Nagorno-Karabakh

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Collins of Highbury
Thursday 21st September 2023

(9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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It is always good to hear the experiences of the noble Baroness. The points she makes are well founded and there are many concerns. It is particularly right and proper that my noble friend Lord Ahmad is at the UN this week; as noble Lords know, he is the Human Rights Minister. The noble Baroness also mentioned the Lachin corridor which, as she correctly said, was used for fuel and goods to be taken into the area and is now closed; it has been closed since December. There are considerable humanitarian problems faced by the population there now.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, on that point, France called for the meeting of the Security Council under Article 35, which will take place this afternoon, to address this escalation. Can the Minister outline how we at the United Nations will support a negotiated solution through the OSCE Minsk Group at today’s briefing? How exactly is the United Kingdom supporting efforts for the permanent lifting of the blockade of the Lachin corridor?

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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The noble Lord makes some very good points. As he pointed out, the French, the EU and US have been hugely busy over the last few days on this. The US and EU have been large actors over the last year in facilitating meetings between the different parties. This is a difficult issue but, as I said earlier, at the OSCE yesterday and at the Security Council later today my noble friend will be making those points. Once he returns from the UN I will ask him if he could inform the noble Lord of any progress.

Women, Peace and Security Bill [HL]

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Collins of Highbury
3rd reading
Friday 14th July 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, for pushing this Bill, which I certainly welcomed at Second Reading. What we are talking about is cross-party support for the same policy. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was a breakthrough, ensuring that women are at the table and involved in finding solutions to conflict throughout the world. Since the adoption of that resolution, we have seen real progress. Like her, we want to ensure that that cultural change is embedded in the future, and one way of doing that is through this Bill.

I know that, sadly, the Bill does not have the support of the Government—but things do change and Governments change. Hopefully, the noble Baroness, Lady Hodgson, and I can work together to ensure that the sort of changes she is advocating become law. I hear the comments of my noble friend Lord Grocott, but with a change of government we can make rapid progress. Beat that!

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, I always like to hear comments from the noble Lord, Lord Collins. In all seriousness, I pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Hodgson for her inspiring passion and commitment to the women, peace and security agenda. I say from the outset that the Government fully support the ethos of the Bill and we are firmly committed to protecting and progressing WPS. The UK is a global leader on women, peace and security: we led the first UN Security Council resolution on WPS in 2000, and we continue to use our standing in the UN to champion the inclusion of women and girls in the work of the organisation and UN resolutions.

In February the Government launched our new women, peace and security national action plan, our most ambitious WPS strategy yet. It sets out how we will continue to put women and girls at the centre of our work on conflict and security, and it reflects the new global context, adding Ukraine, Ethiopia and Yemen to our list of focus countries and retaining Afghanistan as a priority. The national action plan forms part of the wider work of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to challenge the global rollback of women’s rights around the world, as articulated by the Foreign Secretary in his speech in March.

This Government are fully committed to the WPS agenda. However, we have reservations about some of the proposals in the Bill, something that the Minister responsible for WPS, the honourable Leo Docherty MP, has discussed with my noble friend. We support some of the key principles of the Bill, particularly on increasing the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention and resolution, and we are delivering on that aim through our diplomatic and development work. However, we do not believe that the Bill in its current form allows for the wide scope of policies that we are seeking to deliver. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office continues to engage with my noble friend to further strengthen our approach in this area.

To conclude, the Government are committed to progressing the women, peace and security agenda on the global stage. Our new national action plan, along with our international women and girls strategy, ensures that we will continue to put women and girls at the heart of everything we do. I look forward to further constructive dialogue with noble Lords as we advance our goals of gender equality and the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in all areas of the women, peace and security agenda. I also note what the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, had to say.

Saudi Arabia: Mass Execution

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Collins of Highbury
Monday 14th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the mass execution of 81 people in Saudi Arabia on Saturday 12 March, and whether they will make representations over the planned execution of children.

