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

Part of Registration of Births and Deaths (Welsh Language) – in the House of Commons at 2:57 pm on 1st April 2009.

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Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art 2:57 pm, 1st April 2009

Indeed, and my right hon. Friend made an extremely good point. His quick trawl on the internet produced, straight away, two examples of companies which I think would be adversely affected by the introduction of the red crystal. It is stated somewhere in the Bill that it would have no financial implications—a standard statement in Bills—but it could clearly have adverse financial implications for those two companies, and perhaps for many others, including the rock group cited by my right hon. Friend. I think that the Minister needs to drill down into this issue, and come up with some answers.

This afternoon, we have heard the history of the proliferation of emblems and about the countries that wanted to adopt symbols over the years—those that tried and then dropped the idea. It is regrettable, although understandable, that we have embarked on this journey in that it involves diluting the brand of the Red Cross. We have to live with it, and I of all people understand the sensibilities of those countries to which a cross is in some way offensive or not necessarily representative. It is regrettable but of course it is understandable.

We spend a lot of time lauding the incredibly important work that aid workers and non-governmental organisations do around the world, often with little protection. What is most important at this point is that, rather than making gestures in order to accommodate the arrival of a new sub-branch, if you like, of the UN, we spend a little time remembering that a lot of the protection offered to UN agencies under international law is simply not available to a range of other organisations staffed with very brave men and women throughout the world. They have no protection under international law or certainly not to the same degree as the UN. However, a law is only as good as its enforceability or the proven protection that it provides, so we owe it to all those working under the family of the UN—be they working for the Red Cross or the Red Crescent, or for the red crystal in future—to ensure that if they are in any way abused in warfare, the perpetrators of that abuse will be brought to the highest courts of the land, perhaps the International Criminal Court in The Hague or somewhere else appropriate; or that a fine, if a fine it is to be, is imposed and seen to be imposed, so that these symbols, regardless of how many there are, mean the same thing to people throughout the world.

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