I agree that this country should never enter into a free trade agreement with countries that are committing genocide.
However, I opposed the most recent ‘genocide amendment’ proposed by the House of Lords, which would have created a new parliamentary committee, composed entirely of former senior judges, to make a ‘preliminary determination’ of genocide. I believe this amendment was wrong on constitutional grounds, as it would have blurred the distinction between Parliament and the judiciary. Ultimately, it is for competent courts, not committees, to make determinations of genocide; and it is for the Government, accountable to Parliament, to conduct trade policy and foreign policy.
Parliament has instead approved an alternative amendment, which I supported, which requires the Government to set out its position in writing in response to a report of genocide, and gives a House of Commons committee the power to draft a motion for subsequent debate. This empowers Parliament to hold the Government to account on this important issue, while respecting the checks and balances of our constitution.
I am assured that the Government has no intention of negotiating a free trade deal with China, whose atrocities against the Uyghur people are well-documented. In fact, the Government recently imposed sanctions against the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, and four senior Chinese officials who have been identified as the perpetrators of atrocities in Xinjiang. I believe this demonstrates the Government’s strong stance against dealing with the perpetrators of genocide, and our commitment to human rights worldwide.