My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Cluster Munitions (Prohibitions) Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
My Lords, as someone who, like others in this House, has campaigned for the purposes of this Bill for many years I feel privileged to be present in the House today. Perhaps I may express my warm thanks to noble Lords in all parts of the House for their strong and articulate support for this Bill in the Queen’s Speech debate.
This Bill has a very clear objective; that is, to put in place prohibitions on the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions in UK territory and by any UK nationals. In doing so, it will implement our country’s international obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, paving the way for the UK to ratify this significant arms control treaty. I also thank your Lordships for the wider moral support and commitment across this House on arms control for many years. I particularly want to join the tributes paid to my noble friend Lord Dubs and the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who have campaigned tirelessly for the banning of cluster munitions. I look forward to working with the whole House to ensure that our shared objective of the speedy ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2010 can be realised.
The House will be aware that in Oslo, just over a year ago, my right honourable friend David Miliband signed the treaty on behalf of the UK. As he said, the Convention on Cluster Munitions,
“is a remarkable achievement, carried out at a remarkable pace”.
Like the Ottawa convention on anti-personnel mines before it, it is an example of what can be achieved when like-minded Governments join forces with parliamentarians and civil society.
When my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown took part in his first debate on cluster munitions in this House he welcomed this activity. He said:
“Pressure in a Chamber such as this moves the issue forward”.—[Official Report, 15/11/07; col. 602.]
I agree. Debates in this Chamber supported by civil society helped to shape the UK’s policy and ensured that we saw international progress. I believe that this treaty will make a difference. As many of us in this House have seen for ourselves, cluster munitions can cause immense suffering to the civilians caught up in conflict and can leave a deadly post-conflict legacy for future generations when they fail to explode. It is right and proper that we are taking global action to prevent this.
Recognising the humanitarian implications, the UK Government have been at the forefront of efforts to prevent the proliferation of cluster munitions. The Export Control Order 2008 placed cluster munitions in category A, making them subject to the most stringent trade controls. This measure effectively banned trade in cluster munitions by any UK entities. Cluster munitions will remain in category A. We see the Export Control Order 2008 as complementary to the Bill’s prohibitions.
As your Lordships will know, the UK has also been at the forefront of the international debate on how to address the problem of cluster munitions. We were one of the original signatories of the Oslo declaration in February 2007 calling on countries to prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. This declaration started the international negotiation process and we continued to play a leading role in bringing this to a successful conclusion, with the Prime Minister’s personal intervention breaking the deadlock at the final conference in Dublin where the convention was adopted on 30 May 2008.
The decision taken by the Government to give up our remaining cluster munitions was not taken easily, especially with our substantial and active military commitments, but we recognised the importance of our endeavour. That was referred to in the opening address at the Dublin conference, which was made by the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross. When he quoted the authors of the St Petersburg declaration he said that the task was,
“shaped by the need to ‘fix the technical limits at which the necessities of war ought to yield to the requirements of humanity’”.
I believe that we have a Bill that robustly and faithfully implements the terms of the convention. In doing so, it puts in place a strong and practical framework to enforce all of the convention’s prohibitions. A good example of this is the provision establishing the offence of assisting others to engage in prohibited activity, as set out in Clause 1. This reflects the wording of the convention. I understand that not all countries that have passed similar legislation have included such a prohibition. However, the Government felt it to be imperative to do so, thereby creating the widest possible prohibition, according to the treaty.
On assistance, I refer noble Lords to my Written Statement yesterday in which I clarified that the prohibition on assistance will cover direct financing of the production of cluster munitions. Given the Government’s desire to see an end to cluster munitions, it also outlined the further steps we will be taking to prevent indirect financing, including working to produce a voluntary code with British business. With this commitment the UK is, I am proud to say, again at the forefront of international action.
The Bill’s prohibitions are also extra-territorial, applying to all UK nationals and companies regardless of whether they engage in prohibited activities in the UK or elsewhere. Again, not all countries that have passed implementing legislation have done this. But Article 9 of the convention stipulates that states parties are required to prevent prohibited activities from taking place both on their territory and being engaged in by persons under their jurisdiction or control. We thought it important to reflect this.
I will now outline the main provisions of the Bill. It will give effect to the Government’s future obligations as a state party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, notably to prohibit the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions on UK territory and by UK nationals. The Bill has a great deal in common with the Landmines Act 1998 that implemented the Ottawa convention on anti-personnel mines. In both cases the issues of breaches of humanitarian law have been cited as a clear justification for the broad support of the House.
The Bill begins by setting out a clear definition of cluster munitions and relevant explosive bomblets—the prohibited munitions to which the provisions apply. To ensure that the Bill faithfully reflects the convention, these definitions are drawn directly from Article 2 of the convention, as are other definitions in the Bill. It then establishes a series of offences in relation to activity concerned with prohibited munitions. These offences are based on the prohibitions in Article 1 of the convention: to use, produce, develop, acquire, stockpile, retain, or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions. As I have said, it will also be an offence to assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in these activities. The Bill establishes criminal penalties of a fine, a 14-year prison term, or both, for committing these offences. This is consistent with the penalties in the Landmines Act 1998.
However, the Bill goes on to provide defences for certain purposes which include enabling the prohibited munitions to be destroyed, and development and training in techniques for the detection, clearance or destruction of prohibited munitions or for the development of countermeasures. These defences are allowed under Article 3 of the convention. The Bill’s enforcement provisions will ensure that limited numbers of cluster munitions will only ever be possessed for these permitted purposes, and under the convention’s transparency reporting requirements, information will be publicly available on the number retained by the United Kingdom. This again is the case with anti-personnel mines retained for the same permitted purposes under the Ottawa convention.
