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Perhaps I may first put aside the amendments to Clause 50. I assume from what the Minister said that there will be Orders in Council and that they will be handled by affirmative resolution. Unless I am checked on that matter, I am to some extent satisfied. I fully accept that those reservations lie outside the Rome Statute, that Parliament will be fully involved and that the affirmative resolution procedure will apply.
Secondly, I repeat--the noble and learned Lord repeated it and we all repeated it to each other--that we recognise that reservations are not allowed under the Rome Statute. That is why the amendment, which specifically mentions reservations because they are relevant to other treaties, emphasises the point about declarations. It simply asks that Parliament should be involved in the process leading up to such declarations as Her Majesty's Government will put down at the time of ratifying the statute in the ratification status document.
I am afraid that, although the noble and learned Lord promised not to lose contact over these matters, he did not address the central issue of whether Parliament should be properly involved. I shall turn in a moment to the broader question raised fascinatingly by the noble Lord, Lord Lester, about the extent to which Parliament should be involved in any treaty arrangements or to what extent the Royal Prerogative prevails. In this case, which I shall argue is a special case and not a precedent-setting case, the right of Parliament to know what is happening is very strong and can be reasonably pressed.
Behind the issue is the worry, which was addressed with great eloquence by the noble Lord, Lord Shore, that these war crimes are widely drafted and need the most careful guardianship with assessment. We raised the matter at earlier stages of the Bill and this is the point where suitable declarations ought to be drafted and brought before Parliament in order to reassure those who are worried and to safeguard our Armed Forces and other people.
We shall turn to the responsibility of commanders when we debate Amendment No. 6. We shall also debate matters relating to the Manual of Military Law and to what extent it covers, and has long since covered, all these issues and all the various definitions of war crimes. The noble and learned Lord was kind enough to give us a long history of the way in which the
However, with the greatest respect to the noble and learned Lord, all that is extremely interesting but, to use his own words, it completely misses the point. The point is that whether or not the crimes were previously on the statute book, we are now introducing a new and higher jurisdiction which may, in some cases we are not willing to investigate, want to press the matter. This is a new aspect, a new dimension, to an existing situation. It is no defence to say that because for years and years we have recognised these as international crimes everything is as before. Everything is not as before. The Bill is proof that we are trying to change things; we are trying to introduce a new jurisdiction. We welcome that in principle, but it means that we must be 10 times more careful in our handling of the definitions of these war crimes.
The noble and learned Lord urges that we be at the forefront in carrying forward the project. Indeed, other noble Lords have spoken again and again about the need for the United Kingdom to set an example and be among the founder members and so forth. I suggest to Ministers and to the noble and learned Lord that there are two ways in which we can best be an exemplar and a role model. First, we must try to bring along the great United States, which has enormous concerns. Its non-participation will come close to wrecking the project; it will severely question the plausibility and credibility of the International Criminal Court if we cannot get the Americans to move further than merely signing with reservations. We shall debate the American position in a moment, so I shall not go into more detail. However, everyone is agreed that American involvement would be a huge advance and to take steps to encourage that would set a fine example. However, they have made it absolutely clear that they are opposed to ratification, and General Colin Powell repeated that again recently.
The second way in which we should set an example would be to reassure our Armed Forces and to do so in ways which show that we recognise that there is a new situation. For all the rules of engagement, and for all the war crimes which have been adopted as international crimes since 1909, there is a new situation in which a higher jurisdiction may--not always, of course--want to involve itself at the instigation of an independent prosecutor who will not come under British jurisdiction.
Would our humble amendment, which merely asks that Parliament should know about the Government's concerns and how they will be reflected before the statute is ratified, set a precedent? I do not believe that it would. Your Lordships' House does not necessarily set precedents. Furthermore, perhaps I may say in good heart to the noble Lord, Lord Lester, that I do not believe that it would be carrying democracy over the top and to too great an extent. We merely ask that Parliament be informed and that a report be laid while
The truth is that this is a different kind of treaty. It brings into our statute law a whole range of crimes from the international criminal code book. It means that the higher jurisdiction could penetrate deep into the lives of our citizens and Armed Forces, our commanders and superior officers, and even possibly our political leaders, in a way that has never happened previously. To query how we handle that is not to oppose the principle, with which we on this side of the House agree. We merely believe that the best way forward is to make this project effective, which means that we must bring along the Americans and ensure that our own Armed Forces and others do not believe that they have been further hobbled.
The range of crimes, to some of which the noble Lord, Lord Shore, referred, sounds rather fearsome. As I child, I remember receiving a message that my father had escaped from the second siege of Tobruk, which very much pleased me. It never occurred to me, and I am sure to him, that war crimes were involved. It is very difficult to define a siege and a military objective. Those matters have been on a list of international crimes and are now coming onto our statute book. I believe it is right that we should have some protective declarations to reassure our people that these matters will be handled in a sensible, mature and wise way. In so doing that will merely reflect the concerns expressed by our neighbour France, Israel, the debates in the Canadian and New Zealand Parliaments, although they are enthusiastic supporters, and the most learned minds in the United States. We should not be afraid of keeping such company. I believe that we should pursue the action set out in the amendment.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I gathered that the noble Lord was coming to his conclusion. Since he put a question to me earlier I thought it better to allow him to develop his theme. I hope that I have not intervened too early in order to assist him and the House. The noble Lord asked me a particular question about Clause 50. I should not like the noble Lord to proceed on a misapprehension. Clause 50, which draws on the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act 1995, makes provision by Order in Council. The Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee did not comment adversely on that and call for the affirmative resolution procedure. I do not want the noble Lord to proceed on an incorrect basis.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, that is a further disappointment and does not in any way impede me from uttering the final sentence of my speech. I propose that the opinion of your Lordships' House be tested upon this amendment.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
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