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Lord Mishcon: My Lords, perhaps I may be permitted for one very brief moment, before the Bill completes its passage through your Lordships' House, as one who had the privilege for some time of being the Princess of Wales' legal adviser and of being called her friend, to say that I know how gratified she would have been at the lead taken by Her Majesty's Government in this cause, which was so dear to her heart, and how grateful she would have been to the Members of your Lordships' House on all sides and of another place for expediting the passage of this measure through Parliament. It will indeed now be remembered, on the imminent anniversary of her tragic death, as having been in substantial part inspired by her deep dedication to this cause in a life which was all too short.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I would like to follow the noble Lord in his tribute to Diana's work. It is one that I am sure we all share. The last time I went to a conference on landmines the speech was made by Diana. It is a very valid point that she brought the eyes of the world to this problem.
I would like briefly to sum up the position we hold. In our objections and amendments, I hope that we have not given the impression that we do not believe that the Government will stick very closely to the spirit of the Ottawa Convention. We applaud the work that has been done by all Ministers concerned in pushing this issue forward. It is an issue that has been close to our hearts on these Benches. It is a wonderful feeling to know that this Bill is going through after numerous debates over the years in this place. A very positive step is being taken.
I understand why the Government put forward Clause 5. I thank the Solicitor-General for putting forward extremely clear and concise reasoning for Clause 5, which we can accept on the Liberal Democrat Benches. We found it unfortunate that this clause came to light so recently. That has been the cause of some of our concern. That is not the fault of the Government, but due to the fact that this legislation was announced only a few weeks ago. I thank all noble Lords for pushing forward this matter in such a rapid way. I hope that, once it is passed, it can be lodged with the UN as quickly as possible so that we are one of the first 40 to ratify the convention.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I could not echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, but I believe that this is one of the best things that this House and this Government will have ever done. I thank the noble Baroness. I know what she may have faced in the Foreign Office and in the Ministry of Defence in getting this legislation through both Houses so quickly. I also thank the Solicitor-General for his wise words this morning. Oh that they had come a little earlier. We would have saved a little more time.
I do not want to detract from this very real step. As a trustee of the British Red Cross, I know that I shall now be able to encourage Red Cross and Red Crescent societies across the rest of the world that they should get on with this matter. It is a necessary step, but it is not one that we can believe is the end
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I wish to add my tribute to the tremendous work done by a number of non-governmental organisations in this field including the Red Cross and many others. They have devoted themselves to briefing all Members of this House and in another place as regards this Bill. They do their work without payment and often without recognition. It is very important that that is part of the glory of civic society in this country in making that kind of contribution.
Perhaps I may add my own words to what has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker. The convention makes it plain that the removal of mines is as much part of the object as the prevention of the laying of mines. In that context, I believe that many peacekeeping forces already deployed by the United Nations contain within it expertise on raising mines. I think, for example, of the Russian forces in Abkhazskaya and Georgia. I hope that the Foreign Office will give some consideration as to whether we can, together with the United Nations, ensure that people with such knowledge are used for the purpose rather than, as it were, stand to one side while minefields continue to exist. Raising landmines is as important as preventing the laying of new minefields.
I conclude with my thanks to the Ministers on the Front Bench, the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, and the Solicitor-General for the way in which they have steered this Bill through the
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I echo the expressions of gratitude and appreciation for the Government Ministers involved in the passage of this Bill and for the Liberal Democrat spokesmen and especially to my colleagues on the Front Bench. Seeing that the Government Chief Whip is in his seat, I am not sure that he will fully echo my next remarks. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. The reason I thank him is because, had it not been for his intervention today, we might not have had the excellent and much appreciated contribution from the noble and learned Lord the Solicitor-General. My colleagues and I are also very grateful.
The Landmines Bill is one of the important and humane breakthroughs of our time. It has been an honour for my colleagues and I to participate in the process of the elimination of one of the most malignant scourges of this century and to pass the relevant legislation.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I am the last person left on these Benches. On behalf of the Cross-Benches, both noble and gallant, humanitarian and otherwise, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for his tribute to Princess Diana who has worked closely with many of the voluntary organisations. I add the thanks of the Cross-Benches to noble Lords of all parties who have participated in the working on and passing of the Bill.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their expressions of thanks and appreciation. The Princess of Wales has rightly been mentioned in your Lordships' remarks. I would also like to mention the many quietly dedicated and committed people around the world who have worked selflessly for the eradication of landmines either through their legislative processes or through putting their own lives at risk. Those many countless people should not be forgotten.
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