The Bill also includes a defence for certain conduct during the course of military co-operation and operations with states not party to the convention. This defence will enable the UK to continue to play a full part in ongoing military operations. In doing so, it implements Article 21, which provides for such continued military engagement. As noble Lords will be aware, this provision was a vital element in allowing the United Kingdom and other countries involved in coalition operations to sign the convention. However, I reiterate that under no circumstances will any UK national ever use or produce cluster munitions. Furthermore, I can reassure the House that, in compliance with the convention, no UK national will request the use of cluster munitions when the decision to do so is within their exclusive control.
In the course of the debate on the Queen’s Speech, the noble Lord, Lord Astor, while supporting the Bill, argued that it was essential that the operational capability of our Armed Forces and their safety in the battlefield are not compromised. I thank the noble Lord for raising such an important issue and would like to reassure him that this will not be the case. The operational capability requirements that were provided by cluster munitions will in the future be met by other munitions, which are still as effective but far more precise and therefore do not carry such threats to civilians.
The Bill also includes various related provisions to ensure the effectiveness of the prohibitions. These include powers to enter and search premises for prohibited munitions; powers to remove, immobilise and destroy prohibited munitions; and provisions for the production and disclosure of information necessary for the UK to fulfil its reporting requirements under the convention. Finally, the Bill includes a number of general provisions. These include safeguards on the powers of entry to ensure these powers are used appropriately; and a power to modify the Act by affirmative resolution. This power is included to allow for any future modifications potentially required by an amendment to the convention.
In addition to these prohibitions, which require legislation to implement, the convention includes a number of other positive obligations. The Government are committed to fulfilling all their obligations under the convention and I trust that I will not be imposing on your Lordships if I briefly continue to set out our position as a number of these are important issues. Under Article 3 of the convention we have an obligation to destroy the UK’s stockpiles of cluster munitions. This is being taken forward. On 30 May, on the eve of adopting the convention, the MoD proactively withdrew all its cluster munitions from service and began a destruction programme. Destruction of UK stocks is now well underway, with one third of total stocks already destroyed. Noble Lords will appreciate that this is an enormous task and should not be underestimated. There were in the region of 38 million submunitions held in UK stocks; to date we have destroyed nearly 13 million. We intend that the considerable majority, if not all, of our stocks will be destroyed by 2013. This will be well before the eight-year deadline that the states parties will have under the convention.
I am aware that there has been speculation about the fate of the stockpiles of cluster munitions that other countries may have on UK territory. Last June, my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown told the House that it was his expectation that there would be no permanent stockpiles of cluster munitions on UK territory at the end of the eight-year convention deadline. This is also my firm expectation.
Once it comes into force, the convention will establish an effective framework for international co-operation on the clearance of cluster munitions’ remnants and support for victims of cluster munitions. The convention obliges states parties to support other states parties that are affected by cluster munitions. The UK already has a strong record in this regard. Over the past decade, the Department for International Development has provided more than £10 million a year to clear landmines and other explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions. This year, the department has continued with clearance in Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Laos, Lebanon, Mozambique, Somaliland and Sudan. It also provided an additional £1 million for emergency clearance in Sri Lanka, helping the safe return of the civilian population. This strong support for clearance efforts where they are most needed will continue.
The Government are also working in other ways to address the use of cluster munitions. Universalisation of the convention was raised by several noble Lords during the Queen’s Speech debate. The convention obliges states parties to discourage the use of cluster munitions and encourage others to join, with the ultimate goal of universal global adherence. The Government are fully committed to a global convention and we are playing our part in supporting this important effort.
At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, I was able to speak to a number of Commonwealth Ministers as part of out efforts to achieve this goal. Forty-seven of the 53 Commonwealth states have signed the Ottawa convention, but so far only 26 have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. We want to change that.
At CHOGM, we co-sponsored with Australia a declaration inviting non-signatories to commit to signing the convention. Several countries associated themselves with the declaration, which is a useful step in advancing adherence to the convention within the Commonwealth. I shall write to all Commonwealth Foreign Ministers, represented in London by their high commissioners, urging them to add their signatures to the convention as quickly as possible. We intend to continue working closely with these countries to assist their signature and ratification. I have met representatives from Landmine Action and the Cluster Munition Coalition, who have agreed to support these efforts.
To date, 103 countries have signed and 24 have ratified, but we know that there is a long road ahead. As was mentioned by noble Lords participating in the Queen’s Speech debate, some of the major users and producers of cluster munitions have not yet joined the convention. The Government will continue vigorously to promote the convention with those states whenever it is practical.
I also put on record that, working more generally with civil society and other countries, the Government will continue to identify every opportunity to promote the convention. I hope and trust that the next important step we take will be to inform our international colleagues of the UK’s successful legislation and ratification of the convention.
This Bill and the UK’s subsequent ratification will send a clear, strong signal and a political message to other countries that a new standard is being established in international humanitarian law. With this legislation, the UK will again set a strong example and continue our leading role in making the world a safer and more secure place.
My Lords, before I welcome the Bill, I should like to embark on the pleasant and, under the present circumstances, reassuring task of telling the Minister how very welcome she is at the Dispatch Box. If she manages to sponsor only Bills that have as many good intentions and prospective effects as this one, she will be unique in the annals of politics.
