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One must, of course, be realistic as well as properly idealistic. Noble Lords, Ministers and many others, including organisations outside this House, have worked very hard over a long period to see this legislation emerge. However, we have to face it that, as in other fields of government, merely passing a law does not necessarily make it so, or certainly not immediately. The wish has to be progressed into thoughts and action. In a number of senses, there is still quite a long way to go. First, we have to recognise that we are dealing with a very complex pattern of products and situations. There are no fewer than 210 different types of cluster munitions produced by 34 countries and distributed to many others round the world. The largest producers, as noble Lords have reminded us in their excellent and expert contributions, have not signed the convention-that is, China, Russia and the USA. Nor has Pakistan and nor has Israel, which used these weapons in such profusion in south Lebanon a couple of years ago. Nor, of course, have the rogue states, the usual suspects: North Korea, Iran, Myanmar and so on. Worse still, these ugly munitions may well now be in the hands of non-state groups like Hezbollah, which may have even less scruples about using them when the pressure is on. We must recognise that much persuasive effort is still required.
I greatly welcome the report that the Minister gave us about what went on at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Trinidad. That is just one more example of how the Commonwealth is emerging as a new additional and supportive platform in promoting soft power or-dare I even say it?-smart power, and carrying forward humanitarian and other peace-engendering moves around the planet.
As for timing, the convention comes into force only when 30 countries have ratified it. So far 24 have done so, although several more have signed it, as we know.
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A number of questions have been asked about actions on the ground, to which it would be interesting to hear the answers. We understand, and the Minister needs to confirm this clearly, that it will take until 2013 to destroy the UK's own stockpiles, and that the aim is to see all stockpiles belonging to any country destroyed or removed within eight years. That embraces all the stockpiles held by foreign powers on our soil.
To look, slightly negatively, at the things we have to overcome to carry all this forward, there is the problem that the Minister herself raised in a Statement yesterday, as did Mr Bryant in another place, about the indirect financing of manufacturing activities that may produce these horrific weapons. The direct financing is dealt with in the Bill, but the indirect financing needs more attention, as the Minister has explained. In short, this is not a rapid-result process. We are not going to see instant solutions. Nor should there be such solutions, probably; there is a lot of detailed work to be done. In the Bill there are a range of practical defences and clauses allowing for flexibility in the way that the rundown is handled. The destruction of these weapons is covered by the necessary transfer experimentation, research and so on. Clause 7 sets out some of these in detail.
In many areas of the world-I am thinking of Lebanon, Laos, Iraq, Nagorno-Karabakh and Sri Lanka, most of which I have had the opportunity to visit-this prohibition comes much too late anyway for the children who are dead, the families that are destroyed and those whose limbs have been blown off.
We need to examine with especial care what this ban does to the situations in which our Armed Forces may find themselves, and we need to be sure that in prohibiting killer cluster bombs and their use in the ways that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has so expertly described, we do not also limit the technical means to take out systems rather than people. I do not think that this has been mentioned in the debate. I have in mind here such weapon types as the CBU-94/B so-called soft bombs, which do not blow up and damage people but scatter fibres to short-circuit electricity systems. These devices were used to great effect, as the Minister will no doubt recall, in taking out Belgrade's electricity grid in the Bosnian war. That certainly helped to bring that ugly conflict to an end, simply because the Serbian Government realised that they could not go on. It could be argued that the sort of technology that disables utilities and knocks out the remains of normal life in a rogue country or society is much better than bombing civilian fixtures flat or scattering explosive antipersonnel weapons that kill large numbers of civilians in the process and, as we have heard graphically, continue to kill them for years afterwards.
