Debates between Richard Benyon and Sir Alan Duncan

There have been 6 exchanges between Richard Benyon and Sir Alan Duncan

1 Mon 8th July 2019 UK Ambassador to USA: Leaked Emails 3 interactions (264 words)
2 Wed 12th December 2018 Blue Belt Programme: South Sandwich Islands 5 interactions (704 words)
3 Mon 2nd July 2018 Detainee Mistreatment and Rendition 3 interactions (365 words)
4 Thu 1st March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] (Fourth sitting)
HM Treasury
6 interactions (1,740 words)
5 Thu 1st March 2018 Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (Third sitting)
HM Treasury
5 interactions (725 words)
6 Tue 19th December 2017 Blue Belt Programme: Marine Protected Areas 3 interactions (633 words)

UK Ambassador to USA: Leaked Emails

Debate between Richard Benyon and Sir Alan Duncan
Monday 8th July 2019

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sir Alan Duncan Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:03 p.m.

The new regime, as the right hon. Gentleman calls it, will have to speak for itself when it has taken its place. There is something else that this House should condemn very strongly: the comments of Nigel Farage, who immediately jumped on the political bandwagon, as he saw it, and called for the ambassador to be sacked. For many people, what little respect they might have had for him will have evaporated even further when they heard that.

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:03 p.m.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply to the extraordinary question from my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash). Those of us who have had briefings from Sir Kim, both in his current role and when he was at UKRep, will know how balanced and professional they are, so I am very grateful to the Minister for the position he has taken. I also hope that a message will go out right across the diplomatic service, and to Ministers and potential future Ministers, that all the agencies resourced by our Government will be used in inquiries, and that those found to have done this will really regret having done so.

Sir Alan Duncan Hansard
8 Jul 2019, 4:19 p.m.

My right hon. Friend serves on the Intelligence and Security Committee, and so is familiar with the organisations that I think he is suggesting should be deployed. The Cabinet Office will use all its means to delve into this matter and try to find the culprit. I wholly agree with him that if we succeed in tracing who did this, they should regret that moment for the rest of their life.

Blue Belt Programme: South Sandwich Islands

Debate between Richard Benyon and Sir Alan Duncan
Wednesday 12th December 2018

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Sir Alan Duncan Hansard
12 Dec 2018, 11:21 a.m.

No, I think they become more complicated. I ask my hon. Friend to appreciate that we genuinely would do absolutely everything we could, but we have to look at the diplomatic consequences of sovereignty claims, or whatever one calls them, which complicate doing straightforward things unilaterally. I will say a little more about that in the context of CCAMLR in a second.

To continue what I was saying about the Blue Belt programme, that work will further inform the management of what is a unique and precious territory, as well as contributing to an international krill survey project to gather data to inform international discussions about the future distribution of the krill fishery at CCAMLR.

Richard Benyon Hansard
12 Dec 2018, 11:21 a.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Sir Alan Duncan Hansard
12 Dec 2018, 11:21 a.m.

Yes, although I am about to answer my right hon. Friend’s point about Ascension.

Richard Benyon Hansard
12 Dec 2018, 11:22 a.m.

I am very grateful. Will the Minister give me an assurance that he will push back at scientists to ensure that they embrace the latest scientific understanding of the power of krill to sequester carbon? That may require them to change their modelling. A really high biomass of krill has a fantastic ability to lock up carbon on the seabed. I hope he pushes scientific advisers to ensure that they understand and embrace that emerging scientific understanding.

Sir Alan Duncan Hansard
12 Dec 2018, 11:22 a.m.

I think I am known in the Foreign Office for challenging officials very robustly, and on the issue of science I undertake to do exactly that. There is no point in using old science if there is newer, better-informed science available. We really want to set the highest possible scientific standards. In return, I hope that my right hon. Friend accepts that where there is a scientific conclusion, that is what should guide us.

I would like to take this opportunity briefly to update the House on other recent progress through the wider Blue Belt programme. As many colleagues who take a close interest in the programme will be aware, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park said, the UK has to date declared marine protected areas across around 3 million sq km—more than 40%—of British waters. I am pleased to confirm that we remain on course to increase that to 4 million sq km, or around 60% of our waters, by 2020. I hope the House agrees that that will be a remarkable achievement.

