Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
27: Clause 9, page 9, line 36, leave out subsection (3) and insert—“(3) Regulations under section 1 which contain a designation power must provide that where an appropriate Minister—(a) has made a designation under the power, or(b) has varied or revoked a designation made under the power (see section 18),that Minister must without delay take such steps as are reasonably practicable to inform the designated person of the designation, variation or revocation.(3A) The regulations may include provision, additional to that required by subsection (3), as to steps to be taken as regards notification or publicity where a designation has been made under the designation power or a designation made under the power has been varied or revoked.(3B) The regulations need not require a person to be notified of an intention to designate the person.”
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords again for their constructive engagement on this group of amendments. The government amendments I have tabled have been heavily influenced by the discussions we have had. Amendment 28 would require regulations to include provisions on notifying a person once designated and how to publicise designations. I am happy to say that government Amendment 27 does exactly that. When a person has been designated, or had their designation varied or revoked, the Minister must, without delay, take such steps as are reasonably practicable to inform the person. Sanctions regulations may also include further provision as to the specific arrangements for notification or publicity. In this regard, I am extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for their assistance.
Amendment 29 would require a person to be informed of their designation and to be given the fullest possible account of the reasons for designation and the steps required to address the concerns. Amendment 30 covers similar ground, while also requiring that the designated person be given the evidence underlying the designation or a gist of any evidence that is withheld for reasons of national security. In response, government Amendments 32, 37 and 59 make provision across the Bill to provide a statement of reasons to designated persons. When a person is designated, the Government will be obliged to provide a statement of the matters that the Minister knows, or has reasonable grounds to suspect, have led to the designation. I am sure noble Lords will appreciate that the Minister’s statement may exclude some matters, for reasons which I know noble Lords will understand and respect, such as when it is in the interests of national security. If a challenge is made in court, on those rare occasions when sensitive information is used to underpin a designation, the closed material procedure will apply. The courts, such as in the case of AF (No. 3), have long required the gist of sensitive material to be disclosed to enable an individual to understand the case against them. We accept that this is and will continue to be the case and the Bill does not seek to make any changes to the existing disclosure burden on the Government in such cases.
Amendment 38 would insert a new clause into the Bill requiring the appropriate Minister to exercise the power to designate only to the extent that it is proportionate to do so, having regard to the purpose of the designation and the impact on the person concerned. The government amendments I have tabled in response—Amendments 31, 36 and 58—use very similar language. They would require Ministers to consider that a designation is appropriate, having regard to the purpose of the regulations and the likely significant effects of the designation on the person concerned. I am again grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, for supporting these government amendments. While there seems to be a meeting of minds on this important issue, it may also be helpful if I briefly explain the thinking behind the Government’s revised language.
First, the European Convention on Human Rights entrenches individual rights, obliging the Government to consider the impact on an individual’s rights when making certain decisions. Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 further ensures that the appropriate Minister must act in line with those convention rights, as informed by Strasbourg case law. We consider that this includes satisfying himself that the designation is proportionate, where convention rights are engaged, and I have been clear on this in relation to this Bill, including in Committee. Secondly, given that the Human Rights Act already requires proportionality to be considered where convention rights are engaged, a court might interpret the use of the word in the Bill to mean something different. Our amendments have tried to preserve the spirit of the intention underlying this amendment, without creating any difficulty of interpretation. As a result, the government amendments provide for a balancing test for designations between the purpose of the regulation and the impact on the individual, while avoiding an explicit reference to “proportionality”.
Amendment 50 requires the Government to provide specific guidance produced by the Crown Prosecution Service about the prosecution of sanctions breaches. The Government wholeheartedly support and have publicly committed to producing clear and accessible guidance on sanctions implementation and enforcement, both in this House and throughout our consultation on the White Paper. The Crown Prosecution Service already publishes guidance on how the public interest is taken into account in any decision to prosecute and this test is the same one that will be applied in decisions to prosecute sanctions offences. The procurator fiscal in Scotland and the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland publish similar guidance. The Government’s view is that no additional public interest guidance is necessary simply for a sanctions prosecution decision.
The Bill will provide for the Government to issue guidance on the content and implementation of sanctions. Clause 36 requires Ministers to issue guidance about any prohibitions and requirements imposed by sanctions regulations. There will be a mandatory requirement to provide comprehensive guidance for all those affected by sanctions implementation. Clause 36 is a more comprehensive duty than that specified in the amendment to Clause 16 which I have said is unnecessary. It has been drafted so as to allow comprehensive guidance on all sanctions prohibitions and requirements to be prepared and consulted on by the appropriate sources of expertise. For financial sanctions, the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation has already published a comprehensive guidance document setting out its general enforcement approach. This will be fully updated to reflect the new sanctions Bill regime.
Amendment 53 requires the Minister to respond,
“as soon as reasonably practical” to a request to vary or revoke a designation. Government Amendments 56 and 61 are fully in line with this proposal.
Finally, government Amendments 51, 52, 57 and 60 make technical changes consequential on these changes, and I hope they will be accepted. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have tabled, with the support of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, a number of amendments in this group on the subjects of procedural fairness and proportionality. The Minister acknowledged in Committee that these were topics that he and the Bill team would need to consider before Report. Given the adverse consequences of being designated, the Bill must provide for procedural fairness and the provisions must be applied in a proportionate manner. Again, I thank the Minister and the Bill team for some very helpful meetings on these subjects, and for tabling these amendments, which address my concerns.
In particular, government Amendments 31, 36 and 58 will require the Minister to be satisfied that any designation is appropriate, having regard to both,
“the purpose of the regulations … and … the likely significant effects of the designation”,
on the person concerned. That addresses the substance of my Amendment 38 on proportionality. It does not use the word “proportionality” but that does not matter. It contains the essence of proportionality and I am grateful to the Minister for confirming in his opening remarks that that is indeed the purpose of these government amendments.
Government Amendments 32, 37, 59 and 61 are also very important in placing in the Bill a requirement of procedural fairness; that is, that the person designated is entitled to a statement of the reasons why he or she has been designated. That is absolutely fundamental to any fair sanctions procedure. I recognise that the government amendments exclude any right to information the disclosure of which would harm interests such as national security, but they rightly provide that these exclusions will not allow the Minister to provide no statement of reasons. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that the intention here is to ensure that a person who is designated will always be entitled to at least a statement of the essence of the reasons for the designation, albeit that details which affect national security or other protected interests cannot be disclosed.
In the light of these government amendments, I am satisfied that the Bill now makes it clear that procedural fairness and the substance of proportionality are part of the administrative machinery. The Minister made it clear in Committee that this was always the intention and he made it clear—and I respectfully agree with him—that the courts would in any event hold Ministers to such basic standards of the rule of law. I am pleased that the Minister has recognised that it is appropriate to include these matters in the Bill and I thank him.
My Lords, I am also grateful to the Minister. Clearly, he has listened a lot and has provided a lot of change from the initial version of the Bill. There is a meeting of minds—there is no question about that—but the one issue that I am not sure he addressed was about the requisite steps that persons are expected to take to address the concerns which led to the designation in the first place. I would like the Minister to comment on that, but we support the changes.
My Lords, again, I thank noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, asked me to confirm that the Bill makes no provision to change the ability of the designated person to be given the reasons for their designation and to be supplied with an irreducible minimum of the evidence against them. The only issue is that we have always said there would be national security elements. The amendment specifically says that,
“the regulations may not authorise the Minister to provide no statement of reasons”,
which I am sure the noble Lord has noted.
On the opportunity for the designated person to challenge their listing, which I believe the noble Lord also raised, currently designated persons and entities can challenge their designation and the content of the sanctions in EU courts. There are currently around 100 sanctions-related cases before EU courts. Those persons and entities designated under UK sanctions regulations made using the powers in the Bill will be protected by the ability to request an administrative reassessment of the Government’s decision at the time they are designated or re-designated. Designated persons under UK sanctions will also be able to challenge their designation in the High Court. The court will then have the ability to order the Government to think again and, if necessary, make declarations of unlawfulness and, in some cases, award damages.
I trust that with those two clarifications, noble Lords are minded to support the government amendments.
Amendment 27 agreed.
Amendments 28 to 30 not moved.
Clause 10: Designation of a person by name under a designation power
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
31: Clause 10, page 10, line 10, leave out paragraph (b) and insert— “(b) considers that the designation of that person is appropriate, having regard to—(i) the purpose of the regulations as stated under section 1(3), and(ii) the likely significant effects of the designation on that person (as they appear to the Minister to be on the basis of the information that the Minister has).”
32: Clause 10, page 10, line 31, at end insert—“(7) The regulations must, in relation to any case where the Minister designates a person by name, require the information given under the provision made under section 9(3) to include a statement of reasons.(8) In subsection (7) a “statement of reasons” means a brief statement of the matters that the Minister knows, or has reasonable grounds to suspect, in relation to that person which have led the Minister to make the designation.(9) The regulations may authorise matters to be excluded from that statement where the Minister considers that they should be excluded—(a) in the interests of national security or international relations,(b) for reasons connected with the prevention or detection of serious crime in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, or(c) in the interests of justice(but the regulations may not authorise the Minister to provide no statement of reasons).”
