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

No, I am not going to give way again. We have had a good run on these issues, and I want to move to the main thrust of my argument. I have quite a good deal to say about the Second Reading of the 1957 Act, which has not yet had a proper airing. There will simply not be time to finish before 7 pm if I give way continually to my hon. Friend, much as I admire him and, more than that, have deep affection for him.

Léon Nyssen received a letter in French from the ICRC, quoting the acts of the Geneva convention of 1949. The conventions of this House will not allow me to read any French, nor will my imperfect grasp of that language, so with your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall read it in translation. It states:

"On purpose it has been desired not to determine the shape of the red cross, which determination would have given way to dangerous abuses...If the shape of the cross had been determined in an immutable way, would not one try to justify attacks against buildings protected by the Convention, arguing that the symbols did not have the settled proportions?"

As my hon. Friend the Member for West Chelmsford said, nowadays it is normal in ordered, peaceful conditions for the red cross to be modelled more or less on the Swiss flag, or its reverse. However, it seems from old documents that before the 1950s the shape of the cross was usually much thinner, even one third of the width of the Swiss cross. Indeed, I had a look earlier and found out that even in the past 20 years, there have been small changes to how the cross is routinely presented.

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