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There was an article in the Independent on Sunday to the effect that there has been a worldwide campaign to clear out landmines and also cluster bombs, and this is really most interesting. The article refers to a report given by the Mines Advisory Group, a group based in Manchester which apparently clears mines and other unexploded ordnance, including cluster bombs, and employs thousands of people, 95 per cent of whom are national staff and some of whom are disabled themselves by mines. It now operates in 17 countries. It apparently is proving to be highly successful, with farmers who hitherto have been afraid to farm their land now beginning to do so. This is extraordinarily heartening if it is true. Incidentally, the same report includes the statement that the Obama Administration in the United States are presently reviewing Washington's stance. That really would be most interesting. Let us hope that they do more than review and decide to come on board with us and to join the ban on these devices.
In the mean time, thanks to the Government for the Bill, and congratulations to all who have campaigned for this to happen, including congratulations to my noble friend the Minister on the very comprehensive report that she has given to the House this afternoon.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I should begin by declaring an interest as the chair of the board of the United Nations Association of the UK, which is a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition which has been campaigning for Britain to join the ban on cluster munitions which we are debating today. I should also like to thank the Minister for the extremely comprehensive way in which she introduced the Bill, which I found remarkably helpful. In the plaudits to those who have played a part, including the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Dubs, I should like to add my old department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which I think played a remarkably skilful role in the negotiations on the convention under circumstances which, with somewhat divided counsels behind them, were not absolutely ideal. I mention in that respect my noble friend Lord Jay of Ewelme, who has been a very strong supporter of this since he joined this House. I shall pass over in silence whether he was a strong supporter of it when he was in government service, but I think that rather likely.
In general terms, the Government deserve a lot of credit for deciding almost a year ago to sign the Dublin convention banning cluster munitions, and also for their decision to give a high priority in our legislative programme to early ratification of the convention. This Bill is an essential preliminary to that. Those of us involved in the campaign are only too well aware that the decision for Britain to sign up
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The advocacy of my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham and a number of other military figures has been extremely powerful in undermining the military rationale for retaining these weapons. I hope that the Government's campaign to persuade those who have not yet signed up will make use of those military views. In some countries that are resisting signing up, a group of former military men explaining as cogently as was explained to us this afternoon why these weapons are not useful militarily could have more effect than diplomatic jawboning.
The Government deserve credit for their decision and can take real satisfaction from the influence that our decision had on a number of other Governments that were undecided up to a late stage in the negotiations as to whether to sign up. The Bill before us will clear the way for early ratification of the Dublin convention by this country and will thus help towards the early entry into force of the convention by adding to the list of those who have ratified, ensuring that Britain continues to play a leading role in the governance structure of the convention, as it has in its negotiation. I strongly support the Bill and hope that the cross-party support for it will ensure that it completes all its stages, here and in another place, before the end of this parliamentary Session.
I have one or two detailed points, on some of which the Minister has already commented but on which I should like further clarification, which would greatly assist the legislative process on which we are embarking. First, I note that there is no trace in the Bill of the implementation of our commitment to destroy our cluster munitions, which is part of the convention itself and by which we will be bound when we have ratified. Will the Government reflect whether some commitment might not be contained in this Bill on the destruction of our cluster munitions, given that we have embarked on the process and seem to be reasonably well advanced on it? I should have thought that there was value, as has been the case with legislation on things like climate change and our commitment to aid targets, to put that in our national legislation and not just leave it as an international obligation.
Secondly, I note that several noble Lords have raised the problem of the stockpiles on our territory of other states which are not party to the convention. I welcome the Minister's reassertion of what the noble
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Thirdly, nothing is said in the Bill, but quite a bit has been said by the Minister and her colleague in the other place, about indirect investment in the manufacture of these weapons. Such investment could perhaps be by British banks or other companies in manufacturing capacity overseas in non-signatories of the convention. I have heard it suggested that such investment already exists in manufacturing capacity for cluster munitions in Singapore, South Korea and Pakistan.
I note what Ministers have now said about their intention to pursue a voluntary code of conduct with British business on this matter, which I welcome. It is a valuable first step, although I hope that they will not omit to say that if that were not successfully agreed, legislative force might have to be given to that measure at some stage. It would be a help if the Minister could say that clearly in winding up the debate. I know that it was in the Written Statement made yesterday by the Minister and Chris Bryant.
Fourthly, I note too what the Minister said about the detailed provisions of the Export Control Order 2008, which is a bit more rigorous than the provisions in the Bill. She stated that these provisions would be complementary and would match each other. Before Committee stage, I would like her to look again at whether it is entirely desirable to have two sets of obligations running side by side in that way. I am, alas, all too well aware of the problems we got into over the International Criminal Court Act when we discovered that we had legislated a loophole by mistake. It would be a disaster if we did that again in this case. I am not suggesting that we are doing that, but I would be greatly comforted if a further look could be taken before the Committee stage.
