Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Burma

Question

2.57 pm

Asked By Lord Alton of Liverpool



19 May 2009 : Column 1310

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, the Prime Minister released a statement on the morning of Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrest, condemning the actions of the regime. Our embassy in Rangoon registered the Government’s deep concern with the Burmese authorities immediately on receiving news of the arrest. The Foreign Secretary has worked with his counterparts in the EU to deliver a clear message to the regime, and we are talking to UN Security Council members to consider the next steps.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I welcome what the Minister has just said. During those discussions with members of the Security Council, will a reference to the International Criminal Court be considered for some of those who have been responsible for crimes against humanity in Burma and who are responsible for putting Aung San Suu Kyi through not just 5,000 days—nearly 14 years—of house arrest but now imprisonment in Insein prison in Rangoon, which is notorious for the torture, squalor, filth and the illnesses that have occurred there? What are we doing to work with our European Union partners on targeted sanctions and to put pressure on the Government of China, who are probably in a far better position than anyone else to ensure that humanitarian concerns about Aung San Suu Kyi’s well-being are to the fore?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, as the noble Lord knows well, Burma is not a signatory to the ICC, so a reference by the Security Council would be required. Our view is that we would not secure one because some countries on the Security Council have made it clear in previous consultations that they would oppose such an action. Yesterday conversations were initiated in Brussels by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, which will lead to a statement by the EU, and last year we led in pressing for sanctions to be strengthened at the European level. As the noble Lord is aware, however, when it comes to global action through the UN, we are constrained by the position of China and others which resist further isolation of the regime.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, have Her Majesty's Government had any discussions recently with Indian and Chinese Ministers regarding Aung San Suu Kyi? If not, will they do so in Hanoi next week at the Asia-Europe meeting, bearing in mind the influence that these Ministers may have on the Burmese Government through their considerable economic investments in Burma and their total disregard for any sanctions on Burma?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, there are continuous and frequent discussions at Security Council level. Last year I had occasion to talk to Ministers in both countries about this issue. Unfortunately, economic competition between India and China for a greater stake in Burma makes both of them reluctant to be parties to sanctions or further isolation of the regime.



19 May 2009 : Column 1311

Baroness Cox: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, whatever pressures are brought to bear on Burma by western nations, other ASEAN nations are complicit in many respects? The leader of the Shan people said to me that Burma opened its treasure chest of jade and jewels and ASEAN nations bought into it. Therefore, will Her Majesty's Government make representations to the other ASEAN nations not to allow commercial interests to undermine political pressure for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and the cessation of all human rights violations in Burma?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, following Cyclone Nargis last year ASEAN has tried to play an increasingly constructive role in the case of Burma, and a number of ASEAN leaders have come quite far out on this issue. I say again, however, that the essential dilemma in our policy on Burma is that whereas we in the West have relied on sanctions and isolation, ASEAN neighbours have preferred limited engagement. That contradiction of strategy means that the regime has survived very nicely, thank you.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will join me in welcoming the statement by the presidency of ASEAN expressing grave concern about the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi in view of her fragile state of health. Does he think that it would be worth while asking the UN special envoy, Mr Thomas Quintana, to visit both Beijing and New Delhi to see whether China and India can be persuaded to line up behind that statement and to join the EU in imposing sanctions on the regime?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord draws attention to that ASEAN statement, which confirms my point that ASEAN is moving forward on this. In fact, ASEAN leaders frequently complain to me that the Burmese compare unfavourably their openness to Western support for Aung San Suu Kyi to the position of other neighbours which are more hard-line and reluctant to come forward. As far as UN action goes, the most promising prospect is that the UN Secretary-General has made clear his intention to visit Burma in the coming months, and it now seems that the regime will accept that visit.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, my noble friend mentioned sanctions. Is it the Government’s position that no British Government should have any trade relationships with Burma unless and until Aung San Suu Kyi is released?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the British Government discourage all such trade links. Our embassy in Rangoon does not help any British company with trade and we advise against it. We also have a number of EU-wide sanctions, particularly on arms; but, as I said, the difficulty is that it has not been possible to globalise these steps.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the British Government continue to have a twin-track policy of maintaining and perhaps strengthening sanctions while at the same time increasing aid to non-governmental organisations which have no connection to the Burmese regime? Is not a steady

