Clause 2 — Amendments of the United Nations Personnel Act 1997

Part of Gangmasters Licensing Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 10th June 2009.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs) 3:45 pm, 10th June 2009

I support clause 2. Legal protection for UN personnel who are doing essential peace building and emergency humanitarian work is vital and, I would argue, long overdue. Those employees are working on behalf of the whole international community, but sadly they are under increased risk of attack and kidnap. In fact, according to Reuters, in 2008 some 122 people were killed in the course of aid work. That highlights the point that I raised earlier about the possibility of extending the protection further, beyond UN personnel.

Sadly, even just in the short time that the Bill has been discussed in the Houses of Parliament, we have seen on the news the requirement for it. On Second Reading, the Gaza conflict was uppermost in people's minds, as a result of the attack on the UN school. Since then, of course, we have seen dreadful scenes unfold in Sri Lanka, where hospitals have come under fire from artillery shells, and a Red Cross worker is reported to have died. We still do not know the full scale of the damage, death and destruction. Obviously, legal protection alone will not solve the problem. We do not wave a magic wand by agreeing to the protocol, but it is a step in the right direction. It is a deterrent, and it does at least give us the opportunity to act in pursuit of justice where atrocities have been committed.

As for applying the measures to the UK, obviously we hope and do not expect UN workers to come under attack in the UK. However, ratification would provide an international lead. It is good news that even since Second Reading two more countries have ratified; I note that Hansard shows that 16 countries had ratified at the time. Hopefully we will make it 19, and that leaves just three more before the measures are brought into force. I urge the Minister and his Department to use all possible diplomacy, as I am sure they will, to encourage other countries to sign and ratify the protocols as soon as possible. With that, I reiterate my support for clause 2.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Third Reading

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