The Bill is enormously welcome here. In our own community, it is not really necessary to say why, but, as this debate will be read elsewhere, it might be worth spending just one moment refreshing your Lordships’ memory for the benefit of others about what it is intended to deal with.
On my way here, I picked up the preliminary report of Handicap International. Meticulously prepared, it is dated November 2006. Things have moved on from then, but that does not make it any the less telling. It shows, first of all, the scale of the problem. During the Vietnam War, the Americans bombed the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos next door, which was not actually in the war. The grand total of casualties in that area—not in Vietnam—by 2006 was 4,813. None of them was a military person; they were all civilians. Those figures built up after the conflict was over. From 1964 to 1973, the United States used a wide range of submunitions, resulting in estimated contamination of 20.9 million to 60.6 million submunitions. At the other end of the scale in terms of area and population, in the Lebanon, at least 4 million submunitions were delivered in July and August 2006. The average pre-conflict casualty rate, from weapons from earlier conflicts, was two per year, but the average post-2006 conflict rate at the time the report was written was two and a half per day.
I have met a number of victims of these weapons: people minus a hand, minus both arms, minus both legs or sometimes without sight. It is an appalling tragedy. None of them was a combatant. The highest number of combatants I have seen is something like 15 per cent of the total post-conflict injury. Quite a lot of them are civilian deminers, enormously brave people who defuse these horrible devices.
There is no doubt that the Bill is needed. The Minister was kind enough to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and me on our persistence in helping. However, she should realise that we have been helping an enormous international movement. I should like to recognise the work of the Cluster Munition Coalition, which was mentioned by the Minister. It consists of 350 civilian organisations in over 80 countries under the charismatic leadership of Thomas Nash, who, like the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, was at every conference that I went to over several years. He is enormously effective. There is also our own local Landmine Action, led very well by Simon Conway. Those names ought to go in the record. The result of all this is the Bill, which has been well described by the Minister. I believe that it is well fitted for the task for which it is intended.
I do not want to leave the subject of what has been done for the Bill without thanking the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for his part, which was much more vigorous than mine. In particular, he was much better at socialising in the later hours of the night than I was. In this sort of campaign, that is a valuable asset, and I do not possess it.
My noble friend Lord Astor of Hever expressed reservations about the effectiveness of the Bill. The Minister dealt with them very quickly. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, will deal with this in more detail. I anticipate that he will give examples of land being sterilised for our troops by the high failure level of these munitions, which turn into landmines where they fall. That was why the American forces on the right flank in the first Gulf War arrived late on target. They had constantly to rely on, and wait for, helicopter transport in order to get over the ground in which they had just harassed the enemy with these weapons.
Although this is a great Bill, this is not an occasion for great long speeches from people who are in favour of it. I take great pleasure in welcoming it. I congratulate the Government on the extent to which they are already assisting in clearing up the vast number of these weapons scattered around the globe. It is an expensive and dangerous job. I thank the Minister for her efforts at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and subsequently to get further signatories to this treaty.
The one thing nagging at the back of the minds of people who are aware of what we are doing is that the major manufacturers and, hitherto, the major users of these weapons—among them the United States, Russia, Brazil, I think, and Pakistan—have not signed up to the treaty. The effect of the treaty banning the use of landmines, which is also lacking signatures of that sort, has been to render landmines a pariah weapon. Those weapons are now used only by Burma; civilised countries, if I can use that term, do not use them. I fully expect that the cluster munitions treaty will have the same effect and that in due course all countries will sign up and embark on the essential job of clearing up the lethal mess left behind. As agricultural land becomes more and more precious, so removal will become more and more urgent.
What has been started today is an important and exceedingly welcome humanitarian step, which I, for one, will support throughout. Small areas may need to be tested by amendments, although these will not necessarily be carried or even pressed. For example, I should like to discover the effectiveness of the term,
“under its jurisdiction and control”,
when used in Article 3 of the convention and applied to stockpiles by other countries on our territory. This is an area that we need to look at closely. However, I am well seized of the Government’s good and honourable intentions in this area and am very happy to welcome the Bill.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the Bill and congratulate the Government on taking the UK to a point where this article can go into law. I also congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Dubs—whose Bill on cluster bombs paved the way for this—Lord Elton, Lord Ramsbotham, Lord Hannay, and others on their assiduous work in bringing this about. I only wish that my noble colleague Lord Garden, whose last substantive speech in this House was in the debate on cluster bombs introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, on 17 May 2007, could have been here today to see this. When he and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, with their impeccable military and strategic credentials, demolished any possible military case for these weapons, surely the writing had to be on the wall for the Government’s support for cluster bombs.
Cluster bombs disproportionately produce civilian casualties, with all the humanitarian consequences of that. Worldwide, civilians constitute 98 per cent of all recorded cluster bomb casualties. Cluster bombs kill civilians during attack because they spread across a wide area. They also kill after the conflict when civilians stumble across them. And of course there is the longer-term impact in that farmers cannot use their land or they endanger themselves by carrying on doing what they need to do to keep their farms going.
It seems to me, as others have said, that one key to the success of this campaign, led so expertly by Landmine Action, has been the argument that cluster bombs are simply not militarily effective. From accounts in the Balkans, their effectiveness seems to have been very limited; in Kosovo, 78,000 cluster bombs were used, yet only 30 major items of military equipment were thereby destroyed. Most of the UK cluster bombs were unable to penetrate the armour of the main battle tanks that had been in operation since 1970.