As for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, designation of protected areas is not the end of the story. Our overseas territories are working closely with our two main Blue Belt delivery partners—the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and the Marine Management Organisation—to ensure that each marine protection regime is well designed, well managed, monitored and enforced.

Members may have seen the Blue Belt programme annual update for 2017-18, copies of which were placed in the Libraries of both Houses in July. I will highlight a couple of examples of work that demonstrate the UK’s commitment to the marine protection of our overseas territories. First, the Government’s National Maritime Information Centre provides technical support to monitor and enforce protected areas around our territories, which in turn supports the global fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Secondly, a number of scientific expeditions have been undertaken around the overseas territories to assess biodiversity. That is crucial to ensure that we protect the right areas and the most vulnerable species or habitats.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) asked about Ascension. A commitment was made in 2016 to designate a no-take MPA across half of Ascension’s waters, and considerable work has been undertaken in the territory to identify the best location for the MPA based on robust scientific understanding of those waters. It is for the Ascension Island Government to consider the options for an MPA based on the evidence available, and they are currently undertaking a consultation on a range of options, one of which may include designating Ascension as an entire maritime area. In respect of Tristan da Cunha, I can confirm that it is committed to designating marine measures across its maritime zone by 2020. We should all be pleased that so many parliamentary colleagues have recognised and engaged with the ambitious policy direction we have set through the Blue Belt programme.

Detainee Mistreatment and Rendition

Debate between Richard Benyon and Sir Alan Duncan
Monday 2nd July 2018

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sir Alan Duncan Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2018, 4:07 p.m.

The Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, apologised unreservedly to Mr Belhaj and his wife in May this year, saying that we were profoundly sorry for the ordeal that they had suffered and for the role that we had played in it. As we said at the time, the UK Government have learnt many lessons from this period, and I believe that those lessons have now been converted into much-enhanced practices which are built into the DNA of our intelligence agencies and all who work for them. The consolidated guidance that forms the bedrock of this will be studied further by Sir Adrian Fulford. I hope that, taken together, all that will satisfy and reassure the House that we both set the highest standards and meet them.

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2018, 4:07 p.m.

The reports clearly state that there is no evidence that any of our intelligence officers were directly involved in the mistreatment of detainees. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out that we are the only country in the developed world to produce consolidated guidance in the way that we have, but we must accept that mistakes were made. Does my right hon. Friend agree that “consolidated guidance” is a bit of a misnomer? If it is to have the widespread confidence that we feel that it should, its title should be looked at again, because it is not guidance. It is a standard for action relating to detention and rendition, to be interpreted by the agencies individually, and to be accountable to the House.

Sir Alan Duncan Parliament Live - Hansard
2 Jul 2018, 4:08 p.m.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for all the work that he has been doing on the Committee. As he rightly points out, we are already the only country that publishes guidance. The Committee found no evidence that agencies had deliberately turned a blind eye, but the Investigatory Powers Commissioner now has a very important role to play in the oversight of the consolidated guidance. Last week the Prime Minister invited him to make proposals for how it could be improved further, and I have no doubt that the Committee of which he is a member will exercise its rights to make recommendations whenever it thinks them appropriate.

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords] (Fourth sitting)

Debate between Richard Benyon and Sir Alan Duncan
Thursday 1st March 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con) Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 2:24 p.m.

The hon. Lady is right that this is a key part of the Magnitsky elements of the Bill. There may be a more elegant way of landing this and I am looking forward to hearing what the Minister says about it.

The review aspects are fundamental to achieving what I was talking about earlier: consistency with other jurisdictions. I know the Government are keen to work with us. It may be that that happens in the coming weeks and we find some mechanism by Report stage. Again, the Minister has this in his gift. There are those who say that what we propose would somehow be more than other countries have adopted as part of their Magnitsky legislation, but the US, for example, has a far more onerous oversight provision. It allows certain members of Congress the right to demand that the Government consider sanctioning certain individuals, and the Government have to respond within 120 days to give the reasons why they did or did not. That is called the congressional trigger, and there are other mechanisms in other jurisdictions elsewhere.

What we would like to achieve is that as soon as practicable after six months have elapsed, beginning with the day the Act is passed, and every 12 months thereafter, the Secretary of State prepares a report about the exercise of the powers conferred by the Act and lays that report before Parliament. Subject to issues of clear confidentiality—I absolutely accept that is a requirement—that report should include a summary of any representations made in relation to the exercise or proposed exercise of powers and the response of the appropriate Minister to do the same.

