of his many trips in Afghanistan. He described to me the revolutionary type of fighting which mainly causes all these horrors which he personally witnessed. I will not go into the awful detail. The problem in Afghanistan lies with the guerrillas who lay the mines anywhere without recording their location. Some 90 per cent. of the mines used in these situations come from the old eastern bloc. It is these and similar situations that we need to address seriously too.

At Second Reading the Minister mentioned de-mining and it has been referred to by my noble friend Lady Chalker of Wallasey. De-mining is so vitally important that I felt it should be mentioned again today. I urge the Minister to look at the most effective way to help the situation by funding non-governmental organisations

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such as Halo so that they have the best equipment for locating and destroying the explosive items. Given such funds, they will be able to train and organise local volunteers in the skills required for the task.

Like my noble friends Lord Burnham and Lord Moynihan, I repeat that I am in favour of the spirit of the Bill. I merely wanted to clarify the apparent conflict between the convention and Clause 5. I greatly look forward to the answer.

12.30 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: I wish to ask one or two questions in relation to Clause 5 regarding the ratification of the treaty and lodging the treaty with the UN. Have any countries indicated whether they will challenge the legality of Clause 5, with its implications in terms of Article 19? If a challenge were to be mounted, would that halt the process of lodging the treaty at the UN? I make this point because the Government have indicated that they want to show leadership--as they have done in many fields--in the implementation of work on the banning of anti-personnel landmines. In the light of the fact that 36 countries have ratified the treaty through their own legislative process--though not all have lodged the treaty with the UN--if a challenge is mounted, is it possible that the United Kingdom could fall outside the first 40 countries to ratify? It would be most unfortunate, given the Government's stated wish to be a leader in this issue, if we were to fall outside those first 40 countries. Will the Minister assure the Committee that everything possible will be done to make sure that we are among the first 40 signatories?

Lord Burnham: The three countries whose declaration is published in the convention are Mauritius, Canada and Greece. I cannot resist the thought that it will be an interesting conflict involving those three. As I understand it, the United Kingdom has signed but not ratified the declaration. For the purposes of this debate it would be extremely useful for the Committee to be given the terms of the British declaration. I should be most grateful if the Minister could do so.

Lord Craig of Radley: It helps in considering this point to take a practical example and one that was used in the other place; namely, the sapper who built a bridge over which the troops of a country, which had not signed the convention, were to haul mines. I wish to pose the idea, indeed likelihood, that Hercules or support helicopters could be used to lift personnel and/or mines of another country. The question must be: are the crews of those aircraft protected by Clause 5? From my understanding of the convention it would appear that they would be in breach of its terms.

As I understand it, we draw no distinction between peacekeeping, peace enforcing and warlike operations, whether or not a state of war has been declared. So the position needs to be clear--and I am sure that it would be the wish of all of us--that the crews of aircraft which

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operated in that way would not be charged with a criminal act. I hope that the Minister will help us with that example too.


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