As to the position of our Armed Forces, the Bill recognises that they could find themselves operating with other military contingents from countries which have not applied the prohibition. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury and many others raised this point. These matters are addressed in Clauses 8
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Optimists may say that this is not very likely to happen, but in the world of globalised security operations that may turn out to be quite wrong. I heard one senior defence official claim recently that the Afghans, for instance, would never put up with foreign troops on their soil. But in the future, everyone may have to get used to the mixing of armed forces of different nations, not only in visiting each other and training together but even, possibly, being based together. That is the pattern of global security and global peacekeeping in the future. That is what they may come to mean. Anyway, here in Europe we have had foreign troops on home soil for nigh on 65 years-the Americans here and our own British forces in Germany. These have on the whole been welcome arrangements and have led to all kinds of joint operations. Even the Japanese know all about foreign troops on sovereign territory, with only one or two points of friction.
The point I am getting at is that these mixtures of forces in the general cause of peacekeeping and global stability will become more and more frequent-in fact, they will become the norm. If every nation had signed up to the convention and ratified its requirements, there would be no problem, but in real life-in the practical and most likely future-armed forces from nations which are party to the convention and those which are not yet so will be more and more likely to work together and train on each other's soil. This raises some very important issues which the Bill addresses, although there are complications and questions that need clarification. This is what is happening already, and we must not allow the practical problems of this kind of interoperability to undermine or mess up the convention's high and noble purposes. It can be safely predicted that in the international intervention patterns of the future, our Armed Forces will almost always be operating jointly with others. It is usually the Americans nowadays, but maybe in the future, as the landscape changes, it will be the Indians, the Japanese, the Ukrainians, Gulf forces, Polish forces or the Egyptians. Who knows? We have already seen this kind of joint effort in existing war theatres and there will be much more of it.
These operations will have to be swift and flexible, and able to adapt to the terrifying asymmetry of modern warfare, which empowers the smallest groups with the most fearsome weapon. It would be miserable if they became tangled up in interminable arguments about interpreting the convention. The best must not become the enemy of the good. What I am saying is not in any way an argument against this fine Bill or its purposes; instead, it is in favour of making the provisions in these complicated future circumstances as simple and workable as possible. I hope that that can be done.
I hope that my points have illustrated to the Minister some of our concerns on the issues on which we need reassurance, while generally wishing the Bill to go
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In general, we like what we see. We want it to work and we share the Minister's determination and enthusiasm that it shall. In an uncertain and unpredictable world, we can be proud for the contribution that we make in seeing that the legislation goes forward.
Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in such an expert way in this excellent debate this afternoon. It has been well informed and thoughtful and I have very much enjoyed listening to the points that have been made. I appreciate the support that the Bill has received across the House. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that this is a special experience for me because it is not always the norm. However, on an issue such as this it is appropriate and good to have this consensus around what is an important Bill.
Even where there is general and strong support, noble Lords quite properly want to probe into the detail, as noble Lords have done, of government policy and the detail of the Bill. A lot of points were made and I will do my best to address them. I promise to go through Hansard and check on anything that I did not cover adequately and respond subsequently to noble Lords if I find that I have not covered the points that they have raised.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for his very kind words. It is appropriate to say that he and other noble Lords have shown an admirable dogged determination on this issue. The noble Lord has a fine reputation for that. As the noble Lord said, the evidence that one sees of the courage and determination of the deminers is something that one never forgets. One needs to understand how courageous they are, as are the Cluster Munition Coalition and Landmine Action, for their excellent work on these issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Elton, said that nagging at the back of his mind is the worry that there is a lot more work to be done and more persuading that we need to do. But I assure the noble Lord that all of us are very determined to continue to do that. He referred to Laos. The Government are happy to have supported Laos's clearance efforts over the past decade. Since 1999, DfID has contributed more than £4 million to clearance projects in Laos People's Democratic Republic and we welcome Laos's ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. We hope that other heavily affected countries will follow that example so that the convention's aim can be realised which, as so many noble Lords have said, is to end the suffering and the casualties caused by cluster munitions.
