I share your abhorrence at genocide. The UK must always uphold its moral and international obligations, and must not agree or maintain a trade deal with a regime that is committing genocide. I recently spoke in Parliament to highlight China’s atrocities against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, and the escalating persecution of Christians in Northern Nigeria.
The House of Lords has put forward two successive amendments on genocide. The first would have enabled the courts to strike down free trade agreements ratified by an elected Parliament. I opposed this amendment on constitutional grounds because the amendment could have upset the balance of power between the Government, Parliament, and the courts.
The most recent amendment would have required a debate in Parliament if the courts made a determination of genocide. However, genocide is difficult to prove in a court of law, so there is a risk that a judge would be unable to make a determination of genocide against a brutal regime, giving that regime a propaganda boost. I am also concerned that vexatious cases could be brought against friendly countries. In any case, I was unable to support this amendment as Parliamentary procedure meant it was ‘bundled’ with a different amendment that I do not support.
I have instead supported the Government’s own amendment on genocide, which states that if a committee in Parliament publishes a report on the credible existence of genocide, the Government would be required to respond. If the committee were dissatisfied with the response, there would be a debate and a vote in Parliament. The Bill has now returned to the House of Lords, who can review the Government’s amendment, and suggest further amendments. I will continue to monitor the progress of the Bill, and pay close attention to any further amendments that might improve the Bill while allaying my concerns about previous amendments.