Amendments 31 and 32 agreed.
Clause 11: Designation of persons by description under a designation power
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
33: Clause 11, page 10, line 33, leave out “authorise” and insert “grant a power for”
34: Clause 11, page 10, line 35, at end insert—“( ) The regulations must contain provision which prohibits the exercise of that power except where conditions A to C are met.( ) Condition A is that the description of persons specified is such that a reasonable person would know whether that person fell within it.( ) Condition B is that, at the time the description is specified, it is not practicable for the Minister to identify and designate by name all the persons falling within that description at that time.”
35: Clause 11, page 10, line 36, leave out from beginning to “the” in line 37 and insert “Condition C is that”
36: Clause 11, page 11, line 1, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—“(b) considers that the designation of persons of the specified description is appropriate, having regard to—(i) the purpose of the regulations as stated under section 1 (3), and(ii) the likely significant effects of the designation (as they appear to the Minister to be on the basis of the information that the Minister has) on persons of that description.”
37: Clause 11, page 11, line 5, at end insert—“(3A) The regulations must, in relation to any case where the Minister provides that persons of a specified description are designated persons, require the information given under the provision made under section 9(3) to include a statement of reasons. (3B) In subsection (3A) a “statement of reasons” means a brief statement of the matters that the Minister knows, or has reasonable grounds to suspect, in relation to persons of the specified description which have led the Minister to make the provision designating persons of that description.(3C) The regulations may authorise matters to be excluded from that statement where the Minister considers that they should be excluded—(a) in the interests of national security or international relations,(b) for reasons connected with the prevention or detection of serious crime in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, or(c) in the interests of justice(but the regulations may not authorise the Minister to provide no statement of reasons).”
Amendments 33 to 37 agreed.
Amendment 38 not moved.
Clause 14: Exceptions and licences
Amendments 39 to 41 not moved.
Amendments 42 and 43 not moved.
Clause 16: Enforcement
Amendment 44 not moved.
My Lords, I am going to add to the trumpet sounds of praise for the Minister and thank him for everything he has done so far. However, I do not want to damage his ministerial career further by not taking him on. I am taking him on in relation to Clause 16.
In the days when there were no regulations but the King thought that he would like to rule the country by proclamation and to create criminal offences by proclamation, the response of Parliament was that it is,
“the indubitable right of the people of this kingdom not to be made subject to any punishment … other than such as are ordained by the common laws of this land, or the statutes made by their common consent in parliament”.
The King sought to be able to make criminal offences by proclamation and Parliament told him he could not. That is a principle to which we should have adhered. We have not. I am not going to try to turn back the last 25 years of history but this is quite a significant moment. Parliament was prepared to tell the King—who could have sent you off to prison and did send people to the Tower when he disagreed with them—that this would not do. My submission to the House is that this current provision simply will not do. I acknowledge that the clause is improved to some extent by the proposed government amendments but it provides a vivid example of what has become unacceptable, for this very simple reason: it vests vast powers in a Minister of the Crown.
In discussions with the Minister, I have been able to understand that he has clearly conveyed his wish to ensure that where sanctions of whatever kind are currently and lawfully in existence, particularly those which emanate from our membership of the EU, they should continue. I agree with him: the EU and our current relationship with it is why we have sanctions against Syria and Russia. I do not for one moment wish to diminish the possibility of those continuing. They should not lapse just because we would cease to have any international obligation with the EU, but I simply do not understand why we cannot make provision to deal with such a situation. I am not trying to row back. I accept the need for sanctions to be continued against Russia and Syria, and against whomsoever we have sanctions, but it should be capable of amendment. This provision, I agree, would do that but it would also do much more—and my concern is with the much more, which is quite unnecessary.
The starting point is that the entire system envisaged in the Bill is about government by regulation. There is in truth no primary legislation here; all of it is regulations. I call it a bonanza of regulations and your Lordships might use any word you like to describe it, but that is what the Bill consists of. In addition, we have two perfectly good provisions for dealing with UN sanctions and sanctions based on our obligations under international law, under treaty. Then we have a whole lot of new regulations to deal with the prevention of terrorism, the interests of national security, the interests of international peace and security, the furtherance of a foreign policy objective of the Government of the United Kingdom and, as a result of today’s debate, four more provisions. All those are domestic issues. The issues relating to UN resolutions or sanctions, EU resolutions and treaty obligations are fine, so far as they go. But as to the rest of it, it is all domestic.
We will end up with a situation in which provision will be made by regulation to enable the Minister to decide what offences should be created to deal with what are in truth domestic matters, which it is unlikely would not be at least matters of controversy. Foreign policy is a matter of controversy. What is “national security”? How should counterterrorism work? These are all issues which we have to grapple with on a daily basis. We would end up with a Minister, by regulations based on regulations, being able to create an offence which would send you to prison, presumably on conviction, for 10 years. That is a major provision.
I can deal with this briefly; I have said my piece more than once in this House on it. This clause is devolving enormous powers. I have no hesitation or worry about it devolving enormous powers to this Minister but we do not know who the next Minister will be, or the Minister 10 or 20 years from now. The Bill will continue in force for 10 or 20 years; I suspect the hope is that it will continue indefinitely. In the wrong hands, these powers are not merely enormous but dangerous. There is no need for them. So my objection to this clause, and the provisions I am addressing, is simply this: we are allowing an accretion of alarming power to a Minister of the Crown—to the Executive. That power in relation to the matters I am raising, which is to say not the United Nations issue or the international treaty issue but all the other issues, should not be dealt with by regulation. I beg to move.
Perhaps I may add one brief point to what was said so powerfully by the noble and learned Lord, which is to remind the House of what was said by your Lordships’ Constitution Committee, of which he and I are members. The committee’s eighth report of this Session, which was on the Bill, stated in paragraph 21:
“We are deeply concerned that the power in clause 16 may be used to create an offence for which a sentence of imprisonment for up to 10 years may be imposed, and that rules on the evidence to demonstrate that the case is proved, and defences to such charges, are subject to ministerial regulation. We consider that such regulation-making powers are constitutionally unacceptable and should not remain part of the Bill”.
The Minister has dealt in Amendment 46 with the second part of that criticism, which is the quite extraordinary suggestion in the original Bill that a Minister, by regulations, should have power to alter defences to charges and to address rules on evidence, such as the burden and standard of proof. This was a quite extraordinary suggestion and I hope that the House will never again see such a provision presented in a Bill by Ministers. However, to his credit the Minister has accepted in Amendment 46 that that provision should be removed. What remains is the suggestion that Ministers should have the power to create offences for which a sentence of imprisonment of up to 10 years is imposed—and on that I entirely agree with what the noble and learned Lord said.
My Lords, perhaps I may intervene here as a non-lawyer because I see our lawyers fluttering into their places, rather like that scene in Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. I would like to make a wider point to the House, which is one I have made over the last 20 years in Parliament. It is that one of the crucial roles of this Chamber is to defend the constitution and, above all, to defend it in terms of the relative powers of the judiciary, the Executive and the legislature.
Just over 10 years ago I was on the Cunningham committee, which looked at conventions between the two Houses. If I left a mark on that committee, it was in the clause that states and retains the right of this House to say no. It is the most important power that this House has. It is a nuclear power and something not to be used very often, but it makes the other place come into dialogue and it makes Governments think again. What worries me about the process now under way is that because of the sheer volume of Brexit legislation that will come our way, with a whole flotilla of Bills, it is quite clear that the members of whatever team is looking at this in the Cabinet Office have said, “We can only do this by using secondary legislation and Henry VIII powers on an unprecedented scale”. If they were successful in doing this we would, in my submission, tilt the balance away from the legislature to the Executive in a way that was not intended—and certainly not intended by those who argued for Brexit as a way of returning power to this Parliament.
This is one of the early tests of it. Funnily enough, the earliest test was in the little-noticed Space Industry Bill where there was a whopping great Henry VIII clause which, after the intervention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, the Government withdrew. By voting for and carrying this amendment today, right at the start of this process, we will send a message that will make the Government think again—and think more imaginatively and more constitutionally—about how they are going to deal with this legislation without adopting these practices, the dangers of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, so eloquently explained.
It is a real danger. If we are forced in Bill after Bill to carry amendments, the House of Lords will be accused of exceeding its powers. I do not think that we are exceeding our powers. We are doing what Lord Hailsham referred to almost 40 years ago: trying to avoid the dangers of a democratic dictatorship where the other place simply argues that we must obey. We must not just obey, particularly with clauses such as this which tilt the balance away from the way in which law, and in particular criminal law, is made, in a quite unacceptable way. By voting for this amendment tonight, we will send a message which will avoid a constitutional car crash further down the road.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure on this occasion to speak after my noble friend Lord McNally and to agree with him. I am very glad to do so. Although he does not think much of lawyers, he would make a wonderful lawyer—and I mean that as a compliment.
