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

Part of Registration of Births and Deaths (Welsh Language) – in the House of Commons at 2:07 pm on 1st April 2009.

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Conservative, Broxbourne 2:07 pm, 1st April 2009

Thank you for calling me to speak, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am delighted to be here today, supporting the Red Cross. Let us remember that the Red Cross wants the new international sign of the red crystal to protect its operatives in the field. It is wonderful to reflect at this time of huge global tension that the Red Cross operates to the highest ideals possible. We live in times when we have to be religiously sensitive—and when the cross and the crescent can unintentionally ignite religious passions—but the Red Cross is free of any ideology. When people are in need, it does not question who they are, their reasons for being on a battlefield, or their reasons for being in that location—it offers help at the direst time of need and emergency.

We live in dark and dangerous times. The Red Cross was founded nearly 140 years ago, but the need for the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and the derivatives of those organisations is greater than ever before. We have a number of global conflicts, in places such as the Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq. There are numerous flashpoints in the middle east, where aid is needed daily. We also have the spectre of global climatic events impacting on people living near sea shores. A few years ago the tsunami laid waste to large parts of Asia. Again, the Red Cross was at the forefront of delivering aid. The need is greater than ever, and if the Red Cross believes that it needs a new global symbol to protect its people in the field, it should have our full support. I am pleased that there seems to be a consensus about that today, as there was in the other place.

We must examine the Bill carefully to ensure that it is as good as it can be. I have one concern, which I think many Members will share. The red crystal will come into force, and I imagine that our troops whom we send to far-flung parts of the world will understand exactly what it means very early on. They will be educated to recognise it. But will people in the Congo, for example, understand what the red crystal is? We will be dealing with youngsters who have had no formal education at all, as they have been denied it. They are taken from their homes, conscripted into youth armies and brutalised. What will the red crystal mean to them? Will it offer any protection to those who fly the flag? Terrible events are also unfolding in Swat valley in Pakistan.

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