Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) Bill

Wendy Morton Excerpts
Wednesday 5th January 2022

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers
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I am not going to comment on the question of VAT on fuel bills, since that is not the subject of today’s debate. I believe the debates on VAT on fuel bills date back some years, probably before that article.

It is disappointing that the Bill does not cover Northern Ireland, but I hope that it would adopt similar legislation, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough has suggested that it might. It is good to hear that there is nothing in the protocol that prevents it from doing so. It seems clear that this is not a single market-type rule, which would be covered by the protocol. There should be no constitutional or legal barrier to the Assembly passing a similar piece of legislation, and I certainly hope that it will choose to do so.

The Bill is the first piece of primary legislation to repeal retained EU law. I am certainly not aware of any other piece of primary legislation that does that. There are aspects of EU rules and programmes that have already been dismantled. Most notably, many of the fundamentals of the common agricultural policy have already gone, thankfully. However, it may well be the case that that was achieved without primary legislation. It is very clear that this will be the first time we have used primary legislation to disapply a judgment in the European Court of Justice. It could undoubtedly be described as a historic moment. The controversy around Vnuk shows that we need a faster way to remove or update EU laws that no longer work for us, most of which arrived on the statute book via secondary legislation in the first place. To have to deal with all of those modernisations, updates and amendments via primary legislation is a significant flaw in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 that needs to be looked at again.

I very much support the Bill. I hope it is the first of a long series of repeals and reforms that will take place as we use our Brexit freedoms to create better regulation that is more targeted to our domestic circumstances and that enables us to compete in the big high-tech growth sectors of the future. Only when we have done that and seized the opportunity provided by Brexit will we truly be able to say that we have got Brexit done.

Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Wendy Morton)
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It is a pleasure to serve on this Committee and under your chairmanship, Ms Ali. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough on his success in promoting this private Member’s Bill. I echo the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet. She rightly recognises the determination needed to progress a private Member’s Bill. I know my right hon. Friend fully understands this, having in the past attempted to get various private Member’s Bills through this place—as I have myself. I really do congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough.

This is an important issue. The Government have been clear since the 2014 European Court of Justice’s ruling in the Vnuk case that we do not agree with it. The decision created the unnecessary extension of motor insurance to private land and a greater range of vehicles. This is why we announced that we will remove the effects of Vnuk from GB law in February this year. Delivering on that includes removing the associated financial liability imposed on the Motor Insurers’ Bureau via the England and Wales Court of Appeal’s decision in Lewis.

The proposed legislation in this presentation Bill represents the best possible opportunity to address the issue at the earliest possible opportunity. Clause 1 rightly makes provision to clarify how the compulsory insurance obligation operates in GB and makes it clear that there is no obligation to extend insurance to private land and vehicles not constructed for road use. It removes any retained EU law rights to compensation from the MIB created by the Lewis case. The clause also provides that retained EU case law that is inconsistent with the position set out in this will cease to have effect. That, in effect, removes the Vnuk decision from GB law. The Bill does not have retrospective effect and will come into force two months after Royal Assent.

Greg Knight Portrait Sir Greg Knight
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Minister share her thoughts on where this leaves electric scooters, which are being trialled in some areas? If they are authorised for road use, will they then be deemed to be a motor vehicle and need compulsory insurance?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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My right hon. Friend raises a very interesting question. My understanding of this Bill is that it is very much focused on the issue around private land, but if there is anything that I need to follow up on, perhaps on the specifics of scooters, I will.

Greg Knight Portrait Sir Greg Knight
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If my hon. Friend could write to me with her thoughts on that before Third Reading, I would be quite happy.

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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I undertake to write to my right hon. Friend with the clarity that I think he is looking for.

To conclude, the provisions will comprehensively remove the effect of Vnuk and Lewis from GB law. For those reasons, the Government support the Bill.

