Report (1st Day)
Clause 1: Power to make sanctions regulations
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 8, leave out “it is appropriate” and insert “there is a reasonable need”
My Lords, Amendment 1, which is in my name and that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, is provoked by the very wide discretion which Clause 1 confers on Ministers to make regulations when they think it “appropriate” to do so for defined purposes. It seeks to impose a degree of rigour and control by substituting a test of “reasonable need”.
I am very pleased that the Minister has tabled his own Amendment 9, to which I have added my name. That amendment recognises that apart from those cases where the United Kingdom has a UN or other international obligation, the Minister can make regulations only where he considers there are good reasons to do so and that the imposition of sanctions is a reasonable course of action to take. Amendment 9 would also require the Minister to lay a report before Parliament explaining his reasoning when making the regulations. I am satisfied that this will impose a real discipline on the Minister, backed up of course by the prospect of judicial review, for which I was delighted to see over the weekend that the Government have a new enthusiasm.
The distinction between the requirements in Amendment 9 and a test of reasonable need is more theoretical than practical. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and I have had a number of productive meetings with the Minister and the Bill team since Committee on this and other issues. I thank them for their patience, courtesy and flexibility in responding to the issues that we raised in Committee and that are the subject of amendments today and on Wednesday.
This group includes Amendment 3 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, to which I have added my name. It identifies further purposes for which sanctions regulations may be made, particularly—and I think importantly—to promote respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and good governance. I hope the Minister can be persuaded by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, to accept Amendment 3. There is a reasonable need for it, or at the very least it is appropriate to include that provision in the Bill, if only for its symbolic value that these admirable goals should be recognised in the Bill. To do so would of course not commit Ministers to making any regulations; it would simply give them the power to do so. I look forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Collins, explaining the case for Amendment 3. If he decides to test the opinion of the House, he will have my support. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said. I welcome, as did he, the moves from the Government in this part of the Bill. I shall speak to Amendments 2 and 5 in my name as well as supporting Amendment 3 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Collins, myself and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. Our criticism of the Bill in Committee focused on the way in which Ministers were being granted wide powers unchecked by Parliament. The Minister has made moves to address this at certain points in the Bill but we still do not think that the sanctions for foreign-policy objectives are tightly drawn enough. We made the case in Committee as to how this might be abused, and we still seek reassurance. An amendment that would undoubtedly help is Amendment 3 on the definition of the purpose of sanctions, which has been very effectively summarised by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick. We feel this very strongly, and it is surprising that such a definition is not already in the Bill. In our view it is also important that the purpose should include preventing the violation of sanctions regulations, and that is the other amendment here. As the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, has indicated, if the noble Lord, Lord Collins, chooses to vote, we will support him.
My Lords, I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for his comments. He has set me a test here: normally I rely on his powers of persuasion and arguments rather than my own, but on this occasion I will take up the challenge and hope to persuade the Minister why Amendment 3 is important. I was rather hoping that the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, would jump up before me; I am sure he will jump up after me, because he made comments about this in Committee.
I stress that this is not just about adding words for words’ sake; it is not just about being nice, kind and positive. These words are very important in one vital respect. The Bill—we have heard much criticism of this—is heavily reliant on regulation and the Executive taking powers. We have received many assurances from the Minister that they will use these powers wisely and that Parliament will anyway have the opportunity properly to scrutinise secondary legislation.
These words are important because, when Parliament scrutinises secondary legislation, it must know what it is judging the Government’s actions against. It cannot have vague definitions. I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, said in Committee: that we do not want to limit the powers of the Executive when it comes to foreign policy matters. These words do not limit, they enable. They enable Parliament to do its job of properly scrutinising regulations proposed under the Bill. Is it meeting the clear objectives that we set ourselves, which we all share, particularly, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, said in relation to human rights?
The Minister assured the Committee that the Government,
“do not take their human rights responsibilities lightly … the UK has been a bastion and a beacon for human rights. That should and will remain a cornerstone of British foreign policy in years to come”.—[Official Report, 21/11/17; col. 123.]
That is a powerful argument why we should include these words, because it is about being consistent in future. If I were to be slightly partisan—and I am not usually in these matters, as the Minister knows—there have been doubts about the Government’s commitment, and certainly that of the Conservative Party, to the European Convention on Human Rights, and I want to put it beyond doubt that we are wholeheartedly committed to this vital element of our foreign policy. It is, as the Minister said, the cornerstone. I very much hope that he will think hard about accepting the amendment. It would not cause too much pain, because he is already committed to the principle. It is about how these words can help future scrutiny. If he is unable to accept the amendment, I will certainly wish to test the opinion of the House.
My Lords, I do not want to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Collins, by not intervening, albeit briefly, in this debate. My difficulty comes not with the way that the noble Lord and others have expressed their various objectives, which one would expect to be part of the Government’s approach to sanctions generally. I am concerned by the fact that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, wants to exclude the specific reference to a foreign policy objective. I return to what I said in Committee, which was that it is important that we accept that foreign policy does not remain entirely stable and standing: there are always changes in the world and foreign policy objectives may vary from time to time. The danger of including these albeit admirable objectives is that there might conceivably be a construction placed on the relevant provision which is that foreign policy is not adequately reflected by the provisions.
