Motion to Approve
That the Regulations laid before the House on 6 July be approved.
Relevant document: 23rd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee
My Lords, the regulations before us were laid on Monday 6 July under the powers provided by the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. The regulations were made on 5 July.
In his Statement to the House of Commons on 6 July, which was also debated in this House, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary set out the Government’s vision for a truly global Britain. He underlined our commitment to being an even stronger force for good in the world—on climate change, as we host COP 26; on gender equality, as we champion 12 years of quality education for every girl in the world; and on human rights, as we defend media freedoms and protect freedom of religion or belief.
These regulations demonstrate that the Government are acting on this commitment. They give the UK a powerful tool to hold to account those involved in the worst human rights violations and abuses around the world. As noble Lords know, the idea of taking targeted action against human rights violators and abusers originated as a cross-party initiative, and the Foreign Secretary has paid tribute to contributions of parliamentarians from all sides. My colleagues and I have been grateful for the strong words of support from all parties upon laying the regulations earlier this month. I am proud that this Government are bringing into force the UK’s first autonomous human rights sanctions regime. I add my personal thanks to Members of your Lordships’ House. We work on this agenda, and we have done so over not just many months but many years, and I am grateful to many noble Lords around the Chamber who I know support the steps the Government are taking and the important issue of standing up for human rights for all around the world. I pay tribute to each and every one of my fellow noble Lords.
I now turn to the purpose of these regulations. As the Foreign Secretary has stated, we have designed these sanctions as a forensic tool which will allow us to target perpetrators and abusers without punishing the wider population of a country. The regulations will enable us to impose travel bans and asset freezes against those involved in serious human rights violations and abuses. The rights in question include: the right to life; the right not to be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and the right to be free from slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour. The powers also enable us to target the larger network involved in such activities, including those who facilitate, incite, promote, support or profit from these crimes. This extends beyond state officials to include non-state actors.
These regulations are the next step forward in the long struggle against impunity for the very worst human rights violations, and we will continue to explore expanding this regime to include other human rights. We are already considering how a corruption regime could be added to our armoury of legal weapons. In particular, we will look at the UN Convention against Corruption and at practice under existing frameworks in jurisdictions such as the United States and Canada.
For maximum transparency, we have also published a policy note which sets out how we will consider designations under these regulations. The legislation will ensure that due process is followed in relation to designations, reflecting the rigorous process rights contained in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018.
In practice, those people designated will be able to request that a Minister reviews the decision and, as a matter of due diligence, the Government will review all designations at least once every three years. As the Foreign Secretary has said, we welcome the ongoing and rigorous engagement by parliamentarians on these important measures. We will continue to report to Parliament, as required under Sections 30 and 32 of the sanctions Act, in order to provide Parliament with regular opportunities to scrutinise the operation of the human rights sanctions. Parliamentarians can, of course, continue to engage with the Government by the usual means, including by writing directly to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary.
As your Lordships will be aware, in addition to introducing this new legal regime, the Foreign Secretary has announced the first set of designations under the regulations, targeting individuals and organisations involved in some of the most notorious human rights violations in recent years. These names are published online. Those sanctioned include individuals involved in the torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer who disclosed the biggest known tax fraud in Russian history. They also include those responsible for the brutal murder of the writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi; those who are responsible for the systematic and brutal violence against the Rohingya population in Myanmar; and two organisations which bear responsibility for the enslavement, torture and murder that take place in North Korea’s gulags, in which it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of prisoners have perished over the past 50 years.
With these first designations, this Government and this country make it crystal clear to those who abuse their power to inflict unimaginable suffering that we will not look the other way. I will not speculate on who we may target in future, but rest assured that we continue to consider targets, guided by the human rights objectives of the regulations and, of course, the evidence.
In practice, targeted sanctions are most effective when they are backed by co-ordinated and collective international action, so we will work with our Five Eyes partners, in particular the US and Canadian Governments, who already have Magnitsky-style sanctions legislation, as well as the Australian Government, who are considering similar legislation, but we also strongly support efforts to bring into effect an EU human rights sanctions regime, and we stand ready to co-ordinate with our European partners on future measures. I beg to move.
I thank the Minister for his introduction, wish him a well-deserved break and again press him about sanctions against key individuals over escalating human rights violations in Zimbabwe and corruption in South Africa.
In Zimbabwe, three women have recently been abducted and tortured: opposition MP and former Canon Collins scholar Joana Mamombe, together with Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri. On 20 July, highly respected journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested and denied bail for supporting an anti-corruption protest and faces 10 years in jail. Opposition leader Jacob Ngarivhume was arrested, and youth leader Takunda Madzana abducted and tortured by state security agents on 26 July. As well as rampant corruption, there is a pattern of ongoing human rights violations under the cover of Covid-19 crackdowns. Can the Government update their sanctions to cover more Zimbabwean Ministers and security chiefs?
Why are not British sanctions also being applied to the Gupta brothers over their role in a massive corruption and money laundering operation linked to the former South African President, Jacob Zuma, which robbed taxpayers of over £500 million—billions of rands? What have the British Government done about my letter to the Chancellor on 11 October 2019, in which I gave identification details of Rajesh, Atul and Ajay Gupta, who escaped South Africa to live freely in both Dubai and India? They used a corrupt network of their own companies, buttressed by shadowy shell companies. Surely, just as the United States Treasury sanctions forbid US entities from doing business with this Gupta family or handling their assets, so all UK entities should face the same ban, including London-based banks such as HSBC, Standard Chartered and the Bank of Baroda, which in recent years facilitated money laundering by the Gupta brothers on a grand scale.
My Lords, as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 1999 to 2005, I saw the Russian delegation emasculated, changing from a pluralistic group, with liberals, Yabloko and opposition MPs willing to speak freely, to a block of Putin clones. When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, as rapporteur on Chechnya, was refused a visa to visit the province, the assembly suspended the Russian delegation’s voting rights—yet, sadly, a week later Tony Blair took Putin for tea with the Queen. Subsequently, the conservative group in the assembly teamed up in the same group as Putin’s MPs and served under the leadership of one of his acolytes.
I became involved in supporting Mikhail Khodorkovsky after Yukos was crushed by the Kremlin and he was arrested in Siberia in 2003 and prosecuted and imprisoned, in reality for his support for opposition parties and his challenge to Putin. At that time, I tried to secure support for the plight of Svetlana Bakhmina, a lawyer advising Yukos who was imprisoned on trumped-up charges and denied access to her young children. Disappointingly, UK MPs and the British media were impervious to her plight. I attended a seminar at Columbia University, where a session was entitled “Are We Back in the USSR?”—to which the answer was, “No, it is much worse, there are many more KGB-trained personnel running Russia than ever was the case in the Soviet Union.”