So far as this amendment is concerned, although the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, went back to the proclamations in explaining its origin, I shall add this from my own memory. When I was a student of history, not law, at Cambridge University, my mentor told me to read The New Despotism by Lord Hewart, the Lord Chief Justice, and, especially, Harold Laski and the other members of the Donoughmore committee on Ministers’ powers, which reported in the late 1930s. Anybody who reads those two historic documents will understand perfectly why the amendment moved by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, needs to be supported. It is a matter of the rule of law and of parliamentary democracy. Therefore, I very much hope that the whole House and the Minister, in particular, will be able to accept the amendment. If not, I will certainly be delighted to vote in its favour.
My Lords, I remind the House that I was fortunate enough to take part in the Space Industry Bill on exactly this basis. That is the reason I come to this amendment. I hope that my noble friend will recognise that this is about not just this amendment in this Bill but a whole range of ways of looking at taking into our domestic legislation the things that we have to. I choose to speak on this simply because this is not an issue on which I can be accused of having a parti pris position—although I will be perfectly happy to be accused of that when we have the withdrawal Bill, on which clearly I take a very strong view.
On this, I am talking about an amendment to a Bill which has a great danger. If you produce a Bill called the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, it is very easy to put almost anything in it and feel that it is perfectly reasonable to support what you have put in—because none of us is in favour of not having sanctions and all of us are opposed to money laundering. Therefore, this is the moment in which I always become particularly careful. I am worried about this because it seems to be an area in which lawyers have taken a major part. That always worries me, and I feel that one has to make sure that one is not being led astray down some legal path that is other than sensible.
On this occasion, I think that what is being proposed is not acceptable within the constitution. As the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said, this is a constitutional matter. If we are here for anything—and I believe that we are here for a very good purpose—dealing with the constitution is clearly the central part of it, and dealing with it in the detail that we can, when the House of Commons is unable to deal with it in that detail, makes this even more important.
I cannot believe that my noble friend really intends to say that Ministers should have these powers. I know that I have said it before, but I was a Minister for 16 years and I have to tell him that I should not have been given those powers. I do not agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, that it does not matter because of the excellence of the Minister. In a sense, it matters more because of the excellence of the Minister. It is very important as a Minister to recognise that there are restrictions on any Minister, however good. In a sense, that is when I particularly want those restrictions to be strong.
I say to my noble friend that there is a reason why this amendment is very important, and it is a constitutional reason. But there is a practical reason, too. It is that we do not want to feel that the Government are not prepared to understand the distinction between constitutional propriety and the urge and necessity to change the law in order to face up to the regrettable effects of Brexit. This is an opportunity for us to say that this is not about this issue; it is about the constitutional concern. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give the House some reassurance that, now that this has been pointed out to him, he will look again at the debates on the Space Industry Bill, think forward to the debates that we will have over the Trade Bill and the withdrawal Bill, and recognise that perhaps this is a moment to find a way of accommodating a very serious criticism.
My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord and noble Lords for their contributions. I agree wholeheartedly with their comments in relation to the thrust of this legislation. We are here because of another decision. We are here because we are being forced to take action speedily because of the precipice that we will be facing.
I said at Second Reading and will say now that we support this Bill because we are required to have a proper and full sanctions regime. I completely share the concerns expressed by your Lordships’ Constitution Committee. But, as I said in Committee, your Lordships’ Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee examined these clauses in some detail and did not quite share the view of the Constitution Committee. It referred to its previous memorandum on the subject and said that the reason for this clause related to the enforcement of the prohibitions and requirements set out in the regulations. In Committee, the Minister said that the Government were replicating existing enforcement regimes. He said:
“To be clear: these types of offences already exist”.—[Official Report, 21/11/17; col. 165.]
In Committee, I said that if that was the case, and the Minister was hearing us in terms of the concerns over principles, I hoped that he would come up with something better to address the concerns of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. I am afraid that, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said, I do not think that the Minister has come up with adequate provisions to address these concerns. They are limited, as the noble and learned Lord said, to some of the all-embracing powers such as determining evidence and the process for evidence. I welcome those changes but I do not think that the Government have gone far enough in terms of being very clear how these wide-ranging powers will be dealt with. If the noble and learned Lord presses this issue, I hope that the House will support him.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble and learned Lord for tabling his amendment. Again, I also thank him for the extensive discussions we have had in this respect.
The amendments seek to remove the ability to make provision in sanctions regulations creating offences for breaches of sanctions. I say from the outset that I sympathise with the concerns that noble Lords have expressed during various parts of the debate, not just today but in previous stages. I am sure noble Lords will also acknowledge that we have done a lot of work to try to respond to these concerns. I have tabled some government amendments in this area, which the noble Lord, Lord Collins, acknowledged.
The powers in question enable offences to be created for breaches of sanctions, in line with our current practice when implementing EU legal acts. They also enable other enforcement tools to be used, such as deferred prosecution agreements or serious crime prevention orders. Having the power to punish individuals and entities for breaching sanctions deters non-compliance and ensures the measures are robust. Sanctions without teeth, as I am sure noble Lords acknowledge, are essentially meaningless. Indeed, we debated earlier an amendment that would have included preventing,
“the violation of sanctions regulations”,
as one of the explicit purposes to be set out in Clause 1. Although I argued against that amendment on technical grounds, I agree with the spirit.
EU sanctions against countries such as Russia and Syria are imposed through EU legal acts that require member states to put in place enforcement measures at a national level. In line with that requirement, the UK routinely creates criminal offences for breaches of sanctions by way of statutory instruments made under powers in the European Communities Act 1972, as well as other legislation such as the Export Control Act 2002 and the Policing and Crime Act 2017. Other EU member states implement similar enforcement measures through their national legislation.
As foreshadowed in the White Paper consultation before this Bill was introduced, the Government want to be in a position to maintain continuity in this area. Whatever one’s views on Brexit, I think there is wide support for the principle that the UK and EU should remain closely aligned on sanctions policy. If the UK’s future sanctions regime against Russia was stripped of any enforcement provisions, I am sure noble Lords would agree that this would send a very unfortunate signal to our EU partners and to other close allies. Amendments 45 and 47 would mean that breaching a sanctions regime would not be an offence. If they are passed, as existing criminal offences in EU retained law fall away when new UK regimes are introduced, we would be unable to replicate those offences in the new regimes.
We have covered some of these issues previously, and I hope that what I have said will persuade the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment. As I have said, I understand the concerns that have been expressed, including today, about the scope of these powers and will set out in a moment the government amendments that I have tabled in response. But the abolition of offences from sanctions regulations clearly undermines the purpose of the Bill and would make the UK a weak link in broader international implementation of sanctions, which I am sure is not noble Lords’ intention. I know and totally accept that this House is concerned about the creation of criminal offences through secondary legislation, a point eloquently made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and my noble friend Lord Deben. I can provide this House with the following reassurances.
First, the powers in Clause 16 would be used only to create offences within categories of offences that already exist in relation to sanctions. The categories are: offences for breaching prohibitions and requirements contained in sanctions regulations made under the Bill—for example, breaches of the prohibition on exporting items to North Korea—and offences relating to prohibitions or requirements imposed under regulations made under the Bill, such as breaches of or the circumvention of licence conditions.
The powers would not—indeed, could not—be used to create any new terrorism offences other than those relating specifically to sanctions. The Bill repeals the sanctions regime under Part 1 of the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc Act 2010 and aligns counterterrorism sanctions with other sanctions. This was of course first proposed in the White Paper. The government response to the consultation made it clear that consolidation of all counterterrorism powers was beyond the purpose of the Bill, the primary objective of which was to allow the Government to implement UN sanctions and impose UK autonomous sanctions after the UK leaves the EU. It indicated that the sanctions Bill would sit alongside other extant counterterrorism legislation, providing specific counterterrorism powers in relation to sanctions only.
I assure your Lordships that the powers in Clause 16 are accordingly limited to enforcement in relation to sanctions made under the Bill: the Bill does not give Ministers the powers to create any wider terrorism offences, nor does it change or repeal any other legislation dealing with terrorism offences. The Bill and the counterterrorism sanctions made under it will work alongside the other legislation that operates in this sphere.
Secondly, an appropriate Minister could not use these powers in a way that was incompatible with the basic and fundamental rights of people subject to UK jurisdiction. Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 forbids it.
Thirdly, we do not intend to create offences with maximum penalties higher than those currently set out in existing legislation. The existing maximum sentences for breaches of trade and financial sanctions will be based on existing primary legislation. These are 10 years for trade sanctions, based on the Export Control Act 2002, and seven years for financial sanctions, based on the reforms made by the Policing and Crime Act 2017. We are well aware that imposing criminal offences and setting penalties is a serious matter not to be undertaken lightly. In addition to the protections already built into the Bill, I have therefore tabled government amendments that offer additional safeguards in relation to Clause 16.