I prefer the way the Bill is expressed, which gives the necessary flexibility. While I do not differ on the objectives, I differ on the amendments.
Can I just ask my noble friend a question, and apologise to your Lordships that I was not involved in earlier stages of this legislation? Was there ever a time when, in deciding on sanctions policy, we did so other than in alliance with other nations? Unilateral sanctions can always be evaded, and even collective sanctions, when they are only from the west, can be nullified by actions by China, Russia and other Asian powers, for instance. Is not the practical situation one in which we have to take account of our allies and the broad consensus of agreement with them on whether sanctions are justified, or are there individual unilateral instances that I may have missed?
My Lords, first, before I go any further, as I said in Committee on the Bill—and I shall come on to the specific question from my noble friend in a moment—I am genuinely grateful for the constructive engagement that we have had on all sides of the House on this very important Bill. The set of government amendments that I tabled last week reflects proposals through discussions and meetings that we have had with Peers and representatives from across the House, from the Opposition Benches and, indeed, from the Cross-Bench Peers. I am also pleased that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, also felt able, after our constructive discussions, to put their names to some of the government amendments, including the one that I shall present in a moment. It also reflects very strongly that, at a time of great challenge internationally, we reflect the finest traditions of your Lordships’ House, in that we are able to practically demonstrate co-operation across the House in ways to improve legislation.
I fully recognise that sanctions involve significant restrictions and should not be imposed lightly. The standard to be applied by a Minister when introducing sanctions regulations is therefore one of the most important parts of this Bill. I assure noble Lords that I have listened very carefully to the range of views on exactly what that standard should be, with a view to finding the right balance between the Government’s ability to impose sanctions when the relevant conditions are met and the need to guard against excessive use of these powers. I have therefore tabled Amendment 9, which introduces three additional requirements when a Minister is considering making sanctions regulations for a purpose beyond compliance with a UN or international obligation. First, the Minister must have good reasons to pursue that purpose; secondly, the Minister must be satisfied that the imposition of sanctions is a “reasonable course of action” for that purpose; and finally, when making regulations, the Minister must lay a report to Parliament explaining how the above two tests have been met.
These requirements are picked up again in Amendment 6, which is a technical drafting point consequential on Amendment 9. The requirement for the Minister to lay a written report before Parliament when making sanctions regulations reflects Amendment 7, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and I am grateful for his suggestion. The principle that unites us here is that sanctions need to form part of a wider political strategy that is properly articulated to Parliament and the wider public. Amendment 9 aims to provide the House with the requested reassurance that sanctions will not be imposed lightly, while at the same time ensuring that the UK can continue to play an active and constructive role in international affairs. On that basis, I hope that noble Lords will be persuaded not to press Amendments 1 and 7.
Amendments 2 to 5 refer to the purposes for which sanctions regulations may be created. The current list of purposes in the Bill is designed to ensure that we can continue to implement sanctions across the full range of purposes currently pursued by EU sanctions. The EU can adopt sanctions for any of the purposes of its common foreign and security policy. The reference to “foreign policy objectives” in subsection (2) seeks to maintain this same scope for the UK when we have left the EU.
In Amendment 2, the noble Baronesses, Lady Northover and Lady Sheehan, propose to remove the ability to impose sanctions for the purpose of advancing a UK foreign policy objective. The amendment would restrict the flexibility of future UK Governments, potentially preventing them from using sanctions, and putting the UK out of step with our international partners, including the European Union. That was a point made well by my noble friend Lord Howell—and again, I appreciate his international experience in this regard. As I have said previously, and noble Lords have acknowledged, sanctions are at their best when they are acting in unison and in co-operation and co-ordination with partners.
Amendment 3, in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Pannick, proposes to add a more detailed set of purposes for which sanctions could be imposed. I fully recognise the importance of these additional purposes. In fact, they are all purposes for which sanctions regulations are currently, or could be, implemented by the UK, based on decisions by the UN or EU. I assure the noble Lords that it is certainly our intention to be able to maintain sanctions for such purposes after we leave the EU. As the Bill is currently drafted, the proposed requirement for a Minister to explain in writing the “good reasons” for imposing sanctions would ensure that the relevant foreign policy objectives were properly articulated and explained.
As my noble friend Lord Faulks mentioned, we cannot predict all the foreign policy challenges that may confront future UK Governments. Attempting to specify all future possible purposes in the Bill may restrict the circumstances in which sanctions can be used and, as we all recognise, limit the Government’s ability to act in lock-step with international partners. I recognise that Amendment 3 is about adding more clarity and specific purposes and would not restrict the UK’s ability to use sanctions for other foreign policy objectives. However, it is a concern that too much detail on the face of the Bill could result in a list that quickly becomes out of date and begs questions about why some valid purposes have been omitted. Specifically articulating some of the purposes of sanctions, but perhaps not all of them, risks creating confusion.