I then came into contact with Robert Amsterdam, Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, and Bill Browder, whose successful business in Moscow was targeted by the Kremlin. I learned how they were exposing high-level activity and fraud, for which Sergei Magnitsky, as Bill Browder’s lawyer, paid the final price of his life, dying in agony having been denied effective treatment for pancreatitis. The names of those responsible were well documented, and campaigns were begun to ban them from visiting or engaging with democratic countries.
So the Government came late to this process, and it was only with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko that our leadership finally woke up. Today’s instrument is therefore welcome and necessary but, I would suggest, late. I appreciate that the Government make much of unilateral action, but I trust that the Minister will acknowledge that co-ordinated efforts are much more effective. These regulations need to pave the way for further measures against agents of the Kremlin and other hostile agents.
My Lords, I support these regulations but voice two reservations relating to the rule of law which might arise on future occasions. First, in his Statement, the Minister in the other place said that, in practice, people designated would be able to request a review from the Minister and be able to challenge the decision in court. Those words were repeated here today by the Minister. Let me make it clear that in the context of due process, this is not simply a matter of practice; it is not simply a matter of the Executive’s good will in deciding to offer their benevolences to individuals. Due process is a matter of entitlement and of principle. I invite the Minister to confirm at the end of the debate that the ordinary principles of judicial review will apply, in relation to both a review and a challenge in court.
The other point arises from the creation of criminal offences by statutory instrument, which under Regulation 32(1)(d) carry a sentence of seven years’ imprisonment, no less. This system of creating criminal offences by statutory instrument is extremely suspect. Such offences need to be created by primary legislation. Many of us, on all sides, during the passage of the primary legislation, raised our concerns about these issues. They remain, but the Act has been passed.
I suggest that if these times had been different, and if these particular provisions were not so heartening, obviously justified and very long overdue, my welcome might have been far less enthusiastic. I suggest to the Minister that he should not try to do this too often.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his introduction to the debate. He is aware of my support for these measures and I hope that both on their own and in conjunction with similar measures in other countries, such as the United States, they will prove to be effective.
If I have the slightest doubt about their effectiveness, it is based on the claims for unexplained wealth orders, or UWOs, which have not proved to be as workable as intended. Last month, the National Crime Agency lost an application for permission to appeal against a High Court decision to discharge UWOs against family members of the former Kazakh president. Earlier Australian experience of UWOs warned us not to be too optimistic about them. However, in agreeing with the two points of important principle made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, I hope that, with sufficient resources, national resolve and international co-operation, this sanctions regime has a good chance of working effectively.
Can my noble friend say more about plans for the future? For example, when will the Foreign Office next consider other candidates to add to the designation list, and when should NGOs, civil society organisations and other interested parties submit their evidence? Many organisations, although short of funds, want to help the Government succeed, but they will find it difficult to be of practical assistance until they have a better idea of when they should prepare evidence for active consideration by the Foreign Office.
These organisations will, if only for financial reasons, be reluctant to commit time and resources if they feel that their evidence will simply gather dust in some forgotten archive. I understand that in the United States, the State Department has a more detailed process in place, with each designation round requiring evidence to be submitted by a certain time. Will the Government put something similar in place?
Finally, I urge the Government not to allow our currently strained relations with China and their economic consequences to inhibit consideration of evidence about Chinese officials involved in serious human rights violations against the Uighurs in Xinjiang. I appreciate that the Government cannot speculate about future designations, but it would be helpful if my noble friend the Minister could note that evidence is being gathered about the systematic abuse of the Uighurs, which may soon be brought to his attention.
My Lords, I, too, welcome this new regime of sanctions, but we must of course ensure that targeted sanctions do not become empty gestures. As other noble Lords have indicated, these sanctions will be most effective when they are consistent with other foreign policy priorities and done through co-ordinated, collective action. Without the support of a wider coalition, we risk being isolated diplomatically.
As the noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, noted elsewhere, we face the uncomfortable truth that, in future, we risk being more isolated and so more susceptible to economic retaliation, which will necessarily impact on government decisions about sanctions. Sanctions against Russia and Burma are one thing but—as has just been referred to—sanctions against China are quite another. There are ethical as well as strategic calculations here.
For example, as has been mentioned, we imposed sanctions against 20 named individuals for their role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi yet resumed arms sales to Saudi Arabia shortly after. While clearly signalling our disapproval of the brutal murder, did our wider economic interests risk blunting the message in a regrettable and potentially counterproductive way?
I noted the Minister’s reference to freedom of religion or belief. Sanctions should indeed be applied to those who commit severe violations in this field but, given that freedom of religion or belief is a foreign policy priority, I find it slightly surprising that this right is not explicitly included in the scope of the regulations in relation to sanctions. I wonder whether the Minister can offer an explanation or commentary on that, and perhaps give an assurance that it might be considered in any future revision of the regulations.
Like others, I am particularly concerned about gross human rights abuses in China, especially against Uighurs. As one of my episcopal colleagues noted last week in a letter to the Foreign Secretary,
“the images that we have seen in recent days and the reports emanating from the region are harrowing and require a clear and unequivocal response.”
While the issues here are wider, religion clearly is an element. Given what we know about the situation, and our awareness that other countries have applied Magnitsky-style sanctions against those responsible, will the Government look again at this matter?
The aspiration that Britain be global is a fine one, but it needs substance. How we respond to the hard cases will demonstrate that substance. The new sanctions regime is a useful foreign policy tool and, while it needs to be used judiciously, we should not be afraid to use it when the need arises.
My Lords, I support this instrument and the introduction of sanctions.
The House will be aware that, in 2016, the Colombian Government reached a landmark peace accord with the FARC. To their credit, successive British Governments have supported peace in Colombia. Sadly, there are many actors in Colombia who, for corrupt motives, oppose peace. On 6 July, 94 members of the US Congress signed a letter to their Secretary of State including the recommendation that he:
“Swiftly hold accountable Colombian Army intelligence members, including at the highest ranks, who ordered and carried out mass surveillance on 130 journalists (including U.S. reporters), human rights defenders, political leaders, and military whistleblowers.”
Sadly, few are surprised that a Colombian army unit used American surveillance equipment, provided to fight drug traffickers, in this illegal manner. On 30 June, along with the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Coussins, Lady Hooper and Lady Stern, at a virtual briefing organised by ABColombia, we heard first hand from Danilo Rueda of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission what it means to be a human rights defender and live with the daily threat to his life.