Then, most critically, is the potential, in effect, to undermine military action. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, argued in 2007 in the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Elton,
“the use of military force is much more politically directed now, and there must be a political end to every employment of military means … That is bound to include state rebuilding and winning and retaining the hearts and minds of the people in the country concerned. Therefore, it must be unwise at best to do anything likely to alienate the very people whom you are trying to win over with whatever action you are taking. Nothing could be more counterproductive than causing endless unnecessary casualties, particularly to tomorrow’s generation, which seems to be the biggest victim of all”.—[Official Report, 17/5/07; col. 281.]
The cogency of that surely cannot not be disputed.
The campaign to ban cluster bombs was clearly right, but that did not mean it would deliver. Cluster bombs were used by the UK in Kosovo and then in Iraq, although that cannot have helped in terms of winning hearts and minds. The UK Government, I remember, were evasive about whether they were using these weapons in Iraq. Eventually they owned that they had.
A huge impetus to the banning of landmines was the action by Israel in Lebanon over the summer of 2006. For many, it gave definitive impetus to the campaign. What happened in Lebanon was controversial enough without the use of cluster bombs. Here we had a fragile state, and in the south, every day, people were killed or wounded by a previously unexploded cluster bomb. What reminder did that serve to those who resented the incursion into their territory?
A reservist quoted in Haaretz on 8 September 2006 recalled that:
“In the last 72 hours we fired all the munitions we had, all at the same spot ... ordinary shells, clusters, whatever [we] had”.
It was the desperate, but incredibly destructive reaction of an army in retreat. If ever there was a reason to ban these bombs, you can see it in the tinder box of the Middle East.
Haaretz reported their use again in Gaza, but it is disputed. I note that Goldstone makes no mention of them being used by Israel in Gaza. Once again that offensive was controversial enough, and white phosphorus was clearly deemed useable. But is it the case that cluster bombs, after the outcry over Lebanon, were not used? I would be interested to know if that was the case. Does it reflect the fact that international outcry does make a difference? One has to hope so.
For some while, there were ludicrous distinctions drawn by the Government between so-called smart and dumb cluster bombs. Norwegian research and the experience in Lebanon gave the lie to those distinctions. After Lebanon, we saw the battle in the UK Government over whether they should support the convention to ban the use of cluster bombs. We saw Hilary Benn lead the way in trying to convince his colleagues in the Cabinet and especially against the force of the MoD. He deserves great credit for the pressure he brought to bear on this. Against much expectation, Gordon Brown signed up in Dublin to the convention on behalf of the UK Government. It was certainly not apparent two or three years ago that that would be the outcome, and I am delighted that we are where we are.
So what is the scale of the problem? I understand that about 75 countries hold cluster bombs. Whereas landmines were in widespread use, by all sorts of groups as well as states, this campaign came at an earlier stage, before cluster bombs were in widespread use by non-states. They were used by Hezbollah and probably used in the Balkans. But this convention is to be welcomed before these bombs are used on an even wider scale.
There are issues in this Bill that need clarification. Like the noble Lord, Lord Elton, we are concerned to ensure that others should not be able to stockpile cluster bombs on UK soil and would like to see a commitment on that rather than merely an expectation, as the Minister expressed it.
We wish to know when the UK stockpile will be destroyed and are interested to note what the Minister has said on that. How and how often will the Government report on what they are doing in this area? Can we be assured that where the UK has used cluster bombs, for example in Iraq, those are all mapped? What proportion of coalition force cluster bombs in Iraq has been destroyed? When will that task be completed? Are there any other UK cluster bombs that remain uncleared? What is the situation in the Balkans?
We welcome what the Government said in a statement yesterday about tackling indirect financing of cluster bomb production. What is the timescale for this consultation? We also ask the Opposition Front Bench to comment on their plans in this area, in case that becomes relevant.
I am glad to hear about the moves in the Commonwealth to sign up to this. What action is being taken to get other countries to sign up to the convention, and then to ratify it? I am thinking here particularly of Russia, China and the USA. What will be done about transparency, which is mentioned in the Bill, including the establishment of a possible inspection regime? What does it mean, under the Bill, to be able to hold munitions for permitted purposes? How many do the Government envisage and why? I note what the noble Baroness has said in seeking to reassure us on this, but it is not particularly precise. How do the Government intend to take forward victim assistance? What do they plan for Iraq, for example? This is a very important development in international humanitarian law and that is very welcome.
I remember saying at Second Reading on the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in 2006, that I felt for the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, who was then the Minister and had to defend the Government’s position. I said I was sure that the Government would change their view, but not in time for her to answer the debate. In the end they have and that is very welcome. These weapons were not militarily useful. The human consequences in lost and ruined lives are appalling. It is excellent that there is an international convention to ban their use; it is excellent that the UK has signed up to this. We will do what we can to make sure that the Bill is brought into law so that the UK can indeed ratify this extremely important convention.
My Lords, I give this Bill a very warm welcome. It is not often that we have a debate on a Bill for which there is as much positive feeling and enthusiasm as there is today. I am delighted that the Minister is, with her first Bill, doing something so important and so widely welcomed. Even if she stays a Minister for many years, as I hope she will, I doubt if she will have a day when she will make such an important contribution to humanity as she will with this Bill. I am also grateful to her for the reassurances that she has given us about some aspects of the issue which are not necessarily contained in the Bill itself; nor need they be. As other noble Lords have said, the Bill will make an enormous difference to many people in the future, who will not lose their limbs or their lives. We have to remember, as the Minister said, how many millions of these awful weapons are still lying about, ready to trap and maim innocent civilians, long after the conflict in which they were used is over.