In Amendment 4, the noble Lord, Lord Collins, has proposed adding a purpose related to the prevention of serious organised crime and trafficking. While I agree that this is a valid purpose of sanctions, I question the need to include it explicitly in the Bill. Should serious organised crime or trafficking affect our national security, should we wish to tackle it as a matter of foreign policy, or should we be under an international obligation to do so, the powers in the Bill are already wide enough to allow the use of sanctions for this purpose.
Finally, in Amendment 5, the noble Baronesses, Lady Northover and Lady Sheehan, have proposed adding a purpose related to preventing the violation of sanctions. The Government take sanctions compliance very seriously. The Policing and Crime Act which passed through this House last year included new penalties for those who breach financial sanctions. However, other parts of the Bill provide all the powers we need with respect to sanctions enforcement and thus I do not believe that this amendment is necessary.
As I said at the start, I welcome the fact that all Peers have engaged in constructive dialogue with the Government and that they appreciate we have moved forward. I hope I have illustrated that the Government have demonstrated this through their amendments, and that the Bill is in a much better place than when we discussed it in Committee. Equally, I hope I have articulated the reasons why the Government cannot accept the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Collins. I understand its spirit and the basis on which it was tabled, but I hope the noble Lord will also recognise that the scope of the Bill, as currently drafted, subject to the amendments put forward by the Government, would allow the purposes that he intends to also be achieved.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his contribution to what he called the “constructive dialogue”. I am not persuaded by the too-much-detail response to Amendment 3. There is no dispute about the validity and importance of the purposes set out in the amendment and there is considerable symbolic value in adding such important purposes to a Bill that addresses sanctions. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 1.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Amendment 2 not moved.
3: Clause 1, page 2, line 8, at end insert—
“( ) promote the resolution of armed conflicts or the protection of civilians in conflict zones,( ) promote compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law,( ) contribute to multilateral efforts to prevent the spread and use of weapons and materials of mass destruction, or( ) promote respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and good governance.”
My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s response. He has been incredibly positive on a number of concerns that noble Lords have raised and we have tried to co-operate. This amendment sets out very clearly our country’s values in respect of the new situation we will be in—and it is a new situation. It is vital that we send out the message not only to our parliamentarians but to our communities and all countries that we remain firmly committed to these values. The amendment would not restrict the Government’s foreign policy objectives and, in my opinion, would certainly not go out of date. These values have been at the core of our foreign policy activity for many years and it is my hope—and, I know, the hope of all noble Lords across the House—that they will remain so. Therefore, in the light of the noble Lord’s comments, I wish to press the matter and test the opinion of the House.
Amendments 4 and 5 not moved.
6: Clause 1, page 2, line 13, at end insert—
“( ) Section (Additional requirements for regulations for a purpose within section 1(2)) contains additional requirements in relation to regulations stating a purpose within subsection (2) above.”
Amendment 6 agreed.
Amendment 7 not moved.
8: Clause 1, page 2, line 13, at end insert—
“( ) Regulations under this section must be accompanied by the publication of a humanitarian impact assessment, and such an assessment must be conducted—(a) according to the methodology set out in Chapter 5 of the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Sanctions Assessment Handbook: Assessing the Humanitarian Implications of Sanctions, published in 2004,(b) in advance of the relevant sanctions regulations being made,(c) again within six months of the date on which the relevant sanctions regulations come into force, and(d) at any time thereafter when the relevant sanctions regulations are subject to any substantial revisions or alterations.”
My Lords, this issue is going to be picked up in a later group, so I do not want to detain noble Lords too much on this particular group. Suffice to say that what we have responded to, following Committee, is the concerns of a number of NGOs in relation to their ability to undertake humanitarian work. What the NGOs are seeking from the Government is clarity. We have had discussions with UK Finance, and the amendments under group 9 are where we should focus the debate. Rather than detain the House with comments on this group, I will reserve them until we come to the later group. I beg to move.
My Lords, indeed this deals with some of the complexities faced by those operating for good reasons in areas where sanctions bite, and we will be returning to these issues in a later group. We will then talk about guidance and how to ensure that it is easier for financial institutions to derisk.
Amendment 39 in my name is about the mutual recognition of licences and streamlining humanitarian licensing, while Amendment 42 deals with the problems that NGOs may run into if multiple authorisations are required. Amendment 43 is about reporting, because if there is a requirement for parliamentary reporting, that assists in terms of highlighting the issues that NGOs are running into. As I say, we will be returning to these issues in a later grouping.
My Lords, the Government are well aware of the concerns in this House about the humanitarian impact of sanctions, and we are committed to finding constructive solutions through close engagement with NGOs and other humanitarian actors. Indeed, I would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for the engagement we have had directly with representatives from NGOs between the Committee and Report stages.
