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

Part of Registration of Births and Deaths (Welsh Language) – in the House of Commons at 3:12 pm on 1st April 2009.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Education) 3:12 pm, 1st April 2009

To confusion and malevolence we may add, I suppose, mischievous use of symbols. It is entirely possible that they might be used for not a criminal but an unhappy, mischievous purpose. The risk is likely to be exacerbated the more symbols we have. I am strongly committed to the principle of a universal symbol, as I highlighted earlier and will speak more about shortly.

I must say a word or two more about Syria. The disputed territory of the Golan heights is what took us to the subject. Because it is disputed territory, some argue that the Syrian Red Crescent should have a role there. We look forward to hearing the Minister's thoughts about that in due course, as we draw to a conclusion later this evening.

"The Syrian Red Crescent cannot operate there", insisted the Israeli head of the MDA.

"We have no diplomatic relations with Syria, the issue is simply not in the debate. But I'm not excluding that some Arab countries will try to raise it, and if they do, the losers will be the Palestinians," he went on to say. So Geneva, usually a peaceful place, has become a hive of activity as officials have desperately tried to reconcile these conflicting views about the use of the cross, the crescent and other symbols.

The ambassador for Pakistan is negotiating on behalf of 56 countries belonging to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and he said, with notable understatement, that it is all "very complicated". It is, and although the Bill looks uncontentious on the surface, it is also complicated. We have no desire to make life difficult for the Government; we want to hold them to account, but only in a way that is appropriate. However, we do expect from them a full explanation of some of those complicated matters.

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