19 May 2009 : Column 1312

increase in that aid to non-governmental organisations one way of making it clear to Burma’s other neighbours that we are not seeking to destabilise the country or to punish the citizens of that country but merely to deal with an obnoxious regime?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I must again thank the noble Lord, who is always able to state British policy much more elegantly than I can. He is completely right: it is a twin-track policy. It is very important to weigh against the fact that we have led the push for sanctions, and are proud of that, the fact that we are also the biggest bilateral humanitarian donor to Burma, working exclusively through NGOs and not through the Burmese Government. We think that both tracks are vitally important so that people see the sanctions for what they are—targeted at the regime and its economic interests but not intended to adversely impact the desperate lives of ordinary Burmese.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, are the Government doing anything at all to try to dissuade British travellers from taking holidays in Burma? We have the trade sanctions, and the Minister has now told us about the aid sanctions through the NGOs, but many travellers are still going to Burma, and something should be done about it.

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Baroness has a point. I will have a look at our FCO travel website and see what we say about Burma. I think that it makes clear the different sanctions and restrictions which are in place. For many people, however, that chance of citizen-to-citizen contact brings them home even angrier about the regime than they were when they went.

Lord Judd: My Lords, with its repeated commitment to the principle of human rights, does the Commonwealth have a part to play in this dreadful story? If so, what is that part, and what are we doing to ensure that it is played?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, Burma is not a member of the Commonwealth and it points to its history to show why that is so. In this case the Commonwealth would probably be a somewhat provocative vehicle or track to pursue.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill [HL]

Copy of Bill
Explanatory Notes
Amendments
11th Report Joint Committee Human Rights

Report (3rd Day)

3.07 pm

Clause 116 : Consultation before designation

Amendment 113ZB

Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

113ZB: Clause 116, page 71, line 4, at end insert—

“(9A) If the appropriate authority fails to make the order before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the date on which notice was published under subsection (2), then anything done by the appropriate authority for the purposes of complying with subsections (2) to (9) of this section is, for those purposes, to be treated as not having been done.”



19 May 2009 : Column 1313

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, I have listened carefully to concerns raised in Committee on this matter. I know that noble Lords wanted further assurances in the Bill that the Government are indeed serious about designating marine conservation zones. So I have tabled Amendments 113ZB and 113ZC to Clause 166, which would insert a time limit for designating individual marine conservation zones. This provision will ensure that the Secretary of State must make an MCZ designation order within 12 months of publishing notice of the proposal under Clause 116(2).

These provisions will ensure that all interested parties have a clear understanding of the timescales involved in the MCZ site designation process and provide more certainty for developers and sea users. Designating authorities will be aware of the importance of keeping momentum up in the designation process. Imposing a timetable for the designation of individual marine conservation zones will help to speed up the creation of an ecologically coherent network of sites in the medium to long term. I hope that this provides the assurance that noble Lords wished to have when we debated this matter in Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I have a very brief speaking note but a rather important message, which is to congratulate the Minister on a very significant birthday.

On the matter in hand, these amendments follow from our debates in Committee and seem very sensible. I thank the Minister for tabling them.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lord Greaves, who is unwell today, I am afraid that I will have little to contribute to this part of the Bill with which I have not previously been involved. I add my congratulations to the noble Lord on joining the age group eligible for a bus pass and a senior citizen’s railcard. However, if he continues to work at his current rate, he will, sadly, not have much opportunity to access cheap film matinees for pensioners.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, you never know what will happen after this Bill. I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their comments. I congratulate the noble Lord on winning a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show yesterday. That is a very significant achievement and I offer him my warmest congratulations on it.

Amendment 113ZB agreed.

Amendment 113ZC

Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

113ZC: Clause 116, page 71, line 12, at end insert “(and subsection (9A) applies accordingly)”

Amendment 113ZC agreed.



19 May 2009 : Column 1314

Amendment 113ZD

Moved by Lord Davies of Oldham

113ZD: After Clause 116, insert the following new Clause—

“Publication of orders designating MCZs

(1) This section applies where an order has been made under section 113.

(2) The appropriate authority must publish notice of the making of the order.

(3) The notice under subsection (2) must—

(a) be published in such manner as the appropriate authority thinks is most likely to bring the order to the attention of any persons who are likely to be affected by the making of it;

(b) give an address at which a copy of the order may be inspected.

(4) The appropriate authority must—

(a) make a copy of the order available for inspection at the address specified under subsection (3)(b) at all reasonable hours without payment;

(b) provide a copy of the order to any person who requests one.