I think there may be some work to be done on the question of who the independent reviewer should be. I note the form of words, which I was initially attracted to by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland. There may be machinery of Government issues, which mean that that is not the right place for the independent reviewer to reside, but I think there are many ways of skinning this particular cat. The review element is fundamental, because it is important that those organisations that are taking forward evidence are able to have that evidence independently verified and Government held accountable.

On a related issue, which is not specific to this Bill but that makes my point, campaigners—with very good evidence—have brought cases about people connected to serious organised crime from overseas who operate in this country. They have taken that to agencies such as the Serious Fraud Office, the National Crime Agency and others, but it has not been taken up. When they have done that in other countries, assets have been frozen, people have been subject to visa denials and other measures have been taken. Somehow, people slip between the cracks in our system, and this is an opportunity to close that gap.

On where that independent reviewer resides, I am open to suggestions from my right hon. Friend the Minister or anyone. I am glad that the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland has given us a bit of breathing room to resolve this. By Report, we really need to have a review process that is independent and comprehensive; that addresses the measures that we require to allow people who have access to information to bring it forward; and that holds Government accountable for how they deal with that kind of information.

Sir Alan Duncan Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 2:28 p.m.

The amendment is important because it overlaps with our earlier discussions about the broader Magnitsky issue. It also introduces two other elements, so it has three distinct elements.

The first element is the issue of adopting sanctions on a multilateral basis, which is what sanctions are really for. It is quite rare for sanctions to be adopted by only one country. Their whole effectiveness depends on multilateral co-operation. UN sanctions, which we are obliged to implement, are multilateral by their very nature. All the other sanctions that we have imposed in the past have also been multilateral, because we have imposed them as part of the EU. Although our departure from the EU necessitates our having an autonomous sanctions regime, we envisage that its operation will almost inevitably be multilateral. We agree that sanctions are more effective when they are adopted by a greater number of countries.

The UK plays a leading role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council in negotiating sanctions measures that build on the entire international community. We also work closely with the EU and other international partners in a range of groupings, such as the G7, and we will continue to work hard internationally to gain the widest possible support for sanctions measures.

In the second element of the amendment, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland asks us to show our hand at all stages and to show the manner in which we piece sanctions together. However, to publicly reveal our discussions and the steps that we take to work with international partners could be damaging to those efforts. We would not wish to embarrass partners who, for their own reasons, decline to align with our sanctions policy or to risk the targets of sanctions understanding too much about which country was in which position on any given sanctions regime.

A related issue is whether an individual can nominate someone to be sanctioned, which they can. Any person can write to the Government and the Government will respond. Individuals may request that the Government apply new or additional sanctions regimes, and we will of course consider that.

Break in Debate

Sir Alan Duncan Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 2:29 p.m.

I cannot quite say that it happens in that way, although there are some issues, and of course countries being discussed in the UN—because, for instance, they may be developing nuclear weapons—obviously does come across a Minister’s desk. That happens less frequently in the case of any individuals, particularly because at the moment we do not have an autonomous sanctions regime that would make all such representations come directly to the desk of a Minister or his close officials, because we are part of the broader EU system. When we have an autonomous regime, I envisage that that type of thing is more likely to happen than it does now, because it tends to happen much more within the EU system at the moment.

The third issue about the amendment is the question of oversight. May I just say to my right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury that I totally understand that the two key words in what he is pressing for are “independent” and “reviewer”? He suggests the need for some kind of independent entity, force or person that perhaps represents the interests of those calling for sanctions, rather than just the interests of the Government in executing sanctions. I understand what he is saying and we will have to consider this matter further.

However, I have to be firm in my view that the counter-terrorism figure suggested in the amendment is not the suitable person to do this work. The amendment is about counter-terrorism, if it is counter-terrorism, but this measure is more broadly about sanctions. So what would happen under the amendment is that someone whose job at the moment is counter-terrorism would have their job widened. It may be too burdensome; the whole job description would have to be changed. They would not necessarily have the required skillset, so they would be the wrong person to try to designate for this purpose. In simple language, they are not the right horse for the course. However, given what my right hon. Friend has said, we will of course need to discuss this matter further, as we approach Report.