While US stockpiles on UK territory are under UK jurisdiction, they are not under our control. Notwithstanding that, there have been discussions with the United States on this matter, as my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown told the House on 3 June 2008. In July 2008, the US announced its new policy on cluster munitions that after 2018 the US will employ only cluster munitions containing submunitions, which after arming do not result in more than 1 per cent unexploded ordnance. As a result of this policy on cluster munitions and unintended harm to civilians, signed on 19 June 2008, our understanding is that the US has identified the cluster munitions on UK territory as exceeding operational planning requirements. These cluster munitions will be removed from sites in the UK in 2010 and from all UK territories by 2013. I think a number of noble Lords raised that question.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, raised the point about use in Kosovo. Yes, the UK used cluster munitions in Kosovo. We have provided extensive targeted information to Serbia through NATO to assist in the post-conflict clearance in Kosovo. Furthermore, the UK donated more than £12 million for mine clearance following the conflict.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, also raised the issue of white phosphorous being used by Israel in Gaza. We are, of course, very concerned about reports of white phosphorous ammunition having been used by the Israeli Defence Force in Gaza. It is an exceptionally densely populated area, as the noble Baroness knows, where white phosphorous used as an air burst is liable to cause horrific injuries to non-combatants. We consider such use in these circumstances to be totally unacceptable.
On Iraq, again, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked about the use of cluster munitions, whether they were mapped and what was being done to remove them. Cluster munitions were used in Iraq. They can be mapped and we have the data related to their locations, dispensed by UK Armed Forces, as the noble Baroness requested. UK forces have subsequently provided extensive information and assistance to NGOs working on the ground to clear explosive remnants of war. Indeed, UNOPS and UNICEF praised the UK for its response and assistance to the local population, its co-operative approach to international organisations and its commitment to post-conflict reconstruction.
The UK has cleared more than a million items of abandoned and unexploded ordnance, with Royal Engineers also being involved in the marking and fencing of bomblet strikes. We have gone to great lengths to educate local populations about the dangers of abandoned munitions. DfID is now actively considering what capacity-building support the UK could provide as we go forward.
There is the question of why we cannot include indirect finance now. Given the complex nature of indirect financing, there is a need for thorough consultation so that we can consider the impact of any measures. We will work closely with industry to take this forward
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On the timing of transparency, under the convention we will be required to submit a transparency report within 180 days of the convention entering into force. Thereafter, we will be obliged to present an annual report. I hope that that satisfies that question. On the question of permitted purposes, I will expand on what I said in my opening remarks. Permitted purposes are, first, the development of and training in techniques for the detection, clearance and destruction of cluster munitions; secondly, the development of countermeasures; and thirdly, the purposes of criminal proceedings. Those are the permitted purposes that have been identified.
My noble friend Lord Dubs gave a comprehensive and wide-ranging presentation this afternoon. I particularly valued his remarks about the process that has taken place. I also value the engagement that he and other noble Lords have offered this issue. I very much appreciate his final words, which were, I think, "the future is with us". That is something we have to be aware of as we press forward to see the final ratification of the Bill in our Parliament.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for his kind words, interesting speech and valuable understanding and expertise. I thank the noble Lord very much for the efforts that he has made. I concur with his view that there should be no development without demining. I shall remember that comment and try to use it in future exchanges.
I will comment later on protecting the legal position of the military and interoperability, as a number of noble Lords raised that point. It was pointed out that there is no mention in the Bill of the positive obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Government understand that these positive obligations are vital if we are to realise the Bill's humanitarian aims. We take very seriously all our obligations under the convention. However, unlike the convention's prohibitions, these positive obligations do not require legislation to implement them. That is the precise reason why they are not included, although we are very aware of them. These obligations mirror those in the Ottawa convention and the Landmines Act 1998. No mention of these positive obligations was made in that Act, so we are following the same path as that followed in the Landmines Act. Our actions over the past decade have demonstrated our clear commitment to these measures, including all the convention's transparency reporting requirements, as I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover.
The interoperability defence in the Bill is very important. Clause 9 and the provision in the convention safeguard the legal position of our military on the ground, including in the most exacting combat situations, to avoid any prosecution or difficulty that may occur as they continue to work alongside coalition partners who are not yet ready to sign up to the convention. Noble Lords will understand that this safeguard has been put in place to protect our military working alongside other combatants who are not signatories to
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The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury asked what the Bill would continue to prohibit. I reassure him that, in accordance with Article 21.4 of the convention-he is well aware of the various articles and clauses-nothing in the Bill will permit the UK:
"To develop, produce or otherwise acquire cluster munitions; To ... stockpile or transfer cluster munitions; To ... use cluster munitions; or To expressly request the use of cluster munitions in cases where the choice of munitions used is within its exclusive control".