As noble Lords will be aware, in 2016 the UK secured amendments to the EU’s Syria sanctions regime to provide a specific exemption for fuel purchases by humanitarian organisations. This assisted such organisations to carry out their operations in Syria while ensuring that they were still sanctions compliant. Provisions in the Bill as it is currently drafted enable the Government to include humanitarian exemptions in sanctions regulations and to issue licences for legitimate activity that might otherwise be prohibited by sanctions. Currently, EU case law limits our ability to issue so-called general licences for the humanitarian sector, but, as I have said before, the Bill has been drafted to enable us to issue these licences and thus provide greater flexibility. We will also publish additional guidance and ensure, through continued engagement with the humanitarian sector, that any additional sector-specific guidance addresses its concerns.
The process of issuing licences is best handled administratively on a case-by-case basis to respond efficiently to fast-moving events. That means we are cautious about putting too much detail in the Bill. However, I can assure noble Lords that the Government make every effort to prioritise urgent and humanitarian licence application cases where there is a risk of harm or a threat to life, and we will continue to do so going forward. Once sanctions are in place, the Government will remain alert to any unintended consequences for humanitarian operations and make adjustments where appropriate, as we did for Syria.
I turn briefly to the amendments in this group. Amendment 8, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, would require the Government to publish a detailed, stand-alone humanitarian impact assessment both in advance of sanctions regulations being made and at subsequent points thereafter. There is no precedent for this approach in the EU or among other western countries with national sanctions legislation. It could hamper the UK’s ability to deploy sanctions quickly and make multilateral co-ordination more challenging. It may also have the unfortunate effect of facilitating sanctions avoidance—if we give advance warning that we are considering sanctions, we create the ability for sanctions targets to remove their assets from the UK before sanctions bite. That having been said, I can assure noble Lords that the report that the Government would lay before Parliament when making or amending sanctions regulations, and the guidance issued in respect of those regulations, would explain the approach to mitigating humanitarian impacts, including through exemptions and licensing, which was a concern expressed by NGOs and noble Lords.
Amendment 39 proposes a system whereby licences from other jurisdictions would be recognised in the UK where more than one jurisdiction is involved. While I have sympathy with the desire to simplify compliance procedures for those operating across borders, I am afraid that this amendment poses real difficulties. Licences issued by our international partners may not necessarily align with UK policy objectives or work within UK systems. This is simply because other licensing authorities will not need to consider UK policy, UK law or practicalities before they issue such a licence.
Further, the amendment risks creating legal uncertainty. It is not clear what other jurisdictions may be within scope or which jurisdiction would enforce the sanctions when a licence is breached. Nor is it clear whether a licence issued by an overseas jurisdiction would be recognised by financial and other institutions in the UK without some form of validation by the UK licensing authority. The Government believe that the UK authorities remain best placed to interpret UK sanctions regulations and to determine when and in what circumstances activities or transactions may be licensed.
Amendment 40 calls for the Government to establish a fast-track process for dealing with requests for exceptions and licences for humanitarian purposes. As I have just said, the Government make every effort to prioritise urgent and humanitarian licence application cases and will continue to do so. However, establishing a specific fast-track process could have unwelcome effects in relation to other types of licences. Some other categories of licences, such as those aimed at meeting “basic needs”, may not be strictly humanitarian by definition but may have very serious consequences if not prioritised. The amendment could result in certain humanitarian applications that are not urgent being prioritised over non-humanitarian applications that do require an urgent response.
Amendment 41 would require a consultation to be undertaken on an overarching framework for exceptions and licences. As noble Lords will know, the White Paper consultation that preceded this Bill sought specific feedback on exceptions and licences, and we have considered all the comments very carefully. We will publish an initial framework for exceptions and licences in the near future and will continue to consult interested parties before the Bill enters into force. This will inform the approach that we take to exemptions and licensing provisions in the regulations that set up each individual sanctions regime. I am not convinced of the need to undertake a further consultation after the commencement of the Bill. By then, the relevant sanctions regulations, with the appropriate exceptions and licensing provisions, will have already been made and scrutinised by Parliament.
Amendment 42 calls for the government departments that provide the majority of funds for a humanitarian programme to arrange for a licence to be issued for the duration of the project. While I can see the logic here, the Government are concerned about the risk of this provision overlapping with the existing requirement for a licence to cover funded activities that fall within the scope of sanctions prohibitions. To mandate a licence in all circumstances, including those that would breach our compliance with UN requirements or which would be inappropriate, would undermine the sanctions themselves. The only way to square this circle would seem to be to remove government funding, and we do not want to do that.
However, the Government will consider, with interested parties, whether implementation of government-funded projects could be included in regulations either as an exception or as a basis for issuing licences on a case-by-case basis. We think that this will protect the spirit of this amendment, retain the flexibility that we need, and can be done without any express provision on the face of the Bill.
