Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon debates with Department for International Development

There have been 35 exchanges between Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon and Department for International Development

Wed 29th July 2020 Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 (Lords Chamber) 6 interactions (3,580 words)
Wed 22nd July 2020 China (Lords Chamber) 34 interactions (2,150 words)
Tue 21st July 2020 Hong Kong (Lords Chamber) 23 interactions (734 words)
Tue 14th July 2020 Taiwan (Lords Chamber) 21 interactions (502 words)
Mon 13th July 2020 Libya (Lords Chamber) 24 interactions (717 words)
Thu 9th July 2020 Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (Lords Chamber) 23 interactions (800 words)
Wed 8th July 2020 Bahrain (Lords Chamber) 19 interactions (800 words)
Wed 8th July 2020 Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime (Lords Chamber) 34 interactions (2,449 words)
Thu 2nd July 2020 Hong Kong National Security Legislation (Lords Chamber) 35 interactions (2,988 words)
Tue 30th June 2020 Korea (Lords Chamber) 23 interactions (708 words)
Mon 29th June 2020 China (Lords Chamber) 23 interactions (776 words)
Tue 23rd June 2020 Rwanda (Lords Chamber) 25 interactions (763 words)
Wed 17th June 2020 China (Lords Chamber) 21 interactions (693 words)
Mon 8th June 2020 Press Freedom (Lords Chamber) 21 interactions (801 words)
Thu 4th June 2020 Yemen: Humanitarian Aid Funding (Lords Chamber) 23 interactions (1,024 words)
Thu 4th June 2020 Hong Kong: Human Rights (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (1,985 words)
Tue 2nd June 2020 Hong Kong (Lords Chamber) 23 interactions (1,183 words)
Wed 20th May 2020 Covid-19: Refugee Camps (Lords Chamber) 20 interactions (645 words)
Thu 14th May 2020 British Citizens Stranded Overseas (Lords Chamber) 20 interactions (819 words)
Wed 13th May 2020 Syria (Lords Chamber) 21 interactions (437 words)
Wed 6th May 2020 Israel: West Bank (Lords Chamber) 20 interactions (440 words)
Thu 30th April 2020 Syria (Lords Chamber) 21 interactions (873 words)
Thu 30th April 2020 Covid-19: Repatriation of UK Nationals (Lords Chamber) 26 interactions (5,335 words)
Tue 24th March 2020 British Citizens Abroad (Lords Chamber) 11 interactions (1,679 words)
Mon 23rd March 2020 Integrated Security, Defence and Foreign Policy Review (Lords Chamber) 11 interactions (524 words)
Thu 19th March 2020 Yemen (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (697 words)
Thu 19th March 2020 Hong Kong: Covid-19 (Lords Chamber) 5 interactions (2,691 words)
Tue 17th March 2020 Covid-19 Update (Lords Chamber) 28 interactions (3,696 words)
Tue 10th March 2020 Refugee Crisis: Greece and Turkey (Lords Chamber) 17 interactions (1,277 words)
Mon 9th March 2020 Continuity Agreement: Kingdom of Morocco (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (292 words)
Mon 2nd March 2020 Organ Trafficking: Sanctions (Lords Chamber) 16 interactions (682 words)
Thu 27th February 2020 Israel and Palestine: United States’ Proposals for Peace (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (1,814 words)
Wed 26th February 2020 Saudi Arabia: Death Penalty (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (824 words)
Mon 24th February 2020 Syria (Lords Chamber) 13 interactions (1,301 words)
Wed 6th December 2017 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [HL] (Lords Chamber) 18 interactions (5,253 words)

Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Wednesday 29th July 2020

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

That the Regulations laid before the House on 6 July be approved.

Relevant document: 23rd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the regulations before us were laid on Monday 6 July under the powers provided by the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. The regulations were made on 5 July.

In his Statement to the House of Commons on 6 July, which was also debated in this House, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary set out the Government’s vision for a truly global Britain. He underlined our commitment to being an even stronger force for good in the world—on climate change, as we host COP 26; on gender equality, as we champion 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world; and on human rights, as we defend media freedoms and protect freedom of religion or belief.

These regulations demonstrate that the Government are acting on this commitment. They give the UK a powerful tool to hold to account those involved in the worst human rights violations and abuses around the world. As noble Lords know, the idea of taking targeted action against human rights violators and abusers originated as a cross-party initiative, and the Foreign Secretary has paid tribute to contributions of parliamentarians from all sides. My colleagues and I have been grateful for the strong words of support from all parties upon laying the regulations earlier this month. I am proud that this Government are bringing into force the UK’s first autonomous human rights sanctions regime. I add my personal thanks to Members of your Lordships’ House. We work on this agenda, and we have done so over not just many months but many years, and I am grateful to many noble Lords around the Chamber who I know support the steps the Government are taking and the important issue of standing up for human rights for all around the world. I pay tribute to each and every one of my fellow noble Lords.

I now turn to the purpose of these regulations. As the Foreign Secretary has stated, we have designed these sanctions as a forensic tool which will allow us to target perpetrators and abusers without punishing the wider population of a country. The regulations will enable us to impose travel bans and asset freezes against those involved in serious human rights violations and abuses. The rights in question include: the right to life; the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and the right to be free from slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour. The powers also enable us to target the larger network involved in such activities, including those who facilitate, incite, promote, support or profit from these crimes. This extends beyond state officials to include non-state actors.

These regulations are the next step forward in the long struggle against impunity for the very worst human rights violations, and we will continue to explore expanding this regime to include other human rights. We are already considering how a corruption regime could be added to our armoury of legal weapons. In particular, we will look at the UN Convention against Corruption and at practice under existing frameworks in jurisdictions such as the United States and Canada.

For maximum transparency, we have also published a policy note which sets out how we will consider designations under these regulations. The legislation will ensure that due process is followed in relation to designations, reflecting the rigorous process rights contained in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018.

In practice, those people designated will be able to request that a Minister reviews the decision and, as a matter of due diligence, the Government will review all designations at least once every three years. As the Foreign Secretary has said, we welcome the ongoing and rigorous engagement by parliamentarians on these important measures. We will continue to report to Parliament, as required under Sections 30 and 32 of the sanctions Act, in order to provide Parliament with regular opportunities to scrutinise the operation of the human rights sanctions. Parliamentarians can, of course, continue to engage with the Government by the usual means, including by writing directly to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary.

As your Lordships will be aware, in addition to introducing this new legal regime, the Foreign Secretary has announced the first set of designations under the regulations, targeting individuals and organisations involved in some of the most notorious human rights violations in recent years. These names are published online. Those sanctioned include individuals involved in the torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer who disclosed the biggest known tax fraud in Russian history. They also include those responsible for the brutal murder of the writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi; those who are responsible for the systematic and brutal violence against the Rohingya population in Myanmar; and two organisations which bear responsibility for the enslavement, torture and murder that take place in North Korea’s gulags, in which it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of prisoners have perished over the past 50 years.

With these first designations, this Government and this country make it crystal clear to those who abuse their power to inflict unimaginable suffering that we will not look the other way. I will not speculate on who we may target in future, but rest assured that we continue to consider targets, guided by the human rights objectives of the regulations and, of course, the evidence.

In practice, targeted sanctions are most effective when they are backed by co-ordinated and collective international action, so we will work with our Five Eyes partners, in particular the US and Canadian Governments, who already have Magnitsky-style sanctions legislation, as well as the Australian Government, who are considering similar legislation, but we also strongly support efforts to bring into effect an EU human rights sanctions regime, and we stand ready to co-ordinate with our European partners on future measures. I beg to move.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab) [V] - Hansard

I thank the Minister for his introduction, wish him a well-deserved break and again press him about sanctions against key individuals over escalating human rights violations in Zimbabwe and corruption in South Africa.

In Zimbabwe, three women have recently been abducted and tortured: opposition MP and former Canon Collins scholar Joana Mamombe, together with Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri. On 20 July, highly respected journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested and denied bail for supporting an anti-corruption protest and faces 10 years in jail. Opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume was arrested, and youth leader Takunda Madzana abducted and tortured by state security agents on 26 July. As well as rampant corruption, there is a pattern of ongoing human rights violations under the cover of Covid-19 crackdowns. Can the Government update their sanctions to cover more Zimbabwean Ministers and security chiefs?

