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Exiting the European Union (Sanctions)

Volume 688: debated on Wednesday 3 February 2021

I beg to move,

That the Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 608), dated 18 June 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22 June, be approved.

With this we will take the following motions:

That the Burundi (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I., 2019, No. 1142), dated 18 July 2019, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19 July 2019, in the last Parliament, be approved.

That the Cyber (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 597), dated 15 June 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17 June, be approved.

That the Guinea (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I., 2019, No. 1145), dated 18 July 2019, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19 July 2019, in the last Parliament, be approved.

That the Misappropriation (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 1468), dated 7 December 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 9 December, be approved.

That the Nicaragua (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 610), dated 18 June 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22 June, be approved.

That the Sanctions (EU Exit) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 590), dated 11 June 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 15 June, be approved.

That the Sanctions (EU Exit) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 951), dated 3 September 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8 September, be approved.

That the Unauthorised Drilling Activities in the Eastern Mediterranean (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 1474), dated 7 December 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11 December, be approved.

The nine instruments before us were laid between July 2019 and December 2020 under powers provided by the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, also known as the sanctions Act. As the House will be aware, on 31 December 2020, the UK took control of its sanctions policy and we now have a full suite of sanctions regimes at our disposal under the sanctions Act. This provides the legal framework within which the UK may impose, update and lift sanctions, whether autonomously or in line with our UN obligations now that we have left the European Union.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the very serious campaign to take action against China because of the treatment of the Uyghurs, and we are asked to produce motions on genocide, but it seems to me that now we have left the European Union, that action is now in our hands, so will he confirm that we can now take robust action against the Chinese Government in the form of sanctions, perhaps against the fashion industry or on importing cotton from that part of China? We now have the freedom to act if we want to, and I hope that the Government will.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the point that he has made, and I will go into a bit more detail about the framework within which we can operate. He will understand that the Government choose not to discuss any future sanctions we may impose, to prevent either the movement of moneys or other things that we might approach, but my colleagues in Government and I absolutely hear the point that he has made.

Our sanctions regime is the foundation for an independent sanctions policy in support of our foreign policy and national security interests. With this framework in place, the UK can use sanctions to act as a force for good in the world. Working with partners both old and new, we can collaborate to project our values and tackle unacceptable behaviour wherever we find it. Our global human rights regime is just one example of this. Of course, where collaboration is not possible or where swift leadership is required, we now have the freedom to act, as we did with Belarus and, most recently, in relation to Zimbabwe. On Monday, we designated four security sector chiefs who were responsible for the worst humanitarian rights violations committed against the people of Zimbabwe since President Mnangagwa took power, including the deaths of 23 protesters. Our sanctions send a clear message that those responsible for such acts will be held to account.

In order to establish individual sanctions regimes within the framework of the sanctions Act, we are required to lay statutory instruments. Among other things, these instruments set out the purpose of the regime, the criteria for designation, the measures imposed, exceptions and licensing arrangements, and the offences and penalties for contravention of these measures.

Of the nine instruments we are considering today, seven transition existing EU regimes into UK law. The UK is at the forefront of developing multilateral contributions on sanctions and has played a large part in shaping the EU’s approach. As a result, the measures contained in the UK sanctions, such as asset freezes and travel bans, are intended to have substantially the same policy effect as those in the regimes that they replace.

Certain types of sanctions measures, such as asset freezes and travel bans, apply to those who we designate. The instruments themselves do not specify which individuals or entities will be designated. Designations are instead made through an administrative process and published on the UK’s sanction list. Officials assessed all those designated under the EU regimes against the test established in the sanctions Act and UK policy objectives before the end of the transition period. The vast majority of EU designations met those criteria.

The two remaining instruments amend other statutory instruments that established sanctions regimes. These amendments are designed to ensure that our entire suite of sanctions legislation is as consistent and clear in its provisions as possible. Many regimes contain the same sanctions measures, and consistency in language promotes consistency in interpretation, application and enforcement. British businesses often export goods or provide services to more than one country that is subject to sanctions, and any inconsistency in the wording of legislation can cause confusion and increase their compliance costs. The amendments also ensure that UK persons in the Crown dependencies and overseas territories are not unduly impacted by extraterritorial application of UK law. They create an exemption for the extraterritorial prohibitions so that a licence from the authorities in that jurisdiction is sufficient to authorise a UK person’s conduct there. Those persons do not need also to obtain a licence from the UK authorities in order to avoid committing an offence under UK law.