Amendment 46 deletes the wording “defences and evidentiary matters” and replaces it with “including provision creating defences”. This retains the Government’s ability to create defences in regulations, including any defences that already exist for sanctions offences in the current law, while removing their ability to make provision for unspecified evidentiary matters. I recognise this has been a focus of criticism in your Lordships’ House, and I hope that the new drafting makes it clear that the Government are not removing defences or protections in the rules of evidence.
Amendments 48 and 49 would make clear in the Bill “the maximum permitted period” for prison sentences in the cases of different prohibitions and requirements. For breaches or circumvention of licence provisions and information provisions, the maximum permitted sentence will be two years’ imprisonment, and for breaches of sanctions prohibitions and requirements, up to 10 years. These reflect existing maximum sentences established through primary legislation, which would be unaffected by this Bill.
Together with the reassurances I have offered, I hope that these government amendments will go further to convince noble Lords that sufficient safeguards are being put in place regarding the creation of offences through sanctions regulations, which I know has been a primary concern for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge. Preserving these provisions is crucial to ensure that the Bill achieves its purpose and that the UK can continue to implement and enforce sanctions in lock-step with the European Union, the US and other close allies.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said there was no need for these powers. I stress again that without this power we would have no offences for sanctions such as those relating to Russia and Syria, which currently emanate from the EU. These sanctions would not fall within international obligations after the UK leaves the EU. Moreover, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, alluded to, the Delegated Powers Committee acknowledged in its report that it was appropriate to use secondary legislation to legislate for sanctions and the powers that need to be widely drawn to cater for the broad range of circumstances in which they need to be applied.
I have said that I have listened, and I continue to listen. I appreciate the time and concern that the noble and learned Lord, Lord, Lord Judge, in particular, has taken, and the detail into which he has gone. The Government appreciate the concerns that have been raised. I give a commitment that, as the Bill proceeds through this House and the other place, we are willing to work with noble Lords further to explore this area. In particular, we would like to explain further some of the difficulties—we have had some of these discussions with the noble and learned Lord—associated with the suggestion that an offence in the Bill could safely and coherently apply to a prohibition contained in sanctions regulations yet to be written. I therefore hope that noble Lords, particularly the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, will take up the offer of a further meeting. I was seeking to confirm this not only with the Bill team but with parliamentary counsel to ensure that we can explain the difficulties and challenges. I know that the noble and learned Lord acknowledges the complexity of what is proposed.
With those reassurances, qualifications, checks and balances, and in the light of the government amendments that have been tabled, I hope the noble and learned Lord is minded to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I appreciate the way in which the Minister has put these matters. He has expressed his sympathy for our concerns and he understands them. We are talking about a basic, simple constitutional position. We do not for one moment think that sanctions should not exist, or that there should be some kind of break in the ability to enforce against breaches of sanctions where they currently exist—that is not the purpose of the amendment. Nor is it beyond parliamentary counsel to find a way of making sensible provision to meet the Government’s requirements. If it does, the Government will bring this matter back to the House on Third Reading or take it to the Commons. As it is, we are being asked to sanction a provision that is constitutionally dangerous.
Therefore, although I am willing—assuming that the House agrees with my view—to meet the Minister and indeed parliamentary counsel at any time to discuss how the issues should be addressed, I propose to invite the view of the House on this amendment. I add that I have been addressing the House on the basis that Amendments 45 and 47 run together. That has plainly been the understanding of everyone who has participated in the debate, but for the moment we are concerned only with Amendment 45. If it is carried, I will move Amendment 47 formally. I should like to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 209, Noes 192.
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
51: Clause 18, page 16, line 2, at end insert “(reading that provision, so far as made under section 10(2)(b), as if references to the designation were references to leaving the designation in place)”
52: Clause 18, page 16, line 4, at end insert “(reading that provision, so far as made under section 11(2)(b), as if references to the designation were references to leaving the designation in place)”
Amendments 51 and 52 agreed.
Amendment 53 not moved.
Clause 20: Periodic review of certain designations
My Lords, Amendment 54 is in my name and that of my noble and learned friend Lord Judge, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury. It proposes that the obligation under the Bill on Ministers to review a designation every three years should be reduced to one year.
I have reflected on this matter in the light of very helpful meetings with the Minister and the Bill team. In the light of the right of the person concerned to request a review if there are new significant matters and of the duty on Ministers under Clause 26, to be amended by government Amendment 55 in this group, themselves to review regulations every year and to place a report for Parliament, I shall not pursue Amendment 54. Simply to enable other noble Lords to participate in this short debate if they so wish, I beg to move.
I am glad that to some extent the Government have moved in this area and I hope that, in the light of the vote that we have just had, that spirit of co-operation around the House will extend to other sections of the Bill that still need addressing.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his amendment. As he has already indicated, it would oblige the Government to conduct a re-examination of each designation on an annual basis. I agree completely on the need for sanctions designations to be based on solid evidence. The UK has pushed hard for that in the EU, and that is widely recognised—for example, in the recent report of the House of Lords EU Committee. We are committed to maintaining these high standards.
The Bill as drafted includes a robust package of procedural safeguards, which will be further reinforced by the government amendments I have tabled, including Amendment 55. The combined package will provide a high level of protection for designated persons, at least as strong as current EU standards. The Government would review all sanctions regulations annually and present the results in a written report to Parliament. Amendment 55 makes that clear on the face of the Bill; I know that noble Lords raised that point. If the report concluded that there were no longer good reasons for maintaining a UK sanctions regime, we would lift it. Any changes made to the equivalent sanctions regimes of the EU or other international partners would be examined closely as part of the annual review.
Alongside the annual review of the regulations, the Bill requires the Government to put in place a dynamic process to reassess designations upon request; the triennial review is not the only opportunity. A designated person can request a reassessment of their designation at any time, and a further reassessment when there is a significant matter that has not been previously considered by the Minister. I take the point that a designated person, once they had requested a reassessment, challenged it in court, and failed to establish any unlawfulness, would not have a further review until either there was a significant new matter or a triennial review. But what would the purpose of a further review be when the designation has been established to be lawful and nothing has changed since then? If there are new arguments to be tested, or if the passage of time has changed the situation, a further reassessment can be requested. If not, there is no need to do so.
In response to feedback from noble Lords in Committee, I am proposing to strengthen these safeguards through government amendments. The Minister would have to deal with a request for reassessment as soon as reasonably practicable, and inform the person of the decision and reasons as soon as reasonably practicable after a decision had been made. Ministers can also instigate a reassessment at any time—for example, if the person concerned has been delisted by the EU. Ministers would have every interest in initiating reassessments proactively, both in the interests of justice and to minimise the risk and cost of legal challenges. In any case, when the EU decided to revoke the designation of a person also designated in the UK, I would certainly want to reassess the corresponding UK designation.
Taken together, these provisions will ensure that UK sanctions are under constant scrutiny and the Government are obliged to respond swiftly to new information and challenges. The triennial review then provides a further backstop, ensuring that each and every designation is looked at afresh on a regular cycle. This aligns with current practice in Australia and would put us ahead of countries such as the United States and Canada, which have no such process. It does not prevent more frequent reviews, and we have mechanisms in place that oblige us to do so when appropriate. Requiring the Government to conduct these reviews every year would be extremely resource-intensive; we have had those discussions in the bilateral and constructive meetings with the noble Lord. There are finite government resources, and the noble Lord appreciated that that would take away from other important areas. However, the amendments that we have tabled ensure that the protections the noble Lord was after have been afforded. I am thankful for his co-operation in that regard.
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
55: Clause 26, leave out Clause 26 and insert the following new Clause—“Review by appropriate Minister of regulations under section 1(1) Subsection (2) applies where any regulations under section 1 are in force.(2) The appropriate Minister who made the regulations must in each relevant period review whether the regulations are still appropriate for the purpose stated in them under section 1(3).(3) If a purpose so stated in any regulations under section 1 is a purpose other than compliance with a UN obligation or other international obligation, any review of those regulations under this section must also include a consideration of—(a) whether carrying out that purpose would meet any one or more of the conditions in paragraphs (a) to (d) of section 1(2),(b) whether there are good reasons to pursue that purpose, and(c) whether the imposition of sanctions is a reasonable course of action for that purpose.(4) In subsection (3)(c) “sanctions” means prohibitions and requirements of the kinds which are imposed by the regulations for the purpose in question (or both for that purpose and for another purpose of the regulations).(5) An appropriate Minister who has carried out a review under this section must lay before Parliament a report containing—(a) the conclusions of the review,(b) the reasons for those conclusions, and(c) a statement of any action that that Minister has taken or proposes to take in consequence of the review.(6) Nothing in subsection (5) requires the report to contain anything the disclosure of which may, in the opinion of that Minister, damage national security or international relations.(7) For the purposes of this section each of the following is a “relevant period” in relation to regulations under section 1 —(a) the period of one year beginning with the date when the regulations are made;(b) each period of one year that begins with the date when a report under this section containing the conclusions of a review of the regulations is laid before Parliament.”
