Sir Iain Duncan Smith backs an amendment to Financial Services Bill that would prevent financial trade and investment with countries found guilty of genocide by the courts and UN-mandated investigations.
I rise to support amendment 7, in the name of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali), myself and 41 other Members. The Minister knows well, because we have had this discussion before—just in case it was to be private, I want to make it public, not because I do not trust him, but I just think it is helpful for him to know that—that the amendment seeks to bind or hold those involved in financial trade and investment to a definition of who they should not trade with and why. To that extent, it introduces the concept of a genocide definition. This measure is also in the Trade Bill, which is coming back to the House, and I make no apology for supporting the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow in this. She will speak later, but as I understand it, she may not move the amendment. However, that is not the point. The point is that it is time to air this argument.
For too long, we have allowed ourselves to walk away from the issue of genocide without ever managing to hold any country guilty of this. Successive Governments have found it impossible to act because these issues are apparently referred to the International Criminal Court. The Government say to me, “It’s a matter for the international courts,” but they know full well that any reference to the ICC has to come from the Security Council, and it will never come from the Security Council because at least two of the nations there will always block it, particularly if it is to do with them or their allies. That is a distinct weakness, and I refer, of course, to the Chinese Communist party and Russia.
Let me give a couple of examples. We have discussed many times—the Foreign Secretary made a statement on it this week—the fact that many companies invest in, take trade from and take goods from areas of the world that are using slave labour. We know that this is happening in many places. For example, what is happening to the Rohingya is, in my view, likely to be defined as genocide. We can also look at what is happening to the Uyghurs in China. It is becoming more and more apparent every day that between 1 million and 3 million Uyghurs have been moved into labour camps. They are used as slave labour. They face forced sterilisation. There has been an 85% drop in their birth rate in that area. They have been moved out of their original area of work, and they are no longer allowed to speak their own language.
That is just one aspect, but a very brutal one, of what the amendment tries to deal with. After the Rwandan genocide in 1994, nothing happened. After the Bangladesh genocide in 1970, nothing ever happened. After the Cambodian genocide, nothing ever really happened. We still do not know what will happen, if it ever does, about Daesh’s genocide against Christians, Yazidis and so on, and companies will never be held to account for what they were involved in.
I realise that time is short, so I will conclude. Neither this amendment nor the one to the Trade Bill ties the Government’s hands. It does not give courts the right to proceed with investigations without reference. It does not give them the power to make criminal punishment, and it does not strike down trade deals or force criminal prosecutions. It would raise to the attention of the Government and the world that, at last, a domestic court here in the UK—the High Court or maybe the Court of Session—will be able to rule that, by all probability, genocide has taken place, and any financial institution, company or organisation involved with that area where genocide has taken place or with that country would no longer be allowed to do so. The Government would have to make that decision; that is the point.
I understand that, this week, the Board of Deputies is coming out in support of the amendment to not only this Bill but, importantly, the Trade Bill. I also understand that the US Senate, having seen what we have put forward, now plans to do the same. We have a chance here for leadership in the world. I thought we left the European Union to empower our courts and to give leadership. Again and again, I have been told by Ministers,
“Not this, not now, not here.” The simple question I ask is, “Exactly when, what and how?” because that is never answered.
I finish by reading this:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
We need to speak out for all these oppressed peoples, whether it is in finance or in trade, and take the moral high ground.
I am glad he gave me time to get this awful mask off.
I understand fully my hon. Friend’s arguments, and I will come to that in a second when I have an opportunity to catch Madam Deputy Speaker’s eye, but on the point he is making, I simply ask him this question: can he conceive that any UK Government would ever authorise trade arrangements on a special basis with any country guilty of genocide?
My right hon. Friend has raised this matter in the context of his raising it in a number of other regards with respect to the Trade Bill, and it would obviously be appropriate for my ministerial colleagues in that Department to address it in that context. Today, it is my responsibility to deal with it in the context of financial services regulation, as I think I have done, but I do not want to deny the grave significance of the matter that he is raising, and indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) has raised it with me, too. Obviously, these are complex matters on which others will respond in due course.