Geneva Conventions and United Nations Personnel (Protocols) Bill [ Lords]

Part of Registration of Births and Deaths (Welsh Language) – in the House of Commons at 1:56 pm on 1st April 2009.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs) 1:56 pm, 1st April 2009

I should like to add the Liberal Democrats' support for the Bill. I am pleased that the cross-party consensus seems to be that it is the right way for the Government to go. I do not think that I need detain the House for three quarters of an hour in order to put my views across and ask a few questions that I hope that the Minister will be able to deal with in her summing up.

I echo the commendation that the Minister and Mr. Lidington gave to the British Red Cross for the service it has provided in the 100-plus years of its operations. It is wonderful to see such an institution with such a long and successful history—the International Committee of the Red Cross has an even longer history of nearly 150 years—doing incredibly important work. The need to protect medical workers and respect the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies wherever it is operating is absolutely universal, and I am sure that nobody would disagree with the requirement to do so.

One learns something new every day, as the adage goes, and I certainly did so when I read the Hansard report of the debate in the Lords, which the Minister outlined. I was surprised to learn that the origin of the red cross was a reversal of the Swiss flag as a symbol of the neutrality of Switzerland. It must be recalled that despite it being called the red cross, it is not a religious symbol—although, sadly, it has been taken to mean that in some circumstances. The difficulties that have arisen with the red cross and the red crescent being perceived as symbols that are not neutral have led to the need to adopt a new symbol. The adoption of the red crystal is a sensible way forward in such sensitive areas, although it is sad that that choice may have to be made.

I welcome the Minister's confirmation that the Foreign Office's default option—I hope the same applies to the British Red Cross—will be to continue to use the red cross, which is most familiar in this country in terms of brand recognition. There must, however, be flexibility so that a crystal can be used too, ensuring that it is entirely clear that the medical aid is neutral.

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