The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, has supported the Bill for the entire time this House has worked on it. She raised important points about state parties ratification. That is what we must focus on, but we must position ourselves very clearly as soon as we can. As I think I said yesterday at a meeting that we attended, I assure the noble Baroness that I will inquire about and consider the point she made about the Attorney-General, which is of concern.
On the question of financing, raised by the right reverend Prelate, the fact is that Ireland has banned only public financing. Luxembourg has no sanctions in legislation and we are seeking to be more comprehensive and consultative, so that we can work with the public and private sector to get effective prohibition on financing. That is our objective.
On victim assistance, in accordance with the convention and existing practice, any cluster munitions victims under the UK's jurisdiction or control will receive all the assistance that they require, and there will be no discrimination between cluster munitions victims and those who have suffered injuries or disabilities from other causes. We would also collect any relevant data on cluster munition victims. I hope that that is a satisfactory reply to the question asked.
My noble friend Lady Goudie asked about the use of weapons by Russia and Georgia in 2008. Cluster munitions were used, probably by both sides, and that underlines the need to use all available international forums to secure action on cluster munitions. I have to say that neither side has signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but they are involved in the ongoing efforts to address the use of cluster munitions within the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. That is an area in which we have to work more seriously and positively in the future.
Some questions were asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who has played a very positive and important role in this House's efforts to place us where we are today. He has previously raised concerns about the lack of verification provisions within the Convention on Cluster Munitions. He suggested that the convention could usefully be amended to provide for challenge inspections to take place. He also suggested a de facto moratorium on the use of cluster munitions by those who retain them where there are civilian populations. I thank the noble Lord very much for his useful suggestions, and I can fairly say that I will share them with others in the Government and see what progress we can make on those matters.
The noble Lord also mentioned the Export Control Order 2008. In drafting the Bill we worked closely with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to ensure that the Bill and the Export Control Order 2008 are complementary. We are satisfied, for reasons I gave earlier, that there is no need to reproduce in the Bill the wording from the order, nor is there any need to reference the order in the Bill. That is the advice we have been given, and it is acceptable. I can assure noble Lords that trans-shipment is caught by the Bill's definition of transfer, which would prohibit the trans-shipment of cluster munitions. Direct financing of such trans-shipment would be an act assisting a prohibited activity and would, therefore, be prohibited. I hope that that makes the position clear.
On disinvestment and financing, as I said in my opening remarks, the Government are committed to taking action to prevent indirect financing, but passing this Bill and ratifying the convention are the immediate priorities. The measures that we have outlined are and will be the most appropriate and effective way to take things forward, given that we are dealing with such a complex number of issues. That is why we will work closely with British industry and others to ensure that we develop the most appropriate and effective way to address these issues.
As a result of the policy on cluster munitions and unintended harm to civilians, signed in June 2008, we have identified cluster munitions on UK territory as exceeding operational planning requirements. These cluster munitions will be removed from sites in the UK in 2010 and from all UK territories by 2013.
I have two minutes left and I am trying to speed forward. I will provide answers if I do not reach the end. I think that I have covered the question of the commitment to legislate on financing. With regard to the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, I do not think that I can speculate on military developments but I sympathise with the sentiments that she expressed. I assure her that the UK will always be at the forefront of humanitarian work to protect civilians. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Lee, the ballistic sensor fused munition is compliant with the requirements of the convention. Its weight, the ability of its two submunitions to detect and engage single independent targets and its self-destruct features mean that the BSFM will not fall into the convention's definition of a cluster munition.
The value of the stockpiles is £180 million, rounded up from £179 million. The breakdown includes: M483A1, value £12 million, and all variants of BL755, £11.5 million.
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