Amendment 43 would require the Government to provide detailed annual reports to Parliament on their use of humanitarian exemptions and on licences issued for humanitarian purposes. I have no difficulty with this in principle. However, licences issued for humanitarian purposes are likely to constitute a relatively small proportion of all licences issued under sanctions regulations. It would be better, in my view, to address this area in the round as part of the written report to Parliament that the Government will present after each annual review of sanctions regulations.
I hope that I have reassured noble Lords that humanitarian concerns are recognised and catered for by the Bill as drafted, and would accordingly ask noble Lords not to press these amendments. In doing so, I want to put on record my thanks to both the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for the constructive engagement that we all had with the NGOs themselves. We should continue to engage with them in that spirit as the Bill progresses.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. He is right: this is a complex issue. The amendments that we tabled represented the genuine concern of a range of NGOs about the need to seek clarity over a complex situation. But in the light of the Minister’s remarks and his commitments, and because we will return to the question of guidance, which I hope will improve the situation in terms of clarity, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 8 withdrawn.
9: After Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Additional requirements for regulations for a purpose within section 1(2)
(1) This section applies to regulations under section 1 any of whose purposes (as stated under section 1(3)) is a discretionary purpose. In this section “discretionary purpose” means a purpose which is not compliance with a UN obligation or other international obligation but is within section 1(2).(2) An appropriate Minister may not decide that it is appropriate to make regulations to which this section applies unless, in respect of each discretionary purpose stated in the regulations, that Minister—(a) has considered whether there are good reasons to pursue that purpose and has determined that there are, and(b) has considered whether the imposition of sanctions is a reasonable course of action for that purpose and has determined that it is.(3) In subsection (2)(b) “sanctions” means prohibitions and requirements of the kinds which are imposed by the regulations for the purpose in question (or both for that purpose and for another purpose of the regulations).(4) In relation to any regulations to which this section applies, the appropriate Minister making the regulations (“the Minister”) must at the required time lay before Parliament a report which explains in respect of each discretionary purpose stated under section 1(3) in the regulations—(a) why the Minister considers that carrying out that purpose would meet one or more of the conditions in paragraphs (a) to (d) of section 1(2),(b) why the Minister considers that there are good reasons to pursue that purpose, and(c) why the Minister considers that the imposition of sanctions (within the meaning given by subsection (3)) is a reasonable course of action for that purpose.(5) Nothing in subsection (4) requires the report to contain anything the disclosure of which may, in the opinion of the Minister, damage national security or international relations.(6) In subsection (4)“the required time” means—(a) in the case of regulations contained in a statutory instrument which is laid before Parliament after being made, the same time as the instrument is laid before Parliament;(b) in the case of regulations contained in a statutory instrument a draft of which is laid before Parliament, the same time as the draft is laid.”
Amendment 9 agreed.
Clause 2: Financial sanctions
10: Clause 2, page 3, line 11, leave out sub-paragraph (ii)
My Lords, Amendment 10 is in my name and those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. The amendments in this group are concerned with the powers that the Bill confers for the Minister to make sanctions regulations relating to a person connected to a specified country or to make sanctions regulations that allow for designation of a person by description rather than identification.
I am persuaded by the points made by the Minister in meetings and correspondence on the need to have a power to designate by connection with a specified country. I am sure the Minister will want to say more about that when he replies to this short debate. Designation by description is a more troubling issue. The concern is that if designation is by description, banks and others who have to comply with the designation will find it difficult to identify who is covered by it. Obviously designation by membership of al-Qaeda would be problematic since you cannot find a membership list published on the internet. The concern is that, when persons are designated by description, banks and other institutions will inevitably adopt a cautious approach. Those who then find that their funds are frozen will have great difficulty securing legal redress because the banks and other institutions have, in general, no contractual obligation to maintain a relationship with a client or potential client. That is the problem.
Again, I am most grateful to the Minister and the Bill team because they have responded positively to this concern. Government Amendment 34, to which I have added my name, confines the power to designate by description to those cases where the description is such that “a reasonable person” would know whether a particular individual falls within the description, and that,
“at the time the description is specified, it is not practicable for the Minister to identify and designate by name all the persons falling within the description at that time”.
That government amendment meets my concerns. I am grateful to the Minister and the Bill team for considering this difficult problem and responding so positively.
I find it very difficult to envisage that there will be many circumstances, if any, where it is not practicable for the Minister to designate by name and a reasonable person would know from the designation by description whether a particular person fell within it. It seems there will be very few cases where designation by description can occur, but I am very content with the government amendment. Therefore, I beg to move.
My Lords, I too am very glad that the Minister listened to the debates in Committee and engaged, with his team, so effectively with the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, and others. I was slightly amused that, in his letter to us, the Minister described his amendments as technical in nature. I thought that was a phrase he might have avoided, given the trouble he ran into on it before. That aside, I welcome the amendments.
My Lords, I shall speak to these amendments, on which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, made some persuasive and consensual points about how we uphold our international obligations. I will focus on sanctions in the related context affecting UK-based companies. I would be very grateful for some leeway from your Lordships in this so that we can make progress on the whole Bill, especially on Wednesday, when time will be short.
