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House of Lords

Monday, 5th October 1998.

Reassembling after the Summer Recess, the House met at half-past two of the clock: The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Boston of Faversham) on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Ely.

Baroness Crawley

Mrs Christine Mary Crawley, having been created Baroness Crawley, of Edgbaston in the County of West Midlands, for life--Was, in her robes, introduced between the Lord Whitty and the Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury

Andrew Wyndham Phillips, Esquire, OBE, having been created Baron Phillips of Sudbury, of Sudbury in the County of Suffolk, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Holme of Cheltenham and the Lord Browne-Wilkinson.

The Earl of Listowel (Lord Hare)--Sat first in Parliament after the death of his father.

Lord Nunburnholme--Sat first in Parliament after the death of his brother.

Landmines Act 1998: Application

2.47 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will seek to make it publicly clear that the Landmines Act 1998 applies to anti-personnel mines only.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to assure the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that the Landmines Act 1998, like the Ottawa Convention, applies only to anti-personnel mines. This is made very clear in the Act and should be clear also from recent public and parliamentary debates and statements.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her reply because clarification was certainly needed after the Bill was rushed through Parliament just before the Recess, but why did the Foreign Secretary in his speech introducing the Bill--the noble Baroness mentioned parliamentary debates--mention landmines 32 times but not once utter the words "anti-personnel"? As he stated then that three-quarters of Britain's landmines would soon be destroyed, to what

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extent does that include anti-tank landmines, which are a vital defensive weapon for our troops and are not prohibited by any international convention?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, there is absolutely no question of anti-tank mines being included in anything to do with the Bill or anything to do with the Ottawa Convention, both of which are quite simply all about anti-personnel landmines. According to the media the person in the street may tend to think that a landmine is what blows up little children, but he thinks of anti-tank mines as something different. However, it is clear that only anti-personnel landmines are covered by the Act.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, will the noble Baroness add to her remarks, if not today, on a future occasion, and make sure that a report is presented to both Houses of Parliament on the progress offered on the destruction of anti-personnel landmines in overseas countries? This was referred to on a number of occasions during the brief debates mentioned by my noble friend. The first day back is a good chance to remind the Government that they agreed to a progress report to Parliament. Until such progress is made, further development in Africa and the developing world cannot take place. Food cannot be grown in fields still littered with anti-personnel landmines.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right. In October 1997 the Secretary of State for Defence announced a five-point plan to increase the MoD's contribution to humanitarian de-mining. Since then, various actions have been taken and assistance given. Perhaps I may mention just one major development; namely, the establishment of a mine information and training centre at Minley. That is now the UK landmine focal point for mine awareness training and it provides guidance to other government departments, non-governmental organisations, academics and industry. The Government also have various links with organisations such as the HALO Trust.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, were any objections raised by other countries, especially concerning Section 5 of the Landmines Act, when the legislation was lodged with the UN?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, so far as I am aware, nothing was raised in relation to Section 5. We have now ratified the convention and I know of no points that were raised. If I am wrong, I will write to the noble Lord.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, during the passage of the Bill I moved an amendment which attempted to define exactly what is the difference between an anti-personnel mine and any other form of mine. The amendment was probably faultily phrased; however is there not at least an argument for a definition of "anti-personnel"?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, it is clearly defined in the Ottawa Convention as to what

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kind of mine is anti-personnel and what is not. As the noble Lord will know better than I, having been through the detailed debate on the Bill, there are many mines which are not covered by the Ottawa Convention. However, we are clear as to what is an anti-personnel landmine, as are the other signatories and those who have ratified the convention.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the laying of anti-personnel landmines is now an offence that can be tried before the International Criminal Court? At what point does that provision come into operation? If people are continuing to lay anti-personnel mines now, will they later be brought to trial at the International Criminal Court, or is it necessary to wait until a certain number of states have ratified the convention?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, no states which have ratified the convention will lay anti-personnel landmines. The noble Lord will be aware that the United Kingdom Government announced that immediately on ratifying the convention on 31st July this year it became the case that no British Armed Forces personnel would lay landmines, although that is in advance of the demands in the Ottawa Convention. Those that have not signed the Ottawa Convention will continue to use landmines when they feel that it is militarily necessary. All we can do is make every effort to persuade as many countries as possible to sign and ratify the Ottawa Convention.

Energy Efficiency: Promotion

2.57 p.m.

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, with the object of promoting energy efficiency, they will encourage the application to the gas sector of energy efficiency standards of performance, as operated in the electricity sector.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, under the present Electricity and Gas Acts, energy efficiency standards of performance are a matter for the regulators. I am sure that the new gas regulator will, among many other matters, be considering standards of performance in relation to the gas sector. The Government have welcomed the success of schemes carried out under the electricity standards of performance since 1994. These will, over their lifetime, have improved the comfort of over 200,000 homes and cut householders' electricity bills by over £400 million. The standards also help reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The Government expect, shortly, to publish a consultation paper on the options for achieving their climate change objectives. This will assess the scale of the reductions necessary and the policy options to deliver those reductions. Among the options that will be considered in the consultation will be new energy

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efficiency standards of performance in the gas and electricity industries in the context of the proposed new regulatory regime.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that positive reply. I am delighted to learn that this excellent scheme could shortly be extended to gas. Is the noble Lord aware that the CO 2 savings achieved under the scheme since it started in 1994 would, if continued until 2010, contribute no less than 12 per cent to the Government's ambitious target? If gas were brought into the scheme that percentage could be virtually doubled. Is the Minister further aware of the cheapness of the scheme so far as consumers are concerned, in that they contribute only £1 per annum--that is less than 2p per week--and that the working of the scheme has shown that the savings cost 1.8 pence per unit of electricity, whereas it costs 2.5 pence to produce that electricity, on top of which there are distribution charges? Does the Minister agree that those figures indicate that it is far cheaper to put money into saving electricity than into producing it?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I agree with most of the noble Lord's statement. Saving under the scheme has been substantial. As the noble Lord said, it will make a substantial contribution towards meeting our rather difficult target. It will, however, be a matter for the regulator as to how far there is a direct read-across into the gas sector. We hope to see some progress on that front, as well. As the noble Lord says, there are benefits to the consumer as well as to the environment and to the sourcing of energy.

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