Why are not British sanctions also being applied to the Gupta brothers over their role in a massive corruption and money laundering operation linked to the former South African President, Jacob Zuma, which robbed taxpayers of over £500 million—billions were robbed? What have the British Government done about my letter to the Chancellor on 11 October 2019, in which I gave identification details of Rajesh, Atul and Ajay Gupta, who escaped South Africa to live freely in both Dubai and India? They used a corrupt network of their own companies, buttressed by shadowy shell companies. Surely, just as the United States Treasury sanctions forbid US entities from doing business with this Gupta family or handling their assets, so all UK entities should face the same ban, including London-based banks such as HSBC, Standard Chartered and the Bank of Baroda, which in recent years facilitated money laundering by the Gupta brothers on a grand scale.

Break in Debate

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, the regulations have the full support of these Benches. As the Minister said, they are the result of cross-party work generally and also in this Chamber when we were dealing with the sanctions Act. Many changes and concessions were made during the progress of that Act, which I very much welcome.

However, the powers in these regulations are not enough on their own. They must be used correctly, be applied to the correct individuals and form part of a wider foreign policy that stands for human rights. There must be consistency in the Government’s approach, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester highlighted. So, although the designation of individuals linked to the Saudi regime is welcome, the decision to resume arms sales for use by the same regime in the Yemeni conflict is inconsistent with our intolerance of human rights abuse.

Transparency in the designation of sanctions will better their effectiveness. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, Parliament should be afforded the opportunity to scrutinise designations and suggest new ones. The Minister in the other place, James Cleverly, said that

“the exact nature of the scrutiny of the Government’s actions … will evolve over time, because this is a new process.”—[Official Report, Commons, Ninth Delegated Legislation Committee, 16/7/20; col. 8.]

I hope that the Minister will be able to say a little more on this subject. For example, can he confirm whether the Intelligence and Security Committee will have a role, as my noble friend Lord Foulkes suggested and as had also been previously suggested? The scrutiny of sanctions by the legislature is not a novel idea. Many of our democratic allies, in particular the US, already have these arrangements in place.

I would appreciate clarification on a few sections of the regulations. First, Regulation 1(4) details the purpose of the sanctions. Specifically, as the Minister said, it states that they intend to deter violations of the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture and the right to be free from slavery. However, as the Minister knows, the definition in the 2018 Act, which we debated in this Chamber and moved amendments on, is much wider. We also of course have the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So why do we have this narrow definition in the regulations? Why do we not have a much broader definition? That seems to me a little inconsistent.

Of course, the Minister highlighted the circumstances of Sergei Magnitsky’s imprisonment and death. I, too, pay tribute to his family and, of course, Bill Browder, for campaigning so hard to bring this law about—but the definition in these regulations is narrower than in the Act and the Universal Declaration. Is the Minister satisfied, for example, that the definition will cover the arbitrary detention of populations such as the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and the cases in Zimbabwe mentioned by my noble friend Lord Hain?

Turning to other issues, unlike the US Act on Magnitsky, the regulations omit corruption. James Cleverly said that the Government were

“considering how a corruption regime could be added to our armoury of legal weapons.”—[Official Report, Commons, Ninth Delegated Legislation Committee, 16/7/20; col. 4.]

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, made reference to and highlighted the points he made. But can the Minister tell us today what the timeframe for such work is? Will we see something this year, or next year? Corruption is such an important element of tackling human rights abuses, as noble Lords have said.

Finally, I echo the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, regarding penalties and offences created. We had a lengthy debate about these issues on the sanctions Act. As I read the Explanatory Notes again, one thing that struck me was the different terms of imprisonment an individual who makes funds available to designated persons could be subject to. It is six months in Northern Ireland, 12 months in England and Wales and there is a difference for Scotland. I hope the Minister can again explain these differences. I know there is a reference to the different legislation, but it shows a little inconsistency.

With the introduction of the powers contained in today’s instrument, the Government have the potential to put our values at the forefront of the UK’s foreign policy. I am pleased that the regulations have been introduced, but their effectiveness will be determined by their implementation and, above all, as many noble Lords have said in today’s debate, by whether the Government choose to confront human rights abusers wherever they appear, rather than only when it is convenient to do so.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in today’s debate. As I said in the closing of my opening remarks, I put on record my personal thanks to noble Lords from across the House who I know have been focused on the issues we have discussed today but also, importantly, on the broader issue of human rights. I give my personal commitment to continue to engage, as I did during the passage of the Act in 2018 and subsequently on issues of future designations. I put on record my particular thanks to both Front-Benchers, the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their continued support and challenge. I assure noble Lords that they are quite often robust challenges. Nevertheless, it demonstrates both the insights and expertise contained within your Lordships’ House that are so valuable to our thinking.

We have two Lady Kennedys participating today: the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. Among others, such as the noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lady Altmann, they rightly mentioned specifically the important role of Bill Browder, and I pay tribute to him. It was notable—as I am sure noble Lords observed—that the Magnitsky family was also present at the Foreign Office on the day the first designations and these regulations were laid. We pay tribute to their sacrifices and to the great campaigners; I have the great honour to work alongside the likes of Amal Clooney. I am also grateful in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, for her continued focus and support in this regard.

We have had a wide-ranging debate. We talked about links to the City and, as ever, my noble friend Lord Moynihan talked about the importance of the read-over to other sectors, including sport. Many noble Lords asked about process and designation. In the time I have, I will seek to work through the specific questions raised.

First, I agree with the many noble Lords who made the important point that these sanctions work effectively only when we work with others. I have already mentioned our Five Eyes partnership. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, that we have robust systems at the Foreign Office through the existing work we do through the Five Eyes partnership to continue to work in co-operation in this regard.

My noble friend Lord Holmes and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, among others, mentioned the important role of the EU. We will continue to support the development of an EU human rights sanctions regime and we look forward to working in co-operation with all partners.

The noble Lords, Lord Desai and Lord Bhatia, among others, talked about the importance of international human rights law. This regime is totally compatible with international human rights law. I assure the various noble Lords who raised how this will apply that we will use these sanctions without fear or favour. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, asked whether we will apply them to friends. The first designations included sanctions on individuals in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We will continue to focus in this respect and I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, is also reassured.

We heard from others, including the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, that working with EU partners is not new. The likes of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia already have such sanctions in place and we will continue to strengthen our work across all countries to ensure that we can apply these regimes consistently and focus on the individuals who abuse human rights.

I will go through some of the specific questions before I get on to countries. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked about the process of parliamentary scrutiny. I assure him that we remain very much committed, as we are in the Act through Sections 30 and 32, to the review of our sanctions legislation. The sanctions Act remains the primary legislative vehicle to establish regimes via secondary legislation. I note that the noble Lord said that although it was delayed, he certainly welcomed it.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised scrutiny by committees and mentioned the debate in the other place. We stand ready to engage on all issues. As the process evolves, we will strengthen our processes. We wish to engage directly with committees in this regard.

The noble Lords, Lord Hussain and Lord Bhatia, referred to the human rights report. I assure noble Lords that just because a country is listed as a human rights priority country, it does not mean that such countries alone are the ones that we would look to work on. Clearly, there are partners and friends in those countries. The human rights report is used as a tool to strengthen the role of human rights within countries. While we may sanction individuals and organisations, our battle is not with a country itself or the people of a country. As we have seen from the example of what is happening in Xinjiang, many populations within countries suffer human rights abuses.

The noble Lord, Lord Hussain, asked specifically about Kashmir and India. I assure him that I raise these issues consistently. Indeed, I was on a virtual visit to India yesterday. During various conversations I raised this specific issue.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, rightly reminded us of the ordinary principles of judicial review. I assure him that administrative reviews of designations will be undertaken in strict accordance with the Act and the regulations. The Act makes it clear that, on any challenge, the court must apply principles applicable to an application for judicial review. I thank the noble and learned Lord for his continued contributions to the statutory provisions as they pass through Parliament. I assure, among others, the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, and my noble friend Lord Holmes that we will continue to adhere to the principles of judicial review, as I have articulated.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about the ISC’s scrutiny role. It is not my job to tell Select Committees or the House what to do, but I have already alluded to the fact that we welcome engagement with various committees.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, asked about prosecutors, judges and non-state actors. Those involved in human rights abuses and violations sadly include those set up to protect—including prosecutors and judges. If they meet the criteria it will apply to them as well, and to non-state actors.

