Give Diana fund cash to mine manufacturers - MP

Lindsay Hoyle, Labour member for Chorley, has shocked anti-landmines groups by proposing that Royal Ordnance receive aid from the Princess's memorial fund to set up a mines-clearance school, reports Paul Donovan

ONE OF the biggest former manufacturers of landmines may receive money from the Diana, Princess of Wales memorial fund to establish a landmine- clearance training school. An MP has proposed that Royal Ordnance, which is owned by British Aerospace, set up the school at its factory in Chorley, Lancashire.

Non-governmental organisations involved in mine clearance are dismayed at a proposal they say will allow a commercial arms firm to profit from dealing with a problem it helped to create.

The Labour MP proposing the move, Lindsay Hoyle, says Royal Ordnance is an appropriate choice for funds because it has "essential knowledge" gained by clearing mines in developing countries. ''They have been involved in clearance projects in countries such as Mozambique, Angola and Cambodia," he said. "The level of expertise in the landmine clearance team therefore was evident and a training centre seemed like an excellent way of passing on this essential knowledge."

However, Oxfam, a member of the UK Working Group on Landmines, questions the move. "If Royal Ordnance want to get more involved with clearing these weapons, all well and good, but that would mean the same people getting recognition from Diana's good work who helped cause the problem in the first place," said a spokesman. Organisations such as Royal Ordnance should halt manufacture and put their profits into clearance work, he said.

The Scottish-based landmine-clearing NGO Halo Trust voiced surprise that Royal Ordnance should be in line for handouts. "When we train people we do it on the ground in mine-affected countries. We have in excess of 100 nationals to every expatriate member of staff so I don't know if Royal Ordnance want all those nationals flown over to Lancashire to attend their training school," a spokesman said.

Royal Ordnance has benefited from the practice known as "double dipping", in which a firm is paid to remove landmines it manufactured. After the Gulf War it won a pounds 55m contract to clear mines in Kuwait.The signing last month of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines highlighted the need for rapid clearance of the 100-million-plus mines strewn across the world.

The former director of the Cumbria-based Mines Advisory Group, Rae McGrath, is also critical of the MP's proposal. He believes that funding would be best used in training indigenous peoples in the manual methods of clearance. Manual clearance is favoured by non-profit-making non-governmental organisations such as the Mines Advisory Group and the Halo Trust. This involves teams working on cordoned-off strips of land with a metal detector and prod. When an anti-personnel mine is found, it is uncovered and marked, then detonated later.

But while the manual method is thorough and ensures that land is cleared to United Nations standards of 99.6 per cent, it is a slow process because of the high number of false alarms. Every piece of metal registered by the detector has to be seen as a potential mine and investigated. Teams of de-miners must also be rested regularly to maintain their concentration.

Peter Neunham of Thomson Thorn Missile Electronics said that "potentially there is quite a lot of research and development money available within the European Union".

A consortium including Daimler-Benz Aerospace and Thomson CSF Missile Electronics in France has won the right to develop the first six-month stage of a project involving a vehicle, metal detector, ground-probing radar and sensor systems.

But the value of sensor systems is in question. A spokesman for the Halo Trust said: "We are not yet satisfied that sensor systems are sensitive enough and particularly suitable for deployment to Third World nations. Our experiences with ground-penetrating radar suggest that it is years away from becoming an effective tool within the minefield."

Another arms-related company heavily involved in clearance and development of new technologies is Mechem, the research and development wing of the South African government-owned arms manufacturer Denel. The managing director of Mechem, Vernon Joynt, has promoted himself with the UN as an expert on de-mining techniques and Mechen have reaped the rewards, gaining lucrative contracts in Mozambique and Angola. Dr Joynt has boasted that "there are some mines in Angola which no one will be able to find without our help".

Rae McGrath remains sceptical. He points out that the manual method is still the cheapest and most effective means of clearing mines. It costs just pounds l,500 to train an indigenous de-miner and pounds 10 a day to keep one in the field. "The three components of human resources, equipment and money are what is required to clear more mines," he said. A spokesman for the Halo Trust said: "There is lots of money being spent around mine clearance, but when people put money into scientific research it is because they want to invest in that rather than because they want to find a solution to the mine problem. There is no such thing as a free lunch".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before