Temporary powers in relation to EU sanctions lists

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 1st March 2018.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I have some questions about chapter 3. It would not be appropriate to table amendments, but I want to ask the Minister for some explanation of what is going on with clauses 29 to 32, because I could not really follow them. It looks to me as if Ministers are taking the powers in chapter 3 for a transition period—we will leave the European Union at the end of March 2019, we will use the powers under chapter 3 during the transitional period, and then, when we move into our new deep and special relationship with the European Union thereafter, as the Prime Minister would describe it, we will use the other powers in the Bill. Will the Minister tell me whether I have understood that properly?

That being the case, we flip back to the end of the Bill. This is where I am slightly puzzled by what Ministers intend. Clause 55 on commencement says:

“The Secretary of State may by regulations make transitional or saving provision in connection” with the provisions of the Bill coming into force. It is all about Ministers making regulations when they want to. I do not understand why Ministers have not tied up the commencement provisions, the transitional provisions and the enforcement of the regulations with the definitions that we have used in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, and why we are not using the words “exit day” here, which we defined in that other Bill.

Let me remind the Minister what it says in the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill:

“ ‘exit day’ means 29 March 2019 at 11.00 p.m.” and

“A Minister of the Crown may by regulations...amend the definition of ‘exit day’ in subsection (1) to ensure that the day and time specified in the definition are the day and time that the Treaties are to cease to apply to the United Kingdom, and...amend subsection (2) in consequence of any such amendment.”

The Minister will remember that we had a long debate, with Mr Grieve putting forward a new way of deciding on exit day, and Sir Oliver Letwin tabling an amendment that was eventually accepted. I do not understand why a different approach is being used here.

The point matters not just for neat-and-tidiness, but because it will need to tie up with the rest of the negotiations and the deal that Ministers are negotiating on Brexit. For sanctions to work, it will be necessary to have an agreed approach to information sharing, on criminal justice and on border control. None of that is covered in the Bill and it is therefore very unclear what will happen in practice.

I did not know how to table amendments to raise the point, which is why I am asking a simple question to the Minister on how he is handling it. I am not the only person who has noticed the problems. UK Finance, the coalition of the banks, has said that

“the ‘jurisdictional’ description is left rather open ended.”

They are saying, “We know when EU law applies and when it does not apply, but will European Court of Justice judgments apply?” I would like the Minister to explain in concrete terms how he thinks that will work in the period before we leave, in the transitional period and in the post-transitional world of the new deep and special relationship.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State 3:00 pm, 1st March 2018

I will explain the clause, and I hope answer the hon. Lady’s questions. As part of our membership of the UN and the European Union, we currently impose sanctions on more than 2,000 people and organisations. Upon our departure from the EU, it may be that there has been insufficient parliamentary time or civil service capacity to comprehensively review all EU sanctions listings, and to prepare and pass appropriate statutory instruments to incorporate them under the regular powers conveyed by the Bill.

In those circumstances, to ensure that we meet our international obligations and do not become a route through which sanctioned individuals can move their assets, it may be necessary to retain some lists of persons sanctioned by the EU, as frozen EU laws under the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The freezing of existing EU sanctions via the withdrawal agreement is a safeguard measure to make completely sure that there are no gaps in our sanctions regimes as a result of leaving the EU. If that proves necessary, Ministers will need powers to amend those lists by adding or removing individuals from them, and the clause provides that power. It is a backstop measure, operable only for a maximum period of two years after the date of departure. All it does is allow Ministers to amend the list of designated persons. It does not allow new regimes to be set up, or substantive changes to be made to retained regimes, such as setting up a new arms embargo. That would require action under clause 1.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

We can debate the matter when we come to clause 55, if the Minister has been better briefed by then, but when does he picture Ministers starting to use the powers? Is it on 1 April 2019 or 1 January 2021? If it is not until 1 January 2021, what will happen during the intervening period? Is he satisfied that simply using the lists will work if we are in a period when we do not have integration on borders, criminal justice and so on?

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State

The clause enables us to exercise those powers, but we cannot at this stage provide the date specificity that the hon. Lady is seeking, because that is a matter of negotiation.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 29 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 30 to 33 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 34