Exiting the European Union (Sanctions)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:38 pm on 9th April 2019.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 2:38 pm, 9th April 2019

I am very grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

First, why was £80,000-worth of weapons material, which could be used for internal repression, authorised by the Government in 2016-17? That seems to be a breach of the current sanctions regime. [Interruption.] To Venezuela. Secondly, we do not believe that the oil sanctions that have been imposed by the Americans have been helpful in the current situation. This is precisely the point that hon. Members made earlier: the object of the sanctions should be to punish the politicians who are in charge of creating a bad situation and not the whole population.

I also want to ask the Minister about the gold that the Bank of England holds for the central bank of Venezuela. It was reported in November last year, before the Government had recognised Juan Guaidó as the leader of Venezuela, that the Bank of England had frozen 1,125 gold bars. I asked Her Majesty’s Treasury through a written parliamentary question what the legal basis for that was. It told me that it was a matter for the Bank of England, so I wrote to the Governor to ask what the legal basis for the decision was and his response was somewhat opaque. I have read suggestions in the press that the American Government put pressure on the British Government, who leant on the Bank of England directly not to release these gold bars when the bank of Venezuela requested them. I would like to know from the Minister whether that is true.