It should be a matter of shame that companies headquartered here in the UK have so far evaded sanctions for aiding and abetting money laundering, corruption and state capture in South Africa, including Bell Pottinger, KPMG, McKinsey, SAP and banks such as HSBC, Standard Chartered and Baroda, in total betrayal of Nelson Mandela’s legacy. I have just referred Hogan Lovells, the international law firm headquartered here in London, to the Solicitors Regulation Authority—the SRA—for enabling a corrupt money launderer to be returned to his post as second-in-command of the critically important South African Revenue Service, SARS. I have asked the SRA to withdraw Hogan Lovells’ authorisation as a recognised body and to examine what other disciplinary action can be taken against its leading partners, including withdrawing their permission to practise as solicitors.
Hogan Lovells spared two of the most notorious perpetrators of state capture in South Africa, Tom Moyane, head of SARS, and his deputy, Jonas Makwakwa, from accountability for their complicity in and cover up of serious financial crimes. In so doing, Hogan Lovells are complicit in undermining South Africa’s once revered tax-collection agency and thereby effectively underpinning President Jacob Zuma and his business associates, the Gupta brothers and others, in perverting South Africa’s democracy, damaging its economy and robbing its taxpayers. When Hogan Lovells was engaged by the corrupt Moyane in September 2016, it was well known that he and Makwakwa were synonymous with President Jacob Zuma’s capture of the state. Hogan Lovells could therefore not plead ignorance as they walked right into that web of corruption and cronyism for a fat fee.
To help protect himself from 783 counts of corruption, fraud, racketeering and money-laundering levelled against him when he came to power in 2009, President Zuma systematically dismembered and manipulated the once highly functional South African Revenue Service and the National Prosecuting Authority. Zuma’s key man in this process was his long-time comrade, Tom Moyane, whom he appointed as head of SARS, as commissioner, in 2014 and who, from day one, loyally set about obliterating all its investigative capacity, with the assistance of his deputy, Jonas Makwakwa. These two turned the institution, which under the leadership of the highly respected Pravin Gordhan had consistently overdelivered on revenue collection, into one now facing a 51 billion rand, or £3 billion, revenue shortfall.
Makwakwa’s unethical behaviour was quickly exposed in May 2016 when South Africa’s financial crime regulator, the Financial Intelligence Centre, ordered SARS to establish whether several “suspicious and unusual cash deposits and payments” into the accounts of Makwakwa and his lover, a low-level SARS employee, Kelly-Ann Elskie, were “the proceeds of crime and/or money laundering”. About 1.7 million rand—about £100,000, a lot in South African purchasing power—had been paid into their bank accounts over a six-year period. The FIC noted that the amounts flowing out of Makwakwa’s account,
“are of concern as they originate from unknown sources and undetermined legal purpose”.
However, when the FIC reported these suspicious transactions to Moyane, he tried to ignore the request by keeping it a secret. At the same time, the FIC reported the suspicious transactions to the police, known as the Hawks, to investigate the alleged criminality associated with the transactional flows and they opened a case.
Four months later, in September 2016, news of the FIC’s report to Moyane was exposed by investigative journalists and he begrudgingly suspended Makwakwa and later Elskie. This is when Hogan Lovells entered the picture. Moyane appointed the law firm to conduct “an independent investigation” into the Financial Intelligence Centre’s allegations to ensure “transparency, independence and integrity”, and then to recommend and independently facilitate necessary action, including disciplinary action. Hogan Lovells was therefore appointed to investigate the allegations contained in the FIC report and to conduct disciplinary proceedings against Makwakwa on behalf of SARS. To that effect, Hogan Lovells drafted the terms of reference for the engagement, a seven-page roadmap signed and adopted by SARS. However, Hogan Lovells failed to investigate the very reason the firm was appointed; the allegations contained in the FIC report. Hogan Lovells deviated so materially from its own terms of reference, allowing itself to be blindly led by Moyane, who redefined the terms of reference as and when it suited him, that a respected investigative journalist described the outcome as being,
“so tailored that it borders on the realm of being cooked”.
What an indictment of a leading international firm, Hogan Lovells, and its role.
The allegations against Makwakwa involved layers of possible transgressions; these being, first, tax law breaches, linked to whether he declared the transactions; secondly, criminal breaches, linked to whether the suspicious transactions were predicated on corruption or money laundering; and thirdly, whether internal SARS policy breaches had occurred. Moyane also mandated PricewaterhouseCoopers to analyse Makwakwa’s tax compliance, with regards to the “suspicious and unusual” money flows through his accounts. The Hawks were simultaneously investigating the criminality. Hogan Lovells’s mandate was, according to its terms of reference, to institute an independent investigation, partly using the findings of these other processes, to assess the veracity of the FIC allegations against labour and administrative law, and institute a disciplinary process.