Magnitsky Sanctions: Human Rights Abuses

Wendy Morton Excerpts
Wednesday 8th December 2021

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
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I thank the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) for tabling this debate, and for his valuable co-operation as chair of the all-party parliamentary group, along with the other colleagues on the APPG. I am grateful to all hon. Members for their insightful contributions. I will try to address all the points raised and the countries mentioned within the time that I have.

On 6 July 2020, the Government established the global human rights sanctions regime under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. The regime gave the UK a powerful new tool to hold to account those involved in serious human rights violations or abuses. It was intended to target individuals and entities involved in serious human rights violations or abuses, rather than entire countries.

Our global human rights sanctions regime reinforces our ability to defend the rules-based international system. It complements and enhances our global leadership on the promotion and protection of human rights around the world and enables us to use asset freezes and travel bans against those involved in serious human rights violations and abuses and those who profit or benefit from them. The human rights included in the scope of the regime are the right to life, the right not be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to be free from slavery and forced labour.

Since launching our global human rights sanctions just under a year ago, the Government have designated nearly 80 individuals and entities. Those designations demonstrate the Government’s commitment to standing up for human rights and minority groups, including those in Belarus, Myanmar, China, Russia and North Korea.

On 22 March, the UK sanctioned four Chinese Government officials and the public security bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps for their role in the serious human rights violations that have taken and continue to take place against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Those measures were taken alongside measures by the US, Canada and the EU, sending the clearest possible signal that the international community is united in its condemnation of China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang and signalling the need for Beijing to end discrimination and oppression in the region.

Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan
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We heard earlier about the horrifying stories coming out of the Uyghur Tribunal. Will the Minister commit to examining the findings of the Uyghur Tribunal when its judgment comes out this Thursday?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his contribution, and I intend to cover the tribunal later in my speech. Just last week, alongside the EU, US and Canada, we imposed further sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights violations in Belarus, under our Belarus regime. We imposed an asset freeze on a key state-owned entity in order to maintain economic pressure on the repressive Lukashenko regime.

In addition to our new human rights sanctions, on 26 April we launched our global anti-corruption sanctions regime, which gives us the means to impose anti-corruption sanctions on individuals anywhere in the world. It represented a significant step forward for the UK’s global leadership in combatting corruption around the world and promoting fair and open societies.

Since the launch, we have designated 27 individuals who have been involved in serious corruption from nine different countries. We will continue to pursue such designations and promote our values around the world, using powers under both our global human rights and anti-corruption sanctions regimes throughout the year of action, starting with the US-hosted summit for democracy taking place over the next two days on International Anti-Corruption Day and International Human Rights Day.

I recognise that Members today referred to certain named individuals, and I am sure that they will fully understand that I cannot speculate—it would be inappropriate for me to do so.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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There is one person that the Minister could undoubtedly speculate on, because he has been appointed as the Rwandan high commissioner. Surely the Government can announce whether they or not will accept his agrément.

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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I will come to that specific case a little later. I want to cover the points about how Parliament will be consulted and be part of the process, which was raised by several hon. Members. We recognise the range of views expressed by parliamentarians on the best approach to take on the designations proposals and we are grateful for the interest that they take in that. Of course, they can continue to engage with the Government in the usual ways—such as this debate—or they can write to the Foreign Secretary.

I will turn to some of the more specific questions and countries that were raised. On Sudan, we have condemned the abuses and we will continue to press for accountability, including by considering sanctions. However, we also note the fragile situation there, following the 21 November deal which reinstated Prime Minister Hamdok as a first step back towards democratic transition.

On Rwanda, which the hon. Member for Rhondda raised, I assure him that we are following the case of Paul Rusesabagina—the hon. Gentleman pronounces it better than I do—very closely. I assure him that the Minister for Africa has raised our concerns about due process. On Kashmir, I recognise the concerns. We have raised them with the Governments of India and Pakistan.

On the Uyghur Tribunal, we welcome any initiative that is rigorous and balanced, and that raises awareness of the situation faced by the Uyghurs and other minorities in China. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are following the work of the Uyghur Tribunal very closely, and will study any resulting report very carefully. Of course, the policy of successive UK Governments is that any determination of genocide or crimes against humanity is a matter for a competent court.