I will elaborate a little further on the purposes of the seven regimes that these instruments establish. The Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 are aimed at promoting peace, security and stability in Bosnia and respect for its sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are also intended to encourage compliance with, and the implementation of, the general framework agreement for peace, which established Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single sovereign state. The regulations permit the imposition of financial and immigration sanctions. Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the countries in the western Balkans most at risk of instability. Its domestic political situation is affected by institutional dysfunctionality, diverse ethno-nationalistic rhetoric, attempts to undermine the functions of the state and its institutions and challenges to the general framework agreement for peace. These sanctions are a public demonstration of our enduring commitment to promoting stability and security in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Burundi (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 aim to encourage the Government of Burundi to respect democratic principles and institutions, the rule of law and good governance in Burundi, to participate in negotiations with political opponents in good faith to bring about peaceful solutions to the political situation in Burundi, to refrain from policies and activities that repress civil society in Burundi, to comply with international humanitarian rights and to respect human rights. They permit the imposition of financial and immigration sanctions. Following elections in May 2020, there was a peaceful transfer of power to a new President in June 2020. Nevertheless, we continue to have concerns about the human rights situation, and we believe that these sanctions continue to have a role in promoting respect for human rights in Burundi.

The Cyber (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 are aimed at preventing certain types of cyber-activity that undermine the integrity, prosperity or security of the UK or any other country. They are also intended to prevent certain types of cyber-activity that cause economic loss or prejudice commercial interests, undermine the independence or effective functioning of an international organisation or otherwise affect a significant number of people in an indiscriminate manner. The regulations permit the imposition of financial and immigration sanctions. The cyber threat is growing, with attacks increasing in their intensity, complexity and severity. Malign actors in cyber-space are able to carry out attacks on other countries’ critical national infrastructure, democratic institutions, businesses and media. These sanctions demonstrate that there are consequences for such attacks and restrict access to the resources for those who would seek to carry them out.

The Guinea (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 aim to encourage the Government of Guinea to properly investigate the violent repression that took place on 28 September 2009 and its aftermath and to hold those responsible to account. These sanctions make clear that these events, in which more than 150 people were killed, have not been forgotten, and that their perpetrators should face justice, as well as providing a deterrent for the future. The regulations permit the imposition of targeted financial and immigration sanctions.

The Misappropriation (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 are aimed at deterring and providing accountability for the misappropriation of state funds from a country outside the UK. They permit the imposition of financial and immigration sanctions. Rather than establish geographic regimes, as existed under the EU legislation, this statutory instrument creates a single thematic regime under which designations can be made in respect of misappropriation of state funds taking place anywhere outside the UK, allowing for greater agility and flexibility. Corruption, and in particular misappropriation of state funds, has a significant negative effect on national and international prosperity, security and governance. The cost of corruption worldwide is estimated to be more than 2% of global GDP. These sanctions are part of our wider strategy to combat this issue.

The Nicaragua (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 are aimed at encouraging the Government in Nicaragua to respect democratic principles and institutions, the separation of powers and the rule of law; to refrain from the repression of civil society, and to respect human rights. The regulations permit the imposition of financial and immigration sanctions. These sanctions function as a clear signal of our intention to maintain the pressure on the repressive Ortega regime and as a tool through which we can exert this pressure.

The Unauthorised Drilling Activities in the Eastern Mediterranean (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 aim to discourage any unauthorised hydrocarbon exploration or production activities in the territorial sea or exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus or on its continental shelf. They permit the imposition of financial and immigration sanctions. We recognise, and have consistently stated our support for, the sovereign right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit the oil and gas in its internationally agreed exclusive economic zone. Cyprus’s oil and gas should be used for the benefit of Cypriots. These sanctions demonstrate our opposition to unauthorised drilling and the violation of other states’ sovereignty.