Richard Benyon Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 2:32 p.m.

I am grateful for that assurance. I am not qualified to say who this person should be and where they should reside. However, my right hon. Friend is right to say that the words “independent” and “reviewer” are fundamental to those who have been campaigning for this change for some time, and they would put the final icing on the cake of the Magnitsky element to this Bill.

However, will my right hon. Friend allow me, in as mild-mannered a way as I can put it, to convey to him that if other forces in the orbit of the postal district of SW1 were to rain on his parade of the assurances he has given us—I am mixing my metaphors here—there would be a problem for him on Report, and I want to make his life easy? I want this Bill to breeze through the Chamber with universal support and adulation for him, and that we will not find any need to argue the point.

Sir Alan Duncan Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 2:33 p.m.

I both thank and congratulate my right hon. Friend for the elegance with which he has made his point, and I can say in clear and simple language, “Message received.”

Perhaps I can also take this opportunity to inform the Committee, in a little more detail, our feeling and understanding of what we know are the independent oversight powers in the Bill, because they are a central part of the broader picture of oversight.

We think the Bill finds the right balance of powers and independent oversight of those powers, because—rightly—the powers to impose sanctions are placed in the hands of the Executive. As such, the Government will decide whether or not to impose sanctions and on whom. Likewise, in the first instance the Government will decide when to lift sanctions. That is in line with the standard practice of the Executive deciding foreign policy and is consistent with international practice.

However, the role of the courts—as the independent arbiter and judicial authority overseeing the powers in the Bill—is significant. The courts can look at decisions made by the Government under the Bill and judge whether those decisions were correct. If not, the courts’ judgment will of course be binding on the Government. Furthermore, the Bill has significant transparency requirements and the Minister has numerous reporting obligations to Parliament. The reports will all be laid before and scrutinised by Parliament. As is the case now, parliamentary Committees can produce their own independent reports and can take evidence and make recommendations. That will continue. There is far more scope for such independent oversight by Parliament than there is now, where decisions are taken in Brussels and there are limited reporting requirements to the UK Parliament. As such, we believe that the Bill finds the right balance of Executive decision making, independent judicial arbitration by the courts and independent political oversight and scrutiny by Parliament.

Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [ Lords ] (Third sitting)

Debate between Richard Benyon and Sir Alan Duncan
Thursday 1st March 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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HM Treasury
Richard Benyon Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 12:04 p.m.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his remarks. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham and I have gone quite a long way in looking at an alternative definition that would meet the requirements of the Magnitsky standard and that is consistent across our judicial system. Does my right hon. Friend support that direction of travel, and will what he commits to bringing forward on Report satisfy those who have campaigned on the matter for a long time?

Sir Alan Duncan Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 12:05 p.m.

I can certainly say to my right hon. Friend that we will endeavour to work towards that destination. He will appreciate that in Government, agreement to certain processes requires collective responsibility. I want to see what we can do to head in the direction that he has campaigned for, but we will have to wait until the days leading up to Report to get to the point when I can say so for certain. I hope the hon. Lady will withdraw amendment 1.

Break in Debate

Richard Benyon Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 12:23 p.m.

I am confused by this one. I may be a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, and I would not want anyone in this Committee to think that I have gone native and that somehow we want everything hushed up. I am entirely in favour of transparency of strategy, because that is the easiest way for Parliament to hold the Government of the day to account. But it seems to me that elements of this amendment would make it unworkable. It would favour the kind of state that we might seek to sanction, by laying bare before the world a strategy that, at times, it is worth while keeping within the corridors of power. I am sure some people will accuse me of being part of some sort of elite or believing in closed government, but it is absolutely not true.

The amendment calls for a memorandum that would show

“clear objectives for the relevant sanctions, including well-defined and realistic demands against which compliance can be judged…a coherent overarching diplomatic strategy”.

That is available, to an extent, and is discussed. It is part of our national security strategy. But to communicate in a way that would be helpful to—the actual words used in this amendment—“targeted countries,” would burden future Governments and that of today in a way that concerns me. I hope we may get some clarification on this, either from my right hon. Friend the Minister or the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland.

Sir Alan Duncan Hansard
1 Mar 2018, 12:24 p.m.

