Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Wednesday, June 24, 1998 Published at 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK


Government criticised for landmines delay

Campaigners want the mine ban ratified by a year after Diana's death

Defence Secretary George Robertson has indicated the government could ratify an international ban on landmines in time for the anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

George Robertson, Martin Bell and Mike Whitlam debate the government's delay on BBC Radio 4's Today (1)
Mr Robertson told an international conference on landmine elimination that ministers were actively looking at ways of pushing through the necessary legislation before MPs break for summer recess.

Princess Diana had been a leading figure in the campaign to ban landmines before her death last year.

Mr Robertson told the conference organised by the British Red Cross: "We are looking at this matter with some degree of urgency and we have not ruled out taking more rapid action than was previously assumed."

Mr Robertson has come under growing pressure after it was revealed that the legislation to ratify the Ottawa Convention was unlikely to be put to Parliament in the current session.

Mr Robertson told the conference ratifying the convention remained one of the government's "key priorities."

"We are looking very carefully at how we could get the ratification through as quickly as possible," he said.

[ image: Defence Secretary George Robertson says the delay is due to lack of time]
Defence Secretary George Robertson says the delay is due to lack of time
He went on to pay tribute to the role played by Princess Diana in generating the international will to securing the Ottawa Convention.

He said: "She contributed enormously to bringing the world's attention to the devastating effects of anti-personnel landmines and thereby to the success of the Ottawa process

"A momentum has been generated and we must do all we can to ensure that it is sustained."

Earlier, Mr Robertson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, the issue had been held up by a congested parliamentary session, made worse by the pressures of Northern Ireland.

He stressed the government was ahead in its programme to get rid of its own stocks, with 450,000 anti-personnel landmines, almost half of the total stocks, having been destroyed.

He said: "We signed the treaty and unilaterally we banned the production, export, import and transfer of anti-personnel landmines and declared a moratorium on their use."

Bell: Hold special session on Diana anniversary

Mr Robertson came under fire from former BBC war correspondent Martin Bell. The independent MP demanded ratification by the end of parliament or at the very latest by the first anniversary of the death of Princess Diana on August 31.

Mr Bell even called for a special reconvening of parliament on the anniversary of Diana's death to ratify the treaty.

The Director General of the British Red Cross, Mike Whitlam, said he believed there would be no opposition to ratifying the treaty in parliament.

George Robertson, Martin Bell and Mike Whitlam debate the government's delay on BBC Radio 4's Today programme (2)
He said: "We are saddened that the government has not actually got to the point of ratification."

He told the Today programme the UK Government was central to getting other countries to sign up to the ban.

He added: "Every day that we delay this process, every day they [landmines] continue to be made means more women, more children are still being killed and for the sake of half a day in parliament, I think people's lives are worth that."

The Foreign Secretary Robin Cook pledged on April 1 that the UK would be one of the first 40 countries to ratify the Convention.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland
Relevant Stories

24 Jun 98 | UK
Diana memorial garden backed by committee

22 Jun 98 | UK Politics
Government under fire over landmine ban

Internet Links

British Red Cross

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online