Sanctions are a key part of the UK’s foreign policy toolbox, and feature in many of our political and diplomatic strategies. We use them to change unacceptable behaviour by coercing or constraining those involved, or by sending a political signal that their actions will not be tolerated. They also contribute to our efforts to uphold and defend the rules-based international order. The UK has long been a global leader on sanctions, and that will not change now that we have left the European Union. Our independent sanctions policy allows us to use sanctions to achieve maximum impact, working in a way that is agile, expertise-driven and in support of our values, and which enables collaboration with both new and established partners.

International co-operation is at the heart of our polity. Sanctions are most effective when implemented and enforced collectively, and we will continue to co-ordinate closely with our European and other international partners on sanctions. These regulations are a crucial part of the legal edifice that underpins our sanctions policy, of which the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 is a keystone. With them in place, we can promote and protect security, stability and prosperity at home and overseas, call for accountability and justice, and deter human rights violations and abuses. In short, we can project the UK as a force for good in the world. I welcome the opportunity to hear the views of Members about the regulations and to answer their questions. I commend these regulations to the House.

I thank the Minister for his introduction to these sets of regulations. Let me be clear that the Opposition welcome these instruments to roll over the European Union sanctions regimes into UK legislation, and to clarify and ensure the applicability of a series of other measures. As the Minister has explained, these regulations apply to a wide range of country contexts, but are largely focused on targeted measures and on some specific themes, such as the misappropriation of state funds and the use of cyber-attacks.

The Labour Opposition want to see a global Britain as—as the Minister has described—a force for good in the world, with human rights, the rule of law and democracy at the heart of all our foreign policies. We have unique responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council, the Human Rights Council and the Commonwealth, as well as in the international legal architecture. However, it is disappointing, as I have noted previously, to have seen the diminishing of the UK role in both human rights bodies and the loss of our seat, for example, on the International Court of Justice in recent years.

That said, as the shadow Foreign Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), has made clear, we have supported and continue to support a strengthening of the UK sanctions regime to ensure that those who abuse human rights, attack civilians, threaten democracy, the rule of law and the rights and freedoms of civil society, or use corruption, torture and murder to further their own ends have no safe haven for themselves or their dirty money in the UK or our overseas territories.

I will come to that point in due course. The right hon. Gentleman has made some important points, and he knows that those concerns are shared across the House, particularly with regard to the Uyghur minority and the shocking revelations that are coming out.

As a member of the European Union, the UK played a leading role in designating individuals and entities for targeted sanctions. We hope that, in seeking to maintain a close friendship with the European Union and our partners now that we have left, the Government will work closely with them as well as other like-minded countries and global institutions. We also hope that the Government will do more with the powers that we now have at our disposal through the Magnitsky sanctions regime, expanding their scope and usage, as well as increasing the transparency to the House, including about the processes by which decisions are made on designations for sanctions. I hope that the rolling over of these sanctions is a sign of the Government’s intention to maintain a collaborative and friendly approach with our friends in the EU.

Before turning to the individual countries and thematic sanctions that the Minister has outlined, I want to ask him a question. The transition period ended on 31 December last year. What has been in place in the interim weeks? Have these sanctions continued to apply? It is obviously very important that there have not been loopholes in the last few weeks, before these measures were brought before us.

First, on Burundi, we are fully supportive of rolling over the sanctions. The EU extended the sanction regime last year to last until 31 December this year. The last five years have unfortunately seen significant problems in respect of democracy and human rights. We hope that the new Government will seek to reverse many of the dangerous steps that the previous President and Government took. We saw the police, the National Intelligence Service and the ruling party’s youth wing carrying out extensive human rights violations, with allegations of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and torture. In October 2019, four members of the Imbonerakure were convicted for killing a member of the opposition party, the National Congress for Freedom.

We believe that the Burundi Government must seek to release human rights defenders and journalists arrested under a crackdown on opposition. That includes Germain Rukuki, a former employee of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, human rights defender Nestor Nibitanga and four journalists from the Iwacu press group who were arrested in October 2019, whose names I can provide to the Minister. We very much hope that Burundi will follow a process of re-engagement with international bodies on human rights, including allowing the UN human rights office to be reopened in the country and engaging with commissions from the UN Human Rights Council, which the UK has a key sea-t on.