Having reiterated the hope that some of these points can be dealt with, I now turn away from the detail of the Bill to the wider diplomatic scene and the Government's policy objectives in moving the ban on cluster munitions to that universality of application which is so highly desirable. It is a matter for regret that so many states, among them a number of our close allies and Commonwealth partners, have declined so far to sign the convention. What progress have the Government made? I very much welcome the efforts taken by the Minister at the Commonwealth conference last week in attracting new signatories since Dublin was signed. What are the prospects for the future?
Even if universality is likely to elude our grasp for a considerable period of time, which, alas, I fear may be so, have the Government given any consideration to the possibility of promoting at least a de facto moratorium on the actual use of these appalling weapons in any areas with a substantial civilian population? After all, in the context of the testing of nuclear weapons, while entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has not yet been achieved, a de facto moratorium has been widely observed even by some of those who have not ratified. Could not that sort of approach be promoted in the field of cluster munitions?
On the vexed question of the verification of how signatories implement the commitments into which they have entered, as with all international agreements prohibiting or controlling categories of weapons, this issue of verification cannot be ducked if we are not to run the risk of the international regime gradually unravelling. After all, not all the signatories to this convention, as with all the signatories to many others, can necessarily be trusted to apply its provisions in a uniform and rigorous way. What thought are the Government giving to this aspect of the prohibition? When the convention enters into force and its governance is taken forward, will they press for genuinely international verification procedures? Will there not need to be some kind of system of challenge inspections to handle any evidence that emerges of non-compliance by signatories?
Baroness Goudie: My Lords, like many others in the House, I welcome the Bill and I thank the Minister for her Written Statement yesterday and for taking us through the Bill so clearly today. I also congratulate civil society and Members of both this House and the other place on keeping up pressure on this Government and others to ensure that we could receive the Bill. I look forward to its smooth passage through both Houses and hope that it is passed before the general election.
Cluster bombs are hell from above. The initial bomb is about two feet long, but when it explodes a very large number of bomblets are released. These bomblets are time-delayed and sometimes do not explode for a year or two. Deployed bomblets kill and maim children, livestock and women, although these are not what the bombs are aimed at initially. I have seen what happened in Lebanon and I have read about Afghanistan, Iraq and Georgia. Children and women are maimed and the land cannot be used for a long time. This is terrible for a society, and it normally affects the poor.
I would like to see pressure put on the main countries that continue to wish to use cluster bombs, such as Israel, and on the way it uses them on the countries around it. Others are Russia, the United States of America, China, India and Pakistan. In June we had the G20 conference, while in July there was a meeting of G8 Foreign Ministers in Trieste. I ask the Government to start working with the Sherpas for both the G20 and G8 so that this issue can be put on the agenda and not put to the side. Then we can start working with these countries to ensure that cluster bombs are eliminated. We have only to look at what they do and will continue to do to people long after this legislation has been passed.
Furthermore, I am not sure whether it is possible, but I would like to see if we could speak to the Treasury. We have managed to bail out a number of financial institutions over the past year, including banks. They know well some of the people who invest in the relevant companies, and that is our money being
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Lord Boyd of Duncansby: My Lords, the Convention on Cluster Munitions is a further welcome addition to international humanitarian law dealing with the protection of civilians. Some would argue that existing international law is sufficient to deal with the issue of cluster munitions, and it is certainly true that there are instruments which are designed to protect civilians in areas of warfare. For example, Part IV of the 1977 First Protocol to the Geneva Convention requires a clear distinction to be made between civilians and combatants, and requires as far as possible the protection of civilian life. Article 57 requires states, in conducting attacks, to do everything possible to avoid or at least minimise incidental civilian loss of life or injury. Moreover, the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War have also done much to deal with the post-conflict situation.
However, clearly in respect of cluster munitions those instruments did not go far enough. They did not ban the use of such weapons, and the enforcement of the instruments against those who would use such weapons is and was extremely difficult because, very often, it involves dealing with judgment calls made by military commanders whose principal aim may be the attainment of a military objective.
We now, rightly, put a high premium on the protection of civilian populations. In an era of instant communications, pictures of and commentaries on alleged war crimes can be on our television screens and the internet almost as they happen. When Clausewitz said that war was diplomacy by other means, he was writing in the 19th century; in the 21st century we can perhaps say that war is the attainment of political objectives by other means. A military campaign is as easily lost in the living room as it is on the battlefield, so the conduct of military operations must conform to the highest standards of international law and morality.
This Bill implementing the convention, as it does, is greatly welcomed. I add my congratulations to the Government and to the campaign of my noble friend Lord Dubs, the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Ramsbotham, and others.
We will, of course, look closely at how the Bill reflects and implements the convention. One area of concern is the issue of joint operations involving states which are not parties to the convention and how exactly the defences contained in Clause 9 of and Schedule 2 to the Bill will operate, and how far they reflect the intentions of the convention as a whole and Article 21 specifically. I am concerned about the extent to which it might be possible for a member of the UK Armed Forces, engaged on international military operations with forces of a state which is not a party to the convention, to assist, encourage or even induce a member of those forces to use cluster munitions. If
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Perhaps the Minister could say a word or two about how she and the Government envisage UK military personnel operating with military forces of states which are not parties to the convention, what instructions and orders might be given to UK personnel in such a situation, and what agreements will be reached with such states prior to the commencement of such operations.
Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I thank the House for allowing me to make a brief intervention at this stage. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and other noble Lords on their initiative in bringing forward this issue, and the Government on carrying it forward so quickly and with such efficiency.
I first concentrated on cluster bombs when I was the international development spokesman for my party in the other place. In 2001, I got into big trouble-it was not the first time I had gotten into big trouble, but one of the first times-for opposing the bombing of Afghanistan in the autumn of that year. I knew from all the NGO reports that that country was in the grip of a fierce and terrible famine. It seemed horrible to contemplate bombing a country in that state and I, rashly, as it turned out, suggested that we should be dropping food and not bombs on the Afghan people. The Americans, as some noble Lords may remember, then took up that suggestion and started dropping food together with cluster bombs. Sadly, I was told by NGOs that they were the same colour as and of similar appearance to the cluster bombs. Children who thought that food packages had landed were picking up cluster bombs and being terribly mutilated as a result.
This debate gives me a sense of déjà vu. Ten years ago in the other place, we had debates about the banning of landmines. I remember standing in my office with my researchers as news came through that the late Robin Cook was perhaps hesitating in Rome about signing the landmines treaty, but he was not and he signed up-thank goodness. Is it not odd that, 10 years later, we are debating in this House the banning of what I like to call "son of landmines", which is cluster bombs?
I do not expect the Minister to answer this now, but at least I have flagged it up. What is being developed by arms manufacturers now, as we have this debate, to become the son of cluster bombs, which, in 10 years' time, we or the people who follow us in this place will then have to ban and have another debate about?
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury and other noble Lords mentioned that investment in munitions, and cluster munitions in particular, needs to be looked at. But just what is in the pipeline that we shall have to ban in 10 years' time? Is there nothing that this Government can do to stop the constant production of even more sophisticated weapons-perhaps
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Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, it is a great privilege to participate in this fine humanitarian Bill regarding the abolition of these ghastly weapons. Deservedly generous tributes have been paid to all those Members of your Lordships' House who have battled over the years to see this legislation brought in. Particular mention has been made of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, referred to the fact that the noble Lord is a great socialiser. Perhaps when the Bill passes, which we hope will be before the general election, the noble Lord may well buy a drink for the Minister and a number of us will be included in that generosity.
I cannot claim to be one of those who have battled away for this legislation. Indeed, thinking back to my time as a Defence Minister in the early 1980s, I suspect, rather as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said was the case when he was in uniform, that I was probably in the other camp. Of course, we then had a Cold War situation; thankfully, the world has moved on.
I should like briefly to question the Minister on three areas. First, on our existing stockpile, she referred-I think that it was for the first time-to something like 38 million munitions, a third already destroyed. I understand that we stopped using cluster munitions in 2008, but when did we stop manufacturing them? I understand also that we will complete destruction of our munitions by 2013, but that non-UK-owned stockpiles in the United Kingdom, which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, touched on, might not be cleared for eight years after ratification. Is there no way that that could be improved upon and speeded up? Can the Minister tell us the value of the stockpile that has been destroyed? Is any compensation being paid to those who manufactured it?
Secondly, on the financing and indirect financing of cluster mine manufacture here or overseas, given that the Government now have such a substantial position in relation to our joint stock banks, could they not as soon as possible-even before a voluntary agreement or before the Bill becomes law-write to them drawing their attention to the Government's wishes and the wishes of this House in this area?
Thirdly-and perhaps I can answer in part the questions raised by my noble friend Lady Tonge-my understanding is that the follow-on weapon will be called the ballistic sensor fused munition. It is a so-called smart weapon with a self-destruct mechanism. Delivery to our forces is apparently scheduled for 2012. Can the Minister tell us about the characteristics of this weapon? How guaranteed is the self-destruct mechanism? Who is manufacturing it and what is the value of the contracts that have been placed so far? Having asked
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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, our attitude on these Benches to this Bill can be described succinctly: it is to give the Bill a warm welcome. We are glad to see it come forward and happy to help it on to the statute book. I congratulate the Minister on her comprehensive presentation. The unanimity between all the parties in agreeing on the virtues of the Bill is notable. I have to tell the Minister that it may not always be quite like this on other legislation. However, the Bill has substantial support from all sides. I join in saluting my noble friend Lord Elton and the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord Ramsbotham-and the late Lord Garden-for their expert support work. They speak with great experience when explaining how these weapons are not only hideous but useless.
Of course, my noble friends and I and other noble Lords on other Benches will need reassurance on certain points, and noble Lords will, no doubt, make some suggestions in Committee for improving and strengthening the Bill, which I hope the Government will accept. However, there is no question about the Bill's main purpose and aim, and we support it.
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