Oral Answers to Questions — Overseas Development – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th February 1997.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance his Department is currently providing towards the destruction of land mines worldwide. 
Since April 1991, the Overseas Development Administration has funded humanitarian mine clearing-related activities totalling more than £22 million, including the UK share of European Community-funded projects.
Do the Government recognise their moral responsibility to speed up the programme, particularly in countries such as Cambodia, where Britain helped to lay the land mines? Why do not they follow the example of Australia, France and now South Africa, which have distinctly said that they will no longer use land mines?
I am sorry that the hon. Lady cannot look at areas where the United Kingdom is driving forward the initiative on land mines. The United Kingdom and other EU countries have already banned the export of all anti-personnel mines to all destinations. We have suggested an export ban as an easy first step for members of the conference on disarmament in Geneva to take. That would be the practical way to proceed. As the hon. Lady mentioned Cambodia, may I pay tribute to those involved in the clearance project? As she will know, one of my constituents who was involved in that was taken hostage by the Khmer Rouge and the House should pay tribute to the outstanding bravery of those specifically and personally involved in that programme. The UK is committed to stopping the use of land mines and I wish that the hon. Lady would give us credit for that.
Does my hon. Friend agree that this country has done an enormous amount to inaugurate and lead the world in banning land mines throughout the world, which is the right thing to do? Will my hon. Friend do everything possible to expedite the total elimination of land mines? Will he confirm that that is the Government's aim?
We have been the largest bilateral donor in Europe to humanitarian mine clearance activities in the past five years, and we should start to recognise that fact. We are working strenuously to introduce a global ban, but it will require international agreement. Unilateral renouncement by the UK would not reduce the dangers to civilians, which is our first consideration.
That answer is disappointing, in view not just of the huge cost of clearing mines but of the human tragedy of those killed and maimed by land mines. When will the Government join the Labour party, the Princess of Wales and the vast majority of the British people and agree a ban on the import, export, transfer, manufacture and use of all forms of anti-personnel land mines and their components?
The Princess of Wales's statement was entirely in line with the Government's policy—that we must work towards achieving a global ban. We have already instituted a complete export ban of all anti-personnel mines to all destinations. Our armed forces will not use anti-personnel mines in future operations unless, in exceptional circumstances, Ministers are fully consulted and agree that there is no alternative that ensures the safety of our troops. We cannot put that at risk but we are working towards a global ban. That is the Government's stated and clear objective.