On Guinea, we agree with the Government on rolling over these sanctions, which relate back to the significant violence we saw in 2009, in which 150 people were brutally killed in a stadium in the capital, Conakry, and hundreds more were wounded, with women being victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence. It was a deeply distressing time for the people of Guinea, and there was widespread condemnation from the international community. There was some progress in 2014, and some sanctions were released. Could the Minister say a little bit about what progress there has been since then and whether these sanctions have had the impact that we want to see?

On Bosnia, I visited Srebrenica with the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart)—I believe you were on that trip, Mr Deputy Speaker—and we saw for ourselves the legacy of that terrible conflict in our own continent. I agree with the Government: it is vital that we continue to make clear our intent to stand against any of those who would undermine the security and peace that was so hard won by the general framework agreement for peace—the Dayton agreement—in 1995. That allowed for much progress, but significant tensions and concerns remain. Could the Minister clarify whether individuals have been or would be designated under this framework, or are we saying that the framework is in place to underpin the Dayton agreement and that we would not hesitate to use it with others to ensure peace and stability in that country, which is crucial for not only the people of Bosnia but the wider Balkan region?

On Nicaragua, the explanatory notes set out clearly some of the very serious allegations that have been made about the descent into repression and violence there, so it is right that we roll over these sanctions. The social security reforms announced in April 2018 triggered ongoing protests that have continued for nearly three years. The allegations are that by the end of 2019, at least 328 people had been killed, primarily by state security forces and pro-Government armed groups, and more than 2,000 others injured. There have been truly shocking allegations regarding mass graves, clandestine facilities, detention of political prisoners and attacks on members of the Catholic Church. The Government have also apparently banned the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights from the country and rejected the report of Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. That is deeply concerning, and we welcome these measures.

On cyber sanctions, clearly there is an increasing factor of threats to global security, our own national security, and our commercial security. Threats and attacks on our financial institutions, democracy and security have become very clear in recent years, and they will likely only increase. The EU’s first ever sanctions last year made this a vital defensive tool in our arsenal against cyber-attacks.

I understand that the targeted individuals include those from China working on Operation Cloud Hopper. They are alleged to have stolen intellectual property and sensitive commercial data over many years, targeting companies across six continents and sectors including banking, finance, government, aviation, space, satellite technology, manufacturing, medical, oil and gas, mining, communications, computer processing and defence. This is a huge range of measures that these hostile individuals are attempting to attack. I also understand that they target intelligence officers from the Russian general main intelligence directorate and, in April 2018, attempted to gain access to information systems of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. It is absolutely crucial that we work with our EU allies, the United States, our NATO allies and, of course, the Five Eyes community to take the most robust actions against those individuals involved with the Chinese and Russian regimes to ensure that they do not threaten our security or that of the globe.

In the miscellaneous amendments regulations, a whole series of measures are set out to clarify sanctions relating to Iran, Venezuela, Belarus, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Syria, Russia, Guinea-Bissau, the chemical weapons convention and many other aspects. Will the Minister be clear about whether they simply ensure the applicability and effectiveness of these measures, or expand or alter them in any way? One challenge in scrutinising these measures—I hope the Minister refers to this matter—is that sanctions are often complex, and rightly so, and we need to ensure that we understand the full intent of what the Government are trying to achieve with them.

The second set of miscellaneous regulations deal with the issues relating to the overseas territories and Crown dependencies. I understand the Minister’s point that we do not want to see double prohibition and therefore a double licensing burden on individuals through those regulations. However, it is absolutely crucial that we ensure that there are no loopholes and no lack of oversight, so that individuals do not seek to exploit any gaps or administrative gaps. Will the Minister say a little bit more about what support is being provided to the overseas territories to ensure that they can apply the sanctions regimes, and that there is a commonality across the whole British family of the overseas territories to ensure that we have one approach? Unfortunately, we know that in the past regimes have been used, whether financially or otherwise, to escape scrutiny and transparency, not least in the light of the current investigations into governance in the British Virgin Islands. Indeed, I have supported the Government on their commission of inquiry there. It is absolutely crucial that we have assurances on that front.