But then two things happened. First, SARS declined to provide Hogan Lovells with the PricewaterhouseCoopers investigative report into Makwakwa, citing taxpayer confidentiality—an inaccurate interpretation of the law, which Hogan Lovells accepted without question. Secondly, Hogan Lovells never made contact with the Hawks to assess the status of their investigation—information which would logically be crucial to its assessment of Makwakwa’s fitness as a senior SARS employee. Equally puzzling is that around that time, South Africa’s Parliament got interested in Moyane’s puppet mastery of Hogan Lovells, prompting a parliamentary question about the nature of the engagement between the two organisations.
In Moyane’s reply, which is a matter of public record, he said that Hogan Lovells had been mandated to investigate contraventions of tax laws and money laundering allegations, and that it would assist the criminal authorities, where necessary, in investigating these transgressions. It would also deal with the SARS disciplinary process. In a press statement released weeks later, Hogan Lovells toned down this interpretation, saying that the scope of the investigation conducted by the firm was,
“limited to identifying whether any misconduct had been committed by Makwakwa and Elskie as employees of SARS. It did not seek to directly investigate the financial transactions identified by the FIC”.
If noble Lords are confused, it is because they should be. This obfuscation is precisely what Moyane set out to achieve, and to which purpose Hogan Lovells was either a willingly gullible or malevolent accomplice.
The end result is that the firm issued an incomplete, fatally flawed whitewash of a report, which ultimately cleared Makwakwa, despite reams of evidence to the contrary. Most damning of all, Hogan Lovells failed to include crucial evidence from the PwC report and the status of the Hawks investigation in its own report. That meant that Makwakwa has answered to only a fraction of the allegations levelled against him—a serious deviation from Hogan Lovells’ mandate. It is beneath contempt that Hogan Lovells subsequently tried to justify its work by hiding behind various complex legal provisions, sections and subsections—explanations which have been described by legal experts as “utter nonsense”. Hogan Lovells’ cover-up led directly to the corrupt Moyane exonerating his corrupt deputy Makwakwa and welcoming him back on 30 October 2017—to continue their looting and dirty work of robbing South African taxpayers.
Hogan Lovells must stand indicted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, which should seek and publish answers to the following questions. Why did Hogan Lovells accept this mandate while knowing about Tom Moyane’s corrupt Zuma/Gupta agenda? Why did Hogan Lovells allow itself to be controlled by Moyane, including allowing him glibly to alter the terms of reference to suit his agenda at various points in this sorry saga? Why has Hogan Lovells failed to release its documents—including the original terms of reference, its final report and any other relevant documentation which would help clear its name—to the South African Parliament? What has it got to hide? How much money did Hogan Lovells get from SARS for this investigation? Will Hogan Lovells pay back that fee, if not to SARs then at least to South African charities combating the poverty it has helped deepen? What is the relationship between the South African chair of Hogan Lovells, Lavery Modise, and the commissioner of SARS, Tom Moyane? Why has Hogan Lovells allowed itself to be used to undermine South Africa’s revenue collection agency? Some of the suspicious transactions received by Makwakwa were in US dollars. What onus does this place on regulatory authorities in the US—and, indeed, Hogan Lovells, as a firm that is also based in the US—to report and investigate?
Hogan Lovells has ducked and dived over its responsibility for and complicity in propping up state capture, corruption, cronyism and money laundering in South Africa. I trust that the SRA will sanction it, and that the British Government will issue an edict that no British-based firms should do any business whatever with any member of President Zuma’s family, or with any member of the Gupta family, and that any work for any state agency or state-owned enterprise in South Africa must be undertaken only with total integrity, not connivance in criminality such as Hogan Lovells has been guilty of. I thank noble Lords for their indulgence.
My Lords, in relation to the clause on financial sanctions, I add my gratitude to the Minister for the way that he has engaged with us, the Cross-Benchers and those in other parties. We have turned what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, described as a lamentable Bill into something approaching an acceptable Bill. There are some problems with it, but this will not be one of them. The three pre-conditions that the Minister has laid down will make it wholly exceptional that someone can be designated under the sanctions regime without identification, so the Maltese grandchildren that the noble and learned Lord referred to in Committee should feel fairly safe in their beds from here on in. We welcome the concessions made and support this part of the Bill.
My Lords, once again I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for their constructive engagement on understanding and then coming forward with appropriate amendments in this regard.
The group of amendments in front of us focuses upon the description of persons who can be subject to sanctions by way of sectoral sanctions and individual designations. Before I come to the main thrust of the amendments—and I use this term advisedly, notwithstanding the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover—there are two technical government amendments to Clause 2. These amendments will ensure that sanctions regulations can prevent the procurement of funds or economic resources, as well as receiving such funds or economic resources. This will help prevent sanctions being evaded and thus improve their overall effectiveness, which I know is the intent of all noble Lords in respect of the Bill. I hope that this small and technical change will be deemed non-controversial, and would be grateful if your Lordships would support the amendments and enable us to further enhance the Bill’s provisions.