The noble Lords, Lord Hain and Lord Collins, raised specific countries. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, referred to Zimbabwe and South Africa. Other noble Lords mentioned various countries. I assure your Lordships that we will keep situations of human rights concern under review. Although I have said, and will say again, that it is inappropriate to speculate on future designations, we will continue to focus on the particular cases that noble Lords have raised. I stay ready to engage directly and to take forward discussions in your Lordships’ House and on a bilateral basis.

My noble friend Lord Naseby and others mentioned other countries, such as Sri Lanka. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, mentioned Colombia. I thank all noble Lords for raising specific cases. I assure them that the FCO, as it currently stands—and the foreign, commonwealth and development office that will exist from September—will continue to consider each designation and each case that is raised quite carefully.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier rightly raised the issue of resources. I assure noble Lords that we have a dedicated sanctions unit, and I pay tribute to its incredibly hard work in getting this regime together and on the rollover EU sanctions during the transition period. We are working very closely with geographical leads within government and posts overseas to identify and develop designations. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that we will continue to work very closely with other partners.

Several noble Lords asked about the scope of the sanctions, including the right reverend Prelate, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and the noble Lords, Lord Loomba, Lord Collins and Lord Wood. The point was made that the sanctions, as currently announced, have a narrow focus. I assure noble Lords that all rights are equally important, but we want to ensure the success of the sanctions regime by keeping the scope targeted in the first instance. Furthermore, the sanctions regime will support other human rights issues, including imposing sanctions for unlawful killings perpetrated against journalists and media workers. In answer to the right reverend Prelate’s direct question, I can say that they extend to those who abuse freedom of religion or belief. Both these issues—media freedom and freedom of religion or belief—remain government priorities. I hope that the right reverend Prelate is reassured by that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, talked about anti-money laundering and the City of London. While the Treasury leads overall, as a Government we are committed to ensuring that the UK’s financial system is hostile to all forms of illicit finance.

At this point, I will revert to the issue of corruption. I mentioned in my opening remarks that we have not included corruption within the scope of the regime initially. As I said, we are considering how a corruption regime could be added to the current legal tools that we have, and we are already looking at the UN convention. As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, reminded us, already Canada and the US have working regimes in this respect, and we are working very closely with them. This was a point of concern raised by other noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Wood and Lord Hain, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Falkner. The UK is a global leader in tackling corruption and illicit finance. In 2017, we introduced the ambitious and far-reaching five-year anti-corruption strategy.

A specific point was made about the application of these regulations in the overseas territories. There are processes in place, either through Orders in Council or directly through the OTs themselves, so that they will be able to implement these sanctions regimes.

At this juncture, I want to acknowledge the important work done on human rights by the Council of Europe, as we were reminded about by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. He might not remember—it has been a while—but, on joining your Lordships’ House, my first role was as a member of the team at the Council of Europe. I pay tribute to the important work done there—we will continue to work with parliamentarians engaged in that agenda—and at the Human Rights Council. I thank noble Lords for their support in that respect.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and others talked of delays that occurred in introducing the regulations, and he specifically asked about schools and universities. On the delay, as has been mentioned, work was done outside government. I have been involved with the work of government for a few years now and I assure noble Lords that this was a priority when I first joined your Lordships’ House; there are many in government who remain very committed to it. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, reminded us, it is thanks to the combined efforts of many that we have finally seen this regime introduced. It was appropriate that we took the time to get it right.

Modern slavery was mentioned by various noble Lords. I am sure that many noble Lords in this Chamber and joining us virtually recognise the important role played on the agenda on modern slavery by my right honourable friend the former Prime Minister, Theresa May. She championed this cause as a priority for Her Majesty’s Government. It remains a key issue that we continue to champion on the broader human rights agenda.

As to whether this will apply to schools and universities, asset freezes prevent UK organisations providing funds to a designated person, so the sanctions regime applies to every sector.

My noble and learned friend Lord Garnier and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, raised the important issue of consultation with NGOs. I work closely with many NGOs on the human rights front. We regularly have meetings with them. There is a body and an advisory group that meets the Foreign Secretary on human rights issues. We will continue to engage with them on a regular basis. I cannot provide a timeline, as I am sure noble Lords will respect, on whether we will be looking at a particular process for future designations every month, every week or every two weeks.

However, I can say that we have the resources available to us and we have strengthened consultations to ensure that we can act—and act swiftly—if needs require. But we will do so most effectively when we work alongside international partners. We value the insights and information that NGOs provide in this respect and intend to set out a clear line of communication. As I am sure noble Lords acknowledged, we have published an information note aimed at NGOs and civil society organisations on the specific issue of dialogue with government.

Finally, on China and Xinjiang, as well as other specific countries, I want to mention this. I have deliberately left it to the end. My noble and learned friend Lord Garnier, the right reverend Prelate, the noble Baronesses, Lady Smith, Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Wood, my noble friend Lady Altmann—the list goes on—all rightly focused on the important issue of Xinjiang and the long-term suffering of the Uighur population. Again, while I cannot comment on future designations, let me assure noble Lords that the UK regularly raises its serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang. This is done both directly with the Chinese authorities, including by the Foreign Secretary raising it directly with his counterpart, and at international organisations, as I have continued to do during our engagements at the Human Rights Council. I assure noble Lords that we will continue to raise these issues. Many noble Lords raised issues around Xinjiang. Let me assure them that the FCO is carefully considering further suggestions for designations under the global human rights sanctions regime.

I have been handed my final slip of this session before the Summer Recess. It says that I am literally out of time—and virtually out of time for those joining us from wherever they may be. It is important, and good, to end by saying that we have had a challenging session because of Covid-19 and the coronavirus. But we end on an issue which reflects the best of what your Lordships’ House is about; how we work together and strengthen relationships on the important priorities that define our country and our values. It is a great honour to be standing here in front of your Lordships to conclude our Session by talking about human rights, and also talking about the important regime which has now come before us. It shows the strong workings across your Lordships’ House and across party divides.

As I outlined in my opening speech, these regulations underline our commitment to be an even stronger force for good in the world. They demonstrate our leadership in the promotion and protection of human rights. They are rightly a priority—and long may they remain so. I thank all noble Lords for their continued support in this respect. I wish them a restive—albeit at-home staycation—Summer Recess. For me the next immediate issue is that it is Eid in a day, and I look forward to spending it with my family.

China

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd July 2020

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing this Statement on China and Hong Kong to the House. It is surely right to seek a positive relationship with China, with its ancient culture, economic strength and developing excellence in science and technology—especially green technology—as the Statement makes clear.

Nevertheless, we cannot turn a blind eye to human rights abuses, and the Secretary of State is right to identify the appalling treatment of the Uighurs. Can the Minister say whether the Foreign Office has now taken a view on the China Tribunal’s conclusions, and is the FCO bringing China within the scope of the new Magnitsky sanctions?

In terms of Hong Kong, we have a special responsibility. Britain and China signed a treaty, which is lodged at the UN, protecting the rights of those in Hong Kong for at least 50 years. The national security law has blown that away. Like the noble Lord, Lord Collins, I therefore welcome the Government’s actions on citizenship for BNO passport holders, the suspension of the extradition treaty and the extension of the arms embargo. Nevertheless, I once more flag the position of young activists who do not have BNO passports and will be particularly at risk. Will the Government make sure that no one is excluded from this offer? What steps are they taking to ensure that those facing political persecution can freely leave?

The involvement of independent foreign judges in Hong Kong has long been seen as the canary in the coal mine: if they went, the writing would be on the wall for the independence of Hong Kong. The President of the UK Supreme Court has now questioned whether UK judges can continue to sit on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal. What is the Minister’s view?

As I asked yesterday, does the Minister believe that there can be free and fair elections to the Legislative Council in September? Will the Government seek to send an election observation mission to Hong Kong? What further actions might the Government take if these elections are not free and fair?

There is also wide concern about free speech. Will British journalists be advised to relocate, and how might access to a free internet be protected? Are the Government willing to work alongside others to create a UN special envoy or rapporteur for Hong Kong, who could have special responsibility for monitoring the human rights situation on the ground? Is there a way this could be done without China simply vetoing it?

