Motion C1 (as an amendment to Motion C)

Trade Bill - Commons Amendments – in the House of Lords at 7:13 pm on 2nd February 2021.

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Lord Alton of Liverpool:

Moved by Lord Alton of Liverpool

At end insert “and do propose Amendment 3B in lieu—

3B: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—“Agreements with states accused of committing genocide(1) The High Court of England and Wales, or the Court of Session in Scotland, or the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland, may make a preliminary determination that another signatory to a relevant agreement represents a state which has committed genocide, within the meaning of Article II and Article III of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, following an application to the Court from a person or group of persons belonging to a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, or an organisation representing such a group, which is alleged to have been the subject of that genocide.(2) “A relevant agreement” in subsection (1) is a bilateral trade agreement towards which the United Kingdom is negotiating or to which it is a signatory.(3) The Lord Chancellor must lay before both Houses of Parliament any such preliminary determination by the Court. (4) After the laying before Parliament of a preliminary determination under subsection (3) a Minister of the Crown must, after a reasonable period, make arrangements for a motion to be debated in each House of Parliament requiring the Government to set out its course of action relating to the relevant agreement in subsection (1). (5) This section applies to genocides which occur after this section comes into force, and to those considered by any Court in subsection (1) to have been ongoing at the time of its coming into force.(6) A Minister of the Crown may by regulations made by statutory instrument make provision for or in connection with an application and preliminary determination made pursuant to subsection (1).(7) Regulations under subsection (6) above may in particular— (a) specify the form, content, and criteria for applications;(b) make provision about the procedure to be followed in relation to applications;(c) make provision about the procedure and rules of evidence necessary for consideration of an application by the Court, allowing for contradictory representations to be made.(8) In making such regulations the Minister of the Crown must have regard to—(a) the experience gained in the operation of this section;(b) the object and intended purpose behind the operation of this section including—(i) the upholding of all undertakings in and international obligations arising from the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;(ii) provision of meaningful access to the Court by persons making applications specified in subsection (1) without hindrance from unreasonable provision made pursuant to subsection (7).(9) Regulations under subsection (6) may contain supplemental, incidental, consequential and transitional provision.(10) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (6) is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.””

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, the House would not forgive me if I were to detain it long. We have heard extraordinary—perhaps an overused word during this debate, but I think a proper one—and powerful speeches from all sides of your Lordships’ House. I can only say that I am extraordinarily indebted to everyone who has supported Motion C1. I was particularly touched by some of the personal stories we heard during this debate.

If anyone outside this Chamber has any doubts about the purpose or point of your Lordships’ House, surely, having listened to today’s debate, they will have understood why we are here and that we are doing our duty in trying to demonstrate to the world outside that we would be prepared to go to the stake for the values we stand for in Parliament, in government and throughout the whole of our society.

The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, referred to Richard Cobden. He brought back to my mind that that arch-priest of free trade, who was a radical Liberal Member of Parliament from the north of England—who started a calico factory not very far from where I live in the north—and who went to Manchester and became this extraordinary figure in the great battles over the Corn Laws, opposed slavery and the opium trade, and he spoke eloquently in Parliament against them. He knew there were limitations, and we are trying to impose a limitation where genocide has been demonstrated to take place.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, reminded us that Raphael Lemkin saw over 40 members of his family murdered in the Holocaust but, prior to those events, had studied atrocity crimes. Like the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and I, he studied events in northern Iraq in particular; like the noble Lord, last year I visited the Yazidis and also the Assyrians. I went to a place called Simele, where the Assyrians were murdered in 1933. Lemkin wrote about that; he understood the enormities and horrors and what happens when you fail to take a stand. He felt it personally. He coined the word “genocide”, which is where the genocide convention came from.

Before we vote, let us remind ourselves what this high threshold in the convention says—no one has actually said it during this extraordinary debate. Article II defines genocide as

“any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

We have heard during noble Lords’ speeches that precisely those things are happening in Xinjiang in China. However, they can be demonstrated to be a genocide only if a court is given the option to do so. That is why this amendment was laid before your Lordships’ House.

The noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, made a perfectly reasonable point about trade—I will draw my remarks to a close in a moment. He said that we were against having a free trade agreement with China. Yesterday he said in a Written Answer:

“China is an important trading partner for the UK, and we are pursuing increased bilateral trade.”

The only way we can deal with making agreements with genocidal states is to be able to demonstrate that there is a genocide. If there were to be a propaganda victory, surely such a victory would be able to demonstrate that the British Parliament did not care enough to put this in the Bill and make it into legislation.

I end by reminding the House of two heroes of mine—

Photo of Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 7:15 pm, 2nd February 2021

I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. I know he made a very passionate and emotive speech earlier. The purpose now is to press his amendment, should he choose to do so.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

I am also exercising my right of reply at the end of debate, and I am drawing my remarks to a conclusion.

Two heroes of mine from the Nazi period have been referred to in this debate. One was a man called Maximilian Kolbe, who was taken to Auschwitz and executed there. He said that

“beyond the … hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul … what use are the victories on the battlefield”— in other words, what use are all the privileges we enjoy—

“if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?”

The other person was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, executed by the Nazis, who said:

“Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

I commend Motion C1 to your Lordships’ House; this is our chance to speak and to act. I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Ayes 359, Noes 188.

Division number 4 Trade Bill - Commons Amendments — Motion C1 (as an amendment to Motion C)

Aye: 359 Members of the House of Lords

No: 188 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Division conducted remotely on Motion C1 (as an amendment to Motion C)

Motion C1 (as an amendment to Motion C) agreed.

Motions C2 and C3 not moved.