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Business of the House: Standing Order 40

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 40 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with today to allow the Motion standing in the name of the Baroness Miller of Hendon to be taken before the Report stage of the Vehicles (Crime) Bill.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Business of the House: Consolidated Fund (No.2) Bill

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That, in the event of the Consolidated Fund (No.2) Bill being brought from the Commons, Standing Order 46 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with tomorrow to allow the Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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International Criminal Court Bill [H.L.]

3.8 p.m.

Read a third time.

Lord Howell of Guildford moved Amendment No. 1:

    Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause--


(" . The Secretary of State shall not ratify the ICC Statute unless--
(a) a report is laid before Parliament, setting out--
(i) any reservations Her Majesty's Government proposes to make and the reason for those reservations,
(ii) any declarations Her Majesty's Government proposes to make and the reason for such declarations, and
(b) that report is approved by each house of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment states that,

    "The Secretary of State shall not ratify the ICC Statute"--

that is, of course, the Rome Statute--


    (a) a report is laid before Parliament, setting out--

    (i) any reservations Her Majesty's Government proposes to make and the reasons for those reservations,

    (ii) any declarations Her Majesty's Government proposes to make and the reason for such declarations, and

    (b) that report is approved by each house of Parliament".

The obvious concern behind the amendment is that each House of Parliament should be kept in the know about what will be done by the Government and what will be laid down in the way of reservations or declarations or interpretative comments before they ratify the measure. Those who have followed our proceedings will have noted that while reservations to the statute are prohibited under Article 120, a range of declarations and interpretative comments have been placed on the ratification status document by some of the 39 countries which have already ratified the statute. In some cases, those are very detailed--in particular as regards France and Israel. It seems only right that we in Parliament, and your Lordships, should seek to know what declarations the Government intend to put down. They will colour the way in which this country approaches the statute and the entire project, and deals with the International Criminal Court authorities in the future.

Not having had much luck at earlier stages in seeking clarification from the Opposition on how our Armed Forces will be protected where the United Kingdom is unwilling to make an investigation but where the ICC therefore feels that it has the jurisdiction to do so, and having found some reluctance by the Government to state what declarations there will be--they would in effect be reservations with a small "r"--we seek again to elicit this information by placing the requirement proposed in the amendment on the Government before they ratify.

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It is an important requirement. It is not just an idle request in order to keep Parliament informed in an age when, all too often alas, it is by-passed. It is a matter of great concern. That concern has been expressed strongly in this country by our Armed Forces. If anyone doubts that, he should have read the front pages of our daily newspapers. A great deal of uncertainty remains. If anyone thinks that this is an idiosyncratic request coming only from one side in the British context, look at the attitude of other countries.

France and Israel have made declarations which seek to protect their armed forces. They are clear on the ratification status document. I draw attention to one. It states that the declaration of the Government of France does not preclude France from directing attacks against objectives considered as military objectives under international humanitarian law. Another declaration seeks to interpret the phrase, "military objectives", which appears in the war crimes schedule, in ways which would be handled by the French themselves.

What is behind those and other considerations is not a narrow nationalism or even an unwillingness to support the noble and excellent principles behind the setting up of the court, and the Bill. It is simply to accept--the point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby--that modern actions by troops, soldiers and armed forces are extremely complex, sensitive and difficult. They involve many levels of response, from the non-response--"Don't shoot back at all"--to a self-defence of the most vigorous kind. These require the most refined and rapid judgments under fire and place on our Armed Forces considerable burdens of decision as to whether they are acting in a lawful way, or an unlawful way which could constitute in the eyes of others--not of their own commanding officers, their own jurisdiction or their own country--a war crime and, therefore, make them liable to investigation and charges.

We believe strongly that Parliament must know the declarations that our Government will put down on the status document to protect the Armed Forces--they are trying to do their job in difficult circumstances--against these additional risks and challenges.

That is the thinking underlying Amendment No. 1, grouped with Amendments Nos. 3 and 7. Perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 3 in the name also of my noble friend Lord Kingsland. It returns to the question of reservations but particularly in relation to Clause 50. One cannot make reservations about the statute itself. But reservations in relation to other treaties which may be relevant to the interpretations of articles under the statute can be withdrawn, made, revoked or amended by the Government.

Parliament has a right to expect to be involved in the detail of such matters. Amendment No. 3 proposes that before any such reservation or declaration to a treaty predating the International Criminal Court statute is withdrawn, the reason for such withdrawal is approved by both Houses of Parliament.

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Underlying the two amendments is the continuing concern--it has not been answered in all our discussions--about the further protection of Armed Forces. I am the first to concede that life is difficult enough for those operating in hot war, or nearly hot war, situations under the mixture of constraints and laws which rightly govern the modern warfare in which our nation becomes increasingly involved; namely, humanitarian causes and peacekeeping. But it is evident, and many believe--I am one--that unless we are very careful we shall add to rather than subtract from those difficulties. It is in that spirit that I beg to move the amendment.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, Amendment No. 7, which stands in my name, is grouped with Amendment No. 1, moved by the noble Lord. I have no disagreement with what he said. Indeed, my task is made simpler. I shall seek to reinforce the case made by the noble Lord in his usual moderate way.

In some ways a long tradition inhibits me from intervening on Third Reading and moving an amendment. It is almost unknown in another place. But this House gives quite extraordinary latitude to Members and I shall take advantage of it.

It is a serious move to which I wish to draw the attention of the House. Let us be clear. I have no problem with the thrust and purpose of the convention and the Bill. I welcome the implementation as an international crime, and with all the mechanisms so described in the Bill, of genocide (Article 6 in the convention), crimes against humanity (Article 7), and the traditional war crimes, with which we have been familiar since the First World War, referred to in the first part of Article 8. I add this point. The kind of circumstance which most noble Lords have addressed when speaking in favour of the Bill would be covered entirely by the enactment of Articles 6, 7 and 8(2)(a). Dreadful monsters such as Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein, who have inflicted such misery on their own people and on others, would be caught under those provisions. There is no worry about that. That would close a great gap in international law.

So what is my problem? It is twofold. The lesser part of it is that, almost unbelievably, the list of very important acts of war, which are to be outlawed in Article 8(2)(b), has not even been mentioned in either House of Parliament during the evolution of the convention. Statements were made in both Houses in July 1998 saying that we were signing the Rome Convention and just before that my noble and learned friend Lord Archer of Sandwell initiated a valuable debate in which he gave his principled case for the implementation of Articles 6, 7 and 8(2)(a) as part of an international treaty. However, on none of those occasions or in the Commons debate on a Wednesday morning some time in November 1999 has anyone mentioned the list of acts of war that are to be criminalised. I was going to call them new crimes,

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although others might call them old crimes. That is an astonishing failure of Parliament to do its job, but we have a chance to rectify it now.

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