As I have expressed before, I remain concerned that not all countries in the EU, a tiny number of Commonwealth countries and no countries in Asia, South America and Africa supported the UK in relation to the new law. This is a desperate situation, and China should recognise the loss to their country of an outflow of talented young people from Hong Kong and step back, even at this late stage, from implementing this new national security law. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their support of the Government’s position. I am sure they both recognise—indeed, they have acknowledged—the fact that, over several months now, the Government have stood up for what they said they would do.

I know, in my own work as Human Rights Minister, that we have not only strengthened but sought to build alliances in the context of the UN Human Rights Council and gained support—including ourselves, there were 27 countries that voted for the statement. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, has rightly reminded us again, there were a vast number of countries that were not supportive of the statement initiated by the United Kingdom, and that is a cause for concern.

Therefore, we continue to work through all international fora, as well as bilaterally, to ensure that not only the situation in Hong Kong but that of the Uighur Muslims—which the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, mentioned specifically—is at the forefront of all our minds. It is particularly noticeable and disappointing that very few countries in the Islamic world have spoken out in defence of the Uighur Muslims. I am not for a moment suggesting that one religion should speak in its own defence, but whoever is persecuted, wherever they are persecuted and irrespective of your faith or belief, you should stand up for their rights, and it is disappointing that we have not seen a response from the wider community. However, we continue to work undeterred.

The noble Baroness mentioned the Commonwealth and will have noted that we have the support of notable partners, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in this respect. We will continue to work with them in further strengthening the response from across the Commonwealth. In the context of the European Union, there was a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, which agreed that national Governments would focus on this issue and announce appropriately.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about the visit today of the German Foreign Minister, which is ongoing. I have been on a virtual visit to the UN today, so I have yet to see the updates from those discussions. However, knowing the German Foreign Minister well, I know how much he cares about human rights. Recently, I was with him when he chaired an event at the UN Security Council on the important issue of preventing sexual violence in conflict and standing up for the most vulnerable. We share a value system with many of our EU partners and, more globally, across the Commonwealth—values central to Commonwealth thinking. We will continue to raise these issues bilaterally and in international fora.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned the role of various private institutions in Hong Kong, which continue to operate. The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have been clear that companies must decide in which countries they will operate, but that, while that is a business decision for them, everyone should recognise that the situation prevailing in Hong Kong is a direct contravention of the joint agreement and of “one country, two systems”. As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, reminded us, this agreement has been lodged with the United Nations. Therefore, we continue to implore China to uphold its obligations as a P5 member of the UN Security Council and as a wider player on important issues currently confronting the world—not only Covid-19 but also, as we work towards COP 26, China’s important role in ensuring that the world faces the challenges of climate change.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about the sharing of evidence and work around the Magnitsky sanctions. Again, I would cause speculation if I were to say specifically what the next designations will be, but before the Recess we shall have a debate about the sanctions that have already come forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about red lines. On the issue of the Uighurs and human rights across the world, the intention of the global human rights sanctions regime is to hold those who abuse human rights and commit gross human rights violations to account. However, I cannot speculate on the specifics of China at this juncture.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked a specific question on the sharing of evidence. We work very closely with partners across many areas, including the United States among others. We share a common value system with countries in the European Union, with the United States and with many countries in the Commonwealth and beyond. Many countries look towards us for the initiation of what we have done and invoked through the global human rights sanctions regime. I know that other countries—I know of many in Europe—and the European Union itself are considering a similar specific global human rights sanctions regime.

The noble Baroness also rightly raised the important issue of the judiciary in Hong Kong. As I am sure she recognises and as all noble Lords have followed, what has happened as a material change in the announcement of the national security law is the passing of the appointment of judges from the Chief Justice to the Chief Executive. This is in direct violation of Section 3(3) of the joint declaration. We also saw a statement from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reed, on 17 July. While it remains a question for the judiciary, I am sure that everyone will reflect very carefully on the important role that judges have played in Hong Kong under the existing joint declaration. We continue to implore the Chinese and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to continue to uphold the independence of the judiciary.

The noble Baroness also rightly asked about the pending elections. There is some suggestion and speculation that the Covid crisis might be a factor in consideration of whether these elections are held, but our position remains clear and consistent: we believe that the elections in Hong Kong should be open, fair and transparent. We will continue to raise these issues consistently with the Chinese authorities and the Hong Kong Administration.

Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Alderdice) (LD) - Hansard

We now come to the 20 minutes allocated for Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief so that I can call the maximum number of speakers.

Lord Garnier (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, will my noble friend agree that the justices of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal—both the permanent and non-permanent justices from Hong Kong itself and the visiting British and Commonwealth justices—have been a bulwark against political interference, and strong guarantors of the rule of law and judicial independence in criminal and civil law cases? Would he not agree that the same could be said of legal practitioners in Hong Kong, who operate under severe pressure from the Beijing and Hong Kong Governments? Can I press him on what the Government’s policy is with regard to the immediate and future viability of the court and the continuing participation of UK and Commonwealth justices in its work? Should they stay as exemplars of judicial independence and help to maintain the rule of law, or leave to avoid their independence being compromised?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I agree with both my noble and learned friend’s points. On his specific question on the judiciary, as he will acknowledge and as he knows from his own experience and insights, the UK judiciary is independent of the UK Government and makes its own assessment. We have already heard from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Reed, about the continued service of UK judges specifically, but he has made the point—which is also the Government’s position—about the importance of judicial independence and the rule of law. The situation is currently under constant review.

Viscount Waverley Portrait Viscount Waverley (CB) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, multiple examples of highly regrettable actions by China go far beyond British values and the values of our allies. How has this deterioration been allowed to happen to the degree that it has? Is it a breakdown in diplomacy— I suspect that megaphone diplomacy is probably ineffective—or are some political asks now too difficult to achieve? Does the Minister agree that there needs to be an urgent, all-encompassing consideration of the relationship with China, rather than a piecemeal approach, to cover all aspects, including climate change, human rights, security, defence, and trade and supply chains, from which a policy of coherent consistency can be derived?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, some of the questions the noble Viscount poses are for the Chinese Administration to answer. We deeply regret the actions they have taken recently in Hong Kong. We have reacted as we said we would, with the various statements we have made on BNO status. On reassessing our relationship, as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said in the Statement he made on 20 July, China has undergone an extraordinary transformation and the UK Government recognise its success. It is a key partner when it comes to important issues such as climate change. Once again, we call upon the Chinese to recognise their international responsibilities, protect the “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong, and provide basic civil and human rights for its own citizens.

The Lord Bishop of Southwark Portrait The Lord Bishop of Southwark - Hansard

My Lords, the Foreign Secretary is correct about the importance and place of China in the world but China’s human rights record, especially as it concerns Uighurs, has been well known for some time. In the light of the recent US Uighurs human rights act, will Her Majesty’s Government consider similar measures and produce a list of Chinese companies involved in the construction and operation of the camps? Given the rising and publicly expressed concern in this country, including by the Board of Deputies, will the Minister now accept that it is high time we took firmer steps to counter Beijing’s harrowing human rights abuses against the Uighurs, and that such abuses should influence negotiations on any future trade deal with China?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I believe the Government have made their position on the deplorable situation faced by the Uighurs in Xinjiang very clear over a number of months—indeed, over years. This problem has been brought to our attention. We have strengthened the work on building alliances to call out the human rights abuses endured by the Uighurs in particular, and we will continue to work to ensure that human rights remain central to our discussions with China on all aspects of our relationship with it.

Baroness Henig Portrait Baroness Henig (Lab) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, on Monday the Foreign Secretary said he was “stubbornly optimistic” about global Britain, including in our relations with China. The Minister will know that China is one of the countries which the Government have identified as a potential partner for a new trade agreement—one of the many post-Brexit deals the Government are hoping to negotiate. In light of all the disputes and serious human rights issues which have arisen over the past six months, do the Government still aim to conclude a trade deal with China and, if so, in what sort of time- frame, or have they changed their mind and abandoned the idea of an agreement?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important point about the issue of human rights within the context of trade agreements and negotiations. As I said, we recognise that China has an important role to play where it has supported both UK growth and UK jobs, but we will not accept investment that compromises our national security. The issue of human rights is also very much part of our thinking.

Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, in responding to the right reverend Prelate, the Minister said that the Government are calling out China over human rights abuses. That is not sufficient. Given that China, despite being led by a so-called Communist Party, relies on the global system of international trade, what scope is there for naming companies that rely on Uighur labour and trying to have a regime whereby people simply do not buy products produced by forced labour?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the United Kingdom has been at the forefront of the issue of modern slavery, led by my right honourable friend the former Prime Minister, ensuring that rights of workers, wherever they may be in the world, are fully protected. I disagree with the noble Baroness: I think we have been very clear and frank, and we have led on the issue of the persecution of Uighurs in Xinjiang and we have done so consistently over a long period.