It is important that the Bill becomes law before the general election, partly because it will send a strong signal to other countries, and partly because, frankly, if a Bill such as this cannot get through, we will all be failing. I hope the Government’s commitment is absolutely firm and that the Bill will sail through this House and the Commons and become law very quickly.
My involvement with this issue stems back many years to the campaign against anti-personnel landmines when I was at the Refugee Council. I learnt then at first hand what weapons of this sort can do and the harm that they can cause. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton. He and I have worked together on this, and many other Members of this House have been helpful and supportive. The late Lord Garden was a stalwart figure in the campaign and there were so many others that I cannot mention them all. I join in thanking Landmine Action, led then by Simon Conway, for the work that it did and the help that it gave us; and the Cluster Munition Coalition, of which Thomas Nash was a prominent member.
I also remember the occasion when a number of us went to see not one Secretary of State but three. We got to talk to the Secretary of State for Defence, the Secretary of State for Overseas Development and the Foreign Secretary. We got them in one meeting and pushed them very hard on the issue. I also express my thanks to officials from the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, who have been consistently helpful in this. I met some of them only last week and had a very useful discussion with them as a preliminary to today’s debate.
It would be wrong to leave out two other names. One is John Duncan, who was our ambassador in Geneva and took the lead for this country in the negotiations at the various meetings, including in Dublin. He was very open, explained what was going on and was generally very helpful. I also thank Norwegian People’s Aid which, although it is an NGO in another country, has been very much in the lead in this matter, has put a lot of effort into it and has been very supportive to many other NGOs the world over.
In south Lebanon a few months after the 2006 conflict, I watched 20 or more United Nations teams—quite a few of them were British—clearing the remnants of cluster munitions from olive groves, farmland and villages. I saw them blow up one weapon. One could see the weapons—they were taped off at this point, so there was no danger of my stepping on them—lying in the soft earth, ready to explode if anybody, by some mischance, stepped on them.
One of the key issues that we often discussed, including when I raised this matter in a Private Member’s Bill some time ago, was the failure rate. We had interesting technical discussions on how many of the bomblets coming from a cluster bomb did not explode when they hit the ground. The Government’s then view was that the failure rate was less than 1 per cent, but we had evidence that it could be as high as 10 per cent. If one tests these weapons on hard concrete, they will go off, but normally they fall on soft earth in olive groves and agricultural land, where their fall is slowed down by trees and other plants. That is why the failure rate is much higher than was originally suggested. I am glad that argument was dismissed a long time ago.
I attended various meetings in Vienna, Dublin, and in Oslo when our Foreign Secretary signed the measure. When some of the key decisions were made in Dublin, it was very clear that the British Government’s view was considered to be important. Admittedly, the Government did not agree to sign up to the measure until partway through the discussions, and there were some tense moments when we wondered whether things would work out all right, but they did. Our negotiators got the message from London and the British Government agreed to sign. That had an influential effect on some of the wavering countries that were not certain what to do. When they saw that the British Government had signed up, they said, “If the Brits can do it, so can we”. That had a knock-on effect on quite a few of the countries that were present in Dublin, although not on all of them. The situation was touch and go, but eventually it worked out well.
I fully appreciate that there are difficulties. After all, we are members of NATO, and not all members, including the United States, have signed up. When the Dublin convention was agreed, and then signed up to in Oslo, it was understood that some compromises would have to be made as the price of getting a ban through. I appreciate that some countries have not yet signed up, but as with the Ottawa convention on anti-personnel landmines, the fact that so many countries signed up deterred others from using those weapons. Similarly, the fact that so many countries have signed up to the convention on cluster munitions means that at least some users—but not all—will be deterred from using them. Sadly, in the conflict in south Georgia some 18 months ago, they were used by both sides. Nevertheless, I believe that the fact that so many countries have signed up will have an important influence on the others. I very much hope that the Government will use their influence—I think that the Minister said this—to persuade other countries in the Commonwealth and outside to sign up. The United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel and one or two European countries have not signed up, but I believe that, in the main, the future is with us, and that they will realise that they should sign up.
I welcome the fact that so many of our stocks—up to a third—have already been got rid of. Initially, I thought that it was simply a matter of blowing them up. However, I was assured by military experts that it is not as simple as that. They tell me that it is difficult to minimise pollution and other unfortunate consequences, and that therefore it is a painfully long task to dismantle these weapons. The fact that we have got rid of 13 million out of 38 million of these weapons is a tribute to the Government’s will to get on with that task. Good progress has been made, which I welcome. All I ask of the Minister is for the Government to keep us informed as progress is made in getting rid of more of our weapons and of other stockpiles on British soil, and in persuading other countries to do as we have done.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure and a privilege to follow the noble Lords, Lord Elton and Lord Dubs, whose contributions to this day have already been praised, not just today but in the Queen’s Speech. It has been a privilege to work with them and to contribute perhaps a slightly different slant, as I am a former practitioner who was converted from protagonist to antagonist or proponent to opponent—whichever is the right terminology.
Previously, I reminded the House that these weapons were designed for a completely different type of war situation than that which we currently face. They were specifically designed to counter a mass attack by the Warsaw Pact when we were not only outnumbered but outweaponed. Therefore, a weapon which could deliver a mass effect at a fairly short price was to be welcomed. We welcomed not only the fact that the missiles could be fired by shells, but particularly the top-attack weapon, which was able to take the soft engine plates of tanks, which were the most vulnerable parts, quite apart from what was meant to be an airfield attack weapon. I favoured those weapons because, like most of my military generation, I spent a long time in Germany preparing and training for what, thankfully, never happened.