On misappropriation, this applies mainly to individuals and entities related to Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 and Ukraine in 2014. Can the Minister further comment on how effective those have been? Will he confirm that the two persons and four entities added to the EU sanctions list in October 2020, related to the construction of bridge and railway tracks linking Russia to the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula via the Kerch Strait, will be included? Will the Government seek to work with our allies to target individuals who further seek to isolate Crimea from Ukraine? That is obviously critical.

On the unauthorised drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean, again, we wholeheartedly support the rolling over of sanctions and welcome its extension by both the European Union and the UK Government. Unauthorised drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean are in direct contravention of the sovereign rights of Cyprus, within its territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, and they threaten the process of reaching a delimitation agreement and a bizonal, bicommunal political settlement for the whole of Cyprus. We hope that the UK Government will continue to work with the EU to maintain our full solidarity with the Government of Cyprus and work on restrictive measures to prevent further violations of the rules-based order that governs our seas and oceans. That is an absolutely crucial set of rules and guidance to which we are one of the key parties, and it is crucial that we ensure that they are applied in relation to Cyprus.

Finally, let me make some broader points in relation to these measures today. The sanctions before us show the benefit of a collaborative international approach to sanctions, and one that has support from all parts of this House. The question remains why, with such long-standing and overwhelming evidence growing of systemic human rights abuses on an industrial scale against the Muslim Uyghur people and other minorities in China, with the attacks on the democracy and freedom of the people of Hong Kong and with the United States Government having already barred members of the Communist party of China from the US, we have not seen further designations of Magnitsky-style sanctions against officials of the Communist party of China.

We have repeatedly called on the Government to impose sanctions against senior officials and entities directly responsible for appalling human rights abuses in Xinjiang. We have pressed for that for months but no action has been taken, so I hope the Minister can assure us that such sanctions are under consideration and explain what discussions we have had about them with our allies.

Similarly, the Labour Opposition have consistently urged the Government to go further in their sanctions on the Myanmar military, including by targeting its business interests. I know that some of these regulations relate to previous sanctions on Myanmar. The Government failed to follow the recommendation made last year by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), the shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific, on the basis that such sanctions could have a negative impact on foreign investment in the Myanmar economy. Not least given the events of the last few days, we believe that the Minister should move immediately to target military officials who are responsible for a brazen attack on the democratic rights of the Myanmar people, and support Magnitsky sanctions on individuals involved.

As shadow Minister for Africa, I welcome the targeted designations against senior individuals in the Zimbabwe Government who were involved in state-backed attacks on protesters in 2019 and violence in 2018. Will the Minister confirm that those sanctions are effective immediately? We are seeing significant violence and political repercussions elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, as I said in a Westminster Hall debate about the shocking events surrounding the #EndSARS movement and the massacres at the Lekki tollgate plaza and elsewhere. I hope that Ministers are giving serious consideration to the recommendation made in that debate of targeted measures against any individuals who were involved in such shocking attacks or repression of the Nigerian people, and I hope that Ministers are listening to the wealth of evidence out there from independent human rights organisations.

In Uganda in recent days, the presidential election has been marred by the continual arrests of Opposition Members and journalists, as well as by violence and human rights abuses. I have had some quite shocking evidence put to me. The Opposition leader was arrested multiple times and put under house arrest, with the military invading his home after the election, and there has been intimidation and attacks on journalists. It is alleged that the Uganda chief of police, Martin Okoth Ochola, stated:

“Yes, we shall beat you for your own sake to help you understand that you do not go there…I have no apology”.

What are the Government going to do to stand up for the rights and freedoms of the people of Uganda? What consideration has been given to targeted sanctions against any individual involved in the violations and repressions in Guinea and elsewhere, which are rightly being targeted? It is important that we have consistency.