We and our partners continue to press for an end to hostilities in Ethiopia, and for Eritrean forces to withdraw, and we fully support all mediation efforts. I think it is fair to say that the scale of the human rights abuses detailed by the joint investigation report is horrific. I note that the Government of Ethiopia have set up a taskforce to take forward recommendations from the report, and we will continue to consider a full range of policy options, including sanctions.

As I explained, we work very closely with our partners, in particular the US, Canada and the EU, which have Magnitsky-style sanctions legislation. We co-operate very closely with Australia, which last week introduced legislation to its Parliament that grants it the power to impose global human rights and anti-corruption sanctions, because UK sanctions are most effective when backed up by co-ordinated collective action.

The global human rights sanctions and anti-corruption sanctions regimes have given the UK new very important and powerful tools. The designations that we have already made show that we will act to hold to account those involved in serious human rights violations or abuses, or serious corruption, without fear or favour. In close co-ordination with our allies, we will carefully consider future designations under the regulations. Through concerted action, we will provide accountability for serious human rights violations or abuses and serious corruption around the world, and deter those who might commit them in the future.

Maria Miller Portrait Mrs Maria Miller (in the Chair)
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I call Chris Bryant to wind up.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Stability and Peace

Wendy Morton Excerpts
Thursday 2nd December 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I start by thanking right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House for their clear interest in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the western Balkans and for their often powerful and personal contributions to the debate.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland
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Will the Minister give way?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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I would like to make a bit of progress first. I have a huge number of questions to try to get through, but I will happily come back to my hon. Friend.

As this debate has highlighted, political developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina are of significant concern to the UK Government. I will endeavour to address all the points raised during my speech. The views expressed by Members of this House in relation to peace and security in the region do have an impact. The urgent question of 9 November and the discussion that followed were widely reported in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After the devastating conflicts of the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina has lived in peace for 26 years. This has allowed the country and the region to build stability and prosperity. The late and much-missed Lord Ashdown described the Dayton peace agreement as

“the floor, not the ceiling.”

It is a base upon which to build progress on issues of concern to citizens. Sadly, politicians who are more focused on maintaining their own positions have exploited that agreement.

As the system that underpins stability is undermined, we see tension spreading across the region. Milorad Dodik, a Bosnian Serb member of the tripartite presidency, has threatened to withdraw the Republika Srpska, one of two constitutional entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from important state institutions. The High Representative, Christian Schmidt, has called that an attempt at de facto secession. The situation is as serious as we have seen in a long time.

President Dodik’s plan, which is clearly dangerous and deliberate, would undo much of the hard-won progress of the past two decades. It would isolate the Republika Srpska, increase instability and reduce opportunities for all citizens. We must not be complacent about the risk posed to peace and the long-term future of the country. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve a better future in a stable and prosperous state with strong institutions, and the UK is committed to helping them.

To address these challenges, the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have today appointed a UK special envoy for the western Balkans. I am pleased that Sir Stuart Peach, well known to many in this House as a former Chief of the Defence Staff and then chairman of the NATO military committee, will take on the role. Members, including the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West), have asked what his work will entail. It will involve promoting strong democratic institutions and open societies, helping to tackle serious and organised crime and other joint security challenges, and encouraging resolution of legacy issues such as war crimes and missing persons. The UK will also continue to lead work to advance gender equality and to implement the preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative. I am sure his appointment will be welcomed across the House—I sense that it has been welcomed this afternoon. It demonstrates the UK’s strong commitment to stability and prosperity in the region and to deepening our bilateral relationships.

As a demonstration of our commitment, my ministerial colleagues Lord Ahmad and Baroness Goldie were both in Sarajevo yesterday. They discussed with ministerial counterparts how together we can safeguard Bosnia and Herzegovina’s sovereignty and state integrity. Baroness Goldie marked Armed Forces Day to show our support.

