My hon. Friend will know that, because of the Sergei Magnitsky regime for asset freezes and visa bans for anyone who has committed serious human rights abuses, we already have that capacity in place. That is on top of the further co-operation that we will provide with the ICC and, I should mention, that the Attorney General will provide with the prosecutor general of Ukraine.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the shelling of civilians is itself a war crime, any use of chemical or biological weapons, as predicted by President Biden today, would be a breach of the Geneva protocol and the chemical weapons convention and would most certainly be a war crime?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am always careful to allow the ICC, of which both the prosecutor and the chambers of the Court are independent, to make those determinations, but the points of principle that he has set out are absolutely right. There must be no impunity for those in Moscow or the commanders on the ground who commit those atrocities.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and makes one of the most important points. If he looks at the call for evidence and the menu of options that we set out, we look at the threshold for bringing SLAPPs and whether there ought to be a new right of public participation. We look at the various defences in defamation law to see whether they are sufficient to deal with this problem. That includes the public defence and the serious harm test of a defamatory statement. We are trying to look at it from every angle. I should add for completeness that we will look at whether we are getting the right balance in terms of being an attractive destination for litigants to want to solve disputes, which is a great USP for the country, and whether we have allowed and given succour to libel tourism in this particularly pernicious area. We will look at all those things and I look forward to his further thoughts in those areas.
I, too, warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. As he said, however, SLAPPs are an international phenomenon that are used across Europe to stifle investigative journalism. Most notorious, perhaps, are the 47 lawsuits that were being brought against Daphne Caruana Galizia at the time of her murder in Malta in 2017. Does he therefore agree that protecting freedom of the press properly will require international action? Can he say what discussions he has had with his counterparts in other jurisdictions to bring about co-ordinated action?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I mentioned the European figures; it is clearly a much broader phenomenon. One of the things that we have looked at is the threshold. To give an illustration of a jurisdiction that we have looked at, in the United States, there needs to be malice, I think, for most libel cases. Under the US constitution, there are a whole series of judicially enforceable rights that are probably stronger than in this country under the European convention on human rights or otherwise in relation to free speech. We will look carefully at the bespoke libel laws that we have and we are mindful of the lessons that we can learn from other jurisdictions.
I always enjoy engaging with the right hon. Lady on these subjects. She will see a list of the cases set out, the diagnosis, in both the IHRAR report by Sir Peter Gross and the consultation document. She will not have had a chance to read it cover to cover yet, but I encourage her to do so. She talks about it as if there is only one way to incorporate or implement the ECHR in UK law, but there is no one on either side of this debate who thinks that that is the case. We had proposals. I remember that when I sat on the Joint Committee on Human Rights there was consideration of a next stage of a Bill of Rights which took a different approach. We have seen in every Council of Europe member state different ways of enacting the ECHR, so I gently say to her that the convention and how it is interpreted and applied, in particular the operation of the separation of powers between the judicial, the Executive and the legislative branch, can be done in different ways and we want to sharpen that demarcation.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that recent court judgments appear to have extended privacy law in this country against the provision of section 12 of the existing Human Rights Act and without the debate or approval of Parliament? Can he say whether his reforms will strengthen section 12 to right the balance, and will he stress once again the importance of freedom of expression?
My right hon. Friend, as ever, hits the nail on the head. We will be looking precisely at that provision. We think it was introduced with a legitimate aim. It is one of those things that we actually support, but that has not delivered the kind of emphasis and protection around freedom of speech. I agree with the point that he made about avoiding the incremental extension of continental-style privacy law into the UK; we have a common law tradition, and tend to have a greater emphasis on free speech and transparency. That is coupled with the EU influence—I do not want to get wholesale into that debate, but he will remember proposals for a right to be forgotten—and the sensitivities that we increasingly see around debate, which, in this Chamber, in our country and in our society, we have to protect, and our proposals will allow us to do just that.
Following the protocol at international meetings to make sure that the UK is asserting its voice confidently, and in tandem with but independently of our allies, is absolutely the right thing. That is what the referendum required and that is what we are doing.
I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for her work in this regard. It is important we send a clear message that BBC journalists—any journalists, and specifically British journalists—cannot be bullied in this way any more than our diplomatic staff. In fact, when I was in Canada with my Canadian opposite number, we launched a new award for those who champion and protect media freedom. Not only are we looking at this individual case, but there is an international campaign to make sure that we provide protection for journalists around the world who, in very difficult circumstances, are willing to speak truth to power.
Will my right hon. Friend work closely with Ministers from the other countries that lost citizens on Ukraine International Airlines flight 752? Will he perhaps attend the joint investigation group meeting in London on Thursday, which will be attended by the Ukrainian Foreign Minister? Does he agree it is essential that Iran not only allows full investigation of what happened but organises the repatriation of the bodies and pays full compensation to the families of those who were lost?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course we will be fully plugged in and, indeed, a driving force in the international effort to make sure we get the right answers in terms of the investigation. This point is even stronger now that the Government of Iran have accepted at least a measure of responsibility, but it is crucial that the investigation is fully independent and has an international component so that people can feel confidence in the outcome and the answers. We will work with all our international partners on all the issues he raises, and I certainly want to see justice for the incredible number of people who are still mourning and grieving this terrible loss.