9 February 2021
Sir Iain Duncan Smith condemns Government for blocking genocide amendment vote

Sir Iain Duncan Smith condemns the Government’s use of procedure to bundle together multiple amendments to prevent a vote on the genocide amendment to the Trade Bill.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith 

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. That is a very short time, so I will do my level best to get my three points across.

I just want to say something about the procedure today. Of course, we would not be sitting here if it was not in order for these proceedings, but there are different ways to be in order, and the reality of bundling together all these things into one motion—an amendment tabled by the Government—means that of course there is no way we will get to vote on the Lords amendment on genocide. I simply point out that fact. It reminds me that this little dispute is a little bit like the Handforth parish council one, and it is always a good idea to read the Standing Orders. I have read them, and they tell me what has happened: the Government have deliberately blocked this. I am sorry, but that is what this is. No point of order on that one; that is the reality. I simply say to my hon. Friends that I have been here long enough, and this is beneath them. I wish they had thought again, and I hope they do not try this one again.

I respect my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade Policy enormously, as he knows, but I must pick up on a few points that he made, as I did table an amendment. First, he extols the virtues of the Government amendment and attacks the idea that the courts could make the judgment, as that would impinge on our position as a Parliament. Yet literally yesterday, in answer to a parliamentary question about whether genocide was a matter for the courts, the Foreign Office said:

“It is the policy of the UK Government that any judgment on whether genocide has occurred is a matter for competent courts rather than Governments or other non-judicial bodies.”

I ask my right hon. Friend: what is a Select Committee? Is it a judicial or a non-judicial body? If it is a non-judicial body, the Government amendment puts the power in the hands of a non-judicial body. What are we doing? We are running in circles just to avoid the reality.

My point is that we have been a little insulting about judges in the amendment that my right hon. Friend is talking about. I have my own differences with judges, but I remind the House that when we need an impartial taking of evidence and judgment—Savile, Grenfell, Hillsborough or any of the other cases—we turn not to Select Committees but to a judge. Why do we do that? First, because we assume that they are impartial and secondly, because they are trained to take and deal with evidence. We are not; we are partial—that is why we are here. We have Select Committees and we have prejudices, and that is the point.