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, we are deeply concerned by the execution of 81 individuals on 12 March. The United Kingdom strongly opposes the death penalty in all countries and in all circumstances as a matter of principle. The UK ambassador has already raised the UK’s strong concerns with the Saudi national security adviser and its Deputy Foreign Minister. Her Majesty’s Government regularly raise concerns with Saudi authorities regarding juvenile death penalty applications. The British Embassy in Riyadh closely monitors all juvenile death penalty cases, and routinely attempts to attend trials.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, Saturday’s massacre is the largest execution in Saudi Arabia’s history. The Ministry of Interior, in explaining, said that it

“will not hesitate to deter anyone who threatens security or disrupts public life”,

demonstrating just how low the bar is for execution in that country. Child defendants remain on death row, despite the Saudis’ promises to end the death penalty for minors. Abdullah al-Howaiti, a child defendant, is at particular risk. I understand that the public prosecutor continues to seek the death penalty for him. It is reported that the Prime Minister will meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman this week. If that is the case, will the noble Earl confirm that the Prime Minister will put the United Kingdom’s commitment to human rights above any trade deal premised on acquiescence to bloodshed?

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Collins, raises the issue of the juvenile death penalty. As I said in my earlier Answer, the British embassy at Riyadh closely monitors all juvenile death penalty defendants and regularly attempts to attend their trials. In April 2020, the Saudi Human Rights Commission announced a moratorium on death penalty sentences for individuals who committed discretionary crimes of violence. The noble Lord also mentioned our engagement with the Saudi Arabian Government, and I can say that engagement carries on, at all levels and at every opportunity. At every opportunity in the future, we will continue to raise issues relating to the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.

Zimbabwe

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Collins of Highbury
Tuesday 8th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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I must admit that I was not aware of that. My noble friend is, I think, referring to the Lancaster House Agreement, which was a very important agreement in the formation of Zimbabwe.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Earl will understand the importance I place on the words of the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad. Last week in Geneva, during the conclusions of the 40th universal periodic review, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, expressed concern about the harassment of civil society in Zimbabwe. Does the Minster agree that a free civil society must include trade unions, and what steps have the UK Government taken to ensure that the right to organise takes place in Zimbabwe?

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, the British embassy in Harare regularly engages with a wide range of stakeholders to improve our understanding of the political and economic issues in Zimbabwe. This of course includes trade unions, but the UK does not fund trade unions or involve itself in industrial disputes between the Government and civil servants. However, as the periodic review of human rights involving Zimbabwe shows, we are concerned by restrictions on freedom of assembly and the harassment of journalists, opposition supporters and civil society, and that the PVO amendment bill could be used to restrict civic space.

Republic of Belarus (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021

Debate between Earl of Courtown and Lord Collins of Highbury
Monday 1st November 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, as the Minister said, the regulations before the Committee maintain the current sanctions on Belarus but extend the measures and amend a series of errors in the previous regulations. I reiterate that these measures, and certainly this SI, have the full support of the Opposition.

As I told the House during a debate in July, the Government’s policy towards Belarus should be to stand with the incredible defiance shown by activists and opposition leaders. I not only hope that these instruments are a signal of that but echo the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Russell, that it is important that our voices in this Parliament are heard by those people in Belarus. It certainly has an impact, and we need to make sure that that is the case.

As the Minister highlighted, the situation in Belarus has deteriorated. It took a sinister turn in May when a Ryanair flight was forcibly diverted to Minsk so that pro-democracy activists could be arrested. Obviously, as is pointed out in the explanatory note to the instrument, human rights in general have deteriorated even further in the country. I was therefore pleased that last week the United Kingdom’s representatives at the United Nations signed a joint statement calling on the Lukashenko regime to end its repressive practices. However, such statements have to be paired with co-ordinated action.

On some specific points in the regulations before the Committee today, as the Minister noted earlier, the purpose of this order is to correct previous errors while adopting additional measures in response to the deteriorating behaviour of Lukashenko and his regime. The financial sanctions under Part 3 are particularly welcome given, as the noble Lord, Lord Russell, reminded us, the extensive reports of dirty money from Belarus in London. What is the Government’s assessment of that, and in particular of the Belarusian Government’s use of the London Stock Exchange for financing purposes?