We continue to see the horrific consequences of conflict in the Tigray region in Ethiopia. Hundreds have been killed, and thousands have fled to neighbouring Sudan. There is regional instability involving Eritrea and others, and a range of very serious allegations are being made about atrocities that have been committed. What assessment have the Government made of those atrocities and whether there are grounds for individual sanctions against any individual involved—from whatever side or whatever background in that conflict—who is responsible for violations of human rights or humanitarian law?

Finally, I hope that we will have an honest conversation about how a UK sanctions regime will work. The EU and the US work together co-operatively to secure strong applicability of measures, and the UK must be part of that process. Ultimately, as the Minister indicated, the strength of sanctions is dependent on a unified, agreed and consistently applied framework across multiple jurisdictions. If we veer from common positions—whether in Europe, across NATO or with our Atlantic allies—that will be of huge detriment. I hope the Government will give a firm commitment to acting in all these areas, and to ensuring consistency in the measures that the United Kingdom applies in our overseas territories and in working with our allies.

I call Alyn Smith. I understand that there may be some communication gremlins at work, Alyn, but if the link goes down we will go to audio.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; I hope that the technology is working for us today.

If brevity is the soul of wit, I can be positively hilarious this afternoon. The SNP has no objection to these measures being rolled over. We welcome the fact that they are being incorporated and carried on, for the reasons so ably outlined by the Labour spokesperson, but also because of the more general principle that we believe in multilateral action on this sort of stuff, and we think that we will be far stronger working with our European allies. We regret leaving the European Union altogether, and we would like to see continued dynamic alignment with the EU on this sort of stuff. I think the scope for lateral manoeuvre that the UK has gained from Brexit is somewhat overstated, and we are far stronger working with our European allies—and, indeed, the US under the new Administration—on these sorts of topics. We have no objection to these measures and we are pleased to support them this afternoon.

I start by welcoming the sanctions. I restate the deeply held position of the Lib Dems, which is, of course, that we should always aim to work in concert with the European Union on all these matters. I am always heartened to see the broad consensus in the House on this issue. It prompts the question why, on important matters, we do not sometimes move faster—because we can.

On Burundi, we know from UN reports that the Burundian army launched attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 2019 and 2020, in violation of the sanctions regime. It is a terrible situation, especially with regard to the media there, including the BBC. Although recent moves by the new President to reopen the media show that sanctions are working, we have to take a precautionary approach and must not let up too soon.

In Guinea, the Government of Guinea have yet to properly investigate the violent repression of 2008-09 and the aftermath of that violence against their own people. So while I welcome the sanctions in their aim of holding those responsible to account, my question to the Government is, are they measuring the impact of the sanctions over time, and are we any closer now to achieving our objectives than when those sanctions were originally introduced under EU legislation?

The conflict following the break-up of Yugoslavia was something on which the late, great Lord Ashdown showed much leadership. The UK must absolutely promote the sovereignty of, and peace and stability in, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

I am sure that the House is unanimous in its agreement that more must be done in Nicaragua to respect democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

While I of course welcome the roll-over of all these sanctions, I would echo the calls across the House for us to do more, particularly on Russia, where we must have a more robust response to the imprisonment of Navalny; and on the Uyghurs in China, where there is huge support for such a response in the House, as has been well rehearsed in the past few weeks. I hope the Minister can see that no party in the House will let up. We do want more done, particularly with regard to Magnitsky sanctions, on these matters.

I am genuinely grateful for the contributions that have been made from a number of corners of the House. I think it sends a very important international signal that although there are many subjects on which we have deeply felt and legitimate disagreements, right across the political spectrum here in the United Kingdom there is a real unanimity of voice when it comes to the importance of sanctions and the UK’s place in the world.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) for his thoughtful contributions and questions, which I will attempt to cover in this closing address. I also thank the hon. Members for Stirling (Alyn Smith) and for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) and, although he is no longer in his place, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) for their contributions.

As I said at the start of the debate, this year represents a crucial moment for the UK’s foreign policy. We now have in place a framework that can be used to act as a force for good in the world. The UK supported these sanctions when we were a member of the EU and we hope that, by carrying them over into UK domestic law, we have made a clear statement—which I believe has been reflected in the contributions of others in the House—that we choose to adopt them, not because we were coerced into them by our membership of the European Union, but because we absolutely believe that they are the right things to do.

