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Land Mines

Volume 300: debated on Wednesday 12 November 1997

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If she will make a statement regarding the Government's intended stance at the forthcoming Ottawa conference in connection with anti-personnel land mines. [14117]

I plan to attend the ministerial conference and convention signing ceremony on 3 December, and I shall proudly sign on behalf of Britain to join in the land mine ban. I will emphasise the Government's commitment to achieving the widest possible support for a total ban on anti-personnel land mines. We shall follow up the Ottawa convention in other negotiating bodies. We shall also pursue with vigour our programme of de-mining. The British delegation will take part in the parallel round table discussions, which will include discussion of plans to speed up and co-ordinate de-mining internationally.

I thank the right hon. Lady for that answer, and I wish her well in her attempts to secure a worldwide ban. Is she aware that many land mines throughout the world are cleared by children as young as 10? What will the Government do to prevent that?

The hon. Gentleman is right; we need both a ban and a speeding up of de-mining. At current rates of clearance, it will take 1,000 years to clear the land mines already out there, and more are being laid as we speak. We must speed clearance and enlarge the capacity of the countries that have so many land mines to clear them for themselves. That is the only way to get the speed up.

I am not aware of children actually de-mining, but many children suffer grave injuries as a result of mines when they go out to play or to collect wood. We must make more urgent progress on the matter.