Amendment 55 agreed.
Clause 27: Procedure for requests and reviews
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
56: Clause 27, page 19, line 15, at end insert—“( ) Regulations made under this section in relation to a request under section 19 , 21 , 23 or 25 must require—(a) the decision on any such request to be made as soon as reasonably practicable after the receipt by the appropriate Minister dealing with the request of the information needed for making the decision, and(b) the person who made the request to be informed of the decision and the reasons for it as soon as reasonably practicable after the decision is made.( ) The regulations may authorise matters to be excluded from the reasons given for the decision where the appropriate Minister who made the decision considers that those matters should be excluded—(a) in the interests of national security or international relations,(b) for reasons connected with the prevention or detection of serious crime in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, or(c) in the interests of justice(but the regulations may not authorise that Minister to provide no reasons).”
Amendment 56 agreed.
Clause 29: Directions under section 28: further provision
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
57: Clause 29, page 20, line 6, leave out “the appropriate” and insert “that”
58: Clause 29, page 20, line 10, leave out paragraph (b) and insert—“(b) considers that it is appropriate to give the direction, having regard to—(i) the purpose of the EU provision which relates to persons in that list (see subsections (4) and (5) below), and(ii) the likely significant effects of the direction on the person to whom it relates (as they appear to that Minister to be on the basis of the information that the Minister has).”
59: Clause 29, page 20, line 40, at end insert—“(7A) Regulations made under subsection (7) must, in relation to any case where a direction under section 28 has been given, require the appropriate Minister who gave the direction (“the Minister”) to take without delay such steps as are reasonably practicable—(a) to inform the person to whom it relates that the direction has been given, and(b) where the direction is under section 28(3)(a), to include with that information a brief statement of the matters that the Minister knows, or has reasonable grounds to suspect, in relation to that person which have led the Minister to give the direction.(7B) The regulations may authorise the statement required by virtue of subsection (7A)(b) to exclude matters where the Minister considers that they should be excluded—(a) in the interests of national security or international relations, (b) for reasons connected with the prevention or detection of serious crime in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, or(c) in the interests of justice(but the regulations may not authorise the Minister to provide no such statement).”
60: Clause 29, page 20, line 42, leave out “any such direction” and insert “a direction under section 28 ”
Amendments 57 to 60 agreed.
Clause 30: Rights of person on EU sanctions list
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
61: Clause 30, page 21, line 24, at end insert—“( ) Regulations made under subsection (5) in relation to a request under this section or section 31 must require—(a) the decision on any such request to be made as soon as reasonably practicable after the receipt by the appropriate Minister dealing with the request of the information needed for making the decision, and(b) the person who made the request to be informed of the decision and the reasons for it as soon as reasonably practicable after the decision is made.( ) The regulations may authorise matters to be excluded from the reasons given for the decision where the appropriate Minister who made the decision considers that those matters should be excluded—(a) in the interests of national security or international relations,(b) for reasons connected with the prevention or detection of serious crime in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, or(c) in the interests of justice(but the regulations may not authorise that Minister to provide no reasons).”
Amendment 61 agreed.
Clause 32: Court review of decisions
Moved by Lord Pannick
62: Clause 32, page 23, line 16, at end insert—“( ) In relation to a decision under subsection (1)(c) concerned with the designation of a person by reason of an obligation of the United Kingdom under a UN Security Council Resolution, the court must proceed in the following manner—(a) if the court concludes that it would otherwise be appropriate to set aside the decision of the Minister, it must give judgement explaining its reasons and make a declaration to that effect but grant no other relief at that stage;(b) on the making of such a declaration, the Minister must use his or her best endeavours to secure that the person’s name is removed from the relevant UN list as soon as reasonably practicable;(c) if the Minister’s best endeavours under paragraph (b) fail to succeed within a reasonable time, the court must then have power to set aside the decision of the Minister.”
My Lords, Amendment 62 in my name and the names of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, raises an important and difficult issue about the rule of law. The Bill provides, by Clauses 21 and 32, that if a person is designated in this country as a result of being placed on a UN sanctions list, the only remedy that the person concerned can obtain from the courts of this country is to require the Secretary of State to use best endeavours at the UN to have that person removed from the UN sanctions list. If those best endeavours fail, the domestic court has no power to quash the domestic designation, however strong the arguments are by the person concerned that she is the victim of procedural unfairness because the UN will not say why her name has been added to the UN list, or however strong the person’s argument that the UN has made a serious error of substance in adding her name to the UN list—for example, by confusing her with another Baroness Northover.
The exclusion of the powers of the domestic court to quash the domestic designation in such circumstances is very troubling. To be designated under this legislation will have a very damaging effect—devastating, indeed—on the life of the person concerned and their family. A number of noble and learned Lords are in the House, as well as a number of noble Lords with an expertise in law. I for my part cannot think of any other comparable context where there is no judicial review remedy in this country to quash action taken by Ministers which is directed at, and imposes a serious detriment on, a specified individual. This is all the more troubling because the person concerned has no remedy before any judicial body, or indeed any quasi-judicial body, at the UN, except in terrorist cases. There is no judicial system at the UN to which you can take your plea. The remedy for procedural unfairness or an arbitrary decision will depend, in almost all cases, on political pressure. The justice of the individual case may not—I put this point as politely as I can—be a matter of the highest priority for the UN. Let us be realistic. We are, after all, talking about an organisation whose Human Rights Council includes Saudi Arabia.
The Minister will say—and there is force in the point—that this country is committed to international law and that, if a person’s name is on the UN sanctions list, this country must faithfully abide by such a ruling until it is changed at international level. The Minister will also say, and again there is substance in the argument, that we need to be very careful indeed about suggesting to other countries that they can pick and choose whether to implement UN resolutions on sanctions. I recognise all of that, and that is why this issue is so difficult.
My answers to these points are as follows. First, under this amendment, a conflict between the UN ruling and the domestic court will occur very rarely indeed; I would hope never. The amendment provides that, if the court here concludes that the listing is a breach of the rule of law, the court in the first instance can do no more than so declare. The Minister will then use best endeavours at the UN to secure change. Only if that fails will the court have a power—I emphasise, a power not a duty—to quash the domestic listing.
Secondly, the very existence of judicial power in this country will help the Minister in using best endeavours at the UN. The risk of a judge here quashing the domestic listing will ensure that the rule-of-law concerns are given proper consideration in the political forum of the UN. Thirdly, the European Court of Justice in the Kadi case asserted its jurisdiction to quash a listing under EU law even though it was based on a UN resolution. I see no reason why the judges in this country should be denied a power which the Court of Justice in Luxembourg enjoys, especially when the very purpose of the Bill is to create domestic procedures to replace EU ones when this country leaves the EU.
Fourthly, the court in this country will take fully into account the importance of complying with international law. It would only be in a very plain case that a domestic designation based on a UN listing would be quashed by our judges. If there is a case where our judges are persuaded that a person has been designated by Ministers in this country because of a UN listing which is in defiance of basic rule-of-law standards of fairness and rationality, the judges of this country must have power to provide a remedy for the domestic designation. Your Lordships’ Constitution Committee, of which I am a member, so recommended in paragraph 27 of its 8th Report of this Session.
It comes to this: the Minister’s reliance on international law cannot take priority over the rule of law. The rule of law in this country cannot be subcontracted to the political processes of the United Nations. I beg to move.
My Lords, given that I have been named here and therefore have a key interest, I ought to address this in case I get sanctioned in the place of another Baroness Northover. I am sure my kids would think that was an extremely interesting situation for me, but I am not sure that I would. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has made a very powerful case on this matter, as he did in Committee. If an error is made with a designation as a result of UN sanctions being imposed then, as he said, the ECJ could, at the moment, protect that person within the EU and allow it to be challenged. There clearly should be a way of doing this. As the noble Lord said, it is a matter of the rule of law.
We have been told that the rights of British citizens will not be lessened if we leave the EU. This protection should, therefore, be carried over into British law. I clearly have an interest here and I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick.
My Lords, I was present in the Chamber and listened to the debate when this matter was debated in Committee, although the amendment has changed slightly. Since then, I have read and considered the arguments. At the time, I was persuaded that, on balance, the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, was right and the absence of such a power as is envisaged by the amendment was a real risk of injustice. However, I have changed my mind. It is, of course, fundamentally important that we respect our treaty obligations, particularly Article 103 of the UN charter. What higher obligation could there be?