On Part 5 of the regulations, which relate to Belarusian aircraft, as the Minister highlighted, can he confirm or advise the Committee what support the Government have offered to the Civil Aviation Authority, both to advise and to exercise these new responsibilities? Needless to say, as the noble Lord reminded us, these measures are effective only if implemented jointly and as widely as possible. In those circumstances, can the Minister tell us about what our response is to the ongoing disagreements between some members of the EU on this in particular? What steps are the Government taking to encourage counterparts to apply the sanctions to Belarus in full?

Given the analysis that many international sanctions on potash, Belarus’s main export, affect only a small proportion of potash products, can the Minister advise the Committee whether that assessment is correct and whether these regulations go far enough?

Global sanctions can be one of the most effective tools at our disposal to bring pressure on the regime, and I am glad that many measures are also being implemented by other national Governments but, if the UK is to stand for the people of Belarus, the Government’s policy must extend beyond these measures. We need to ensure that there is ongoing, co-ordinated international pressure at the UN and other multilateral institutions, particularly working with the European Union, to ensure that pressure is put on the Lukashenko regime and we stand by the side of the brave activists and opposition leaders.

Earl of Courtown Portrait The Earl of Courtown (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to today’s insightful and timely discussion, and I should like to address the important questions they have raised. The noble Lords, Lord Collins, Lord Purvis and Lord Russell, all mentioned in their own way how this is affecting the individuals in Belarus—whether in the Opposition or the media—and the whole of civil society, and how important it is that we give whatever help we can. As I said earlier, we have increased our funding in that area to try to improve the situation as much as we can, but as all noble Lords all said, it is a pretty dire situation that we find ourselves in.

I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Russell, for his tales from the ballot box, which were very interesting, and enlightened us, as he gave the Committee his first-hand experience of what happened in the elections. He and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, also mentioned how important it is to have regular discussions with our partners. I can confirm to all noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned the European Union in particular—that we have continuous discussions with the European Union, the United Nations, and our partners in the sanctions, including the US and Canada, and the sanctions are continually kept under review.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, started his speech by talking about the death penalty, and he knows quite well the position of this country—this Government and all parties in this country—that we abhor the use of the death penalty in any circumstance. He also mentioned two particular issues relating to immigration and travel bans. The travel ban operates through the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act and regulations made under it, which allow us to make people excluded persons for the purposes of the Immigration Act. I hope that clarifies the point for him. He also considered the timeline of the orders. They did not overlap as such; one order revoked the other.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, also mentioned dual-use goods and Northern Ireland. I have some lines on that, but if there is anything more that can be contributed, I will write to him. The regulations apply across the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland—but I will check that there is nothing more we need to add to that.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about the London Stock Exchange. The new regulations prohibit dealing with bonds issued by the Republic of Belarus after the sanctions came into force where they have a maturity exceeding 90 days. This includes a prohibition on assisting in issuing such a bond.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, mentioned potash imports from Belarus. He asked why the UK has only partially banned potash imports and why all potash tariff codes are not included. These measures are carefully targeted to build pressure on Lukashenko, state institutions and those around him, while minimising—this is the important thing—any unintended consequences on the wider population in Belarus and the UK economy. He also mentioned support for the CAA. The Department for Transport work closely with the CAA on sanctions implications—so there are ongoing discussions with the CAA when sanctions are imposed. If I have not answered all the questions, I will of course read Hansard and reply to any I have missed.

As I set out in my opening speech, the regulations give us the power to impose sectoral sanctions with real impact, which is magnified in co-ordination with our international partners. They ensure that we can target the sectors of the Belarusian economy and the key figures in the Belarusian regime that generate funds for the regime. This includes those who provide support for, or obtain an economic benefit from, the Government of Belarus who have not been designated previously. They demonstrate that the UK will not stand by in the face of the regime’s unacceptable behaviour; that we are ready and willing to act as part of a network of liberty and will stand with those who believe in democracy. I beg to move that the Committee has considered the regulations.