On EUFOR, we worked hard with our allies in the UN Security Council to renew the mandate for the EUFOR stabilisation force, and we welcome EUFOR’s ability to continue its ongoing work. The mandate is an important deterrent against those with malign intent who would seek to damage regional stability.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd
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For the record, there has to be a strong EUFOR presence, but it has only 750 people at the moment, so it is too small. It is not up to this country alone, but what can we do to ensure that we empower EUFOR to act as a real deterrent?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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The most important thing to recognise is that we have renewed the mandate and we welcome the ongoing work that EUFOR can continue. We recognise that it is an important tool and an important deterrent against those with malign intent.

Bernard Jenkin Portrait Sir Bernard Jenkin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I mentioned, I sat through those debates and questions in the 1990s, and I am not prepared to sit through more months and years of prevarication. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) proposed that we should simply make an offer of British armed forces to pump prime the whole of NATO to make a considerable enlargement to the force, because that is what is necessary. The force needs to be moved into the Brčko corridor, which is the main enclave that we need to protect, and to deter the detachment of Republika Srpska armed forces. Otherwise, it will happen—it is happening. It is being encouraged by Russia and we are not doing enough to deter it. We just want a deterrent force; we do not want to start a war.

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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Okay. As I explained, I believe EUFOR is an important deterrent, but I recognise that Members of both sides of the House are keen to understand and learn more about what the UK is doing, so let me make some progress.

On the position of the High Representative, we are fully committed to supporting the High Representative as he works with people in-country to implement the civilian aspects of the peace agreement. We support the use of his executive powers, should the situation require it. As Members are aware, he is in London today and I know that he spoke with many Members this morning. I also met him, as will the Foreign Secretary, and our embassy team in Sarajevo remain in close contact with him. That visible and vocal support for the High Representative is essential. We will not allow those who wish harm on that country to undermine his authority.

Many right hon. and hon. Members raised NATO and asked about the meeting in Riga this week. NATO must play an enhanced role in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the western Balkans. At the NATO foreign ministerial meeting in Riga, the Foreign Secretary focused attention on Bosnia and Herzegovina and encouraged greater engagement from the alliance. She called on allies to contribute personnel to the NATO headquarters in Sarajevo and to support work to counter disinformation and strengthen defence reform. The UK will do its part. The UK also offers defence assistance to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s armed forces in support of capacity building efforts and their partnership for peace goals.

On Russia and disinformation, we are seeing a worrying pattern of Russian behaviour aimed at stopping Bosnia and Herzegovina moving closer to Europe and NATO. The UK takes that extremely seriously and will continue to call out aggression. We are also backing projects to counter disinformation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the wider region, including giving support to independent media organisations.

Bob Stewart Portrait Bob Stewart
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Regarding Russia, when I was in Bosnia as part of the United Nations protection force, a Russian man called Victor Andreev was very much part of the headquarters. I suggest that we invite the Russians to send people, and possibly even forces, to join any units that we deploy there, because that might be a way forward.

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
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I am grateful for my right hon. and gallant Friend’s suggestions, and those of other Members on both sides of the House, which I will consider.

I will touch on Serbian language that is seen as provocative elsewhere in the region. We wholeheartedly condemn that divisive and inflammatory rhetoric, just as we condemn deliberate attempts to destabilise the region. We have consistently urged Serbia and its neighbours to play a constructive role in the region.

I am conscious of time, so I will crack on and try to answer as many questions as I can. Many Members rightly raised the danger of genocide denial and glorifying war criminals. The UK has consistently urged all political leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region to reject hate speech; to condemn any glorification of the perpetrators of genocide and war crimes; and to respect the verdicts of international and domestic courts.

My visit to the Srebrenica Memorial Centre earlier this year, and my meeting with some of the mothers there, is an occasion that will stay with me forever. We cannot allow such crimes to be repeated anywhere in the world. We are working with the Srebrenica Memorial Centre to establish a centre for genocide research, prevention and reconciliation. In the UK, we support the work of Remembering Srebrenica, which works tirelessly to raise awareness.

