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Geneva Convention Bill Lords

Volume 319: debated on Tuesday 2 February 1937

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Order for Second Reading read.

11.32 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

This Bill has already been passed in another place. Its object is to give effect to certain obligations assumed by the United Kingdom in an International Convention made at Geneva in 1929. It is a simple Bill of four Clauses, one of which is the short Title. Clause 1, the principal Clause, renders it unlawful for anyone, without the authority of the Board of Trade, to use in a trade or business, or for any other purpose, the arms of the Swiss Confederation or a colourable imitation of that design, or any design being a colourable imitation of the emblem of the Red Cross, or any words so nearly resembling the words "Red Cross" or "Geneva Cross" as to be capable of being understood as referring to the Red Cross emblem. Sub-section (2) deals with proceedings and penalties, and Sub-section (3) with protection for existing marks. Clause 2 relates to Australia and Clause 3 contains provision as to other parts of the British Empire. I think the House would like to know that no proceedings under the Measure can be taken without the consent of the Attorney-General.

11.34 p.m.

We would have liked more time to examine this Bill. I recognise that it would not be possible within the limits of the Bill to make the speech which I would desire to make on this subject. I would wish to call attention to certain very grave derelictions of duty on the part of nations—even members of the League of Nations—in connection with the acknowledgment of the Red Cross, where it has been distinctly used as a sign that the ambulances and other conveyances so marked were engaged in the activities which the Red Cross is intended to cover. This Bill proposes to safeguard the possibility of conveyances being marked in such a way as to be liable to be mistaken for Red Cross conveyances. It seeks to reserve a monopoly in that marking for those who are engaged in carrying out the purposes for which the Red Cross is intended in time of war. I think, however, that something more ought to be done in the Bill in reference to the safeguarding of vehicles appliances and so forth, which are clearly marked with the Red Cross and are employed in the succour of the wounded and the removal of dead and wounded from the battlefield. We know that during the recent Abyssinian campaign there were many serious violations of the international agreement to recognise the Red Cross institution. This is not the time to remind the House of those violations in detail but similar violations have occurred in what is now termed the civil war in Spain. Examples of the grossest violation of the immunity of the Red Cross have been brought to my notice. There was the case of the Scottish medical ambulance column which appeared between the two lines in Spain on one occasion, when an aeroplane deliberately set it on fire and destroyed it knowing that it was a Red Cross ambulance legibly marked and visible at any reasonable distance. That was a violation of the Red Cross. When we examine this Bill later we shall move amendments to include in the Bill more direct safeguards of the rights of the Red Cross in the purpose for which it was originally intended.

Are proceedings competent in Scotland? If so, will they be with the consent of the Lord Advocate?

In England the consent of the Attorney-General has to be obtained, and in Northern Ireland that of the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to deal with this point on the Committee stage.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.

Deaf Children (School Attendance) Bill

Read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.

It being after Half-past Eleven of the Clock, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Twenty-four Minutes before Twelve o'Clock.