some default text...

Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister agree that at least 20,000 new jobs were created in tourism in the year to March 1996? Does he further agree that the industry has the potential for creating over 250,000 new jobs in tourism in the next 10 years? Bearing that in mind, does my noble friend agree that any change in that level of investment in future jobs--and I am thinking of the proposed minimum wage and the introduction of the 48 hour-week directive, which are so favoured by the Opposition--would have a really serious impact on the number of jobs and on the level of service for the future in this fiercely competitive global market?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, my noble friend is quite correct. It is clear that the directive would have serious implications if applied to the tourism, leisure and hospitality industries. The British Hospitality Association has said that it could affect 15 per cent. of the workforce of the hospitality industry and cost up to £100 million per year.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, as noble Lords opposite have so inappropriately introduced politics into the matter, can the Minister confirm that the balance of trade on tourism under this Government, which was always in surplus under the Labour Government, has in fact, for the first time in history, turned into deficit? Does the noble Earl further agree that the key to the future success of our tourist industry is nothing to do with the marginal matters mentioned but lies in two areas: first, we must improve the quality of our product, mainly through investment in training; and, secondly, we must invest in marketing? Can the Minister say why the Government have no visible, coherent strategy to achieve that aim?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I was glad to hear that the noble Lord considers matters of yesterday as only "marginal" as regards the business of this country. The noble Lord also commented about the deficit on our balance of trade on tourism. Of course, since we came to power in 1979, people have been able to afford to go on holiday abroad--

Noble Lords: Oh!

The Earl of Courtown: Of course, they are very lucky to be able to go abroad on holiday. Indeed, I try to do so occasionally; but I also holiday in this country. When people think of their holidays, it is just as important for them to consider visiting attractions in this country. I know that I have not answered all of the noble Lord's questions, but, if he would like to repeat them, I might try again.

13 Nov 1996 : Column 935

Falklands: Landmine Clearance

3.2 p.m.

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many landmines have been cleared in the Falklands since the end of hostilities there; what has been the cost of this operation; and what is the estimate of the number of landmines still to be cleared and the area of land affected.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): My Lords, about 4,300 landmines have been cleared since the end of hostilities in the Falklands. We believe that there are still around 26,000 landmines in nearly 120 separate minefields, covering some 20 square kilometres of ground. It is not possible to determine how much mine clearing activities have cost since the end of hostilities as these records are not held centrally. There is currently an eight-strong team in the Falklands spending half their time on minefield inspections, repairing fences around them and disposing of landmines. The cost of personnel for this team is £176,000 per year.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, is it not a matter of concern that, 14 years after the end of the Falklands War, such large proportions of the Falkland Islands are still too dangerous for people to walk on? Further, is that not something to which the Government could attach rather more urgency, so that the people of the Falklands could have the scourge of landmines removed from their islands as quickly as possible?

Earl Howe: My Lords, as I am sure the noble Lord is aware, there are many quite major difficulties associated with mine clearance. But, principally because of the difficulties involved in detecting the mines, many of which are plastic, and the dangers to the personnel involved, a decision was made to cease the clearance operations in 1984 and to mark the minefields clearly instead.

The Government and the Falkland islanders welcomed the offer first made in December 1993 by the Argentines to pay a third party to demine the Falklands. We are looking forward to discussing the next steps with the Argentines and with the United States, who have agreed to manage the project should a practical way forward be agreed. We hope that it can.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that Edinburgh University is conducting a research project on a mechanical device to clear landmines more rapidly and with less danger to the operators? That experiment is being carried out with some success and has been financed by charitable funds. Would it not be appropriate for the Government to finance that project?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, for drawing that project to my attention; I was

13 Nov 1996 : Column 936

not aware of it. Nevertheless, on the broad subject of research, we continue to treat such research into the means of detecting non-metallic mines as a matter of considerable priority. The MoD is exchanging information with the United States and our European Union partners on a number of promising new technologies in the field. We are also working with humanitarian mine clearance agencies to seek to identify military technology which could be applied to humanitarian mine clearance tasks.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware that I personally exploded one of the mines near Port Stanley? Is he further aware that the mines have been scattered about a very large area, quite uncharted by the Argentinians, and that, therefore, to try to clear them up would be an extremely dangerous and hazardous job?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am most concerned to hear that my noble friend was involved in the explosion of a mine on the Falklands. However, she makes a valid point. Even if one could clear a certain area which is demarcated, one could never be absolutely sure that the area was completely clear and safe for people to walk on. That is a consideration which we should bear in mind.

Lord Judd: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Question tabled by my noble friend highlights the immense humanitarian implications of the use of anti-personnel mines in warfare? Have the Government been able to study the interesting statements by leading US military personnel who question the need for the use of such mines? Will the Government now undertake a fundamental review of whether we ourselves should ever contemplate the use of anti-personnel mines? In the meantime, are the Government prepared to issue an order refusing the military the powers to use them?

Earl Howe: My Lords, as I am sure the noble Lord will agree, the key objective is to reduce the danger to civilians. I do not believe that a unilateral renunciation by the UK would achieve that aim. We have to balance the humanitarian concerns that we all share with a continuing military requirement. If we can convince the major producers, exporters and users of anti-personnel mines to ban these weapons, then the United Kingdom would be willing to join that consensus. We will also ban them if suitable alternatives can be found.

However, the safety of our troops must remain paramount. We have said that we are keeping some stocks of anti-personnel mines, and we reserve the right to authorise their use in exceptional circumstances where Ministers are absolutely satisfied that there is no alternative to ensure the protection of our troops.

Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor: My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether the Argentinian authorities have given full co-operation in tracing the remaining

13 Nov 1996 : Column 937

minefields? If they have not done so, are they not in breach of the Geneva Convention under which all minefields require to be recorded in detail and kept note of? Indeed, that was certainly the case during the last war?

Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Earl makes an important point. I believe that the Argentines have been as helpful as they can be. However, the problem has been a distinct lack of detailed records. We know the approximate area of the minefields and they have been fenced off, but we have very little precise knowledge of where the mines were laid.

Business of the House: Debates this Day

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In moving the Motion, perhaps I may take this opportunity to draw your Lordships' attention to the guidance on the Speakers' List that speeches in the two debates, other than those of the mover and the noble Lord winding up, should be limited to 14 minutes and 11 minutes.

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of Lord Hayhoe set down for today shall be limited to two hours and that in the name of the Baroness Perry of Southwark set down for the same day to three hours.--(Viscount Cranborne.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page