The UN, in common with all international institutions, is not infallible. For example, we know that the European Court of Justice, which we must obey, and the European Court of Human Rights are not infallible. However, sometimes there is a need to subsume individual, national needs into the need for an overall, international understanding. It is vital that we respect the decisions on sanctions that have been made by the UN. As a permanent member of the Security Council, we can influence those. The Human Rights Council, to which my noble friend referred, can of course make mistakes, but it is undesirable that individual countries can pick and choose which sanctions they want to follow. I look forward with interest to hearing what the party opposite says about our relationship with the UN.
The Secretary of State can, and should, use his best endeavours in appropriate circumstances to try to influence matters, and can be told to do so by the court, but this goes further. Although the amendment has precursors to the exercise of the power, it does ultimately give the court the power to set aside the decision of the Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, says that this is a rule-of-law issue. It is indeed; it is a rule of international law and international comity, so I am afraid I cannot support the amendment.
My Lords, I have no legal background, but I want to intervene quickly to pick up an issue which has been treated as almost in passing. I understand that the United Nations entirely accepts that the European Court of Justice can provide the kind of protection that the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has described as being contained within the amendment. If I happen to be Russia, China or some country that wishes to abuse a correct designation by the United Nations, I have the European Union and the ECJ as my example of an entity that does take upon itself the right to provide protection where it believes the UN is in error. Allowing citizens of the United Kingdom to have that same protection adds no particular strength to any such position that might be taken by some other power. We have heard a deep commitment from the Government that exiting the European Union will not reduce the rights and protections that have been provided to British citizens through the mechanism of the ECJ. There can, therefore, be no challenge to the appropriateness of the measure which the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has put before this House.
My Lords, the arguments have been put clearly and attractively by the noble Lords, Lord Pannick and Lord Faulks. Indeed there can, apparently, be a conflict between two very important and sovereign authorities of law—international law and domestic law. However, one has to favour the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick; in other words, however much the attitude of the rule of law in Britain might respect international comity, it would be morally ultra vires to be prepared to perpetrate an injustice in the name of that loyalty. That would be utterly wrong. That, I think, is the answer to the whole question. In other words, as regards the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, our respect for international comity is very considerable but is not absolute. It is ameliorated and qualified by that condition, save and in respect of a situation of perpetrating a blatant injustice. That would be beyond our authority ultra vires.
My Lords, this is an extremely difficult question which amounts to whether or not the courts of this country have an authority to set aside a decision of the United Nations. We are under a clear obligation to follow a sanction decision imposed by the United Nations. However, I wonder whether the courts of this country, without absolutely challenging the decision of the United Nations, could give force to the Secretary of State’s attempt to change that decision: in other words, a system could be adopted under which the fault that is found with the United Nations procedure is endorsed by our courts in a way which reinforces the attitude of the Secretary of State in seeking to set aside that sanction rather than just going ahead with a decision which seems to fly in the face of our international obligations under the treaty to which my noble friend referred. I would like to believe that it might be possible for our Secretary of State to go to the United Nations in a case of this kind, with support from the courts of this country, to say that, so far as they can see, the decision of the United Nations is incorrect according to the circumstances narrated in a judgment of the courts here. That might be a way of handling this situation.
I understand the position so far as Europe is concerned. I am not sure whether this situation has ever arisen in that context. That can be looked at but I think there is a question about that. A slightly different situation arises for a group bound by treaty—as the European Union is—as against that for single nations, because if we can do it, who else cannot? We do not necessarily think that the rule of law is observed in the same way in every other country in the world but we cannot make a judgment on that point as a justification for this move. I wonder whether something of this sort should not be done.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said accurately that there was a balance to be struck here, and there is a debate to be had. I am not legally qualified and therefore wish to address the political and moral issues that have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said that this is an extremely rare situation and that we cannot pick and choose. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, said in Committee:
“I see the force of the Government’s argument that the UK has no alternative under international law but to give effect to our obligations under the UN charter; indeed, Article 103 of the charter expressly dictates that these obligations prevail over any conflicting international law obligations.—[Official Report, 29/11/17: cols. 703-4.]
The Opposition are concerned about the signal we would send if we adopted the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. I hear his comments about the United Nations but this Parliament must uphold international law and the supremacy of the United Nations. It should not undermine that. If we adopt the amendment, we would send the signal to other countries, which may flagrantly flout decisions of the United Nations, that we insist that they should. We judge other countries by our own standards. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, is absolutely right that there should be provision for the British courts to consider a decision of the Secretary of State. However, ultimately they should support the Secretary of State and the United Nations, not say to the United Nations, “We are not going to accept that decision”. We cannot pick and choose; that is the fundamental point. Therefore, while I totally understand the power of the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and have a lot of sympathy with them, there is one point that trumps all else—I use that word advisedly—namely, we must uphold the decisions of the United Nations.
My Lords, as Minister for the United Nations, among other things, I echo the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about our commitment to the United Nations. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the UK is at the heart of shaping the UN’s response to crises around the world, as we have seen. I know that all noble Lords respect that. The United Kingdom takes this role very seriously, including in our approach to sanctions in the UN Security Council. We are one of the leading voices for UN sanctions where there are good reasons for them, as recently to constrain North Korea’s nuclear programme. At the same time, we place great importance on the need for sanctions to be used responsibly, with proper respect for due process and the rule of law. It is important to remember that as a permanent member of that Security Council, the UK exercises real authority over which sanctions are and are not adopted by the UN.
I thank all noble Lords for their comments, to which I listened carefully. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, made important points. We have exercised authority by committing that we would never support in the UN Security Council a designation that we considered unlawful. Put another way, we would not support a designation unless we had reasonable grounds to suspect that the person met the relevant criteria. Not only is this the right thing to do, it also reduces the risk of the UK being obliged to implement a UN designation that might be vulnerable to challenge in court.
The Bill recognises that persons designated by the United Nations must have a right of redress, including the ability to bring a legal challenge against the Government in the UK courts. The Bill accordingly contains the ability for such a person to have access to the court, and to obtain a remedy for any unlawfulness that the court uncovers. If the court were to consider the UN designation unlawful, the court could instruct the Minister to use best endeavours to secure a delisting at the United Nations. This is a significant remedy not to be underestimated. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the UK is particularly well placed to make representations that a designated person should be delisted.
The Government recognise there may be rare cases in which the Minister’s best endeavours are not sufficient to secure a delisting at the UN, as we discussed with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, between Committee and Report. The question then is whether the UK courts should have the power to quash a UN designation and thus leave the Government in breach of their obligations under the UN charter. Our view is that this cannot be right.
First, the Bill recognises that the UK is under a duty in international law to designate those persons designated by the UN, and this proposition has not been criticised. Secondly, failure to implement a UN designation would damage the UK’s reputation as a country that stands by its commitments under international law—a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Collins. Thirdly, it would restrict the ability of the UK to call out other states where they were falling short of their obligations under international law. If it was open to the UK not to implement our legal obligations, irrespective of whether it were following a court decision, it would be impossible to criticise other states where they were not implementing their obligations.
I take the point the noble Lord made that the EU court has very rarely quashed EU legal acts which implement a UN designation on procedural grounds. However, it has never done so where that would leave the EU member state itself in breach of its UN obligations. We should bear in mind that the EU itself is not bound by the charter, but EU states are. The noble Lord mentioned the case of Kadi, which has frequently been cited. In that case the UN had, in fact, delisted the person concerned by the time of the judgment, so EU member states themselves were spared the choice between respecting a decision of the EU courts and abiding by their UN obligations. Had they been forced to choose, I am confident that they would have prioritised their UN obligations as required—as a number of noble Lords mentioned—by Article 103 of the UN charter, which makes it clear that where there is a conflict between obligations under the UN charter and under obligations in any other international agreement, the obligations in the UN charter shall prevail. The United Kingdom and all other EU member states are bound by that charter, even if the EU itself is not. That too is part of the rule of law—upholding those international laws where they bind the United Kingdom.
The United Nations has many flaws, but it is crucial to maintaining international peace and security. To allow the UK courts to stop the Government from implementing sanctions agreed by the UN Security Council is not the right approach for a country like ours that seeks to lead by example at the United Nations. I sincerely believe that any Minister, regardless of political persuasion, would share this view. I also believe we are in agreement that by continuing to make the UK’s support for UN designations conditional on fair procedural standards, we can and should do all we can to prevent this problem arising. However, in the unfortunate event that such a case arises, I remain of the view that a “best endeavours” obligation is the right way to square this difficult circle.
I deeply respect the noble Lord’s position. Again, we have had constructive discussions on this, although on this occasion we did not reach agreement. However, I hope that with the reassurances I have given, the noble Lord will be minded to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. I recognise, as I said in opening this debate, the force of the arguments in favour of the Government’s approach. However, we have to be clear about what it comes down to. Justice for the individual who is designated, in circumstances where the High Court of Justice in this country regards the designation as arbitrary or as in conflict with the rule of law, must be sacrificed to the interests of the UN, our participation in the UN and the international legal order. There is no right answer to that question. I happen to believe that to obtain justice for the individual in that case, if and when it occurs, who is being designated in this country and who is suffering the consequences—their bank account is frozen, they cannot travel, and they are experiencing whatever the other adverse consequences are—they must have a legal remedy. There is no legal remedy available to them through the UN. There are political processes but there is no judicial procedure and no quasi-judicial procedure other than in terrorism cases. How can this possibly accord with the human rights principles and with the principles of the rule of law, which I know the Minister respects and which the Government are so keen on promulgating, and rightly so?