The Government have reassured me that they are aware of these allegations, they expect state authorities to comply fully with their human rights obligations and are committed to protecting human rights in Colombia. The Government of President Iván Duque has directed the Defence Minister to investigate. However, corruption in Colombia is systemic. Action is needed to address the culture of abuse and the sense that the army is above the law. For example, it makes little sense to denounce human rights violations and simultaneously appoint an officer with General Martínez Espinel’s history to lead their army. Will the Minister agree to a meeting with a delegation of parliamentarians and representatives of NGOs who support peace and the protection of human rights in Colombia? This would allow them to make the case for the powers in these regulations to be considered for use in respect of identified public officials and other actors there?
My Lords, like other Members who have spoken, I welcome these regulations. However, along with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, I have some reservations. The Minister pre-empted one issue I would have raised, about co-operation with other countries. The Government may seek to have a global Britain and vaunt the idea of having the first autonomous sanctions regime, but it is important that sanctions are imposed jointly with other countries where possible.
I would be interested in the Minister’s thoughts about the scope and facilities the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, as it will named in future, will have in order to deal with the cases that could be brought forward. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, has asked, we need to know when people can submit evidence. Has the Foreign Office considered the ramifications and amount of work that could be coming forward? We have already heard this evening of cases in Zimbabwe, China, Colombia, and there are many others. We are looking at issues perhaps against individuals, against non-state actors, or as my noble friend Lord Bruce, said, the Kremlin. Will the Minister tell us what resources the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has to deal with this? Are mechanisms in place to have the sort of engagement with our European and Five Eyes partners to enable us to work effectively? It is important we have this regime and that Her Majesty’s Government pay as much attention as possible to human rights questions.
Finally, how far might the Government be willing to consider the situation of the Uighurs in China? This is a major issue and I understand the Minister is not able to speculate on specific cases. However, a general response would be welcome.
My Lords, I am delighted to support this statutory instrument. In the words of Bill Browder, this is a great milestone in the campaign for justice. I pay tribute to Bill Browder and the Magnitsky family who have been working together for 10 years, leading the international effort to establish Magnitsky style laws around the world. Now, in honour of Sergei Magnitsky, the UK has taken a significant first step towards dealing with the global corruption he exposed that cost him his life. I hope it is just a first step. We need co-ordinated action to accompany these sanctions if they are going to have an impact. They must be consistent with our wider foreign policy.
In welcoming this SI, I would like to ask the Minister three things. First, is it applicable to individuals from any country, not just on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office list of countries of concern? Secondly, will Government consider including as criteria the repression of democracy and the rights of assembly and freedom of speech?
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to add my voice to that of other noble Lords calling for action against Chinese officials over the persecution of the Uighur people. Does the Minister agree that the UK should sanction the Chinese officials responsible for this genocide and expand the list so that many more people in China who are responsible for perpetrating these abuses are indeed held responsible?
My Lords, I welcome these regulations as an important step forward in the UK’s commitment to taking a determined international lead in this sector. I ask the Minister to ensure that the FCO retains a laser-like focus on modern slavery and, as stated in the regulations,
“the right to be free from slavery”,
not least in association with international sport.
I declare my interests as vice-chairman of the All-Party Group on Sport, Modern Slavery and Human Rights. We have sought to address the relationship between sport, modern slavery and human trafficking. While major international sporting events are undoubtedly an enabler for soft power, they also pose one of the biggest human rights risks, relating to the construction of venues, showpiece state-of-the-art stadia, required on tight deadlines to meet competition schedules. The worst violations of workers’ rights in the construction of new stadia show that unacceptably high fatality levels are still commonplace, with 50 people dying in construction activity relating to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, and 21 for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
A further related concern is the exploitation of the fan ID visa system, which short-circuits often lengthy and costly visa applications. Undoubtedly beneficial to the true fan, they can be, and have been, abused. During the Russian World Cup in 2018, anti-trafficking NGOs estimated that some 2,000 Nigerian women were trafficked to Russia on visa-free fan ID entries. On arrival, they were forced into sex work to pay off fictional debts. As we look to major international sporting events in the future, I hope that the Government will ensure that fan ID systems do not become an instrument for human trafficking. If they do, the perpetrators will be subject to the toughest human rights sanctions available to the Government under these regulations, potentially—and particularly—in co-operation with other countries.
My Lords, I congratulate the Government and pay tribute to Bill Browder, the original architect of the Magnitsky law. He really has changed the possibilities for international law.
Unfortunately, many human rights abusers choose to lay down assets in this country. This is a key travel destination, a place where assets may be situated, such as glamorous houses in Belgravia or Hampstead, and occupying a central position in the global financial system makes a country particularly attractive. It is also a good place to educate your children.
Using their great diplomatic heft, will the Government persuade other countries to come together also to create Magnitsky law? We have spoken about the possibility of Australia, but could we include Japan and Sweden? There is resistance to the European Union from people such as Orbán and the reinstated president of Poland. Can we use our great energy to bring them on board?
Turning to the unjust treatment of journalists, this Government have also taken the lead in a global campaign on media freedom. Over 130 journalists have been killed in the last two years. Journalists are persecuted in many ways; extrajudical killing, torture, abductions, trumped-up charges and frivolous lawsuits. Can the Minister reassure me that the unjust imprisonment of journalists will meet the threshold for sanctions, and that prosecutors and judges as well as officials could be sanctioned? Can he also confirm that this new regime will be used against non-state actors, such as companies as well as individuals? We know that people often hide their assets behind a facade of companies. Can he confirm that the regime will apply to secondary participants, including those who are complicit in abuses? Mention has been made of banks and others that make it possible for people to hide assets. Should the Government not be creating an expert committee, independent of the executive branch of Government, to determine who should be sanctioned, over and above those whom I have already mentioned?
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. I have two minutes in which to make two points.
In his introduction, the Minister referred to checks that the Government plan to make on the use of sanctions. However, following on from the noble Baroness’s points, what about checks on the non-use of sanctions? Do the Government intend to use sanctions only against countries or companies with which we have conflicts, or even with which our friends and allies have conflicts, while we turn a blind eye to those that we support?
We have a history of supporting very much the wrong people—to give a very partial list, the Shah of Iran, Colonel Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein—so are we going to apply these sanctions without fear or favour? Picking up on a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, will the Government consider appointing an independent advisory board on the application of these sanctions to improve security, safety, human rights, democracy and the rule of law all around the world? I know that the Minister said that he would not comment on future sanctions, but surely we should see some directed at probably the second-worst human rights abusing regime in the world—Saudi Arabia. At least let us stop the arms sales.
