The cultural emblem

Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:30 am ar 15 Tachwedd 2016.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

It is a great pleasure and a privilege to take part in the proceedings of the Committee, not least as I am co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the protection of cultural heritage. I will not say too much, not least because I do not have much a voice, but I will say that this a particularly uncontentious part of a relatively uncontentious Bill.

I draw particular attention to the emblem of the blue shield, which is, as we know and as has already been mentioned by the hon. Member for Cardiff West, a symbol used to identify cultural sites protected by the convention and the personnel engaged in protecting such property. I also draw attention to the work of the Blue Shield network, which provides support in the promotion of the ratification of the convention and its protocols, as we are doing today. It is also part of the International Committee of the Blue Shield, which is a voluntary NGO, but one that has already been said to be the equivalent of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and it needs to be given proper status and support.

The International Committee of the Blue Shield provides an unrivalled body of expertise, which allows the organisation to collect and share information on threats to cultural property worldwide. This is a hugely significant organisation that encourages the safeguarding and restoration of cultural property and raises national and international awareness of cultural heritage. It also provides an important focus for the promotion of not only the ratification but the implementation of the convention, and its work with the Government and with other countries, in terms of the protocols and the convention, is no doubt ongoing. It is worth noting in the submissions to the Committee the support for the Bill from the International Committee of the Red Cross and the offer to support the Government in the promotion of the blue shield emblem, which it has done so admirably with the red cross. I would be interested to hear from the Government on the progress of that in terms of social media and other forms of media that have developed in the 60 years since the introduction of the convention.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage)

The hon. Gentleman’s contribution and expertise in this area are welcome in Committee. When reading the Bill, one issue of interest is the threshold for a cultural object to pass muster under the convention and the Bill, and therefore presumably be covered by the cultural emblem. In the UK, what sorts of object or building will be covered, or, of just as much interest, might not be covered? If we are to raise awareness among the general public of what the Bill means, it is important that there is some idea of how and where that line is drawn.

Photo of David Burrowes David Burrowes Ceidwadwyr, Enfield, Southgate

The hon. Gentleman is generous to call me an expert; I do not think I am a great expert at all. My interest in the subject arose not least from a background of concern around trafficking and the links to trade of human beings within property and a concern about the human value, which is aligned with the property value when we get the destruction we have seen by Daesh and other organisations in occupied lands.

I am encouraged by the Minister’s response to a question already raised that we will no doubt return to: there will be proper engagement with stakeholders and consideration of experts’ views around how we ensure there is proper focus. In one sense, that needs to be wide, as the definition in the convention is, and the purpose of the Bill is to ratify the convention and the definition in article 1, which is properly wide and recognises such categories, while providing sufficient reassurance to the trade and others around the practical implementation of that not just in the Blue Shield committee but beyond, with the Government engaging actively to ensure that proper guidance on implementation is set out. I will return to the clause before I get called out of order by the Chair.

I also want to refer in particular to the UK part of the network, the UK Committee of the Blue Shield, ably chaired by Professor Peter Stone, who is also the 2016 UNESCO chair in cultural property protection and peace. We are well placed in this country to help take the lead on the blue shield programme and provide that important conduit of expertise that draws in the military, Red Cross and UNESCO as observers for that committee. Along with charities and heritage protection organisations across the UK, we are helping to provide a lead in this area.

It is important to recognise that the UK committee has been on the case for some years. Since 2003, Peter Stone has been urging successive Ministers and Committees to do what we are doing today to ratify the convention and both protocols. I draw attention to his submission, in which he makes a pitch for the UK to take a lead internationally, certainly among the permanent members of the Security Council, in ratifying the second protocol and in

“funding a small, permanent office for the Blue Shield”,

which, despite its huge significance, is a voluntary, unfunded international non-governmental organisation.

To achieve cultural equivalence with the red cross, the blue shield needs money and resources. Will the Minister respond on how we will provide that further support and partnership work with Peter Stone’s Blue Shield committee, and recognise the added momentum given to Blue Shield’s work by this Committee’s process of ratification, not least of the second protocol? The easy answer she can give is to join us in commending the great work of Blue Shield.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 10:45, 15 Tachwedd 2016

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate for his contribution. He is an expert, and he should not understate the work he has done on the issue over a number of years. He should be congratulated on his commitment and dedication to the protection of cultural property. I am very grateful for the advice he has given me and my Department in recent months.

My hon. Friend’s contribution allows me to pay tribute to the UK Committee of the Blue Shield and put on the record my gratitude to Professor Peter Stone for the work he has done in advising on the Bill and beyond. My hon. Friend mentioned Professor Stone’s plans for a Blue Shield centre, which I and my Department will continue to work with him on. I agree with my hon. Friend that it will allow us to take an international lead on the issue.

Clause 8 relates to the cultural emblem. The hon. Member for Cardiff West said that the Bill is a piece of legislation with a picture in it. I humbly suggest that if there were more pictures in Bills, more people outside this place might read them.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Llafur, Rhondda

It is not a very beautiful picture.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

If it protects beautiful heritage and culture, one might suggest otherwise.

The cultural emblem takes the form of a blue and white shield and allows cultural property protected under the convention to be marked to facilitate its recognition. In introducing the emblem, we will recognise for the first time in the United Kingdom the only symbol in international law for the protection of cultural property during armed conflict. It will act as a means of identification for this country’s most important cultural property and safeguard it in the event of an armed conflict.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 8 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9