I can confidently say that if anyone has a hot water bottle, I am prepared to offer them very good money for it. I have not got quite as many layers on as some others in the Committee. I will respond to the points made about this amendment and in large part concur with the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury.

The Bill as drafted already requires a Minister to lay before Parliament a report alongside the introduction of any sanctions regulation. Amendment 14 appears to duplicate that duty, setting out a number of specific factors to be included in such a report. I have some sympathy with the aim of the amendment. Given the potential effects of sanctions, they should only be used where it is appropriate and where the Government have thought through all of the consequences. It is right and proper that the Government can and should be held to account over the use of this power. As I have said, clause 2 already requires the Government to lay a report before Parliament alongside the introduction of any sanctions regulation.

The report would set out why a Minister considered the sanctions regulations to be consistent with the purposes outlined in the Bill, and why they were a reasonable course of action. I assure hon. Members that it will clearly state the objectives of the sanctions, their place within a broader diplomatic and foreign policy strategy and, if appropriate, the conditions under which they might be lifted—for example through the resolution of an armed conflict to which they were designed to apply.

In addition, the Government have committed to publishing an annual review of each of the sanctions regimes, which will be laid before Parliament as set out in clause 27. That report will explain why the sanctions regimes continue to be appropriate and how they meet the objectives set out in the original report.

Blue Belt Programme: Marine Protected Areas

Debate between Richard Benyon and Sir Alan Duncan
Tuesday 19th December 2017

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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The Minister for Europe and the Americas (Sir Alan Duncan) Hansard
19 Dec 2017, 4:17 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (James Gray) on securing this highly topical debate. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the polar regions, he brings a wealth of experience on the Arctic and Antarctic, and a close interest in the health of their marine environments, as do all the other right hon. and hon. Members in the Chamber, especially my right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), who has taken an acute interest in this issue.

I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to highlight once again the Government’s Blue Belt initiative. This is one of the most ambitious programmes of marine protection ever undertaken. Of the approximately 6.8 million sq km of ocean surrounding the UK and our 14 overseas territories, we have committed to developing measures to ensure the protection of 4 million sq km by 2020. I personally announced that commitment at the Our Ocean summit in Washington in September last year, and am delighted to confirm that the delivery of the commitment is on track.

Over the past few weeks much of the country, and audiences across the world, have been engrossed in the BBC’s brilliant “Blue Planet II”. Sir David Attenborough and his team have expertly shone a light on our incredible oceans and how diverse, important to the health of our planet and vulnerable they are.

Richard Benyon Hansard

If I may pray on some of the generous time that the Minister has offered, I just ask him to consider, as part of the very exciting Blue Belt policy, that certain problems exist not only for marine ecosystems and the species we want to see recover, but for the people who live on the islands and on whose support we depend. In particular, in Ascension Island there are very real difficulties with the prosperity of that community as a result of the failures to make the runway safe for use. Can my right hon. Friend the Minister assure us that investment is being made in Ascension Island? That will ensure that the people of that island can really support the marine protected area because they have a viable existence on the island.

Sir Alan Duncan Hansard
19 Dec 2017, 4:19 p.m.

Air access to Ascension Island resumed on 18 November, and a monthly air service has begun to and from neighbouring St Helena. Most workers on Ascension are from St Helena; as a Minister for the Department for International Development, I was largely responsible for building the airport there, which I am pleased to say now works. Employers on Ascension confirm that the monthly air service meets their current needs.

To return to “Blue Planet”—I risk being pressed for time if I do not get through what I need to tell the House—the series highlighted the many pressures that we are putting on our oceans, including the scourge of plastic waste, the unpredictable effects of global warming and atmospheric pollution and the danger of overfishing. Many of those challenges—perhaps most of them—must be addressed at the global level, and the UK will play a full and active leadership role in that work. Yet there is also good evidence that establishing well designed, effectively managed and properly enforced marine protection measures can help parts of the ocean withstand some of those pressures.

Our Blue Belt initiative is committed to doing just that. We have already declared large-scale marine protected areas in five of our overseas territories—St Helena, Pitcairn, the British Indian Ocean Territory, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and the British Antarctic Territory, representing a total of 2.9 million sq km, or more than 40% of British waters. Of this, 1.5 million sq km, or more than 20% of our waters, are now designated as highly protected and closed to all commercial fishing.