My second point is about corruption. I welcome the fact that the Minister referred to the Government’s plan to include corruption as a ground for sanctions. Can he provide a timetable for that to progress and be put into effect? This is particularly important given that the City of London is the largest centre of corruption in the world. NGOs describe it as home to so many professional enablers that it assists widespread state looting. This problem swirls around us all in the House and should clearly be of great importance to us.
Finally, as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hong Kong, I echo noble Lords who have spoken about the need for action on the treatment of the Uighurs in China. We also need to see action on what is now happening in Hong Kong.
I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Duncan of Springbank, is on the call. Lord Duncan? No, I think not, so we will move on to the noble Lord, Lord Hussain.
My Lords, I support this SI and draw your Lordships’ attention to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office report of July 2020, Human Rights and Democracy. It mentions countries about which there are concerns over human rights abuses, such as Bahrain, the Maldives, Sudan, Egypt and many more. For them to be on this list, I am sure that there are genuine causes of concern regarding human rights. However, I was surprised to note that the FCO failed to include India in the list, due to its record of human rights violations in Kashmir.
In Kashmir, more than 100,000 people have lost their lives in only the last few decades. Kashmir has become an open prison, with tens of thousands of people, including prominent political leaders such as Shabir Shah, Yasin Malik, Asiya Andrabi, Masarat Alam and Ashraf Sehrai, illegally detained for many years. According to many renowned international human rights organisations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Human Rights Council, Indian security forces are involved in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture, and the inhuman and degrading treatment of civilians, with rape being used as a weapon of war. Many rape victims, including the Kunan Poshpora gang-rape victims, are still waiting for justice.
In its reports of 2018 and 2019, the UN asked for free access to Kashmir to investigate these reports of human rights abuses. In the latest report, of June 2020, the UN chief urged the Indian Government to end torture and the arbitrary arrest of minors, expressing concern that 68 children in the region have been detained by Indian security forces. The report also verified the killing of eight children and the maiming of seven by or during joint operations of the Indian security forces. Earlier in March, the UN had also called for a global ceasefire in view of the current pandemic crisis, but Indian-administered Kashmir has seen a high number of casualties due to violence rather than because of the pandemic.
I am sure that the British Government are aware of those reports—hence, I have two questions for the Minister. First, comparing the situation in Kashmir with those in some of the countries highlighted in the recent FCO report, why does India not qualify to be on this list? Secondly, what can the Government do to support the UN to get access to Kashmir to investigate these reports of human rights abuses?
My Lords, the Foreign Secretary may make an unlikely lord high executioner, but, like WS Gilbert’s Koko, renowned for drawing up the Mikado’s list, Dominic Raab’s Magnitsky list has rightly struck a chord across the political divide and I, like so many others who have spoken, support these regulations and pay tribute to the courageous Bill Browder.
Notwithstanding the view that I expressed in a letter to Mr Raab—that primary legislation, as my noble and learned friend said earlier, would have been the proper and better way to do this—it is nevertheless hugely welcome that the UK will no longer be a bolthole or safe haven for serious violators of human rights. If primary legislation becomes necessary to strengthen these provisions, I hope that the Minister will commit to introducing it and will say little more about what role he envisages for Parliament. My noble friend Lord Hannay has previously asked about your Lordships’ International Relations and Defence Committee. In his reply, will the Minister specifically say whether he would welcome the committee being given a scrutinising role and, if so, if he will facilitate that?
Named of course for Sergei Magnitsky—as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, reminded us, a Russian lawyer who uncovered a £230 million corruption scheme and was murdered for doing so—the powers that the Foreign Secretary has taken, including visa bans and asset freezes, will enable him to stop murderers, torturers, dictators, generals and oligarchs exploiting the UK’s rule of law and the freedoms that they deny their own citizens. Top of the Foreign Secretary’s list should be Chen Quanguo, the former Communist Party chief in Tibet, now responsible for the oppression of the Uighurs in Xinjiang referred to by many other noble Lords. Not far behind should be Carrie Lam and her chief of police in Hong Kong, who have been the CCP’s willing accomplices in crushing the freedoms of one of the world’s greatest cities. Then there are those accused by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC’s independent tribunal into coercive organ harvesting—names that have been sent to the Minister. When he replies I hope he will tell us more about the process that will be used in assessing names such as those, how they will be added to the list and the role of Parliament, not least our own House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee.
[Inaudible.]—a gruelling session since we came back at Easter. Before I turn to my brief remarks, I declare my membership of the Bank of England’s Enforcement Decision Making Committee and put on record that my remarks are entirely personal and have no relation to the work of the committee.
Like other noble Lords, I welcome these regulations and I am pleased that we have finally got here. I also think that the three priorities detailed as the most egregious, thus meriting sanctions, are right. However, I am a little disappointed by the narrowness of the FCO priorities. I suspect that they reflect the FCO’s strategic thinking rather than the development angle, as those working in development will recognise that poverty is at its deepest when corruption goes unchecked. In these countries, insidious levels of corruption aid and abet criminality. As criminality is unchallenged, due to the paucity of state resources—often stolen by those in power—so human rights abuses take place, often on an industrial scale.
Will the Minister turn to what we can do in the UK about white-collar crime? We know of the reputation of the City of London as a laundromat for dirty money washing and, while we are rightly proud of our regulatory framework, including the Senior Managers Regime where individual accountability goes further than in any EU country, we know too that our global legal accountancy consultancy firms appear to be complicit in the whitewashing of corporate accounts across the world, particularly in Russia, which Bill Browder has done so much to expose. Will the Minister suggest to his colleagues in Her Majesty’s Treasury that they need to call in people from the City and take another look at the grey areas in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 to see what needs to change to make its provisions more effective?
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on laying these regulations and on his excellent opening remarks. I welcome these measures, and share the Government’s desire for global Britain to be a stronger force for good and stand up against human rights violations. I congratulate the Government on their robust protection of the freedoms of religion and belief, in this country and abroad.
These measures will help hold people to account around the world. Indeed, it is vital to find ways, with other countries if possible, to punish torture, enforced labour and other abuses. I am delighted that these measures will also include non-state actors. I join other noble Lords in congratulating Bill Browder on his work, his bravery and his determination to pursue justice. I encourage my noble friend to continue to look at expanding these measures to include sanctions against corruption. Could he tell the House what the Government are doing to consider action against those complicit in perpetrating horrendous human rights violations against the Uighurs?
I also ask my noble friend to consider the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and other noble Lords. There is so much we need to do, but I commend the cross-party work on these issues and the Government’s actions to ensure that we do not look the other way. If such egregious human rights violations have no consequences, such actions may proliferate. To borrow the words of Edmund Burke, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to be silent. We must never be silent when it comes to punishing perpetrators of human rights abuse.
