Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): My hon. Friend mentioned the Foreign Secretary’s excellent statement in New York. Is there any truth to the rumour, or, indeed, is it a fact, that Russia and China are still blocking Britain’s efforts to bring the issue to the United Nations Security Council? Have the Government made an effort to place a resolution calling for a ceasefire on the agenda of the Security Council? Yes or no?
Bill Rammell: I shall come on to comment in detail about that situation, but let me reassure—unfortunately reassure—my right hon. Friend that there is still no consensus for Security Council action in terms of a resolution.
The use of heavy weapons in an area of such dense civilian occupation will inevitably result in heavy civilian casualties, making it very difficult to comply with requirements under international law to minimise civilian casualties. Let me state quite clearly up front that we would support an early investigation into all incidents that may have resulted in civilian casualties, particularly the reported shelling of hospitals, to determine whether war crimes have been committed. The UN estimate, if accurate, of more than 6,500 civilian deaths since January is truly shocking and appalling.