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I am now concerned that the Whips Office is breaking into my hard drive, because the very next line of my speech is about the Israeli preference for the star of David. Now that the Israelis will be or have been admittedI am not sure whichinto the international
federation, the idea seems to be that they can have the star of David with the crystal around it. If that is correct, I assume that that symbol would provide exactly the same protection under international law as the red crescent.
Who exactly decides who can use the new symbol and where? Will the combination of emblems, such as the star of David and the crescent, be fully operative for indicative and protective purposes in all cases? How will the new emblem affect the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement? Will the crystal be included in any of their titles in future? Will there be a new international crystal organisation?
How do we get the message out there that the symbol means what it means? There are two issues, the first of which is recognition. When I was with ITN in Bosnia, I remember that we had four white, armoured Land Rovers that said ITN unit on the side, but the word unit was bigger than ITN. I remember people in a village one day assuming that we were a military unit because the Land Rover had the word unit on the side, so whether or not people recognise the new symbol is not a trite point.
Mr. Walker: My hon. Friend has raised some interesting points, particularly about how we should educate people about the new symbol. We must not forget, however, that the Red Cross is in favour of the red crystal, as it believes that it will provide further protections to people operating in battlefields and war zones.
Mr. Holloway: I thank my hon. Friend; I sincerely hope that that is the case. I think that everyone in the House wants this to work well. However, there is a possibility of misunderstanding, because the crystal shape is very similar to the markings on maps in operations rooms and to the symbols used on vehicles and in relation to military units. I wish that I had had time to look out some examples, so that I could describe these instances in more detail.
Clause 2 deals with United Nations personnel. The provision obviously reflects the expansion of the UNs work in places such as Rwanda and Bosnia throughout the 1990s. The move to introduce a protocol gained added momentum in 2003 when Iraqi insurgents blew up the UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing 20 people including the special envoy. The expansion of the automatic application of the convention to include peacekeeping operations and emergency humanitarian assistance is obviously very welcome, but will the Minister tell us whether any UN bodies will remain outside the scope of the provision? Emergency humanitarian assistance organisations established by organisations within the UN system and by specialist agencies do not seem to be covered, and I would like some clarification on that.
Mr. Swire: Other examples that my hon. Friend might cite are the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation. I understand that they would not be within the scope of the protocol.
There is also some concern about the number of states that are signing up to the provisions, and perhaps the Minister will clarify that. I think that only 79 countries have signed up, out of the UN membership of 191, and that some of the countries in which the UN is operating have not signed upI understand that only four of the 16 countries in which UN personnel are operating have done so.
Echoing the concern expressed by Lord Howe in another place, I want to ask whether the UN protocol will cover all bodies. Will it, for example, cover the refugee centre in Gaza that my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon and I visited recently? There have been comments about the scope of the previous personnel convention, and it has been suggested that it did not give the amount of cover that it needed to.
How many states are party to the convention on the safety of UN personnel, and how many will be party to the enhancement and extension of it? Also, the new protocol now extends to UN personnel working in more clearly defined circumstances of exceptional risk. That problem has led to complaints by a number of people, including the former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. Now that it will extend beyond the narrower concept of peacekeeping into humanitarian work, how many current operations will be included? There are many such operations in the world at the moment. All reasonable people will wish the measure well and hope that it will have positive effects in the darker corners of the world.
Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): I should like to start by thanking Mr. Speaker, who was in the Chair at the beginning of our proceedings when I raised a point of order. The main act, the Geneva Conventions Act 1957, which we are seeking to amend today, was not available in the Vote Office and the Speaker indicated that he expected action to be taken in that respect. We now have proof of the power of the Chair, because the 1957 Act is now available. I am grateful to the Speaker for facilitating the availability of the original Act.
It is sad, but perhaps an accurate indication of the slim chances of world peace, that we have heard today that the world cannot even agree a single symbol for humanitarian activity. The measure is important, and it raises a number of important questions, some of which my hon. Friends have already raised. Concern has been expressed, for example, about the lack of prosecutions. My concerns run in the other direction, however. I am worried that unnecessary and unreasonable prosecutions might take place if the Bill becomes law.
If we see a white vehicle with a red cross on the side with the words Red Cross painted underneath, we know what that vehicle is. The words Red Cross are deeply embedded in the collective memory of the nation and, indeed, that of many nations. However, would we understand that a vehicle bearing the words Red Crystal represents the same organisation?
It also occurs to me that commercial companies might already be using the name, and perhaps even a similar logo, although they have nothing to do with providing aid or humanitarian services. What will happen
to those companies? Will they be prevented from trading as they are doing now? In the field of commercial law, there exists the term passing off. If a company sets up in business and seeks to emulate an existing, successful company, the new company can be prosecuted for trying to dupe customers into believing that it is the original, successful company. However, if a company using a similar name is operating in a completely different part of the world, and perhaps dealing with an entirely different product, it is often allowed to continue to do so. What would be the position in this case?