My Lords, I join the chorus of approval and will pose a number of questions. Do the Government accept that EU membership was not a factor in the delay since the 2018 Act? Of course, the Baltics already have legislation in this field. Because of the delay, surely many malefactors will have disposed of their assets in this country. Are the Government satisfied that financial institutions in the overseas territories are sufficiently robust to counter such malefactors?
Will the Government use the vast pool of NGO experience in this field, given the FCO’s limited resources? I think particularly of the Natalia Estemirova Documentation Centre in Oslo. To what extent will the Government exchange information and, where appropriate, seek to align our lists with friendly countries? I note what Secretary Pompeo said to the Henry Jackson Society about the Uighurs a few days ago.
Finally, are universities and schools covered by the new regulations? Of course, they might accept dirty money for their own purposes.
That said, I congratulate the all-party coalition of Andrew Mitchell, Margaret Hodge and Dominic Raab when he was a Back-Bencher. He has been wholly consistent when in government and persuaded a reluctant Government to accept these Magnitsky amendments to the 2018 Act, all aided by the indefatigable Bill Browder. As someone who gave evidence to the European Parliament and produced a report for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on this subject, I warmly commend the Government’s initiative—at last.
My Lords, this is a welcome move by the Government, as laid out by the Foreign Secretary in the other place. It is right that we target human rights abuses by preventing perpetrators from availing themselves of our country’s facilities while carrying out horrendous crimes in their own country. The Minister said previously in this House:
“The new sanctions regime will give the UK a powerful new tool in order to hold to account those who are involved in serious human rights violations or abuses.”—[Official Report, 8/7/20; col. 1143.]
He described some of the issues it would be concerned with, such as
“modern slavery, human trafficking, preventing sexual violence and freedom of religion.”—[Official Report, 8/7/20; col. 1150.]
If such abuses are suspected, and I have no doubt they are going on all over the world, can the Minister explain how the Government will identify such people or organisations and prove that they have committed such crimes? How will the Government ensure that we maintain justice and the rule of law, especially upholding the principle of innocent until proven guilty, if we must prove guilt or, indeed, investigate crimes in another country? Who will have the ultimate responsibility for overseeing the regulations and maintaining fairness and justice?
My Lords, this SI is intended to detail and provide accountability for activities which, if carried out by or on behalf of a state, would amount to a serious violation of human rights by that state. It will rightly allow the Secretary of State to impose asset freezing and travel bans on persons involved in such conduct. The Government rightly seek to champion human rights. We are hearing from the media that there have been increasing violations of human rights in China, Burma, Bangladesh and other countries. We are informed that the Government have made representations to all such countries that have breached human rights conventions.
I wish to focus on the suffering of women and children when human rights are breached. There are regular reports of rape by soldiers and other predators. Children are abducted for slavery and sex abuse. The Government must make representations, through the UN and other countries, to Governments who have breached human rights. Asset freezing, trade sanctions and travel bans should be brought into effect. The Government need to go much further to ensure that we achieve a robust and fit-for-purpose independent sanctions regime. Finally, a register must be opened in the US to register individuals who have committed these crimes, so that those individuals can be brought to justice through the International Court of Justice.
My Lords, I have no problem at all with the financial aspects of this SI. I think there is a big challenge with individuals and human rights; I remember Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Assad, all of whose communities we interfered in at huge human cost to those communities. I want to focus, though, sadly, on the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers—LTTE—which we proscribed in 2001. It was succeeded by the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam—TGTE—itself proscribed in Sri Lanka. It is staffed and organised by former LTTE people and yesterday it started a legal action in the courts here in the UK to lift the proscription on the Tamil Tigers.
The TGTE espouses an ideology which is almost identical to that of the LTTE; it has never denounced violence or the terrorism of the LTTE; it disseminates propaganda worldwide, targeting young people, mainly Tamils, with commemorative events, waving LTTE flags and the black tiger, et cetera. Worst of all, I think, it has never shown any remorse over child soldiers. UNICEF stated on 31 July 2005 that 5,081 underaged soldiers were recruited, 40% girls and 60% boys, and at the end of the war, 594 was the small number that were left. Still, in this country, we have Mrs Balasingham, who was the arch recruiter and trainer of the child soldiers, residing comfortably in the United Kingdom. That is a challenge we need to face.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these regulations and for his explanation. I support them because terrorism, criminality and the abuse of people, whether at home or in other countries, is unjust, unfair and unacceptable. There is a view that not enough is being done to bring human rights abusers to justice, including in countries of listed individuals such as Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Russia. So, I have several questions.
Are these regulations consistent with international human rights law? I understand that Amnesty International has called on the UN Security Council and the EU to impose asset freezes on named military officials from Myanmar. Perhaps the Minister could update us on that.
Further to that, how will the Minister and his colleagues ensure that the measures in this very welcome SI will be effective in changing behaviour and ensuring accountability in the countries with listed individuals?
Finally, can the Minister assure me that the potential sanctions flowing from this SI will be applied consistently, with due process? There are suggestions that the Government may apply them differently between Venezuela and Colombia. Assurances on that matter would be very welcome.
My Lords, having been involved in human rights issues and working for NGOs both at DfID—which the Government are now shamefully abolishing—and now at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I strongly support this SI.
I remind the House that the Council of Europe, not the European Union, has always been the principal body focusing on human rights in Europe. Its remit is human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and its membership extends to the 47 countries of Europe, including Russia, not just EU members. Many of the key issues represented in these regulations—media freedom, combating modern slavery, preventing sexual violence in or related to conflict, freedom of religion and belief, torture prevention and the protection of human rights defenders—are regularly covered in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe resolutions and discussions in our committees. The council has agreed resolutions on the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the ruthless violence against the Rohingya population in Myanmar, and we have raised the Magnitsky issue. It is therefore welcome that many of those involved in these atrocities are included in these regulations.
In supporting what so many have said in this debate, I ask the Government that those who have persecuted the Uyghur people of China should also be included. I hope the Minister will give us a hint, at least, in that direction.
Finally, when considering future designations, will the Government consider seeking the advice of the Intelligence and Security Committee?
My Lords, I welcome the regulations and congratulate the Foreign Office on its leadership in finally producing them.
The regulations focus on the most egregious breaches of human rights, as many noble Lords have said. In doing so, they are welcome and essential and provide at least the capacity for the UK to exercise, for the first time, unilateral action against individuals, thus targeting the worst criminals in positions of significant economic and political power. But in focusing on those larger crimes, their scope is relatively restricted. Can the Minister assure the House, first, that the regulations will not simply be used by the UK to reinforce targeted sanctions already imposed by the United States, but will be supported by a rigorous independent assessment here in the UK?
