Clause 2 — Amendments of the United Nations Personnel Act 1997

Part of Gangmasters Licensing Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 10th June 2009.

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Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 3:30 pm, 10th June 2009

I hope that hon. Members, albeit in a slightly querulous and sceptical mode, will also support clause 2 standing part of the Bill. It will amend the United Nations Personnel Act 1997 to incorporate the optional protocol to the convention on the safety of United Nations and associated personnel. The original Act has been used to protect operations maintaining or restoring international peace and security and operations in which an exceptional risk exists.

It has been necessary to bring forward the optional protocol because there is a loophole: there are operations that are not maintaining or restoring international peace and security, but are peace building. They go beyond the stage of peacekeeping, but the Security Council has not determined that an exceptional risk exists. Consequently, the full protection afforded by the 1997 Act and the convention is not extended to those operations.

First, we must amend UK law to give effect to the optional protocol, and that is what we are doing this afternoon. Next comes the process of ratification, whereby we lay down the optional protocol before Parliament, under the Ponsonby rule, and after 21 days it is considered to be ratified. We then lodge the instruments of ratification and accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

In the previous debate, Jo Swinson asked when the provision came into force. She was right to say that it comes into force when 22 countries have ratified and sent their instruments of ratification and accession to the Secretary-General. At the moment, there are 19 on the list, so when we add ourselves there will be 20. The countries involved include Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bolivia, Botswana, Bulgaria, the Central African Republic, Chile, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Jamaica, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mali, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine and Uruguay.

As I am sure hon. Members are aware, there are a large number of UN peacekeeping and peace-building missions around the world, from the presence in the middle east that started in 1948 to the mission in the Central African Republic and in Chad, which started only in 2008 when an EU mission handed over to the UN and where we are dealing with a lot of the knock-on effect from Darfur. In countries such as Burundi, the mission is a peace-building mission, as we have moved on from peacekeeping. It is important, none the less, that UN people who are working there have the full protection that would otherwise be afforded them.

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