Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Convention on cluster munitions

Delivered in Plenary - 19th November 2008

Mr President

I am no pacifist anybody in this Chamber who knows me well would say that but there is much about warfare and the arms trade which we must regret. Cluster munitions to me are one of the most horrible ways of waging war which should always, of course, only occur as a very last resort.

There is much evidence to suggest that these weapons disproportionately affect civilian populations, who must be protected above all in international law. Cluster bombs can fall across a huge area and remain unexploded for very long periods of time, posing a lethal threat to civilians who could be killed or maimed long after a conflict has ended.

They are also costly to locate and remove and cannot be formally mapped in the same way that a minefield can. Sometimes children have picked these things up, thinking of them as toys, and losing limbs or perhaps even their lives as a result. As a father of very young children myself, few things could be more horrendous to think about.

If we are serious about creating a European Union of common values and sharing those values with the world, we must take a common position to promote an eventual ban on these terrifying and terrible arms, which are very blunt in their effect on the battlefield.

We must also use all diplomatic means at our disposal to persuade others to do the same. We as the European Parliament can rightly be proud of what we have done to try to rid the world of the scourge of anti-personnel land mines. We must approach this issue of cluster bombs with equal vigour and commitment, in order to build a better, more humane world and not see innocent civilians suffer in the aftermath of armed conflict.