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International Humanitarian Law: Protecting Civilians in Conflict — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:41 am on 18th June 2019.

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Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State 10:41 am, 18th June 2019

I wish I had homework that I could mark these days—it is more my children’s homework that I have to do that with now. My right hon. Friend makes a valid point. Above all, the issue is less to do with whether that is desirable, and more about the credibility in the international community of such outcomes. He makes a fair point.

To return to the point made by the right hon. Member for Cynon Valley, the operational end-use monitoring and the establishment of a dedicated civilian casualty mitigation and investigation team are an MOD lead. I will ensure that her speech is passed to my friends over in that Department, although I am sure they are well aware of the concerns raised here today. The issue relates to operations in the field and is therefore an MOD matter. From our side, we are trying to improve data collection, as I referred to, in other parts of the world. We feel that that may have an important part of play. There is project underway with the University of Manchester looking at many of these related issues, and I hope the right hon. Lady will be able to feed into that.

Mr Campbell, who is no longer in his place, made a point about child soldiers. The UK is firmly committed to ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers and to the protection of all children affected by armed conflict. We are an active member of the United Nations Security Council working group on children and armed conflict. I believe it will be an important part of the Indonesian presidency next year that they want to address this terrible issue.

My hon. Friend the Member for Henley talked about Africa, and I have discussed the Security Council issues a little. Uganda, Senegal and Ghana—I am not sure they are all on his hit list, and I have put them in reverse alphabetical order—are working with the US and other countries, looking at positive reform of the International Criminal Court. We would obviously like to see more activity in Africa, given the prevalence of concerns that have arisen from that part of the world, as my hon. Friend rightly pointed out.

The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington made an important point about drones, their legality and the implications of the German High Court ruling. The MOD leads on this, but we will look closely at that German High Court ruling. Upholding IHL is already integral to any assistance that we would provide to other states. This matter is under review at the moment through the MOD.