Secondly, as other noble Lords have noted, the first designations contained no one involved in the ongoing human rights atrocities against the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province in China. The USA, with whom the UK works closely on this issue and others, has placed two leading officials from the Xinjiang autonomous region and two security and police chiefs on their Magnitsky list. When will we take corresponding action? Thirdly, when will the Government look to expand the range of offences eligible for targeted sanctions—for example, to include kleptocrats and those perpetrating gross corruption?
One final point: taking action against the financial assets of foreign violators of human rights requires us to know where those assets are. However, the property market in the UK, and especially London, is known the world over as a safe haven for criminal proceeds of the global criminal elite. Over 90,000 properties in the UK are anonymously owned by firms registered in tax havens, and 40% of them are in London.
The Government have long promised a register of beneficial ownership, to enable transparency about who owns what and who benefits from ownership; it has been delayed again and again. I understand that a Bill is ready to go now, but it has yet again been delayed. Can the Minister tell us when it will finally be introduced? I am sure the Minister agrees that placing Magnitsky sanctions on individuals who may own property in the UK would be a farcical situation.
My Lords, I pay tribute to the Minister and to the clear and positive way in which he introduced these regulations. I also agree entirely with the comments of my noble friend Lord Naseby about Iraq and Libya. These were seriously ill-advised ventures for the UK state to embark upon.
In agreeing with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, I first ask the Minister to confirm that in no sense is this legislation attempting to take for the Executive what is there, by right, for individuals under a clear rule of law. Secondly, I ask the Minister what action he and other ministerial colleagues are taking to work with the EU to enable action on a greater scale, EU-wide. When does he believe that this EU-wide action is likely to be in any sense possible?
Thirdly, there has been no shortage of suggestions and detail provided to the Minister in this debate. Can he set out what he sees as the pathway for additional individuals being added to the current list?
My Lords, many people have pointed out problems abroad which we should take seriously. One strand of opinion this evening is that we have our own place to clean up: the city of London, as my noble friend Lord Wood said, hides and protects a lot of corruption. The Government must, as part of this effort, which I welcome, clean up the reputation of the city; it should not be a haven in which corrupt money can be stashed.
Secondly, I want to emphasise a human rights violation which does not harbour in any particular country but is worldwide: modern slavery. I hope that the Government will seriously consider what we can do to combat modern slavery, which is in our country and elsewhere.
Lastly, when we criticise human rights violations, we should not just look at what used to be called third-world or less-developed countries. Many of our own allies have human rights violations in their territories. We know who those allies are, and we should have the courage to stand up and cite them for the violation of human rights. If we do not, our criticism of third world and other countries will not have the force it should.
I welcome the Government’s efforts, and I wish them luck.
My Lords, I too thank the Minister for introducing these regulations. The very clear Explanatory Memorandum rightly records that,
“human rights violations by State actors, and … non-State actors, leads to unstable and less prosperous societies. Such conduct perpetuates violent conflict, creates a world where terrorism flourishes and where democratic institutions are weakened. It has a devastating impact on individuals and … societies … deterring such conduct would help create fairer and more just societies, which support the long-term global conditions most conducive to security, economic growth and the safety of all.”
That is a very clear statement.
As I did when we discussed sanctions recently, I once more pay tribute to all those who have played a part here, from Ministers, including the noble Lord, officials in his department, organisations such as Transparency International, and campaigners such as Amal Clooney, Bill Browder and the murdered Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, himself. I am glad that the Government have listed 25 Russian nationals linked to his case, as well as 20 of those who played their part in the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
However, as others have said, there are omissions. Many noble Lords have mentioned China. I too ask: might those who are oppressing the Uighurs be included? Will proper consideration be given to the China Tribunal’s conclusion about organ harvesting, which was flagged up by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and might sanctions result? What about those taking action in Hong Kong? How do we make sure that in our newly exposed position outside the EU we are willing to place sanctions in relation to China, as my noble friend Lady Smith of Newnham and others asked?
Several noble Lords mentioned corruption. In their equivalent legislation, the United States and Canada include corruption. The Government are already considering adding this, looking at the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Do they intend to base the definition of corruption on the UN convention? Will it include embezzlement of state funds, to cover kleptocrats, and bribery? Can the Minister also tell us how the new sanctions regime will be overseen so that it is not knocked off course by short-term concerns? Will its oversight be separate from ministries which might have other interests here? What parliamentary oversight will there be? It has been suggested that there should be routes other than via Ministers for proposing or considering whether individuals should be sanctioned. Might there be a judicial route here? I note the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws.
Within the EU, particularly with Sweden and the Netherlands, we were working to develop similar human rights sanctions arrangements for all EU countries, which would have had a major effect. Like my noble friend Lord Bruce, I believe that it is clear that we would have been much more effective if were working within the EU. Sanctions across the EU would have been much more powerful than we can be by ourselves, and the pressure on future Ministers not to take action would have been less acute. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester is right about the risks of our isolation and that the rest of our foreign policy must be consistent with what we are saying here.
Nevertheless, we welcome these regulations and look forward to the further development of our sanctions policy. I too wish the Minister a very enjoyable holiday and thank him and his officials for their readiness to engage across all areas of foreign affairs. I look forward to hearing his response.
My Lords, the regulations have the full support of these Benches. As the Minister said, they are the result of cross-party work generally and also in this Chamber when we were dealing with the sanctions Act. Many changes and concessions were made during the progress of that Act, which I very much welcome.
However, the powers in these regulations are not enough on their own. They must be used correctly, be applied to the correct individuals and form part of a wider foreign policy that stands for human rights. There must be consistency in the Government’s approach, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester highlighted. So, although the designation of individuals linked to the Saudi regime is welcome, the decision to resume arms sales for use by the same regime in the Yemeni conflict is inconsistent with our intolerance of human rights abuse.
Transparency in the designation of sanctions will better their effectiveness. As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, Parliament should be afforded the opportunity to scrutinise designations and suggest new ones. The Minister in the other place, James Cleverly, said that
“the exact nature of the scrutiny of the Government’s actions … will evolve over time, because this is a new process.”—[Official Report, Commons, Ninth Delegated Legislation Committee, 16/7/20; col. 8.]
I hope that the Minister will be able to say a little more on this subject. For example, can he confirm whether the Intelligence and Security Committee will have a role, as my noble friend Lord Foulkes suggested and as had also been previously suggested? The scrutiny of sanctions by the legislature is not a novel idea. Many of our democratic allies, in particular the US, already have these arrangements in place.