Of course we want to encourage other countries to comply with international law. However, that should not be at the expense of justice for the individual who is designated if that individual can persuade the independent judge of the High Court that his or her designation is an outrage and that it is in defiance of the rules of procedural fairness or if it is arbitrary.
Noble Lords who have spoken against the amendment have emphasised the conflict between international law and the rule of law. They have to accept that there is no other context—certainly none has been mentioned in this debate—where an individual who is subject to such a damaging decision has no legal remedy in this country other than the hope and the expectation that the Minister will do his or her best on their behalf, and if the Minister fails the court can do absolutely nothing about it. I suggest that to maintain the rule of law and to allow the court in exceptional circumstances to grant an effective remedy after the best endeavours have failed—and only after they have failed—will assist the Minister in best endeavours. The UN will recognise that if it does not take action to remedy the injustice, the court in this country may take action. That will focus the mind of the UN and will make it far less likely that there would be any conflict between international law and the rule of law. In other words, to allow the domestic court to have power in this context will ensure that the Minister does not, as it were, go legally naked into the UN conference chamber.
I hope this matter will be taken up when the Bill travels through the other place. As noble Lords will appreciate, I feel strongly about this. It is a fundamental question of justice, principle and the rule of law—respecting, as I do, the opinions expressed by the Minister and by other noble Lords. It is a difficult issue, but I take a different view from the Minister. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 62 withdrawn.
Clause 36: Guidance about regulations under section 1
Moved by Baroness Northover
63: Clause 36, page 26, line 20, at end insert—“( ) Where regulations under section 1 make provision as to the meaning of any reference in the regulations to a person “owned” or “controlled” by another person pursuant to section 50(3), the appropriate Minister must issue guidance.”
My Lords, I will also speak to Amendment 64. I note the departure of a number of noble Lords at this point. Indeed, we have been considering some important constitutional issues this afternoon, and right now we are returning to the normal fare of legislation in the Lords: the routine matter of improving legislation. So your Lordships are safe to depart. We have been assisted here by UK Finance, for which I am grateful, and we are also grateful for the engagement of Bond and other NGOs. We visited this subject briefly in an earlier amendment.
We are all agreed that it is appropriate to have sanctions regimes in certain countries, and we are agreed that these should be in place against the regime in Syria, for example. We are also agreed that we want to enable humanitarian organisations to be able to operate in places of conflict, as most notably Syria is, where half of the population has been displaced, injured or killed over the last few terrible years. We also realise that it is important to have licence regimes to prevent, as far as is possible, funds deliberately or inadvertently going to groups whom we wish to sanction. However, this is where we can encounter problems. Banks are understandably risk averse and may not wish to handle funds where they fear that they will not be able to defend their actions. The tightening of legislation in the US and the EU—including the UK—has had beneficial effects in countering corruption and money laundering, for example, but we need greater clarity for the banks. They do not have to assist NGOs, and often they do not.
The Government set up a group to consider this and other issues, but it has met briefly only once, and none of its sub-groups, which will be carrying forward its work, has been set up. That is why we are asking not that the Government “may” issue guidance but that it “must” do so and that it must cover certain areas. The Bill indicates that guidance accompanying new sanction regimes must be issued, but there is no certainty regarding what it will contain, because the Bill specifies “may” include rather than “must” include.
The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation has recently issued guidance in respect of NGOs and their sanctions obligations, but this guidance deals with legal obligations at a general level and is not regime or programme specific. For example—to me, this is astonishing—to date no guidance has been issued that specifically deals with regimes such as Syria, where broad-based financial sanctions are in place alongside a major humanitarian situation. Since 2012, the banking sector has proactively, and unsuccessfully, called for guidance to help address the very significant challenges of sending funds to Syria in support of humanitarian activity. Considering the billions of international humanitarian funds mobilised to date in support of the Syrian population, the ability to find safe, transparent and dependable banking and payment channels that cover the whole of Syria has become an international imperative priority, and it is astonishing that that situation has not yet been addressed.
Within a situation such as Syria, guidance becomes utterly imperative and vital. It is incredibly encouraging that the banks themselves are seeking this guidance so that they are able to assist the humanitarian organisations and ensure that they are not associated with the kind of risk that currently prevents their involvement.
At this point, I want to return to some of the things that the Minister said on the second group of amendments. I am not sure why, but we sped through that group at great speed. I welcome the fact that reporting to Parliament will cover humanitarian aspects, and I hope that NGOs and the banking industry can engage with the Minister and his department on what this might consist of. However, I thought that his attitude to streamlining licences was not helpful. We are talking here of working with like-minded countries. We usually work in concert with other countries, so it is pretty limiting to seem to indicate that they would not have our foreign policy objectives, for example. If we are working in concert with them—and that is what we are talking about here—they clearly will.
Earlier today, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, made the point that it would be pretty ineffective for us to have sanctions by ourselves. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will rethink this issue with an open mind. Where Governments have aligned objectives that have led them to impose sanctions on a given country, we should ensure that the mutual recognition of humanitarian licences is possible. For example, at the moment processing a humanitarian transaction with Syria is likely to include some type of exposure to multiple sanctions authorities across the EU and the US. If we leave the EU, an option that the Government may wish to consider is a mutual co-operation agreement with agreed EU competent authorities. If we were aligned in that way then, for example, if the French were to issue a licence for a payment under EU sanctions, the UK bank or NGO could rely on the French licence and need not seek a similar licence from UK authorities.
The noble Lord was also doubtful about licences for a whole project, and, again, this needs further thought. The NGOs and UK Finance are concerned about this. Looking at the UK’s and DfID’s role, we often see major humanitarian programmes being majority funded by DfID, but no thought has been given to how the relevant programme will be granted authorisations. For example, a water and sanitation project in Syria is likely to require multiple licences to cover engagement with the ministry of health, Syrian government officials and the export of dual-use parts from the EU to Syria—for example, drilling pipes and payment authorisations for funds moving into Syria. A licence might be issued at the inception of the project, which could save NGOs having to apply for multiple licences.
As Bond has made clear, we need the Government to work to a greater extent globally on licences, to be clearer and to have licences for the duration of the project. Of course, the Government need the tri-sector group, which the Minister mentioned before and which was mentioned in meetings—the group that has met only once and as yet has no sub-committees—to engage, to meet and to work out what the guidance must say, and to give clarity to organisations, including banks, in this area. I beg to move.
My Lords, while supporting this amendment, I welcome and recognise the Minister’s continuing resolve to issue guidance—thus the text to that effect, as is already within the Bill. Yet there is no certainty about it, as subsection (2) specifies only what such guidance “may” rather than “must” include.
Also to be welcomed is the recent guidance given by the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation to NGOs about their sanctions obligations. Nevertheless, this focus is upon general legal obligations. It is not regime or programme specific. So far, it appears that there is no official guidance which deals with regimes such as Syria, where financial sanctions coexist with a major humanitarian situation. Since 2012, the banking sector has repeatedly urged that guidance should be given to address all the many complications in sending funds to Syria in order to assist humanitarian activity. As we know, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, has just said, the process is not working nearly well enough. Therefore, it is now a priority for humanitarian agents and their banks to find safe, transparent banking and payment channels.
It may be objected that the issuing of too much specific guidance might enable sanctions to be evaded by criminals and terrorists. At the same time, appropriate guidance can only help to ensure that the vast humanitarian sums entering Syria are not diverted instead to benefit those who are sanctioned. This can be prevented by a shared view between government, banks and NGOs on how best to risk-manage such payments, and by them as well through a shared identification of viable avenues to make sure that funds arrive safely where they are intended to go.
The Government are also to be commended for setting up a tri-sector group comprising government departments, NGOs and banks. Yet, while supporting that development, all the same we should perhaps appreciate that such arrangements rarely produce the type of outcome that the amendments seek. In fact, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, has observed, this particular group has had only one short meeting and none of the sub-groups has as yet met at all. Moreover, as government officials move their positions rather frequently, it can be notoriously difficult to ensure proper traction.
