UK Government narrowly avoids defeat after IPAC cross-party ‘genocide amendment’ to Trade Bill

The UK government narrowly avoided defeat after members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) led a cross-party group of MPs in backing a ‘genocide amendment’ to the Trade Bill. The amendment would have led to the UK becoming the first country in the world to allow genocide cases to be considered in domestic courts.

The amendment received support from all opposition parties in the House of Commons, with prominent IPAC MPs Sir Iain Duncan-Smith, Nusrat Ghani and Bob Seely leading a group of dozens of Conservative MPs in rebelling against the government. The amendment was narrowly defeated by 319 to 308 votes.

The group of 40 IPAC MPs were pivotal in garnering support in the Commons, with all major parties represented in the Alliance. IPAC member and crossbench peer Lord David Alton has announced his intention to submit a re-drafted amendment for consideration in the House of Lords. 

The amendment was designed to enable UK courts to make an advisory preliminary genocide judgement for governments to consider when signing trade deals with states accused of committing genocide. 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.

Luke de Pulford, IPAC coordinator commented:

“The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China will continue working to give Uyghurs their day in court. The size of today’s rebellion shows that there is growing support for this issue from across the House. Members from all parties agree with us that the current system of genocide determination is broke and needs urgent fixing.

We now have another bite of the cherry in the Lords with an amendment which takes some of the government’s arguments into account.”

Sir Iain Duncan-Smith MP, former Conservative Party leader and IPAC co-chair commented: 

“Today’s rebellion shows that the government can no longer ignore calls to bring genocide cases before UK courts. We will continue to work on this amendment, taking into account the points made by Members in the House today, and I hope the House of Lords will now ensure an improved amendment returns to the House of Commons.

The wilful ignorance of alleged genocide and grave human rights abuses in China and elsewhere must stop, we will not sell out our values for trade deals with genocidal states.”

Lord David Alton, IPAC member and co-sponsor of the amendment in the Lords commented: 

“The fight does not end here. We will continue to do all we can to ensure that Uyghurs and other victims of alleged genocide have a route to justice through UK courts. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and other groups will continue to work across party lines to propose a refinement to the amendment which will meet the perfectly reasonable argument that, once the Court has reached a determination of Genocide, Parliament should then be able to vote on the revocation of a trade deal with the country concerned.”

Baroness Helena Kennedy, IPAC co-chair and Labour peer commented:

“The struggle for justice for Uyghurs and other persecuted groups continues. I know that colleagues across all parties will not accept the loopholes in our existing systems which allow perpetrators of genocide to escape with impunity. The work to bring an improved amendment to the House of Lords begins immediately.”

Layla Moran MP, Liberal Democrats Foreign Affairs Spokesperson and IPAC member commented:

“Today the Government turned down a crucial opportunity to say ‘never again’ and put ending genocide and protecting human rights at the heart of the UK’s trade policy, despite clear cross-party support.

“The Government has chosen to turn a blind eye and to not put human rights first. But this isn’t over – we will support a new amendment when the Bill goes back to the Lords.”