Lord Polak Portrait Lord Polak (Con) - Hansard

China has just announced its wish to become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council—yes, my Lords, the Human Rights Council. The Government have rightly condemned China for the appalling and inhumane treatment of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. They have also rightly condemned China for its crushing of Hong Kong. Currently, China is agreeing a $400 billion economic security deal with the terror-supporting Iranian regime. So, not only is it destroying human rights at home in China; it is clearly a threat to human rights worldwide. History teaches us that condemning is not enough. Will my noble friend the Minister therefore agree with me that the Government should now lead the world and create a coalition of allies to vote against allowing China to take a seat on the UN’s most senior human rights body? Otherwise, our words of condemnation will, sadly, be just words.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I cannot speak for other countries; they will make their decisions on who qualifies and who does not qualify for the Human Rights Council. However, like other member states, I hope, in making a decision we will certainly consider very carefully the human rights records of countries which aspire to speak about human rights at the HRC.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Portrait Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, today the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales published a powerful report on the persecution of the Uighur Muslims. It is based on sound evidence and exemplary legal scholarship and it makes a number of recommendations, one of which is to use the recent Magnitsky regime on targeted sanctions. Secretary of State Pompeo indicated yesterday while here in England that he had used Magnitsky sanctions on a number of Chinese functionaries. Are we in conversation with the United States about who those people might be, and might we follow suit? Secondly, will we consider requesting that China, which denies that persecution takes place and denies the nature of the camps, allows in an investigatory delegation to assess the situation on our Government’s behalf?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the noble Baroness’s first point, as I have already said, I will not speak about what future designations may be. However, I agree with the noble Baroness; I think we have all been appalled by some of the scenes we have seen recently across the media on the treatment of the Uighurs. They were quite chilling in every respect. On the issue of access to Xinjiang, work was done previously looking at the human rights commissioner visiting China, and I hope that that will come to fruition at some future point.

Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I declare an historic interest, having fought a case against extradition from the UK to Hong Kong for four and a half years through 12 separate applications for habeas corpus. A senior Hong Kong solicitor told me today that almost all the extradition proceedings now current are concerned with either money laundering or drugs. Now that we have terminated extradition in both directions, how do we ensure that Britain does not become a safe haven for Hong Kong criminals, nor Hong Kong a safe haven for those committing crimes in the UK? Would it not be sensible to have a generous approach to claims for political asylum by young protestors from Hong Kong who do not qualify to come here as a BNO?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, the United Kingdom has been, is and will remain a place where people from all over the world seek asylum for a number of reasons. Each case is judged on its merits, and we have provided protection to many people across the world who have suffered persecution.

Lord Robathan Portrait Lord Robathan (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, most of the 53 countries that supported Chinese security laws in the UN Human Rights Council were almost certainly either scared of Chinese power and its aggressive nature or had been bought; that particularly applies to countries in Africa and elsewhere with huge loans. We need to ensure that we in this country are not bought. I commend Her Majesty’s Government for being resolute and clear. However, do they have a policy on influencers in Britain, be they individuals or organisations such as Cambridge University—Jesus College is much in the news at the moment, being written about by Charles Moore—who are in the pay of either Chinese companies or receiving large grants from the Chinese Government?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I would be pleased if my noble friend could write specifically on the concerns he has raised. Of course it is concerning that some do not recognise the situation that has prevailed in Hong Kong or the suffering of the Uighurs, as well as that of other minorities in Xinjiang. It is important that we continue to focus on those. Those who defend or deny those actions need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, Dr Sarah Gilbert from the Oxford group dealing with coronavirus talks of collaboration worldwide on virus research, which we all welcome. To what extent are we collaborating with the Chinese, who are devoting huge resources to finding a vaccine? Can we be assured that if they or we get a breakthrough, we will not allow an hysterical Trump to issue trade threats to prevent us sharing in the benefits? A lot of lives are at stake.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

The noble Lord raises an important point about collaboration and working with China on the issues that matter. Clearly, China has a role to play on the pandemic, as it does on climate change. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said, this is a global pandemic that needs us all to work together for the common good.

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate Portrait Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate (Non-Afl) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, in considering Magnitsky sanctions against individuals of the Chinese Communist Party, will Her Majesty’s Government take into account the judgment of the China tribunal in March this year, chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, that the abhorrent forced harvesting of organs from Falun Gong prisoners has been perpetrated for years throughout China on a significant scale and that medical testing on detained Uighur prisoners could allow them to become an organ bank?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the Government have received Sir Geoffrey Nice’s report and I met him a little while ago specifically to discuss it. We will continue to review the content of such reports. What I have seen and what we have assessed reveal a very concerning and deep-rooted challenge regarding organ harvesting. We have raised this issue with the World Health Organization to ensure that it is raised with the Chinese. However, it remains as yet unconvinced that the evidence supports such action.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I endorse everything that my noble friend Lord Collins, and Lisa Nandy, have said. No global issue, such as climate change, dealing with this pandemic or getting global trade functioning properly, is going to be resolved unless China is involved, as the emerging superpower of this century. I understand the Government’s tactics, but what is their long-term strategy?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I think the noble Lord has partly answered the question himself. It is important that we call out China where we see abuses of human rights, that the international system is not being observed or that treaties are not being adhered to or respected, while, equally, recognising that China has an important role to play in areas such as tackling the Covid crisis and climate change.

Lord Rennard Portrait Lord Rennard (LD) [V] - Hansard

What does the Minister think of the letter from the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews to the Chinese ambassador about the film shown on Sunday? She said that nobody could

“fail to notice the similarities between what is alleged to be happening in the People’s Republic of China today and what happened in Nazi Germany 75 years ago”.

Will the Minister confirm that we will work with all countries governed by democratic principles and act together in trade negotiations to say that there must be an end to the persecution of the Uighurs and people of any religion, and that breaching legal agreements over Hong Kong and seeking to bully the people of Taiwan is unacceptable?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I have already said that those images we saw were quite startling. They remain etched on everyone’s memories, as we have been reminded by the board of deputies in its letter. It is therefore important that China steps up, respects human rights and affords protections to the Uighurs and all minorities in China.

Lord Alderdice Portrait The Deputy Speaker - Hansard

The noble Lord, Lord Balfe, has withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond.

Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond (Non-Afl) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, these are extraordinarily serious issues—there are few more so—but does my noble friend the Minister agree that sanctions and increasing isolation are unlikely to produce the result they claim, not least for the people in desperate need they purport to protect? This is extraordinarily hard. Does he not agree that we have to try harder?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, that is why the global human rights regime is specifically aimed at states, not individuals. Our quarrel is not with the people of China.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, none of China’s actions should have come as a surprise to anybody. There has been a warning for quite a long time on its attitude to human rights and to Hong Kong. When did the Government let it know there would be consequences to a continuation of these actions? Do we have certain red lines and standards saying that if it goes further there will be further action?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I am sure the noble Lord will recollect that we warned we would take action, particularly on BNOs, if the national security law was enacted. We informed the Chinese of that. They continued with their actions and we responded with the announcements we have made. We will continue to monitor the situation in Hong Kong, mainland China and other parts. Taiwan was raised, and while we retain our position on the importance of negotiations between the two sides, the issue of human rights has not gone away. It remains live and we will continue to monitor it. Where we need to act, we have acted.

Hong Kong

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the political situation in Hong Kong.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, we are deeply concerned by the situation in Hong Kong. China’s new national security law breaches the Sino-British joint declaration and directly threatens a number of Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms. Early reports of the law’s initial implementation are also troubling. We will not look the other way on Hong Kong and we will continue working with partners to hold China to its international obligations.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

I thank the Minister. What prospects are there for fair and free elections in Hong Kong this autumn and what steps are the Government taking to assist young activists, such as Joshua Wong, who are not BNO passport holders?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, obviously there have been elections even this year at local level. We continue to impress on the Hong Kong authorities and the Chinese authorities the need to ensure that one country, two systems is sustained, maintained and, indeed, strengthened. However, recent events have indicated otherwise and we continue to lobby both Administrations in this respect, including protecting those people who do not qualify for BNO status.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the statement by the Chinese ambassador a few days ago that we were interfering in China’s internal affairs. Will the Minister make it clear that this is entirely a breach of the Sino-British agreement and that it is not a breach of Chinese internal affairs to stick by the terms of an international treaty? Will he ensure that the widest number of countries take our position of understanding and give us support?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Lord. The agreement on one country, two systems that we signed with the Chinese authorities is registered with the UN. China is a P5 member and has international obligations. Therefore, we believe that standing up for the rights of Hong Kong nationals as well as BNOs is absolutely the right thing to do. I assure the noble Lord that we are working with international partners to ensure that we get broad support for the United Kingdom’s position. Indeed, as we saw recently at the Human Rights Council, that is happening.

