Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 29th July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 6:30 pm, 29th July 2020

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for introducing these regulations. The very clear Explanatory Memorandum rightly records that,

“human rights violations by State actors, and … non-State actors, leads to unstable and less prosperous societies. Such conduct perpetuates violent conflict, creates a world where terrorism flourishes and where democratic institutions are weakened. It has a devastating impact on individuals and … societies … deterring such conduct would help create fairer and more just societies, which support the long-term global conditions most conducive to security, economic growth and the safety of all.”

That is a very clear statement.

As I did when we discussed sanctions recently, I once more pay tribute to all those who have played a part here, from Ministers, including the noble Lord, officials in his department, organisations such as Transparency International, and campaigners such as Amal Clooney, Bill Browder and the murdered Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, himself. I am glad that the Government have listed 25 Russian nationals linked to his case, as well as 20 of those who played their part in the death of Jamal Khashoggi.

However, as others have said, there are omissions. Many noble Lords have mentioned China. I too ask: might those who are oppressing the Uighurs be included? Will proper consideration be given to the China Tribunal’s conclusion about organ harvesting, which was flagged up by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and might sanctions result? What about those taking action in Hong Kong? How do we make sure that in our newly exposed position outside the EU we are willing to place sanctions in relation to China, as my noble friend Lady Smith of Newnham and others asked?

Several noble Lords mentioned corruption. In their equivalent legislation, the United States and Canada include corruption. The Government are already considering adding this, looking at the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Do they intend to base the definition of corruption on the UN convention? Will it include embezzlement of state funds, to cover kleptocrats, and bribery? Can the Minister also tell us how the new sanctions regime will be overseen so that it is not knocked off course by short-term concerns? Will its oversight be separate from ministries which might have other interests here? What parliamentary oversight will there be? It has been suggested that there should be routes other than via Ministers for proposing or considering whether individuals should be sanctioned. Might there be a judicial route here? I note the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws.

Within the EU, particularly with Sweden and the Netherlands, we were working to develop similar human rights sanctions arrangements for all EU countries, which would have had a major effect. Like my noble friend Lord Bruce, I believe that it is clear that we would have been much more effective if were working within the EU. Sanctions across the EU would have been much more powerful than we can be by ourselves, and the pressure on future Ministers not to take action would have been less acute. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester is right about the risks of our isolation and that the rest of our foreign policy must be consistent with what we are saying here.

Nevertheless, we welcome these regulations and look forward to the further development of our sanctions policy. I too wish the Minister a very enjoyable holiday and thank him and his officials for their readiness to engage across all areas of foreign affairs. I look forward to hearing his response.