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Human Rights: Sanctions Regime

Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons on 17th March 2020.

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Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North

If the Government will bring forward legislative proposals for a global human rights sanctions regime after the transition period.

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

As the Foreign Secretary has said on previous occasions, we will establish an autonomous UK global human rights Magnitsky sanctions regime shortly. That will reinforce our role as a global leader in the promotion and protection of human rights. We will do that through secondary legislation under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. That sanctions regime will allow us to impose sanctions in response to serious human rights violations or abuses anywhere in the world.

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the benefits of leaving the European Union is that our new sanctions regime will allow us to go faster and further in holding the worst human rights abusers to account?

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

The sanctions Act allows the UK to implement our own sanctions regimes, and we intend to use those powers in line with UK interests and values to reinforce the UK’s role as a force for good. We will continue to co-operate with international partners on sanctions, including on human rights, because sanctions are most effective when delivered collectively.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda

The Foreign Secretary was one of the loudest in clamouring for these Magnitsky sanctions to be brought forward, yet they have been on the statute book for two years and we still do not have the statutory instruments. One Minister has said we will have them “in the coming months”; another has said we will have them “soon”. If the Foreign Secretary were sitting on the Back Benches, he would be saying, “Do them now!”

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

And we absolutely are. We are working really hard; the hon. Gentleman just needs to wait a little longer. [Interruption.] If Emily Thornberry will allow me to speak, I will reinforce my answer. Chris Bryant just needs to wait a little longer. The regime will be coming forward. We are taking the time to get it right, which is absolutely the right thing to do. Just wait a little longer.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Conservative, Rutland and Melton

When we bring forward the Magnitsky regime, will we also bring forward sanctions against individuals who profit through corruption and human rights abuses?

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development)

It is important that we recognise that the sanctions regime is intended to target not individual countries but those who commit serious human rights violations. As I said, we are working really hard to ensure that what comes forward is right; just wait a little longer and we will see that come forward. It is no good speculating in advance about who may be designated, because that may reduce the impact of sanctions.