(5) The appropriate authority may charge a fee, not exceeding its costs, for providing a copy under subsection (4)(b).”

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I speak also to the other government amendments in this group. The amendments result from the useful debate in Committee when the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, questioned the wording in subsection (2) of Clause 126. I am grateful to him for doing so. It was pointed out that the Bill requires the MMO to send a copy of a draft by-law to every person who it thinks is likely to be interested or affected by the by-law. The noble Duke suggested that that was quite some obligation. We agree that this could be read as imposing a somewhat unrealistic, disproportionate and costly burden on this public body, which was not our policy intention. In response, we have tabled a series of amendments, both in relation to Clause 126, and in relation to the notification requirements for other clauses in Part 5, which we have also reviewed in the light of the debate in Committee.

Amendments 114G to 114J, taken together, deal with this point. They impose more clearly a proportionate and workable duty on the Marine Management Organisation. This is intended to address the specific point raised by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, in Committee. The amendments would require the MMO to publish notice of the making of a by-law as soon as reasonably practicable after the by-law is confirmed, and to make copies available for inspection. In practice we would also expect the MMO to send a copy of the notice to people who it considers will have a particular interest.

Amendments 114K to 114M address a similar issue and ensure consistency with the approach I have just outlined in relation to by-laws that have been made by the MMO. In similar fashion, Amendments 114N to 114Q make changes to Clauses 131 and 133, which provide powers for the Welsh Ministers to make orders to protect marine conservation zones in Wales. These orders will be similar to by-laws made by the MMO. The purpose of these amendments is to impose similar

19 May 2009 : Column 1315

and consistent duties on the Welsh Ministers to publicise orders as are being proposed for the MMO after making a by-law.

We have also reviewed the other notification requirements in Part 5 to ensure consistency. As a result of this we have tabled Amendment 113ZD. This introduces a new clause after Clause 116, requiring Ministers to publish notice of the making of an MCZ designation order, and to make copies of the order available for inspection. It must also provide a copy of the order to any person on request. Currently, the Bill requires consultation to take place only before any decision is taken on whether to designate a marine conservation zone. However, the debate in Committee clearly underlined how important it is for people to know what decision is reached. Informing people that a site has been designated will help to ensure that the site is more effectively managed and protected, and that offences are more easily enforced.

This group of amendments will ensure that the notification arrangements throughout Part 5 are transparent, workable, proportionate and consistent. They are important to secure efficient public administration and to ensure that the public are properly informed of matters that may affect them. In due course, I shall ask the House to accept the other amendments in the group but, for now, I beg to move Amendment 113ZD.

3.15 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, once again, I thank the Minister for listening with such attention to our concerns in Committee and for coming back with amendments that meet them.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, I particularly welcome what the Minister said about the instructions to Welsh Ministers in Amendment 114N and in the series of amendments that follow it addressing Welsh Ministers. The tidying up that is being done in terms of giving instructions to Welsh Ministers is very welcome, because it levels up the duties both in England and in Wales and clarifies that situation in particular and leaves no doubt whatever what those duties are.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their support for these amendments.

Amendment 113ZD agreed to.

Clause 119 : Creation of network of conservation sites

Amendment 113A

Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

113A: Clause 119, page 71, line 35, leave out subsection (1) and insert—

“( ) In order to contribute to the achievement of the objective in subsection (2), the appropriate authority must designate MCZs under section 113.”

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we spent some time in Committee debating the Government’s commitment to an ecologically coherent network of

19 May 2009 : Column 1316

marine conservation zones, how we intend to define the network and whether this network will include wider European marine and Ramsar sites and sites of special scientific interest.

I listened carefully to those concerns, and I have tabled a number of amendments to Clause 119 which I hope meet the major points raised in Committee. The amendments seek to emphasise that we are serious about the duty to designate an ecologically coherent network and that we want the network to include a range of marine protected areas, such as European and Ramsar sites and sites of special scientific interest.

I will start by addressing my Amendment 113A, which amends the drafting of Clause 119(1) in response to the concern raised by noble Lords in Committee. We must ensure that Ministers are under a clear duty to designate a network of marine conservation zones. Indeed, the entire success of the nature conservation provisions relies on that. I have therefore tabled a new drafting for the duty to designate, as set out in Clause 119(1). This new drafting clearly requires that in order to fulfil their duty, Ministers must exercise the power to designate marine conservation zones set out in Clause 113. This new drafting also makes clear that the network must comprise multiple marine conservation zones.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page