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

Part of Registration of Births and Deaths (Welsh Language) – in the House of Commons at 2:31 pm on 1st April 2009.

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Photo of Adam Holloway Adam Holloway Conservative, Gravesham 2:31 pm, 1st April 2009

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, which I shall come to a little later in my speech, but I absolutely agree. The first time that I saw the symbol, it took me back to the platoon commander's battle course at Warminster and the sort of markings that people might put on maps in an operations room, as well as the sort of markings used for directing military convoys. My hon. Friend makes an interesting point to which I shall return.

The second aim is to strengthen the safety of the UN and associated personnel by extending their legal protection against attack in a wide range of operations. Both those aims are obviously thoroughly commendable and, as has been said, extremely relevant to the modern world. The bravery of those who work under those badges and emblems of neutrality and mercy is clear; they do a fantastic job. I strongly support the aims, but I have a number of questions for the Minister, which I hope that she can answer. The expansion of symbols from the simple red cross to the red crescent comes down to us from the 19th century, as she has said. We have also heard that at one point there was the red lion and sun for the Persians, and I think that there was even a red flame at one time for Thailand. All manner of religious and ethnic concerns have been reflected by such symbols.

Let us remember, however, that the original red cross was never intended to be a religious symbol. As the Minister has said, it was simply the reversal of the Swiss flag, which is a white cross on a red background. The red cross became the emblem of that precious and nowadays abused concept of true neutrality. That was a long time ago, but this is where we are today. If the cross and the crescent have served us so well, I do not really see the reasoning for the new symbol.

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