HL Deb 23 April 1996 vol 571 cc89-90WA
Lord Belhaven and Stenton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their policy on the use of anti-personnel landmines.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

I refer my noble friend to the written pursuant answer provided yesterday in another place by my friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the honourable member for Booth Ferry, which confirms that we shall continue to take a lead in working for international agreement on effective measures to address the problems caused by anti-personnel landmines. In order to lend further weight to our efforts, we have taken a series of national decisions following a review of our policy, as follows:

The UK will work actively towards a total, worldwide ban on anti-personnel mines. Should such a ban be agreed, we would give up our anti-personnel landmines capability, and would destroy our stocks accordingly.

All our current anti-personnel mines are non-self-destructing. We intend to destroy almost half our current stockpile as soon as practicable. Until a worldwide ban on all anti-personnel mines is agreed, we shall also pursue current procurement plans to replace our existing mines with self-destructing ones.

We shall also pursue, as an interim step, early international agreement on the elimination of all non-self-destruct anti-personnel mines, which pose the greatest danger to civilians.

The UK's armed forces do not currently use anti-personnel mines operationally anywhere in the world. Nor will they use our current stocks of non-self-destructing anti-personnel mines in future operations unless, in exceptional circumstances, Ministers are satisfied that their use is essential to ensure that British troops are properly protected and there are no alternative ways of achieving that end.

In such exceptional circumstances, we would use non-self-destructing anti-personnel mines only in marked, fenced or monitored areas; would clear them as soon as feasible; and any use would be strictly in accordance with the laws of armed conflict, including the strengthened Protocol II to the UN Weaponry Convention which we hope will be agreed shortly.

We shall also, as a matter of priority, pursue the development of alternatives to anti-personnel mines. Should viable alternatives emerge—none has yet—we would cease to use all anti-personnel mines of any type, and would destroy all our stocks.

In addition, we shall with immediate effect extend the scope of our export moratorium, to prohibit the export of all types of anti-personnel mines to all destinations.