HC Deb 04 July 1995 vol 263 cc136-7
15. Mr. Milburn

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will ban the export of self-destruct anti-personnel land mines. [30569]

Mr. Freeman

No. It would not be right to ban completely the export of a weapon which we may in future need to import for our own armed forces.

Mr. Milburn

With more than 100 million mines already scattered across the world's battlefields, indiscriminately threatening not just soldiers but innocent civilians, has not the time come to call for a total ban on all types of land mines? Will not the Minister go one stage further by agreeing to press for a total ban, internationally, on all exports of land mines at the forthcoming UN inhumane weapons conference in September?

Mr. Freeman

The sentiments of the whole House are probably with the hon. Gentlemen. However, the plain fact is that a complete ban on the production, stockpiling and use of anti-personnel land mines would be ineffective. [Interruption.]

Mr. Robathan

I am not used to such a cheer when I rise to my feet, but I am grateful for it.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, however appalling the consequences of anti-personnel mines may be for civilians, they are a viable weapon of war that we must keep in our armoury? Is it not unfortunate that the Labour party always uses the issue as a stick to beat the Government when we have an excellent record in the export of anti-personnel mines?

Mr. Freeman

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is obviously correct. If we procure additional anti-personnel land mines, our policy will be to ensure that they are safe, tested and reliable, which will be a complement to the British armed forces.

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