Defence Reform Bill

Lord Hodgson

The arrival of the Defence Reform Bill, which will give the Government powers to sub contract to the private sector a substantial part (possibly all) of the supply of our defence equipment, gives an opportunity to raise the issue of the increasing use of drones and whether the supervision of them is adequately provided for under current legislation.

The Ministry of Defence Police Act of 1987 was passed long before drones were developed and so is silent about them. Are drones aircraft? No doubt there are legal arguments that they are – but the general public might argue that an aircraft is a craft with at least one person inside it. We need to be certain that the MOD Police have the appropriate jurisdiction and powers.

The next challenge is to find out whether information being supplied by Britain to other countries (either directly or as a result of information being routed through Britain) is being used for purposes that are permissible under UK law.

The UK does not recognise the legal concept of “anticipatory self defence” So if information is being supplied on which drone strikes are being based resulting in deaths of citizens of countries with whom the UK is not at war, there is a question about the legality of the UK’s actions.

Our armed intervention overseas have had as a major objective to ensure that the rule of law is established and maintained. Equally the British public needs to know that the rule of law is not being flouted at home.

12 comments for “Defence Reform Bill

  1. Gareth Howell
    12/02/2014 at 9:14 am

    The model aircraft industry that developed them in the early 90s would certainly be very offended not to think of them as aircraft, unless they are……. selling them abroad as toys for the toy industry. Add your little package here.

    Would the MOD police not be visiting them if they are given to understand that they are merely large toys for children to play with?

  2. Honoris Causa
    12/02/2014 at 9:27 am

    The next challenge is to find out whether information being supplied by Britain to other countries (either directly or as a result of information being routed through Britain) is being used for purposes that are permissible under UK law.

    That may be the daily bread of GCHQ. Since we are all surveilled by USA, routing would not make any difference, unless you are sending information hard copy.

  3. Hansard Society
    Hansard Society
    12/02/2014 at 12:38 pm

    From Twitter…

    • Honoris Causa
      12/02/2014 at 4:23 pm

      Any man with the ability to apply scientific knowledge would,for example, know all about the science described on this web page. He might even enjoy discussing it from a military point of view.

      It might be classified, but the said enterprise, a very fine one, might be earning a good living from the application of generally available scientific knowledge.

      When you consider the tremendously valuable national crop surveillance techniques they may provide, it would be extremely foolish not to.

      Nil done! says Twitter! Evil done! Say I.

  4. Dr Andrew Watt
    13/02/2014 at 9:38 am

    I’ve emailed to Lord Hodgson relevant correspondence with Chief Constable Rhodes and two RAF officers about using drones from RAF Waddington being “terrorism” in the meaning of Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

    As I expected, Chief Constable Rhodes failed to do anything substantive.

  5. Honoris Causa
    14/02/2014 at 6:14 pm

    What would the Lord Hodgson like to see in this act?

    How would MOD police have any powers at all over the private sector, and why would they be concerned with the meaning of the word “aircraft” which is defined as something which is “made to fly/for flying”?

    Section 1 of Terrorism act may be more revealing and still no help!

    There may well be a question of legality about the UK’s actions, if they were used extensively, but it would surely be
    the UN who would come to the rescue of poor victim nations’

    UK Being henchmen of the world’s acknowledged policeman implies that a UK Chief Constable may sit comfortably in his office and chuck paper darts at his office secretary, rather than give any thought to such a distant, and for him, arcane problem.

    Lord Ivor Richard may well be able to advise, a profound knowledge of all UN international law.

  6. Gareth Howell
    14/02/2014 at 6:27 pm

    And the Lord Hodgson and Dr Watt are spot on BUT a UN resolution HAS BEEN PASSED in the last few weeks as follows
    (the last paragraph is the acid test):

    UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly on Wednesday (13thJan)adopted a resolution (UN law is known as RESOLUTION) calling on states using drone strikes as a counter-terrorism measure to comply with international law as the 193-member body acted on a range of issues relating mainly to human rights.

    The unanimous call for regulating the use of remotely piloted aircraft against suspected terrorists was contained in a comprehensive 28-paragraph resolution, titled “Protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism”. The portion about drone strikes was included as a result of intensive efforts made by the Pakistan delegation.

    It is the first time that the General Assembly has spoken out on the use of armed drones — a key but controversial component of the US war against terrorism, including against targets inside Pakistan.

    In this regard, the Assembly underscored the “urgent and imperative” need for an agreement among member states on legal questions about drone operations.

    The resolution urges states “to ensure that any measures taken or means employed to counter terrorism, including the use of remotely piloted aircraft, comply with their obligations under international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction and proportionality”.

    If you want to take our government to task then read the 28
    paragraph Resolution (of Law) and quote chapter and verse.

    Lord Richard has been informed.

  7. Gareth Howell
    14/02/2014 at 6:35 pm

    And that is to whom to make your complaint.

    Not the chief Constable but The HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL

    May business Sir, and mi Lord be brisk.

    I also act in the name Of QC Honoris Causa. It is a good one

  8. maude elwes
    17/02/2014 at 1:20 pm

    These ‘toys’ will soon be sold by those out of our control. So, regardless of the transatlantic agreements with the EU, which includes the UK, there will be little we will be able to do about it.

    Another interesting matter on the sale and use of drones that should be available to the public through our media.

    Amazing how apartheid walls are allowed for some but not for others. Here is a legal opinion piece

    • Honoris Causa
      18/02/2014 at 9:25 pm

      It is not the moral implications or to whom they are being sold, but any fact of their being used by one country against another
      whilst not being formally at war with them. If there is any such fact, then the Human Rights of victims are infringed, and complaints should be made to the UNHRC (Union Human Rights Council) which specifically deals with such infringments.

      If you check the HRC site you will find that they are dealing with the relevant Issues of the moment.

      There was a suggestion recently that Pakistan had been “droned” possibly by a UK aircraft. If that is so, and there is no known complaint to the HRC then one should be made

      It may only be true to say that if there has not been one, then no such infringement occured.

      It is puerile “anti-human rights” campaigning, and anti-UN, for whatever over simplified reason, to suggest that
      a village policeman in the UK should be called to make the complaint.

  9. JH
    18/02/2014 at 1:14 pm

    The moral and political implications of drones are discussed here –

    As for the legal, s.1 of the Terrorism Act 2000 seems to be missing something.

    • Honoris Causa
      26/02/2014 at 8:35 pm

      This woman says that two of her family were killed by such drones against a non-hostile country’s people, Pakistan.
      I f so she has a case against the UK govt of the time.
      She has not yet presented it.

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