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, there was cross-party support for the Foreign Secretary’s shock at seeing the persecution of minorities in China and the suppression of peaceful protestors in Hong Kong. People may also be shocked to know that the Government have given export licences for British-made tear gas, which, according to Amnesty International, is being used against peaceful protestors in Hong Kong, and has granted government export licences for spyware, wire-tapping and surveillance technologies. Will the Minister ensure that the UK’s strategic export control lists are now updated so that no British-made technology can be used in the suppression of minorities or against peaceful protestors in Hong Kong?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, as I am sure the noble Lord has noted, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made a Statement yesterday in the House extending the embargo on arm sales to mainland China, which will now also be applied to Hong Kong.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, the appointment of senior judges to give service in Hong Kong is an important part of its international character. What are the prospects of that continuing?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, my noble and learned friend is right to raise this important issue. As we have seen in recent announcements, the appointment of judges has passed to the chief executive, but we also note the important announcement of Lord Reed, who made it clear in his statement on Friday 17 July that whether this practice continues will depend on if such a service remains compatible with judicial independence and the rule of law.

Lord Carrington Portrait Lord Carrington (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, while I support the actions of the Government, I urge them to consider the ordinary people and companies in Hong Kong who accept the new security law in order to make a livelihood. Please can the Minister confirm that any action taken by the Government is proportionate and supports the rights of both the Hong Kong people and of British and other companies operating there, such as the Hong Kong bank, Standard Chartered, Swire and Jardine, to go about their normal lives and conduct their businesses in this changed environment without gratuitous criticism and recrimination?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I draw the attention of the noble Lord to the opening paragraphs of the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. They stress again that we see China as an important strategic partner and that we believe that it has a positive role to play on the international stage. However, it must fulfil its international obligations. I cannot speak for private companies, but our challenge is not with them or indeed with the normal citizens of Hong Kong. We believe that their rights should be respected by the Hong Kong Administration and the Chinese authorities. That is what we are standing up for.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, at the beginning of June, the Foreign Secretary suggested that the new Magnitsky powers might be an option in respect of the police brutality and other actions in Hong Kong. Yesterday, in respect of the national security legislation, he said:

“We will patiently gather the evidence, which takes months.”—[Hansard, Commons, 20/7/20; col. 1835.]

What of the clear evidence of Chinese officials being involved in forced organ harvesting and the oppression of the Uighur people? Does the Minister agree that the Government should accelerate the timetable for the Magnitsky sanctions to be imposed on those Chinese officials who are involved in such persecution?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I have made clear on a number of occasions my strong concerns and the fact that Her Majesty’s Government have raised the issues of what is happening with the Uighur people and other minority communities in China. On the specific point about the Magnitsky sanctions, the noble Lord will respect the fact that it is not right to speculate about what any future designations may be.

Lord Chidgey Portrait Lord Chidgey (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that Hong Kong is just one of the UK’s responsibilities, shared or otherwise, in the Indo-Pacific region. These include, for example, the Korean peninsula and the five power defence arrangements that protect Singapore and Malaysia. In the context of global Britain and the reversal of the east of Suez policy, will the Government provide the details of our international obligations for Hong Kong and the region and confirm that they have the funds and the capacity to meet them?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, we believe in a strong, stable and safe Indo-Pacific region. We have stood up for Hong Kong on the basis of our strong belief in principles and in law and we stand firmly in support of the agreement, which has been deposited with the UN. On our wider responsibilities, we continue to work with our international partners in pursuit of those objectives.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I declare my position as a co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong. Can the noble Lord the Minister say what steps the UK Government are taking to protect students from Hong Kong and students who might be supporting the rights of the people of Hong Kong in British universities, given the significant evidence of intimidation? What protection will be given to academics and institutions that stand up against such efforts?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, the answer is simple. Anyone who breaks the law in the UK by hounding or attempting to intimidate students will be held to account according to the law of the land, which is our law.

Baroness Hooper Portrait Baroness Hooper (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I join those who have pressed further on the main issues relating to Hong Kong, including breaches of the joint declaration, the threats to freedom of speech and assembly and the need for democratic elections. My specific question for the Minister is to ask whether talks in relation to the situation in Hong Kong have been held at the Commonwealth level, given that, as a former overseas territory, Hong Kong was once part of the Commonwealth. This could be particularly relevant for young people and students who may wish to pursue their studies not only in the UK but in other parts of the Commonwealth.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I assure my noble friend that we are working in that context with all our partners in the G7 and at the UN. We are also working with Commonwealth nations such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, which are supportive of the UK Government’s position.

Lord Craig of Radley Portrait Lord Craig of Radley (CB) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, will the loyal veterans of Her Majesty’s Hong Kong Military Service Corps still living in Hong Kong, who have long petitioned Her Majesty’s Government for the right of abode in the UK, be granted this now? Will their request for full British passports, which all other members of the corps retained before 1997, be agreed, in line with the statutory provision for fairness in the military covenant?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon [V] - Hansard

My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord has raised this issue consistently and regularly both with me and with my noble friend the Minister of State at the Home Office. Since our last exchange, I have written to the Home Office and I am awaiting a reply. When I receive one, I will update the noble and gallant Lord accordingly.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, the time allocated for this Question has elapsed. We come now to the second Oral Question.

Taiwan

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Tuesday 14th July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what (1) diplomatic, and (2) practical, assistance they are providing to the government of Taiwan; and what plans they have to formally recognise Taiwan as an independent sovereign state.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the United Kingdom’s long-standing policy on Taiwan has not changed. We have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, but a strong unofficial relationship based on dynamic commercial, educational and cultural ties. We regularly lobby in favour of Taiwan’s participation in international organisations where statehood is not a prerequisite, and we make clear our concerns about any activity that risks destabilising the cross-strait status quo. We have no plans to recognise Taiwan as a state.

Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB) [V] - Hansard

I thank the Minister for his sympathetic response. President Xi has made it clear that “one country, two systems” is the plan for Taiwan, and the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in 2021 has been mentioned as a possible deadline. Will the Government consider taking small but significant steps and work with other like-minded nations less susceptible to Chinese influence to clarify and entrench Taiwan’s de facto independence? Such steps might specifically include inviting Taiwan as a guest to G7 meetings, lobbying for membership of the OECD as well as of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and considering Cabinet-level ministerial visits to Taiwan.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, while noting what the noble Baroness said, I assure her that we continue to work with like-minded partners, particularly on participation for Taiwan in those organisations where statehood is not a prerequisite. Those include the World Health Organization. We also believe that Taiwan has an important role to play in the spheres of education and climate change.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Portrait Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, Taiwan has been preparing for a pandemic since the SARS epidemic in 2003. As a result, it has been able to tackle the terrible ravages of Covid-19 with great success. But at the World Health Assembly in May, the attendees, including us, were unable to learn about the methods of its success because Taiwan’s attendance as an observer was blocked by China. Will my noble friend please assure me that the diplomatic efforts of the UK will be used to try to prevent such a blocking from happening in the future?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I share my noble friend’s disappointment and concern. As I have already said, we believe that Taiwan has an important role to play, particularly in how it has dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, we continue to lobby for its participation in meetings such as those convened by the World Health Organization.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, can we raise the case of Lee Ming-che, a Taiwanese pro-democracy activist arrested in China and given a five-year prison sentence for posts on social media calling for democratic reforms? His wife, whom I have met, says that he is literally forced to eat rotten food and is denied prison visits. Following the imposition of the new security law in Hong Kong, what does this case say about the future of pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong, and in mainland China?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for bringing this case to my attention. I assure him that we are monitoring it through our embassy in Beijing. While we have not raised it with Chinese counterparts, we regularly make known our concerns about the increasing restrictions on civil and political rights and freedom of expression in China. We do the same in Hong Kong.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I remind the House of my interest as the Government’s trade envoy to Taiwan. Will the Minister celebrate with me the 30% increase in trade between Britain and Taiwan over the past three years, and congratulate President Tsai Ing-wen and her Government on not just their triumphant re-election earlier this year in a fair and free contest but on their management of the Covid-19 crisis—that was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay; there have been 447 cases and just seven deaths out of a population of 23.8 million—and their generosity in donating 2 million face masks to the UK? I hope that the Minister will continue to do all he can to ensure that Taiwan is admitted to the WHO so that the whole world can learn from its success and share its expertise.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I share the noble Lord’s view of the positive elements of the relationship with Taiwan. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary congratulated President Tsai on her victory.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, when the national security law was imposed on Hong Kong, 53 countries supported China on it at the UN Human Rights Council. Only 27 countries, including only half of EU states and no state in Asia, Africa or South America, supported us. Now that we have left the EU, how are we building a strong alliance to defend Taiwan against any aggression?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to raise this concern. I agree with her figures. As Human Rights Minister, I worked on that proposal. There is much more work to be done but I assure her that we work very closely with European partners, particularly on Hong Kong, and share common interests when it comes to Taiwan.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, as has already been stated, there was hope that perhaps “one country, two systems” might have been a way of unlocking the Taiwanese issue which has been a problem for so many years. Recent events in Hong Kong show that that was a chimera. We have real problems now with the way China is behaving towards Hong Kong. Chinese behaviour and the statement by Xi Jinping, possibly encouraged by the world’s focus on the Wuhan virus, must be confronted. Does the Minister agree that Taiwan must be shielded and that one way of doing that is its recognition by as many of the G20 as possible? That would send a very strong message to Xi Jinping that the way he is behaving is not helping anyone, least of all China.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the Government’s position remains that the issue of Taiwan is to be settled by people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. As I said already, we continue to lobby for Taiwan’s participation in key organisations where it has a pivotal role to play.

Lord Bowness Portrait Lord Bowness (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the answers he has given, which suggest that we are very well disposed towards Taiwan. However, that is only one element. In the UK, we have seen the City of London withdraw its invitation to Taiwan to participate in the Lord Mayor’s Show and British Airways rewrite its destination listings so that Taiwan and, indeed, Hong Kong, are listed under China. Does my noble friend agree that we should be giving organisations such as the City and British Airways every support to resist this pressure from China, which is quite improper?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, individual companies and organisations will make their own decisions. The United Kingdom continues to acknowledge Taiwan. Whenever we categorise Taiwan we do so under the designation of country or region, and we will continue to do so. Individual companies will make their own decisions.

Lord Kilclooney Portrait Lord Kilclooney (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Taiwan and having visited Taiwan on many occasions, I find it a nation which is a great stable democracy. Can the Government of the United Kingdom now consider improving high-level exchanges with Taiwan? For example, are the President of Taiwan, the Vice-President and the Foreign Minister banned from coming to the United Kingdom because of their political positions or are they banned as individuals?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I have already said that we continue to engage with Taiwan. The most recent visit was by a Trade Minister, so we engage with Taiwan at ministerial level.

Lord Wood of Anfield Portrait Lord Wood of Anfield (Lab) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether it is the Government’s policy to achieve a bilateral trade deal between the UK and Taiwan, as urged by the Foundation for Independence, a think tank very close to senior figures in this Government?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, we continue to work on important common themes with Taiwan, and trade is one of them. Obviously my colleagues at the Department for International Trade will continue to see how we can further strengthen our ties with Taiwan.

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Lexden) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, the time allowed for this Question has now elapsed.

Libya

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Monday 13th July 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Lord Howell of Guildford Portrait Lord Howell of Guildford - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the situation in Libya.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, we remain deeply concerned by the conflict in Libya, which continues to threaten stability across the region. The UK is clear that all parties to the conflict and their external backers must de-escalate, commit to a lasting ceasefire and return to UN-led political talks. We welcome recent engagement by the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army in the UN-led ceasefire negotiations.

Lord Howell of Guildford Portrait Lord Howell of Guildford (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, in the civil war in Libya, Egypt, our friend the United Arab Emirates and France aligned with the rebel side along with Russia and even some support from Washington, but Turkey and Italy, which are NATO allies, supported the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. Will my noble friend indicate which side we are on, if any, and how we can mediate in this increasingly bloody conflict, given that the Geneva talks have failed to produce any results?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government are on the side of peace and political settlement. That is why it is important that both sides get together. My noble friend is right that there are proxies at work on both sides. Therefore, the outcome of the Berlin Conference is what we should focus on. It was held in January and of course the follow-up has been taken up at the UN Security Council. We need to get all sides, including external backers, around the table.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I declare an interest as I have worked on a government-funded project in Libya over the past two years. To go further, what steps have the Government taken to work with civil society in Libya to try to bring about an end to the conflict? To take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, what conversations have the Government had with those countries which have shown an interest, often for their own gain, in the conflict in Libya?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the role of civil society mentioned by the noble Lord is very important and we continue to emphasise its engagement and involvement. Until all sides are firmly around a table, we are some distance away from their effective involvement. Equally, the role of women and particularly women peace mediators is key. The noble Lord asked what we had done so far. We engaged as penholders on the UN Security Council after the Berlin Conference to ensure the passing of Resolution 2510. Most recently, my right honourable friend the Minister for the Middle East took part in the UN Security Council meeting, again emphasising the need for political discussions.

Baroness Uddin Portrait Baroness Uddin [V] - Hansard

The UN Secretary-General has called for immediate international attention and described the situation as gloomy. I have been a member of the APPG on Libya for some years and visited Tripoli with the much respected interfaith advocate Dr Zaki Badawi to participate in a conference on African and Arab women. I met highly educated outstanding women leaders of Libya. Over the past decade we have heard nothing about their suffering and that of their families in the persistent battle over oil and resources to which we may have inadvertently contributed. What assessment have our Government made, alongside the international community, of the well-being of civil society and women and their fullest possible participation in the imminent dialogue and future settlement in Libya?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, it is an inevitable and tragic consequence of any conflict that the most vulnerable communities, including women, specifically suffer. We continue to make the case. I have already alluded to what I believe is the most appropriate form of resolution engaging women in every part of the peace process.

Lord McColl of Dulwich Portrait Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I used to visit Libya regularly to help in the setting up of clinical medical schools in Benghazi and Tripoli, and it was much appreciated. When does the Minister think we should encourage a resumption of these activities? They are in desperate need all over the place.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend’s work in this area. I would very much welcome a discussion with him to see how best we can make this part of the current discussions.

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD) [V] - Hansard

In his report to the Security Council last week the UN Secretary-General decried what he termed as high-level direct foreign interference in the conflict which is contrary to the resolution to which the Minister referred. Over the weekend the US and the Libyan national oil corporation criticised foreign capitals for pressure which has led to the reinstatement of the blockade of oil exports. What actions are the Government taking to ensure the resilience of Libyan institutions such as the national bank, the oil corporation and the investment authority so that they can resist this kind of direct foreign interference and provide support for all people in all parts of Libya which is so desperately needed?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to raise the issue of central banks. Both sides need to get together on the two institutions to ensure equality of approach on that. We deeply regret that the oil blockade has been reimposed on oil facilities and we call on all parties, including those engaging in support of either side, to ensure that oil revenues can start flowing and bring some kind of economic rebuilding to the country.

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, to what extent have the Government influence with the various participants directly to persuade them to join the conference that is so greatly needed?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, we continue to have strong alliances. Turkey is a NATO partner and, as has already been said, the UAE and Egypt continue to be constructive partners and allies to the UK. We will use our influence bilaterally and through multilateral fora.