I will permit Mr Shannon to join in, because I know he has been following the debate from outside the Chamber.

I thank the Minister; I have been watching the debate on TV.

My question is specifically about Northern Ireland. Does the Minister believe that the sanctions proposed in the statutory instruments will address Gaddafi and Libyan-sponsored terrorism? American victims of events on British soil are entitled to reparations, while our citizens languish for years without it. That is a very important issue for us in Northern Ireland, and the rest of the United Kingdom as well. How will the provisions address the extradition of terrorists such as al-Senussi, Gaddafi’s general, who has still not been made to face justice in Britain after supplying the IRA with Semtex that was used in 250 bombings? Will the Minister confirm that these regulations will prevent that failure from being repeated?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. He pays assiduous attention to the debates in which he contributes, and I am glad that he has been able to take part despite the gremlins in the technology.

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the fact that the imposition of sanctions does not prevent the UK Government from being a force for good domestically as well as internationally. I am not able to go into detail on the specific matter that he has raised, although it is important. We always ensure through our sanctions regime that we are able to stand on the international stage feeling proud of the work we have done, which is driven by a moral point. I will correspond with the hon. Gentleman to provide more details about his specific question.

A number of hon. Members rightly raised current and future co-ordination with the European Union. As I stated initially, it is important that we understand that the United Kingdom has a discrete and autonomous sanctions regime; the EU may choose to pursue sanctions different from ours. Nevertheless, we know that sanctions are more effective when they are delivered in co-ordination, and we will continue to co-operate closely with our allies, partners and near neighbours in the European Union, in co-ordination, where possible, with other countries around the world, so that we can be more effective in the work we do through our sanctions regimes.

As the human rights spokesperson for my party, I also wish to ask a question about regulation 8 of the SI on Bosnia. Is the provision that the Secretary of State

“must take steps to publicise the designation, variation or revocation”

compatible with our duty to respect the human rights of individuals and family members of said alleged offenders? How does the Minister believe the balance between sanction and interference is achieved?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his important but technical point. I do not want to go into too much detail at the Dispatch Box; again, if he will forgive me, I will make sure that my officials take note of his point and that we write to him about it.

The hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth asked whether there was a pause between the end of the transition period and now. I assure him that the regulations were laid in the course of 2019 and 2020, and came into force on 31 December, so there was no interruption in the sanctions regime.

Colleagues around the House have suggested examples of where our sanctions regime could be applied in the future. Rather than address each individually, I make the point that we have taken notice of those examples, in many of which very important, severe and concerning issues are at stake. It is the long-standing policy of the UK Government not to discuss future sanctions and future designations to prevent, for example, the flight of individuals or the hiding of funds that may be the target of our sanction regimes, but I can assure all Members that the examples they have raised will be taken into consideration.

I understand what the Minister is saying. On a practical point, Members are regularly approached with very serious evidence, sometimes involving individuals who may have been committing atrocities. How can independent human rights organisations and others best input into the decision-making process, even if he does not want to pre-announce those designations?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. I would not wish to imply that any method is precluded. The most traditional method is that individuals and NGOs contact the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. I often read correspondence from right hon. and hon. Members across the House bringing their concerns to my attention. That is, of course, a well-established way of doing it. Once we are once again able to come together physically in this place, the tap on the shoulder in the Division Lobby, the Tea Room and the corridors is also a traditional way for right hon. and hon. Members to bring matters to our attention in a discreet way. I completely recognise that there are times when raising an issue on the Floor of the House can put individuals in greater danger. We are passionate about making the sanctions regime a success and a meaningful tool as a force in the world, and we are more than happy for Members across the House to bring their concerns to our attention.

Cyber-sanctions will be one of our key tools as an autonomous regime. The hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth highlighted that it will be an increasingly important part of the work we do. He also asked about the designations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We have mirrored the EU structure and we have a framework in place. Although there are no designations in place at the moment, it is there as a very visible method to reinforce the importance we attach to peace, stability and prosperity, to be used at some point in the future if needs be.