However, in my last appointment there I was commander of the 3rd Armoured Division, which was the first division to be given a counterattack role during the whole time that we had been in Germany since the war. This was because we had a new tactic which used ground in a different way. Rather than just sitting and defending it nationally, you used it to attack. When I was forced to try to plan quick shock action, I found that it was inhibited by what we had put on the ground, particularly the cluster munitions—no one knew where they had gone—because they could rapidly destroy any momentum that we wanted to develop. It therefore seemed to me that in that sort of tactic, before the end of the Cold War, cluster munitions were of limited military use if we wanted to both attack and defend.
Then the first Gulf War came. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, mentioned the problems of movement on the right flank, but there was also a complete failure to attack Iraqi airfields. Therefore, cluster munitions proved to be militarily inefficient. Indeed, the Iraqis knew that and used to put blobs of sand on the runway, which we took photographs of and assumed that they represented craters from cluster munitions. They did not. The Iraqis had worked out the pattern; the things had bounced off the runway and the Iraqis confused us.
After retiring from the Army, when I joined a private security firm involved in post-conflict reconstruction—particularly demining—I came across first-hand the problem of the relics left for future generations by the vast numbers of munitions which lay around in various countries. We came up with the slogan: “there is no development without demining”. Demining actually meant clearing away all the detritus of the battlefield. The weapons that were most difficult and caused the most residual problems were the small cluster munitions, because no one knew where they were and there was a huge failure rate. As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, mentioned, it takes time to clear these things, because you have to go over the ground with a piece of wire to poke and find individual munitions, or you use dogs. There is no mechanical way of clearing them. Therefore, our generation, which employed these things, has stored up a potential threat to life and limb for many innocent people in future generations, and it seems that it is our duty not only to ban their further use but to make every possible effort to clear up the mess that has been created in all the countries that have already been mentioned.
I fully respect the view expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, that there is a need to look after the defensive or other requirements of the Armed Forces, but we are now involved in a rather different type of warfare. These weapons cannot possibly be used in asymmetric warfare or war among the people. When I went to Afghanistan last year, I made a point of asking the military not whether they would have used the M85, which is a shell and a gun, but whether they would have used the M73, which is a helicopter-fired weapon. They said, “On no account. There is no situation that we have come across where this would have been a useful weapon. We are not faced with that sort of mass, and of course we want to use the ground afterwards, as do the Afghan people”. Therefore, the military cannot see a use for these weapons in that sort of conflict, and I should have thought that that was a voice worth listening to.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, quoted an earlier speech of mine. In 2007, a new counterinsurgency manual was published in America, and it is most important because it marks a total change in the American way of waging war. Instead of using overwhelming force, it looks at the needs of the people first. A very important excerpt from this manual endorses the line that I took in 2007:
“The fact or perception of civilian deaths at the hands of their nominal protectors can change popular attitudes from neutrality to anger and active opposition. Civilian deaths create an extended family of enemies—new insurgent recruits or informants—and erode support for the host nation. Counterinsurgents must therefore be strategic in applying force and sensitive to its second-order political and military effects”.
To my mind, nothing could be more telling than that last sentence, and I believe that it should be on the desk of anyone, political or military, who is responsible for planning any involvement in counterinsurgency operations.
Therefore, I welcome the Bill. I realise that there may be a certain amount of tidying up to do but it is nothing more than that and, like the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, I hope that it gets through. I am concerned about protecting the legal position of the military involved in any operation fighting alongside people who may not, for example, have signed up to the convention. I am interested to see that Clause 9 has two separate parts which refer to operation and co-operation. I do not know many military operations that do not involve co-operation with someone else and I hope that this will not be a problem.
I particularly welcome the fact that we are being taken through the Bill by the noble Baroness the Minister, who has a track record on this issue, and I look forward to playing my part in seeing the legislation through to a speedy conclusion.
My Lords, no one can be in any doubt that the Bill will be universally welcomed by this House. I am delighted that Her Majesty’s Government have expressed their determination to see it pass swiftly into statute in time for the UK to become a state party to the CCM ahead of the first meeting of states parties in November next year.
Having followed the genesis of the Bill since the whole idea was first championed by the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord Elton, I am delighted that we have reached the exodus and are at the point where movement is to take place. We now agree on the pernicious and tragic consequences of cluster munitions for civilians, and it is very good that Her Majesty’s Government have been persuaded that these weapons are agreed to be unnecessary militarily—it is a changed world, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has just told us—and to see the energy with which the Minister is ready to carry through these aspirations into the detail of the legislation. It was not always so, but our leadership in the world community seems to me to be very important. People will be shamed into signing up—I hope and pray—as this passes rapidly into legislation.
However, there are one or two areas to which I draw the Minister’s attention. First, we want her reassurance that either they will be dealt with in Committee or will be put into some kind of code of practice, which may be more persuasive when we come to parley with other nations which are perhaps more reluctant to sign up in the future. That includes our relationship with states which are not party to the CCM, and in particular to provisions that seek to interpret Article 21 of the CCM permitting member states to engage in military co-operation with non-members. The Bill’s provisions could be interpreted as a wide loophole allowing UK forces knowingly to assist states which are not party to the CCM with prohibited acts, and allowing indefinite foreign stockpiling of cluster munitions. In Committee, the Minister will probably tell us that this will be covered in detail in legislation, but I should be grateful for that reassurance.