I turn to the amendments tabled by noble Lords, which seek to stop the Government from being able to impose sanctions on persons “connected with” a prescribed country. As I have assured your Lordships during previous stages of the Bill, while I understand the concerns in this respect, I believe the Government have acted to address them where we can and there are good reasons why these provisions are needed. I totally understand the concern raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, in Committee that a Minister would be able to define the connection to a country by regulations, and do so in ways that were unacceptable. I assure him that there are safeguards to prevent this power being misused.
As set out in the Bill, sanctions measures can be made in line only with the purposes for regulations set out in Clause 1. The definition of “connected with” must therefore be appropriate for the pursuit of the said purpose. It would not be reasonable or appropriate to create sanctions measures relating to persons that have only a very loose connection with a sanctioned country.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, said in Committee that it surely makes sense for the Government to define connection now, in primary legislation, rather than at some point in the future. We have considered this suggestion carefully and looked at a couple of types of possible approaches in this respect. The first approach would be to list the connections that sanctions currently impose, but this poses two problems. First, the list would be very long, as there are a great deal of different types of connections. Secondly, an exclusive list would not give us the flexibility that we will need in future when new types of connections need to be made. It is worth remembering that the context of international policy is changing rapidly. This is perhaps best typified by the sanctions regime on North Korea, which has changed three times in the last six months alone. We do not know how much further we will be obliged to act on North Korea; unpredictable world events could make it necessary to have new regimes with measures of increasing complexity.
We also considered whether it might be possible to restrict the power by making sure that certain types of loose connections could not be specified. Again, the vast number and shifting type of these connections make drafting such provisions prohibitively difficult. The situation also changes in each case. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, that a connection based on familial connection might be very loose and unjustifiable in many circumstances, but in the context of misappropriated wealth spread through the close family of a former head of state, such a connection might be required. I therefore request noble Lords not to press their amendments in relation to connected persons for the reasons that I have given.
On designation by description, I have listened closely to the concerns of noble Lords who spoke in Committee, including those about the practical difficulty that this would present for banks and others responsible for complying with such sanctions. I noted in Committee that it is important for the Government to have the power to designate by description in some circumstances, such as where we do not have the names of members of a terrorist group. I have accordingly sought to strike a balance here by placing restrictions on the use of this power to ensure that it can be used only in limited circumstances.
Based on the debate in Committee, I have tabled government Amendments 33 to 35 to ensure that the use of this power is tightly constrained, as the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, acknowledged. With this amendment in place, the Government must impose sanctions on an individual by name if we have access to their name, as the power to designate by description cannot be used when we do. The description must also be sufficiently detailed that a person can apply it to themselves and decide whether they are subject to sanctions. For example, if we wished to sanction all Ministers of a certain state, we would designate as many as possible by name and would then be able to designate any others of unknown name by the description “Ministers of that state”. A Minister of that state will clearly know that the sanction applies to them, and UK persons, such as banks, will be able to ascertain the position in relation to their own business dealings. This enshrines the Government’s commitment to use this power only when it is not practicable to designate by name, thus easing the compliance burden on industry. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for his acknowledgement of the government amendments in this respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Hain, raised a specific issue relating to the work of Hogan Lovells for the South African Revenue Service. The noble Lord has raised various matters during the passage of the Bill, and I am grateful to him for bringing this information to our attention. I assure the noble Lord that, on this matter and the matters he has raised previously, the Government continue to be concerned about the allegations of corruption in South Africa. I further assure him that the British high commission continues to monitor this issue very closely. As the noble Lord said, he has already brought this issue to the attention of the Solicitors Regulation Authority and awaits its reply. Once he has heard from it on that subject, any correspondence could be copied to the Government, although I am sure we will already be informed. It has been helpful to have his interventions in this respect.
We have listened very carefully to the various elements and concerns raised in Committee. I once again thank noble Lords for their engagement in reaching the position that we have on these amendments. As I said at the start of Report, and during Committee and Second Reading, the guiding principle that I have adopted in this regard is that I believe very passionately that legislation is not just made more effective and more practical but enhanced in your Lordships’ House. Through the co-operation we have had on this group of amendments, we have seen that level of constructive engagement.
On the basis of that explanation, I hope I have been able to persuade all noble Lords to support the government amendments and would ask them to withdraw or not move their amendments.
I am very grateful to the Minister, who has shown exemplary constructive engagement throughout discussions on the Bill. I am sure all parts of the House are very grateful to him and the Bill team for that.
Amendments restricting Ministers’ powers to designate by description are far from technical, and I simply point out one matter in response to the Minister. I think he suggested that, in relation to government Amendment 34, the issue would be whether the individual himself or herself would be able to identify from the description whether they were covered. In fact, government Amendment 34 goes a lot further than that, because the test under it is whether, from the description, a reasonable person would know whether the individual falls within the description. That is the test. But I am very grateful to the Minister and beg leave to withdraw Amendment 10.
Amendment 10 withdrawn.
Amendments 11 to 19 not moved.