Viscount Waverley Portrait Viscount Waverley (CB) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, what assessment have the Government made of whether Egypt is about to enter the conflict directly and move, possibly with the acquiescence of Russia, in support of Khalifa Haftar? What is HMG’s evaluation of the proximity to UK interests, including NATO operations? What is their strategy and approach?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, the important thing is that all parties come together, irrespective of which side they appear to be on or have declared their backing for, because this requires support not just from the two parties in-country but from those supporting either side.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, at a recent Security Council meeting Stephanie Williams of the UN Support Mission in Libya warned of a massive influx of weaponry, equipment and mercenaries. Can the Minister assure the House that no UK company is indirectly linked to the supply of weaponry and that no UK citizen is involved in the sort of mercenary services provided?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that the UN arms embargo on Libya needs to be respected. We take very seriously any reports of breaches of the embargo. They are considered by the UN sanctions committee, of which the UK is a member.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire Portrait Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, the Government now have some hundreds of British troops in other parts of the Sahel working closely with the French in combating tribal warfare and Islamic extremism. How far does the conflict in Libya, with the explosion in the number of weapons there, spill over to the rest of the Sahel? Do we share the view of the French and the UAE that the Muslim Brotherhood is promoting extremism which may also spill over into the rest of the Sahel?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, as the noble Lord knows well, Islamist extremism is a scourge of not just that region but globally, and we should take all the steps necessary to ensure that it does not add to an already very long and bloody conflict in Libya.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, members of the ironically named Security Council are attracted to regional conflicts in oil-rich parts of the world, such as Libya, in the name of strategic interests and are selling arms that promote and sustain conflict and horrendous suffering. I know I am going to be told that the UK has one of the strictest arms control policies in the world, but will the Government give a lead to move to a new and less 19th-century view of strategic interest?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, our intervention in Libya was right because of the humanitarian crisis that was pending in Benghazi. Unlike the noble Lord, I take the view that the UN Security Council does play and will continue to play a very important role.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, for years the countries of the western Balkans have been major manufacturers of small arms used in Libya with weapons being purchased by foreign Governments, some of them our allies, and supplied to Libya’s warring factions. What steps have the Government taken or will take to stop that flow of arms to Libya? Will they seek to impose UN sanctions and travel bans on those who are in clear breach of the UN arms embargo under UN Security Council Resolution 2510?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I assure my noble friend that as penholders on Libya we will continue to make that case. She is right that there have been abuses of the arms embargo in Libya, but I make it clear that all member states must respect international law and call on the Security Council to take seriously any reports of violations. We must act to ensure that those who are not adhering to the embargo do so and respect international law.

Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Excerpts
Thursday 9th July 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for International Development
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth - Hansard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to report annually to Parliament on the operation of the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, including the details of those subject to that Regime.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, as required by Sections 30 and 32 of the sanctions Act, we will report annually to Parliament on all sanctions regulations. This year’s Section 32 report, which focuses on sanctions for human rights purposes, will be laid shortly. We will also publish a list of names of those subject to UK-autonomous sanctions. This has been updated with the names of those designated on 6 July under the global human rights sanctions regime.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V] - Hansard

I thank the Minister for his Answer and, like other noble Lords yesterday, I warmly congratulate the Government on this hugely significant step, which is a flare of light in the continuing darkness of human rights abuses. It was good to hear that the Government are to report annually to Parliament. Given the Minister’s well-known and serious commitment to this area, and the fact that in the House of Lords, in particular, there is widespread concern about this issue, can he give any kind of indication as to when the earliest opportunity might present itself for us to engage with him on this issue?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, within the sanctions Act there are provisions stating that after the laying of these final designations, which was on 6 July, there is a period of 28 sitting days during which the debate would take place in Parliament. I think that we will seek, through the usual channels, to have an early debate when we return in September.

Lord Rooker Portrait Lord Rooker (Lab) [V] - Hansard

If, as envisaged in the guidance, someone is sanctioned who is discovered to be in the United Kingdom, can they be removed more easily than under the current Immigration Rules?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, when such scenarios arise, each case will have its specific circumstances to be looked on. Various tools are available to us, including the cancellation of a visa if someone is in the UK. But without going into the details of any particular case, it would be looked upon on its merits and circumstances.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V] - Hansard

I welcome the new sanctions proposals, although they need to be extended to cover corruption. Does the Minister agree that the new regime must be overseen and run by an independent body so that is not driven or impeded by political considerations?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, there are measures in place. If someone has been designated and they feel that needs to be reviewed it would go to a Minister, but the court systems exist to allow for that review. In all of this there is a parliamentary overview and, as I have said, there will be opportunities to debate designations. They will be looked at. On corruption, as I said yesterday, we are looking at other frameworks, including the UN frameworks. We will follow those in bringing new proposals forward in time.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns Portrait Baroness Anelay of St Johns (Con) [V] - Hansard

Your Lordships’ International Relations and Defence Committee is ready, willing and able to engage in regular constructive scrutiny. Will my noble friend the Minister consider writing to us when new statutory instruments are laid, setting out the background to the measures?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I have spoken to my noble friend specifically on the scheme. We have received her letter of 2 July and I know that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will respond to her. However, I take note of this, since I subscribe strongly to the scrutiny function of the House of Lords. I will certainly feed that into discussions and the response.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, while I welcome the action the Government have taken on this matter, can I press the Minister a little further on his reply to the noble Baroness who chairs our Select Committee, on which I also sit? Would he be able to come and talk to members of that committee about how best they can assist the House in scrutinising these important decisions, many of which will no doubt come forward, and play a useful role in that way?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

I am always very pleased to speak to Members of your Lordships’ House. We will seek a time when I might come and brief the committee and engage some of its thinking.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I welcome what the Minister said about scrutiny. He reminded us yesterday about Section 30, and the debates that we had on the sanctions Bill and the consequent Act. What is lacking is a clear idea about how that scrutiny will take place. I certainly welcome the fact that we are possibly going to get the Intelligence and Security Committee looking at that. Can he offer us more transparency by offering a proper debate on these regulations, so that we can not just debate those designations the Government have decided upon, but discuss new designations?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, may I say first that I am missing the noble Lord from across the Chamber? It is good to see him virtually. Nevertheless, I had thought that the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, would pose the questions from Her Majesty’s Opposition. On the point he raises, he will be aware that I mentioned yesterday that I believe there will be a debate in the other place on 16 July. We will be speaking through the usual channels to see how we can constitute an early debate after the return of the House in the autumn.

Baroness Smith of Newnham Portrait Baroness Smith of Newnham (LD) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, in his initial response the Minister stressed UK-autonomous sanctions. I note from the Explanatory Memorandum on the regulations that, in the past, the UK’s implementation of UN and other sanctions has been through the European Communities Act, now rescinded. To what extent do the Government plan to work with the European Union in putting forward sanctions? Clearly, multilateral co-operation would make sanctions even more effective.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, on the wider European sanctions, we continue to work with our European partners. Indeed, during the transition period whatever has been agreed with them continues to apply. There is also a rollover of many of the sanctions that have been applied through the European scheme. But as the noble Baroness knows, the European Union does not have a specific human rights sanctions regime. We will work constructively as it seeks to develop that. As I said yesterday and have said before, sanctions work effectively only when we work with like-minded partners and, after our departure from the European Union, we should reflect that important partnership.

Lord Mann Portrait Lord Mann (Non-Afl) [V] - Hansard

Well done, Minister, but how many more people are under active consideration of being sanctioned? Is it a handful, tens or hundreds?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his initial statement and welcome it because it is always nice to be told “Well done”, wherever it comes from. On his second point, I am sure he will appreciate that there is a lot of sensitivity around designations, so I do not want to speculate on numbers of future designations at this time.

Baroness Cox Portrait Baroness Cox (CB) [V] - Hansard

While I strongly support the need to hold individual perpetrators to account, does the Minister agree that a new global human rights regime should supersede existing UK economic sanctions? As the UN’s special rapporteur emphasises, it is now undisputed that existing economic sanctions

“contribute to a worsening of the humanitarian situation”

in places such as Syria. Will the Minister therefore accept advice from UN experts, who emphasise that

“it is now a matter of humanitarian and practical urgency to lift … economic sanctions immediately”?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon - Hansard

My Lords, in certain areas and with certain regimes around the world, it is appropriate that we look at sanctions overall. However, the primary purpose of these sanctions is not to punish a population or a country, but to target sanctions specifically on those who abuse global human rights. Those who usurp the rights of others should be held to account.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, may I press the Minister a bit more about applying sanctions on a wider basis than by one country? Does he agree that if sanctions are agreed across a range of countries, they are many times more effective than simply a unilateral step taken by Britain in the hope that other countries will follow suit? Secondly, whereas we could all suggest the names of people who should be on the list, I am a little surprised that the Salisbury poisoners were not on it, given that we know who they are and exactly what they did.