The explanatory notes to the Bill are woefully inadequate. Indeed, the Bill itself does not make it clear what will happen. Page 2 of the explanatory notes refers to clause 1, the part of the Bill about which I am concerned. The notes state that
unauthorised use of the emblem will be punishable by a fine up to level 5 on the standard scale.
There are no words to suggest a limitation on the arena of use. The notes do not refer to a battlefield or war zone, for example; they simply refer to the unauthorised use of the emblem. The Bill itself refers not only to the emblem but to designs or wording. We can assume from that that the words Red Crystal could be banned from use by any organisation other than a wing of the Red Cross.
I have suggested that commercial companies might already use the name Red Crystal and a similar logo. I decided to find out whether that was a fanciful view on my part, so, before the debate, I went on to the internet and typed in the words Red Crystal. Lo and behold, up came an advertisement for a display of ladies gowns made by a company called J Style. The range of gowns shown was called Red Crystal. I also discovered that Clare Francis has written a book called Red Crystal, which is already on the bookshelves. Those products both use the two words that we are being invited to approve in the Bill today. We are also being invited to approve the imposition of a level 5 penalty on anyone using those words without authority. Will Clare Francis and her publishers have to remove all those books from the shelves, because the book happens to be called Red Crystal?
Mr. Swire: My right hon. Friend is talking about the words, as opposed to the emblem, but they largely amount to the same thing. According to the Library research paper, page 4 of the impact assessment for the Bill published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 26 November 2008 clearly states:
There were no registered trademarks for goods or services which were the same as or confusingly similar to the red crystal emblem.
Of course my hon. Friend, who is very experienced in the field of business, will know that not every business registers a trade name for a word or collection of words that they may use for a particular product or range of products. Quite clearly, the company called J Style has probably registered the words J Style as a trade name, but it is nevertheless currently selling a range of ladies dresses called Red Crystal and has been doing so for some time. It seems to me that if it is to be prevented from doing thatmy hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) made this pointit should have registered the trade name. If it is to be
prevented from selling that range by our changing the law, does he agree that there should at least be some provision for compensation and that there should be no question of that company being punished? It was using the name first, so the Minister needs to make it clear that people are not going to be prosecuted for doing something that is lawful today, that will be lawful tomorrow, but that will not be lawful from the day when she decides to invoke this Bill into law, if we pass it, as use of the words Red Crystal will be unauthorised.
I have also discovered that there is apparently a group of musiciansI do not know whether it is a rock group or a pop groupwho call themselves Red Crystal. [Interruption.] No, I am not a member of that group, but there is a band called Red Crystal and it has already released, I believe, a number of records. Will it be prevented from using that name in future?
Mr. Hayes: I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has given way, but I am surprised, given his encyclopaedic knowledge of such matters, that he knows nothing about the group Red Crystal. Having said that, he has made a serious point about universality. As I am sure that he will acknowledge, the point is that if we compromise universality, which lies at the heart of the principle of displaying a red cross or a red crescent, we will endanger lives.
Mr. Chope: Having regard to the previous short discussion, does my right hon. Friend accept my concern that what is described in the regulatory impact assessment as the small firms impact test is a wholly inadequate account of what issues are raised by the wording of the Bill and the use of the red crystal symbol?
I asked the Minister in an intervention whether she would assure the House that there is no conflict with the European convention on human rights, as the effect of clause 1 is such, in my view, that it might be considered a control on the use of property within the meaning of article 1 of the first protocol of the ECHR. She said that she felt that it was fully compliant and that there was no problem in that respect, but in the light of the cases that I have indicated, where we have a book, a business and a group of musicians all using the name Red Crystalthis is just on the basis of page 1 of my search, as I did not have enough time to do any more research, so there may well be many other companies in the UK and outside it using the same wordsI want to know whether, if those bodies are operating in such a way that is quite clear that they are not seeking to pass themselves off as a division of the Red Cross and are not in any way involved in humanitarian aid, they will be allowed to continue to use those words either for a product range or as a trading name.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con):
My right hon. Friend has raised an incredibly important and perceptive point, as this could lead to the oppression
of people who are just following their normal business. The problem is not just for this House, however, because this is an international agreement that will affect other countries. Surely the Minister should answer not only for this House and this country, but for the other parties to the agreement.
Mr. Knight: As I expect from my right hon. Friend, that is a telling intervention, and I hope that when the Minister later answers the points that I have raisedshould the House give her leave to reply to the debate, which I hope that it willshe will also cover my right hon. Friends particular point. It is important that those charged with maintaining authorised use of the logo and the words do not go over the top and seek to interfere with perfectly innocent commercial operations that may have been using the words for some considerable time.
My other question to the Minister relates to the use of the new symbol. I asked her in an interventionnow that she has had a bit more time to think about it, perhaps she will reply in her summing upwho will decide where the new symbol is used and where the new phrase Red Crystal is implemented? Will it be the British Foreign Office, where British aid workers or British personnel are involved? If so, the Foreign Office will presumably keep a register of sensitive countries that do not like the Red Cross. Will that document be accessible to the public? Will we all be able to know which countries, should any conflict arise therein, will not have a detachment sent there called the Red Cross, but will accept the red crystal? Will that information be available to the public? As two of my hon. Friends have already asked, will there be a new international organisation calling itself red crystal that will actually be used in such situations?