I think almost every Member who spoke today raised the situation of the Uyghur Muslims and China. As the Foreign Secretary said, we have serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, including the extrajudicial detention of over 1 million Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in political re-education camps, the systematic restrictions on Uyghur culture and the practice of Islam, and the extensive invasive surveillance targeting minorities. On 12 January, the Foreign Secretary announced a series of robust measures to help ensure that no British organisations—Government or private sector—deliberately or inadvertently profit from or contribute to human rights violations against the Uyghurs and other Muslims.

We have taken a leading international role in holding China to account for its human rights violations in Xinjiang. We led the first international joint statements on this issue at the UN General Assembly Third Committee in October 2019 and in June 2020 at the UN Human Rights Council. On 6 October 2020, alongside Germany, we brought together a total of 39 countries to express our grave concerns about the situation in Xinjiang in a joint statement at the UN General Assembly Third Committee. In addition, the Foreign Secretary raised Xinjiang directly with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi, on a number of occasions.

The situation in Myanmar has also been raised. We consider the recent election to be broadly representative, as do international observers, and we consider the National League for Democracy Government led by Aung Sang Suu Kyi to be the legitimate Government in Myanmar. We wholeheartedly condemn the coup d’état, the military seizure of power and the detention of the State Counsellor and other political and civil society leaders. The attempts to undermine the legitimacy of the recent elections are completely unacceptable.

Indications in the press yesterday and in the media today suggest that China may have played a bigger role in the coup. Has the Minister had any opportunity to speak to the representatives of China to express deep concern about any involvement in the coup, taking away the democratic process and imposing an autocratic process?

It would not be appropriate for me to speculate on involvement in what has happened in Myanmar, but the hon. Member will have seen that the Foreign Secretary has made a statement on this, in conjunction with others in the international community.

The Minister is being very generous in taking interventions. A moment ago, in relation to China, he mentioned the importance of UK-based companies and their role, and he is now speaking about Myanmar. Will the Government look again at the situation where the UK’s Commonwealth Development Corporation has been investing in telecommunications companies in Myanmar that have been complying with Government-ordered repression and blockages of internet sites and others, which not only have potentially covered up atrocities against the Rohingya people, but could be being used now? Will he look again at that investment and whether it is appropriate in the current circumstances?

I thank the hon. Member for his intervention, and I will ensure that I speak to my ministerial colleague in the other place, Lord Ahmad, about that matter.

The instruments we have been considering today demonstrate the range and scope of the situations in which we use sanctions. I am grateful to hon. Members across the House who have raised other circumstances where we might choose to do so. The instruments also demonstrate the outcomes that they are intended to achieve. From promoting respect for human rights to protecting our national security, sanctions are a vital part of a great many of our international strategies.

As I set out in the opening speech, the regulations provide the legal basis that enables us to carry out our independent sanctions policy within the framework of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act. Approval of these regulations will help to preserve our status as a global leader in this field. More than that, it will mean that we can stand with the EU and other international partners and act together to ensure that unacceptable behaviour—violation of human rights, violation of the rule of law, and threats to prosperity and security—do not go unchecked or unchallenged. I commend the regulations to the House.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 608), dated 18 June 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22 June, be approved.

With the leave of the House, I will put the Questions on the remaining eight motions together.


That the Burundi (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I., 2019, No. 1142), dated 18 July 2019, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19 July 2019, in the last Parliament, be approved.

That the Cyber (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 597), dated 15 June 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 17 June, be approved.

That the Guinea (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (S.I., 2019, No. 1145), dated 18 July 2019, a copy of which was laid before this House on 19 July 2019, in the last Parliament, be approved.

That the Misappropriation (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 1468), dated 7 December 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 9 December, be approved.

That the Nicaragua (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 610), dated 18 June 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22 June, be approved.

That the Sanctions (EU Exit) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 590), dated 11 June 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 15 June, be approved.

That the Sanctions (EU Exit) (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 4) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 951), dated 3 September 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8 September, be approved.

That the Unauthorised Drilling Activities in the Eastern Mediterranean (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020 (S.I., 2020, No. 1474), dated 7 December 2020, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11 December, be approved.—(James Cleverly.)

Sitting suspended.