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Mr. Robin Cook: Since the right hon. Gentleman appears to be labouring under a misunderstanding, may I assure him that there is nothing in the Bill that creates an offence that does not already exist in international law and to which British service personnel are not already liable and committed? It is fully reflected in their training. There is no evidence that that has reduced their operational capability. May I remind him that he was part of a Government who set up the International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia?
Mr. Cook: The right hon. Gentleman says that he was not, but we can take it that he was at least complicit, by his membership card, in the actions of that Government. They set up the war crimes tribunal in the full knowledge that there were many thousands of British personnel in the former Yugoslavia. They, rightly, made no exemption for British personnel. Can he cite a single case where the operational effectiveness of British personnel in the former Yugoslavia was impeded by the existence of that tribunal?
Mr. Maude: As I have said on several occasions, if the Opposition had random, fanciful anxieties, the Foreign Secretary would be entitled to dismiss them airily and carry on regardless. However, those anxieties are not simply ours; the most senior member of the British armed forces, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said that he was genuinely worried that the Bill as it is currently drafted would impede military effectiveness.
Mr. Corbyn: In response to my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick), the right hon. Gentleman suggested that the Conservative party believes that the British armed forces should not be covered by the Bill. How would he respond if, for example, the Indonesian Government said that they were happy to sign up to the statute that establishes the International Criminal Court, but that it should not cover the Indonesian armed forces? That would be nonsensical. If we believe in international jurisdiction, it should cover everybody on everything.
Mr. Maude: I am a Member of this Parliament. We have a specific responsibility for members of the British armed forces. We ask them to risk their lives, sometimes in horrific circumstances, fighting for their country. We are the Parliament of that country, and it is therefore our task to voice genuine anxieties about our armed forces' safety, and their ability to operate effectively and discharge the heavy burdens that we place upon them from time to time. I am obliged to express those anxieties, and I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman does not feel able to pick them up.
Although the treaty was negotiated some time ago, the Bill was introduced extremely late. It is now being bounced through on a strict guillotine so that the Foreign Secretary can try to add a little lustre to his chipped and damaged ethical foreign policy.
The Foreign Secretary is trying to force through a Bill that genuinely places in jeopardy the military effectiveness of the British armed forces, so that he can continue his grandstanding and try to repair his discredited ethical foreign policy. The House should not accept that, and I therefore ask hon. Members to support the new clause.
Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): I shall be brief. I wanted to intervene in the speech of the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), but that was not possible. I shall therefore say a few words about the new clause.
The proposal represents a classic Conservative party position: the opt-out. The new clause refers to seven years; it does not state: "for the duration of the next Parliament". Perhaps it means, "for the duration of two Parliaments". However, the right hon. Gentleman has let the cat out of the bag; the new clause represents not an opt-out for seven years, but opposition to the principle of subjecting the British Army to the Bill. That reflects the Conservative party position on the euro. The Opposition claim that they are doing something for a limited period, but only because they know that some of their colleagues would disagree if they stated that an opt-out was
Mr. Gapes: As my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) said, if we accept the new clauses, the British forces would be sending a very interesting message to other countries. If it is good enough for the International Criminal Court to be empowered to act against the armed forces of countries that perhaps do not maintain the scrupulous standards and have the generally exemplary record of our own armed forces, why is it not good enough for those provisions to apply to the British Army when it is serving with the United Nations in Bosnia, doing such an excellent job in Kosovo or protecting human rights and defending democracy in Sierra Leone?
Why should not the sanctions of the International Criminal Court apply to our armed forces, who are not accused of committing war crimes, massacres or human rights abuses--all of which are accusations that have been made against the armed forces of other countries that will be ratifying the International Criminal Court statute?
New clause 3 is a Conservative wrecking amendment. It is designed to wreck the Bill. We had it from the mouth of the right hon. Member for Horsham that Conservative Members' real position is to vote against, or at least not to support this International Criminal Court legislation. The public, the abused non-governmental organisations, and everyone in Churches, pressure groups, campaigns and schools can draw their own conclusions about Conservative Members' attitude to human rights, democracy and international law.
Mr. Maclennan: I had not intended to speak in this debate, but I very much disliked the implication of the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) that the Conservative party is the only party in the House that is
In this century, our troops have been the victims of the defiance of the laws of war not in their tens or hundreds, but in their hundreds of thousands. In the first world war, how many of our people were gassed in defiance of the laws of war? How ineffective have we been in erecting a system of international justice to bring the perpetrators of such atrocities to justice? The reality is that this legislation is a very small step in effectively implementing what the Foreign Secretary has rightly described as existing international public law in relation to the laws of war.
Admiral Sir Michael Boyce was giving evidence on an entirely different matter when he made an incidental remark. I have no reason to believe that anything that he said expressed the view that the Bill should not be given effect. He certainly did not say so in terms.