Secondly, I refer to military co-operation. I hope that the Government can provide assurances that nothing in the Bill is intended to allow a member of the UK Armed Forces knowingly to undertake any act that would assist with a prohibited act and that the Government will do all they can to prevent the use of cluster munitions in any operation in which the UK is involved, in accordance with Article 21 of the CCM. That seems to be another matter that is probably overshadowed in the Bill in the general terms in which it is couched but we want to see the detail in Committee.
Thirdly, there is the matter of stockpiling. As the Minister has already mentioned, in June the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, said:
“The reading of the treaty indicates that there are overriding political reasons to expect that there will be no such weapons on British territory at the end of that eight-year period. That includes other people’s bases situated on our territory ... even a country such as the US, were it not a signatory, would no longer be able to keep such weapons on UK territory”.—[Official Report, 3/6/09; cols.79-80.]
That is another matter we want to see in the small print of the legislation at the next stage.
Another concern relates to the compatibility with the UK Export Control Order 2008—in particular regarding transhipment and provision of ancillary services, including investment in cluster munition producing companies. Close to Salisbury is a large and slightly discreet factory—it is in the middle of Salisbury Plain—that ostensibly produces fireworks for display. It is possible that that kind of activity could also include the manufacture of other devices. How, in a more tightly regulated world, will all these apparently collateral and perhaps even extraneous companies in which people can make money be regulated or monitored to ensure that there is no production of devices that could fall under either cluster munitions or any other kind of undesirable and banned devices?
A number of key provisions are shadowed in what the Minister expects to be the way in which the Bill will operate, such as the prohibition on investment in companies producing cluster munitions, notification of non-party states of UK obligations, victim assistance, clearance, stockpile destruction and comprehensive reporting. Might an amendment be made to Clause 2 to include a comprehensive prohibition on investment in, or provision of, financial services to any company involved in the production of cluster munitions? Ireland and Luxembourg have both taken this step, and Section 4 of the Irish legislation provides a potential textual point of reference.
Finally, the Bill does not include any of the positive obligations enshrined in the CCM. Although such an omission is not unusual in UK legislation when international treaties are implemented, certain points may be useful to include via amendments, such as the following: a requirement for the Secretary of State to table in Parliament the transparency reports required under Article 7 of the CCM, which could be included as an amendment to Clause 20; a requirement for the Secretary of State to,
“collect reliable relevant data with respect to cluster munition victims”,
as per CCM Article 5.1; and an amendment to Clause 9, noting that the Secretary of State,
“shall notify the governments of all States not party to”—
“of its obligations under this Convention”,
“shall promote the norms it establishes”.
I do not know whether we will come to that in the detailed discussion of the Bill, but I make these comments at this stage so that when it comes before us in Committee and the amendments are marshalled, we can find the quickest route to legislative agreement. Like other noble Lords, I think that it is enormously important that we get this in place quickly. It is a matter on which we are all agreed, and we must ensure that we have as comprehensive coverage in the Bill as we possibly can of these seemingly peripheral but quite important matters.
I hope that the convention will be ratified in time for the first meeting of the states parties in November 2010, but as watertightly as possible, because otherwise it will be less persuasive internationally. I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, about how people may catch the drift of what we are doing and feel almost shamed into signing too. That will be greatly strengthened if the Bill is as comprehensive as possible. Meanwhile, I am delighted to give my wholehearted support to the thrust of the way in which the House is responding to the Minister’s drafts.
My Lords, this is a Bill to welcome unreservedly and speed on its way. When I preceded my noble friend Lord Dubs as Lords vice-chair of the all-party group aimed at banning cluster bombs, we thought that it would be very tough to get a ban in force. That was despite the clear view of experienced and distinguished members of the Armed Forces that those cruel weapons have no place in the kind of war that we wage now. It was despite the unforgettable evidence of my own eyes in Laos of so many children and young people limping or dragging themselves around to beg for a living as a result of mutilation by cluster bombs dropped by the Americans. It will be tough, we thought, simply because it is hard to get Governments or departments to change their mind.
The vigorous campaigning of my noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and others has had a powerful effect. There has been another very powerful factor: the personal support of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Government and the Ministry of Defence ave changed their mind, and we should congratulate them on that.
The Bill could go a bit further in a few respects. I agree with the right reverend Prelate that it could prohibit services ancillary to furnishing or manufacturing cluster munitions, such as financial services, and it could require more specific data on victims to be collected and produced than is envisaged in Clause 20. I appreciate that my noble friend the Minister has just told us of movement in this direction, which is excellent, but I hope that we can go further. We need to make quite sure that we are not part of another nation's activity in using cluster munitions. Instead, we should be urging states that are not yet party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to join it. My noble friend has given us an assurance of that.
I am also puzzled why the Attorney-General's consent is required for prosecution. Similar statutes do not require it. The OECD convention against bribery will be implemented in UK law by the Bribery Bill. That does not require it either.
These and other points can be discussed in Committee. But the best approach to this Bill is to get it passed so that we can ratify the convention in time to play an influential part in the first meeting of the states parties in a year’s time. Only in that way can we make a real start in ridding the world of these terrible, cruel weapons.
My Lords, I am delighted that our Government have decided to sign the convention outlawing the use of cluster bombs. I was among those who opposed their use, but the Members of this House who have been most active in the campaign against their use are my noble friend Lord Dubs and the noble Lord, Lord Elton. They are to be congratulated on the way in which they continually pressed for the Government to sign up to cluster bombs being banned.