I would appreciate clarification on a few sections of the regulations. First, Regulation 1(4) details the purpose of the sanctions. Specifically, as the Minister said, it states that they intend to deter violations of the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture and the right to be free from slavery. However, as the Minister knows, the definition in the 2018 Act, which we debated in this Chamber and moved amendments on, is much wider. We also of course have the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So why do we have this narrow definition in the regulations? Why do we not have a much broader definition? That seems to me a little inconsistent.
Of course, the Minister highlighted the circumstances of Sergei Magnitsky’s imprisonment and death. I, too, pay tribute to his family and, of course, Bill Browder, for campaigning so hard to bring this law about—but the definition in these regulations is narrower than in the Act and the Universal Declaration. Is the Minister satisfied, for example, that the definition will cover the arbitrary detention of populations such as the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang and the cases in Zimbabwe mentioned by my noble friend Lord Hain?
Turning to other issues, unlike the US Act on Magnitsky, the regulations omit corruption. James Cleverly said that the Government were
“considering how a corruption regime could be added to our armoury of legal weapons.”—[Official Report, Commons, Ninth Delegated Legislation Committee, 16/7/20; col. 4.]
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, made reference to and highlighted the points he made. But can the Minister tell us today what the timeframe for such work is? Will we see something this year, or next year? Corruption is such an important element of tackling human rights abuses, as noble Lords have said.
Finally, I echo the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, regarding penalties and offences created. We had a lengthy debate about these issues on the sanctions Act. As I read the Explanatory Notes again, one thing that struck me was the different terms of imprisonment an individual who makes funds available to designated persons could be subject to. It is six months in Northern Ireland, 12 months in England and Wales and there is a difference for Scotland. I hope the Minister can again explain these differences. I know there is a reference to the different legislation, but it shows a little inconsistency.
With the introduction of the powers contained in today’s instrument, the Government have the potential to put our values at the forefront of the UK’s foreign policy. I am pleased that the regulations have been introduced, but their effectiveness will be determined by their implementation and, above all, as many noble Lords have said in today’s debate, by whether the Government choose to confront human rights abusers wherever they appear, rather than only when it is convenient to do so.
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have participated in today’s debate. As I said in the closing of my opening remarks, I put on record my personal thanks to noble Lords from across the House who I know have been focused on the issues we have discussed today but also, importantly, on the broader issue of human rights. I give my personal commitment to continue to engage, as I did during the passage of the Act in 2018 and subsequently on issues of future designations. I put on record my particular thanks to both Front-Benchers, the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their continued support and challenge. I assure noble Lords that they are quite often robust challenges. Nevertheless, it demonstrates both the insights and expertise contained within your Lordships’ House that are so valuable to our thinking.
We have two Lady Kennedys participating today: the noble Baronesses, Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lady Kennedy of The Shaws. Among others, such as the noble Lords, Lord Bruce and Lord Alton, and my noble friend Lady Altmann, they rightly mentioned specifically the important role of Bill Browder, and I pay tribute to him. It was notable—as I am sure noble Lords observed—that the Magnitsky family was also present at the Foreign Office on the day the first designations and these regulations were laid. We pay tribute to their sacrifices and to the great campaigners; I have the great honour to work alongside the likes of Amal Clooney. I am also grateful in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, for her continued focus and support in this regard.
We have had a wide-ranging debate. We talked about links to the City and, as ever, my noble friend Lord Moynihan talked about the importance of the read-over to other sectors, including sport. Many noble Lords asked about process and designation. In the time I have, I will seek to work through the specific questions raised.
First, I agree with the many noble Lords who made the important point that these sanctions work effectively only when we work with others. I have already mentioned our Five Eyes partnership. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, that we have robust systems at the Foreign Office through the existing work we do through the Five Eyes partnership to continue to work in co-operation in this regard.
My noble friend Lord Holmes and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, among others, mentioned the important role of the EU. We will continue to support the development of an EU human rights sanctions regime and we look forward to working in co-operation with all partners.
The noble Lords, Lord Desai and Lord Bhatia, among others, talked about the importance of international human rights law. This regime is totally compatible with international human rights law. I assure the various noble Lords who raised how this will apply that we will use these sanctions without fear or favour. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, asked whether we will apply them to friends. The first designations included sanctions on individuals in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We will continue to focus in this respect and I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, is also reassured.
We heard from others, including the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, that working with EU partners is not new. The likes of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia already have such sanctions in place and we will continue to strengthen our work across all countries to ensure that we can apply these regimes consistently and focus on the individuals who abuse human rights.
I will go through some of the specific questions before I get on to countries. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked about the process of parliamentary scrutiny. I assure him that we remain very much committed, as we are in the Act through Sections 30 and 32, to the review of our sanctions legislation. The sanctions Act remains the primary legislative vehicle to establish regimes via secondary legislation. I note that the noble Lord said that although it was delayed, he certainly welcomed it.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised scrutiny by committees and mentioned the debate in the other place. We stand ready to engage on all issues. As the process evolves, we will strengthen our processes. We wish to engage directly with committees in this regard.
The noble Lords, Lord Hussain and Lord Bhatia, referred to the human rights report. I assure noble Lords that just because a country is listed as a human rights priority country, it does not mean that such countries alone are the ones that we would look to work on. Clearly, there are partners and friends in those countries. The human rights report is used as a tool to strengthen the role of human rights within countries. While we may sanction individuals and organisations, our battle is not with a country itself or the people of a country. As we have seen from the example of what is happening in Xinjiang, many populations within countries suffer human rights abuses.
The noble Lord, Lord Hussain, asked specifically about Kashmir and India. I assure him that I raise these issues consistently. Indeed, I was on a virtual visit to India yesterday. During various conversations I raised this specific issue.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, rightly reminded us of the ordinary principles of judicial review. I assure him that administrative reviews of designations will be undertaken in strict accordance with the Act and the regulations. The Act makes it clear that, on any challenge, the court must apply principles applicable to an application for judicial review. I thank the noble and learned Lord for his continued contributions to the statutory provisions as they pass through Parliament. I assure, among others, the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, and my noble friend Lord Holmes that we will continue to adhere to the principles of judicial review, as I have articulated.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about the ISC’s scrutiny role. It is not my job to tell Select Committees or the House what to do, but I have already alluded to the fact that we welcome engagement with various committees.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, asked about prosecutors, judges and non-state actors. Those involved in human rights abuses and violations sadly include those set up to protect—including prosecutors and judges. If they meet the criteria it will apply to them as well, and to non-state actors.
