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Volume 801: debated on Thursday 23 January 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proposals they have for legislation providing similar powers to United States government sanctions.

My Lords, the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 provides the legal basis for the United Kingdom to impose autonomous sanctions. We have already laid some secondary legislation to transfer existing EU regimes into UK law at the end of the implementation period. One area where we will use the sanctions Act is to establish a UK autonomous global human rights Magnitsky-style sanctions regime once we leave the European Union. The sanctions regime will address serious human rights violations or abuses wherever they occur.

My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s statement; it is considerable progress on the exchange we had late last year. But it is important that the Government deter international crime by establishing sanctions similar to those imposed by the USA on the Gupta brothers of South Africa for their part in former President Zuma’s corrupt regime, which looted hundreds of millions of pounds from South African taxpayers. The fact is that some of the world’s worst criminals and human rights abusers have significant assets in the UK, and it is important that this process is accelerated and given real teeth, as in the USA, enabling them to be targeted and denied the right to travel and to have their UK-based assets frozen. Otherwise, London will continue to be a centre for money laundering for serious criminals such as the Gupta brothers.

My Lords, we continue to have helpful discussions with the noble Lord in this respect. My colleague the Minister for Africa has also written to him. On his final point on money laundering, I draw the noble Lord’s attention to the fact that in 2018 FATF undertook a review of over 60 regimes across the world, in which the UK ranked the highest, showing that we have a robust money laundering regime in place. That said, there are always improvements to be made. As far as the sanctions regime itself is concerned, as I have said before from the Dispatch Box, we are currently considering its overall scope. The noble Lord makes some helpful suggestions. On his point about other regimes around the world, as I have always said, the imposition of sanctions works best when there is connectivity across like-minded partners.

My Lords, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee recently described the Government’s approach to sanctions as “fragmented and incoherent.” We now hear reports that the Cabinet is divided over whether post Brexit the United Kingdom should be more or less active in this area. Can the Minister confirm that the Government and he himself promised during the sanctions Bill that the United Kingdom post Brexit would be more rather than less ambitious in sanctioning those who commit or hide human rights abuses and corruption?

My Lords, if there is any incoherence or lack of understanding, wherever it may be, I suggest across the piece that Members attend your Lordships’ House, where I am sure they will be suitably enlightened. On the specific issue of the policy around human rights, as we have said, global human rights underpin our sanctions policy. That is an assurance that I have given. We continue to develop, and we will be laying secondary legislation in that respect shortly.

My Lords, I must immediately say how grateful I am to the Minister for the force that he has given to the Magnitsky legislation that has taken place in this country. I want to raise a question with him about the scandal that has recently been displayed relating to Angola—the enrichment of the daughter of the President of Angola, and the fact that Isabel dos Santos is someone who spends a great deal of time in London. I wonder whether the sanctions regime would apply to someone like her.

There is a second matter that I want to raise and ask a question about. We are going to introduce legislation in this House and the other place that will look at the great crimes committed by nations against people, such as enslavement, extrajudicial killing and torture. Are the Government going to include imprisonment without limit? I know that this is a difficult one and at the moment, as I understand it, it is not on the list. Will it be included in the list of crimes for which we are giving international law teeth through the legislation that the Government are going to pass?

There was a lot in what the noble Baroness has just asked. What might be suitable for the House is if I say that we are having ongoing discussions with the noble Baroness and others, and those will continue. As I have said, we are looking at the current scope of the Magnitsky-style sanctions. That is under consideration, but it would perhaps be premature for me to speculate about the overall remit of the sanctions regime.

My Lords, on Monday last the Minister, in answer to his noble friend Lady Warsi, gave a welcome response in the context of the Uighur Muslims, 1 million of whom are incarcerated in Xinjiang in western China. He said that sanctions would be examined in that context. Can he give us some idea of when Magnitsky-style powers might be used in those circumstances? Would he consider holding a round-table discussion for Members of your Lordships’ House to talk through with us precisely how and when these very welcome powers will be used?

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s latter point, I suggest that a suitable time might be once we have finalised the secondary instruments. On the general issue of the Uighurs, I have made my and the Government’s position very clear. As I said, once the designation and scope of the sanctions have been determined, that would be the appropriate time to have any further discussions.

My Lords, perhaps I might return to my noble friend’s point about the recent reports from Angola. Because of the Minister’s longevity in post, he is of course able to recall a number of the initiatives that this Government have made, in particular the anticorruption initiative. It is okay saying that our regime is strong and robust, but what are we doing to support the Government of Angola to properly investigate these crimes where the proceeds are definitely ending up in London?

My Lords, that is the second day running that the noble Lord has talked about my longevity in post. Perhaps he knows something that I am unaware of; a cup of coffee is called for. On the issue of global regimes, I assure him that we continue to provide support. A very good example is the investment that we have made through DfID in ARINSA, working with African nations on the specific issue of illicit finance and money laundering. That has resulted in the recovery of more than $500 million, so that is a practical example of how we are working in partnership with other countries in Africa to deliver.