The UK government has successfully blocked a vote on a ‘genocide amendment’ to the Trade Bill that threatened to hand the government its first defeat in the House of Commons, moves which MPs have described as “cynical to the extreme”. Backers of the genocide amendment have committed to continuing the campaign in the Lords, which could come very soon.
The government backed compromise amendment tabled by Sir Robert Neill MP narrowly passed by 318 to 303 votes, giving parliamentary committees a role in scrutinising genocide allegations against states engaged in Free Trade Agreements. Supporters of the genocide amendment rejected this compromise on the grounds that it gives no role for courts in making genocide determinations.
By bundling Lord Alton’s all-party genocide amendment with a separate Labour amendment proposed by Lord Collins, the government would have denied MPs a direct vote on the genocide amendment even if the Neill compromise amendment had been voted down. MPs labelled the government’s move as “cynical to the extreme” and “parliamentary jiggery-pokery”.
Lord David Alton, crossbench peer and co-sponsor of the genocide amdendment in the Lords, has announced his intention to submit a re-drafted genocide amendment for consideration in the House of Lords in response to today’s vote.
Sir Iain Duncan-Smith MP, former Conservative Party leader and IPAC co-chair commented:
“The government’s attempts to deny MPs a vote on the genocide amendment are cynical to the extreme. Now is not the time for parliamentary games. Members from across the house have voiced their support for this amendment and they must be heard.”
“By failing to give our High Courts the powers to rule on genocide the UK is still at risk of defaulting on the solemn obligations we made 75 years ago, in the shadow of the holocaust to prevent, punish and protect against the crime of genocide.”
“We will continue to work on this amendment and I hope the House of Lords will now ensure an improved amendment returns to the House of Commons.”
Chris Bryant, Labour MP and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee commented:
“The government has gone out of its way today to prevent Parliament from standing up for the Uyghurs and others who face genocide today. It has disgracefully put parliamentary jiggery-pokery ahead of supporting victims of alleged genocide today. They should be ashamed.”
“The Uyghurs don’t want warm words from the government, they deserve their day in court. It’s appalling that the government has done everything in its power to prevent that.”
Lord David Alton, IPAC member and co-sponsor of the amendment in the Lords commented:
“The struggle to give Uyghurs and other victims of alleged genocide their day in court goes on. Today we have seen the Government contradict their own longstanding policy that genocide is a matter for judges, not politicians. Only a court judgement can begin to give victims of genocide the justice they deserve. We will continue to work in the Lords to bring forward an amendment which gives courts their proper role in genocide determination.”
Layla Moran MP, IPAC member and Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson commented:
“Today the Government used outrageous procedural manoeuvres to avoid any straight vote on the Genocide Amendment and avoid defeat, in a flagrant attempt to deny MPs from having their democratic say.”
“The Uyghur people have been betrayed and denied their day in court. The Government has turned a blind eye and has chosen to not put human rights first, despite clear cross-party support. We will continue this fight in the House of Lords.”
Baroness Helena Kennedy, IPAC co-chair and Labour peer commented:
“Today the House has made clear its intention that trade deals should not take place with genocidal states, but for victims of genocide this is not enough. There will be no justice for the Uyghurs and other persecuted groups until they can have their case heard in a court of law. We will continue to work on this amendment in the Lords, looking to give the power to judges, not politicians, to rule on the crime of genocide.”
Luke de Pulford, IPAC coordinator said:
“The government are tying themselves in knots, trying desperately to avoid a vote on this amendment in what is a clear denial of democracy. They’re even willing to contradict their own longstanding policy that genocide is a matter for judges, not politicians.
The government knows that MPs from across all parties are realising the urgent need to give Uyghurs their day in court. The compromise amendment does not do this and so we will carry the fight to the Lords. There can be no compromise with the crime of genocide.”
- A previous iteration of the genocide amendment received support from all opposition parties in the House of Commons last month, with prominent members of the cross-party Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, Nusrat Ghani and Bob Seely leading a group of dozens of Conservative MPs in rebelling against the government.
- The genocide amendment was designed to enable UK courts to consider genocide allegations against states engaged in new or existing trade agreements with the UK, while also requiring the government to set out its course of action before parliament if a genocide judgement is made. The amendment was the brainchild of IPAC Coordinator Luke de Pulford who has run the campaign in the House of Lords and House of Commons.