The noble Lords, Lord Hain and Lord Collins, raised specific countries. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, referred to Zimbabwe and South Africa. Other noble Lords mentioned various countries. I assure your Lordships that we will keep situations of human rights concern under review. Although I have said, and will say again, that it is inappropriate to speculate on future designations, we will continue to focus on the particular cases that noble Lords have raised. I stay ready to engage directly and to take forward discussions in your Lordships’ House and on a bilateral basis.
My noble friend Lord Naseby and others mentioned other countries, such as Sri Lanka. The noble Lord, Lord Browne, mentioned Colombia. I thank all noble Lords for raising specific cases. I assure them that the FCO, as it currently stands—and the foreign, commonwealth and development office that will exist from September—will continue to consider each designation and each case that is raised quite carefully.
The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier rightly raised the issue of resources. I assure noble Lords that we have a dedicated sanctions unit, and I pay tribute to its incredibly hard work in getting this regime together and on the rollover EU sanctions during the transition period. We are working very closely with geographical leads within government and posts overseas to identify and develop designations. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that we will continue to work very closely with other partners.
Several noble Lords asked about the scope of the sanctions, including the right reverend Prelate, the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and the noble Lords, Lord Loomba, Lord Collins and Lord Wood. The point was made that the sanctions, as currently announced, have a narrow focus. I assure noble Lords that all rights are equally important, but we want to ensure the success of the sanctions regime by keeping the scope targeted in the first instance. Furthermore, the sanctions regime will support other human rights issues, including imposing sanctions for unlawful killings perpetrated against journalists and media workers. In answer to the right reverend Prelate’s direct question, I can say that they extend to those who abuse freedom of religion or belief. Both these issues—media freedom and freedom of religion or belief—remain government priorities. I hope that the right reverend Prelate is reassured by that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, talked about anti-money laundering and the City of London. While the Treasury leads overall, as a Government we are committed to ensuring that the UK’s financial system is hostile to all forms of illicit finance.
At this point, I will revert to the issue of corruption. I mentioned in my opening remarks that we have not included corruption within the scope of the regime initially. As I said, we are considering how a corruption regime could be added to the current legal tools that we have, and we are already looking at the UN convention. As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, reminded us, already Canada and the US have working regimes in this respect, and we are working very closely with them. This was a point of concern raised by other noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Wood and Lord Hain, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Bennett and Lady Falkner. The UK is a global leader in tackling corruption and illicit finance. In 2017, we introduced the ambitious and far-reaching five-year anti-corruption strategy.
A specific point was made about the application of these regulations in the overseas territories. There are processes in place, either through Orders in Council or directly through the OTs themselves, so that they will be able to implement these sanctions regimes.
At this juncture, I want to acknowledge the important work done on human rights by the Council of Europe, as we were reminded about by the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. He might not remember—it has been a while—but, on joining your Lordships’ House, my first role was as a member of the team at the Council of Europe. I pay tribute to the important work done there—we will continue to work with parliamentarians engaged in that agenda—and at the Human Rights Council. I thank noble Lords for their support in that respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and others talked of delays that occurred in introducing the regulations, and he specifically asked about schools and universities. On the delay, as has been mentioned, work was done outside government. I have been involved with the work of government for a few years now and I assure noble Lords that this was a priority when I first joined your Lordships’ House; there are many in government who remain very committed to it. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, reminded us, it is thanks to the combined efforts of many that we have finally seen this regime introduced. It was appropriate that we took the time to get it right.
Modern slavery was mentioned by various noble Lords. I am sure that many noble Lords in this Chamber and joining us virtually recognise the important role played on the agenda on modern slavery by my right honourable friend the former Prime Minister, Theresa May. She championed this cause as a priority for Her Majesty’s Government. It remains a key issue that we continue to champion on the broader human rights agenda.
As to whether this will apply to schools and universities, asset freezes prevent UK organisations providing funds to a designated person, so the sanctions regime applies to every sector.
My noble and learned friend Lord Garnier and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, raised the important issue of consultation with NGOs. I work closely with many NGOs on the human rights front. We regularly have meetings with them. There is a body and an advisory group that meets the Foreign Secretary on human rights issues. We will continue to engage with them on a regular basis. I cannot provide a timeline, as I am sure noble Lords will respect, on whether we will be looking at a particular process for future designations every month, every week or every two weeks.
However, I can say that we have the resources available to us and we have strengthened consultations to ensure that we can act—and act swiftly—if needs require. But we will do so most effectively when we work alongside international partners. We value the insights and information that NGOs provide in this respect and intend to set out a clear line of communication. As I am sure noble Lords acknowledged, we have published an information note aimed at NGOs and civil society organisations on the specific issue of dialogue with government.
Finally, on China and Xinjiang, as well as other specific countries, I want to mention this. I have deliberately left it to the end. My noble and learned friend Lord Garnier, the right reverend Prelate, the noble Baronesses, Lady Smith, Lady Kennedy of Cradley and Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Wood, my noble friend Lady Altmann—the list goes on—all rightly focused on the important issue of Xinjiang and the long-term suffering of the Uighur population. Again, while I cannot comment on future designations, let me assure noble Lords that the UK regularly raises its serious concerns about the human rights situation in Xinjiang. This is done both directly with the Chinese authorities, including by the Foreign Secretary raising it directly with his counterpart, and at international organisations, as I have continued to do during our engagements at the Human Rights Council. I assure noble Lords that we will continue to raise these issues. Many noble Lords raised issues around Xinjiang. Let me assure them that the FCO is carefully considering further suggestions for designations under the global human rights sanctions regime.
I have been handed my final slip of this session before the Summer Recess. It says that I am literally out of time—and virtually out of time for those joining us from wherever they may be. It is important, and good, to end by saying that we have had a challenging session because of Covid-19 and the coronavirus. But we end on an issue which reflects the best of what your Lordships’ House is about; how we work together and strengthen relationships on the important priorities that define our country and our values. It is a great honour to be standing here in front of your Lordships to conclude our Session by talking about human rights, and also talking about the important regime which has now come before us. It shows the strong workings across your Lordships’ House and across party divides.
As I outlined in my opening speech, these regulations underline our commitment to be an even stronger force for good in the world. They demonstrate our leadership in the promotion and protection of human rights. They are rightly a priority—and long may they remain so. I thank all noble Lords for their continued support in this respect. I wish them a restive—albeit at-home staycation—Summer Recess. For me the next immediate issue is that it is Eid in a day, and I look forward to spending it with my family.
House adjourned at 6.59 pm.