Cluster bombs are anti-personnel weapons that continue to threaten civilian populations long after wars have terminated. They were used in the Kosovo conflict when NATO used them against the population of the town of Nis, when 20 people are said to have been killed and more than 70 injured. Surdulica was also hit with a similar number of casualties. Furthermore, cluster bombs have been used in Afghanistan, in Iraq and by Israel in the conflict in Lebanon.
There were protests at the time. Many of us felt that the use of these munitions was bound to result in civilian deaths and injuries as well as continuing problems for civilian populations when the conflicts were over. The Government at first contended that the use of these weapons was a military necessity. Then the Government acknowledged that while the bombs could leave a dangerous legacy for civilians, this was more true for so-called dumb munitions, which eventually the Government agreed should be banned while retaining smart bombs, which were alleged to be less of a threat to civilian populations. The Government have now moved from there and have adopted a position in opposition to both smart and dumb bombs. This is a change I very much welcome.
However, the previous usage in the conflicts to which I have referred had been undertaken not just by our forces but by NATO. Since many of the conflicts in which we are likely to be involved are probably to be led by NATO, it is important to be clear that the ban envisaged in the Bill would also include any conflict led by NATO. What must concern us all is what is being done to clear up these dangerous devices. We know that if they are left, they kill and injure yet more people, possibly including children. Farmland will not be used because people will be too scared to till their fields.
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.
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 to the convention was not at all an easy one. There was resistance to it within the Government and by a number of major world powers, including our principal ally, the United States. Our own Armed Forces possess a considerable arsenal of these weapons, which will now have to be destroyed and, as the Minister said, is in the process of being destroyed. So it would have been easy to have stood aside—easy, but quite wrong. Not only have the truly appalling consequences for the civilian population of using these weapons become more and more evident following the hostilities in Kosovo and south Lebanon, but their basic military utility has been increasingly challenged, as was so ably demonstrated by my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham, as hostilities have moved away from the pattern of high-intensity warfare between armoured forces and towards what has come to be known as “war amongst the people”.
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 Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, said in June. I hope that in some way or another it is possible to make that very clear and very firmly on the record when we ratify.
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?
In conclusion, I apologise for raising so many points, but I have done so in a positive spirit and as one who is extremely appreciative of the way the Government have handled this whole matter.
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 invested. I know that it is not part of the Bill and I shall not put down an amendment on this, but I would like it to be noted and hope that the Treasury can put pressure on the banks. In the end it is the financial institutions that make it possible for these bombs to be made and for those who invest in them to make large sums of money.
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 that interpretation is right, I question whether that would fully implement the convention and be within its spirit. I shall explore this area in Committee.
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.
However, none of this should detract from the broad welcome that the Bill has from all sides of the House. It will certainly get my support.
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 a refinement of white phosphorus, which my noble friend has already mentioned? Can we not do something to pre-empt the development of these evil weapons that do so much harm to innocent civilians and children?
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 thank the noble Lord very much indeed.
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 those questions, I place on record that these Benches give unqualified support to the Bill and wish it a speedy passage.
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.
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. Even after the 30-state point for ratification, the Bill requires six more months before the convention's prohibitions come into force.
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 and 9 under the headings of “Visiting forces” and “International military operations and activities”. The buzzword here seems to be “interoperability”, or, to put it in plain, non-military jargon, what happens when our forces, without cluster weapons—rightly—find themselves in joint operations alongside forces which want to use them or do use them.
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 forward fast. We have one or two other reservations and queries such as the granting of yet more power to the long list of officials allowed to enter people’s homes. I know that it is necessary—it is always said to be necessary—but we need to be careful when we as legislators add to such powers on the statute book. Those are points of detail that we can address in Committee. We also all want to know how, in the light of what the convention requires, we can give maximum help to those sad bomb victims, of whom there are so many thousand around the world.
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.
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.
I should like to clarify what is required under the Convention on Cluster Munitions with regard to stockpiles. The convention states:
“States Parties are required to destroy all stockpiles of cluster munitions under their “jurisdiction and control”.
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 and we will develop guidance to ensure the scope and applicability of any future measures, so that it is absolutely clear what they are. I repeat at every juncture that at this time our immediate priority is the Bill and the ratifying of the convention.
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 the convention. It is a vital security requirement that the UK and others are able to carry on working militarily with all our allies and partners. This requirement was recognised by countries negotiating the CCM, and expressly provided for in it. This provision, which the Bill’s interoperability defence reflects, was a vital element of the convention. Without it, the UK and others would not have been able to sign the convention and the situation would have been extremely difficult. Those who have followed these matters closely well understand that point.
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”.
I hope that that is reassuring. I shall come back to other points made by the right reverend Prelate.
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.
My noble friend asked about talking to the Treasury. We will consider reviewing public investment guidelines, and I expect that that will include working with the Treasury.
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. That is followed by a long list which I can give to noble Lords later if any of them wishes to see it.
Finally, I hope that most of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, have been covered in my responses to other noble Lords. I value his support for the Bill and very much hope that we can continue to work together to see ratification fulfilled. I think that I addressed the point about indirect financing.
When I opened the debate, I wanted to communicate that the Bill has a very simple and clear humanitarian objective, which many noble Lords have eloquently identified: to ban the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. It will pave the way for the UK to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This will, we hope, allow the UK to play its full part at the first meeting of the states parties expected to take place in Laos in November 2010, and we will continue to play a leading role in the area of arms control. In conclusion, I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
Bill read a second time and committed to a Grand Committee.