My Lords, I shall be very brief. I have added my name to this amendment and support everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, have said. Here, we are trying to acknowledge what the Minister has committed to in terms of guidance and ensuring that the licence regime operates efficiently. However, we know from the NGOs that there is still great uncertainty. Certainly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said, banks are risk averse, and often urgent humanitarian aid gets halted and is extremely difficult to implement. On the other hand, we have to balance the need to create certainty with the need to maintain an effective sanctions regime. We do not want to see the sanctions regime undermined by any system of licensing. That it is why it is important that the Government should move speedily on the guidance situation, which I know the noble Lord is committed to.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this short debate, and in doing so I thank once again the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for their constructive engagement on this important issue. I agree with the point just made by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, on the importance of balance, but as noble Lords will acknowledge, the Government already publish guidance on the definition of “owned and controlled” and they will continue to do so. That duty is enshrined in Clause 36. We feel that there is no need to make it explicit, as Amendment 63 would require, and that doing so would prompt unhelpful questions about why other aspects of the guidance are not referred to in the Bill. We do not wish to limit the ability of Clause 36 to provide guidance in any of these areas.
I turn now to Amendment 64. It would greatly broaden the scope of guidance to areas such as establishing effective banking and payment corridors, which are clearly beyond the remit of the Government to provide. For example, we cannot require banks to make payments on behalf of particular customers or to open new payment channels. The whole issue of how banks operate and the derisking that we have seen in certain parts of the world is reflective of that. A requirement to provide such detailed guidance would therefore be highly problematic.
However, I do take on board some of the points raised by noble Lords about assuring that we publish guidance at the earliest opportunity, and I hope that I can offer some degree of further reassurance. While we cannot force banks to make commercial decisions one way or the other, we can certainly encourage them to do so. We can do that through clearly drafted humanitarian exemptions, general licences, guidance, and the ability to prioritise flexibly appropriate applications. I assure noble Lords that all of these can be delivered under the Bill as drafted.
If I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and indeed my noble friend Lord Dundee correctly—I thank my noble friend for his support for the Government’s actions in this regard—they referred to how the Government “may” issue guidance. I can assure noble Lords that Clause 36 makes it clear that the Minister “must issue guidance”. As I said earlier, in the near future we will publish an initial framework for the exceptions and licences.
Perhaps I may make a final point on the issue of NGOs and the humanitarian aspects. I for one have found our dialogue to be extremely constructive on a cross-party basis with NGOs. In that spirit, I certainly look forward to working with both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord to take this matter further. With those assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will be minded to withdraw her amendment.
I thank the noble Lord and others who have taken part in this debate. Yes, he is right: the Bill states that the Minister “must issue guidance”, but the problem is that underneath that phrase it states that the guidance “may” include this, that and the other; in other words, it is not sufficiently specific. However, I thank the noble Lord for his response and his promises; I am sure that both the NGOs and the banking sector will see them. I hope that will move things forward and that the specific guidance enabling the banks to become involved—of course, the Government cannot instruct them to do so—is issued. If the Government are clear about what they are expecting, that is what the banking sector needs, while the NGOs need that clarity so they can get on with their work. I am sure this issue will be discussed further in the Commons, but in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 63 withdrawn.
Amendment 64 not moved.
Clause 38: Revocation and amendment of regulations under section 1
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
65: Clause 38, page 27, line 1, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert—“(2) The condition referred to in subsection (1)(b) is that the appropriate Minister making the new regulations—(a) considers that the regulations being amended will, as amended, be sanctions regulations within the meaning given by section 1(4) that are appropriate for the purpose stated in them under section 1(3), and(b) if any purpose stated in the regulations being amended is a purpose other than compliance with a UN obligation or other international obligation, considers in respect of each such purpose—(i) that carrying out that purpose would meet one or more of the conditions in paragraphs (a) to (d) of section 1(2),(ii) that there are good reasons to pursue that purpose, and(iii) that the imposition of sanctions is a reasonable course of action for that purpose.(2A) In subsection (2)(b)(iii) “sanctions” means prohibitions and requirements of the kinds imposed by the amended regulations for the purpose in question (or both for that purpose and for another purpose of those regulations).In this subsection “the amended regulations” means the regulations being amended as those regulations will be when amended.”
My Lords, government Amendments 65 and 68 build on the new requirements for making sanctions regulations that we have already debated. They extend these requirements to situations where a Minister is amending sanctions regulations that are not based on a UN or international obligation. In this regard, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for co-signing these government amendments. When amending regulations, the Minister would have to ensure that they continue to meet the relevant purposes, that there are good reasons to pursue those purposes, and that sanctions are a reasonable course of action. The Minister must also lay a written memorandum explaining why these tests have been met.
Government Amendments 67 and 102 are technical in nature—I use that word again—and enable us to implement the obligations more efficiently. I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, that they reflect the fact that UN sanctions regimes are often based on a series of Security Council resolutions. I hope noble Lords agree that these amendments are uncontentious and feel able to support them. I beg to move.
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
66: Clause 38, page 27, line 7, leave out “The purpose stated” and insert “Except as permitted by subsection (4A), the purpose stated under section 1(3)”
67: Clause 38, page 27, line 10, at end insert—“(4A) Where the purpose stated under section 1(3) in any regulations under section 1 is or includes compliance with a specified UN obligation or other international obligation, regulations made by virtue of this section may amend that purpose so as to—(a) add a reference to a UN obligation, or other international obligation, to which the United Kingdom is for the time being subject,(b) substitute such a reference for another reference to a UN obligation or other international obligation, or(c) remove a reference to a UN obligation, or other international obligation, to which the United Kingdom is no longer subject.(4B) The requirements of section 1(1) and (3), section (Additional requirements for regulations for a purpose within section 1(2)) and section 26 do not apply in relation to regulations made by virtue of this section.”
68: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—“Report where regulations for a purpose within section 1(2) are amended(1) This section applies where—(a) by virtue of section 38 regulations under section 1 are amended by further regulations under section 1 (“new regulations”), and(b) the regulations being amended state under section 1(3) a purpose other than compliance with a UN obligation or other international obligation.(2) The appropriate Minister making the new regulations must at the required time lay before Parliament a report which explains why that Minister is of the opinion mentioned in section 38(2)(b).(3) Nothing in subsection (2) requires the report to contain anything the disclosure of which may in the opinion of that Minister damage national security or international relations. (4) In subsection (2) “the required time” means—(a) where the new regulations are contained in a statutory instrument which is laid before Parliament after being made, the same time as the instrument is laid before Parliament;(b) where a draft of a statutory instrument containing the new regulations is laid before Parliament, the same time as the draft is laid.”
Amendments 66 to 68 agreed.
Clause 39: Power to amend Part 1 so as to authorise additional sanctions
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
69: Clause 39, page 27, leave out line 16 and insert—“(a) which are not for the time being authorised by Chapter 1 (ignoring section 7), but(b) which are kinds of prohibition or requirement that the United Kingdom—(i) has any UN obligation or other international obligation to impose, or(ii) has at any time had any UN obligation or other international obligation to impose.”
My Lords, Clause 39, to which this group of amendments refers, has been included to allow the UK to impose new types of sanction measures in response to new, unforeseen circumstances. Let me summarise why we think it is needed and then explain the government amendments that I have tabled. I note that this was one of the issues highlighted in the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, and I know that several noble Lords have received and considered carefully my letter of last week specifically responding to the committee’s recommendations.
The familiar types of sanctions include asset freezes, travel bans, arms embargoes and prohibitions on aviation and maritime transport. These types of sanctions are included in the Bill. It is not possible to predict all the types of sanctions which may in the future be useful or necessary. We all know that as technology advances and those who wish to do us harm find ever more sophisticated ways of doing so, we may need to be able to react in an agile manner. The Government intend to continue to play a leading role in the development of sanctions as a foreign policy tool. Wherever possible we will do this through the UN to ensure that the measures have global impact. On occasion, however, we will need to work with like-minded partners outside the UN framework and may need to adapt our own sanctions toolkit to keep pace with allies. On both Iran and Russia, for example, transatlantic co-operation resulted in sanctions that were substantively different from anything previously agreed.
The power in Clause 39 is designed to provide the necessary flexibility in cases where we are acting outside the UN framework. Regulations under this clause would be subject to the draft affirmative procedure as befitting a Henry VIII power of this kind. However, having listened to the concerns expressed in this House and having reflected carefully on them, I have tabled government Amendment 69, which would further restrict the use of this power by stipulating that it may be used to create new types of sanctions only where the UK is or has been subject to an international obligation to put in place sanctions of that type. This means that the new types of sanctions created by this power can only be those developed by the international community. This power, as amended, will no longer enable the UK unilaterally to put new types of sanctions in place, which was a concern that was expressed.
Government Amendment 70 also makes it clear, as requested in Committee, that Clause 39 cannot be used to alter the purposes of the sanctions regulations specified in Clauses 1 and 2. We think that this was the effect of the original drafting, but we are happy to make it explicitly clear in the Bill. I believe that this is a substantial move forward on the Government’s part, and I hope noble Lords will acknowledge this and support it. I beg to move.
Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
70: Clause 39, page 27, leave out lines 22 and 23 and insert—“( ) For the avoidance of doubt, regulations under this section may not add to or amend the purposes mentioned in section 1(1) or amend section 1(2).”
Amendment 70 agreed.
Amendment 71 not moved.
Consideration on Report adjourned.