I hope that I have not sounded too much of a discordant note in this debate. There are very real concerns regarding the commercial sector, so I hope that the Minister can satisfy me when she answers the debate later. I hope to hear what she has to say later, but I should perhaps say out of courtesy that I am due to chair a Select Committee in about an hours time, so I may miss some of the proceedings.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): I do not intend to detain the House very long on what I think is a fairly uncontentious Bill. This is one of those debates in respect of which, as it is has progressed this afternoon, hon. Members have made points that warrant discussion in greater detail. Although I understand the history and evolution of the Red Cross brand, it is worth pausing to think, if only for a moment, whether we are on the way to diluting that brand, thus rendering it more ineffective than effective in so many of the countries in which it plays so critical a role. How long will it be, I wonder, before someone says that the Red Cross is no longer the appropriate term to cover UN aid agencies, given the fact that we have the Red Crescent, the red crystal and other organisations? Will we have to go through a rebranding exercise? I am sure that nobody would want that to happen, but some might argue that it is the next logical stage.
I think it is worth pausingwith your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker, as I do not want to depart too much from the meat of the Billto recognise the role
that men and women under the umbrella organisations of the UN are playing in countries around the world. It is rather sobering to read what the noble Lord Malloch-Brown, a shadow Foreign Office Minister in the House of Lords, said. [Interruption.] As the Minister has recognised, I made a Freudian slip in saying that he is a shadow Minister when he is of course the real thing. He said:
One of the darkest clouds of my latter years at the UN was the severity and growing frequency of attacks on UN humanitarian workers.[ Official Report, House of Lords, 27 January 2009; Vol. 707, c. 197.]
The increase in the number of attacks is worth bearing in mind. In 1996, three ICRC relief workers in Burundi were killed while travelling in a vehicle clearly marked with Red Cross emblems. In 1999, four ICRC staff were killed by the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army in south Sudan. They had been abducted in February, and were executed in April. In 2001, six ICRC workers were killed in Ituri Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while travelling in two vehicles marked with Red Cross emblems. Also in 2001, a Red Cross plane was shot down in Sudan and the co-pilot was killed. In 2003, five ICRC staff were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq following the bombing of the ICRCs headquarters in Baghdad in a suicide attack. In 2007, a Red Crescent driver was seriously injured in an attack on a Somali Red Crescent pick-up truck clearly marked with the Red Crescent emblem.
Mr. Hayes: My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to those outrages, but I hope he will consider a question that seems to me to be at the heart of our discussion: whether the attacks were motivated specifically by the symbolism of the cross or crescent, or whether they would have happened regardless of the symbol. If the second is true, the adoption of a new symbol will not help one jot.
Mr. Swire: My hon. Friend has made an extremely good point. I am not privy to information on why those convoys, individuals and headquarters were attacked, but they were clearly marked in a way that showed them to be part of the UN family, and I should have thought that anyone who attacked them would know that. But my hon. Friend is absolutely right: the idea that a red crescent, a red cross or a red crystal constitutes some form of armour protecting people from a would-be attacker is wishful thinking and, alas, an erroneous assumption.
I can cite no better example than the bombing of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency headquarters in Gaza, which my hon. Friend mentioned earlier, and which is now being subjected to international examination following the visit to Gaza of the head of the UN. AllegedlyI stress the word allegedlywhite phosphorus was used, in direct contravention of the laws of warfare. I do not know whether white phosphorus was used or not, but UN workers showed me where in the compound it had allegedly been used. I was told that it was white phosphorus and that it had definitely been used. I was also shown the burned out storage facility where medical supplies, in particular, were stored for the people of
Gaza. What is worse, the Israeli defence forces knew exactly where that compound was. Of course they did. I had been there myself only the previous year, as had many other Members.
Furthermore, UNRWA had provided the Israeli defence forces with the co-ordinates of that building when it first came under attack. There had been a remote triangular conversation between UNRWA, an Israeli general and Jerusalem, but that did not prevent a sustained attack on the compound, with accompanying damage to UN vehicles and properties which were clearly marked as such.
The answer to my hon. Friends question is no. It is not possible to say whether the emblem performed the role of litmus paper and attracted an incoming attack like a magnet, but it is certain that in that instance it provided no protection whatsoever.
Mr. Swire: No, it would not have made the slightest difference. I do not believe that even the most resilient crystal could resist the pressure of an incoming attack. I do not think a crystal affords any protection at all. I shall say something shortly about the punishment for those who misuse such emblems in war and those who abuse them by not recognising the international sanctity that should surely be afforded them.
Perhaps I could have the Ministers attention for a moment. She might wish to hear what I am about to say. Under the heading Territorial Extent and Application, the explanatory notes accompanying the Bill state:
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