Many Members raised sanctions, which are an important part of the UK’s toolkit for the western Balkans to address corruption and destabilising activities. Obviously it would not be appropriate to speculate about future sanctions targets, as to do so could reduce their impact, but we are in close contact with our partners and we discuss all aspects of our response to the challenges.

I assure Members that preventing sexual violence in conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a priority through our strategy. We are supporting a number of successful projects. There are many other areas that I would have liked to cover, but I will follow up in writing to any specific questions.

The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina want and deserve security, peace and hope for the future, yet divisive rhetoric and escalating intercommunity tensions threaten those dreams. There is no short-term solution, but as I have set out, the UK has a vital role to play alongside a co-ordinated and focused international response. We remain committed to the success of Bosnia and Herzegovina and all its people.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Earlier in the debate, when reading from awful notes, I made an assertion about the perpetrators of the Srebrenica massacre. In the interest of absolute balance and objectivity, noting current sensitivity within Bosnia, I would like to state for the record that that is contested. I therefore pay tribute to all those across the whole region who have done so much to maintain peace since 1995, and I defer to the position of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Sanctions

Wendy Morton Excerpts
Thursday 4th November 2021

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I beg to move,

That the Republic of Belarus (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (SI, 2021, No. 1146), dated 11 October, a copy of which was laid before this House on 14 October, be approved.

The instrument before us was laid on 14 October under the powers provided by the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, also known as the Sanctions Act. It amends the Republic of Belarus (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 to introduce new measures in the financial, trade and aviation sectors. The regulations that we are debating today revoke and replace the Belarus sanctions regulations laid in August 2021, which contained an error that had the effect of deleting a prohibition on the transfer of restrictive technology to Belarus—that is, military and interception or monitoring technology and technology used for internal repression. These regulations correct that error. I can assure hon. and right hon. Members that there was no continuity gap between the effects of the two sets of regulations.

The Government, along with international partners, decided to increase targeted sanctions because the situation in Belarus continues to deteriorate. On numerous occasions, Lukashenko and his regime have violated democratic principles and the rule of law and violently oppressed civil society, democratic opposition leaders and independent media. This includes the forced diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 on 23 May in order to arrest the journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega. Lukashenko sent in a MiG fighter jet to force the Ryanair plane to land, endangering not only Protasevich and Sapega but everyone else on board. This also showed a flagrant disregard for international aviation law. The couple remain in the custody of the Belarusian authorities. The UK Government reiterate their call on the Belarusian regime to release them and to release all those held on political grounds. The regime has enforced the arbitrary detention of more than 35,000 people and imprisoned more than 800 people on political charges. The United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe have recorded many credible reports of physical mistreatment, including torture, by the penal and security forces in Belarus.

Opposition figures have been harassed and forcefully expelled, and this year Belarus introduced new legislation to further suppress media freedoms and peaceful assembly. The UK supports all those working for a more democratic future for Belarus. We were delighted to welcome Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, leader of the Belarusian democratic opposition, to the UK on 3 August. I was pleased to be able to meet Ms Tsikhanouskaya during her visit, as did the Prime Minister and the former Foreign Secretary, and we reiterated our support. Ms Tsikhanouskaya emphasised the need for further sanctions on the Belarusian regime and commended the UK for taking action.

This instrument enshrines in law our increased sanctions measures on the Belarusian regime, showing that we stand with the people of Belarus. Our sanctions are carefully targeted to build pressure on Lukashenko, state institutions, and those around him while minimising any unintended consequences for the ordinary of people of Belarus who are suffering under authoritarian rule. The measures that it introduces prevent any UK business from trading goods and services with Belarus in sectors that are key sources of revenue for the Lukashenko regime. They limit the regime’s access to items that could enable the internal repression of the Belarusian population, including potash, petroleum products, and interception and monitoring goods and technology. They also cover goods used in cigarette manufacturing, dual-use goods, and technology for military use. We have imposed a prohibition on technical assistance to aircraft where this would benefit persons designated for that purpose. This ensures that UK companies cannot provide services in relation to President Lukashenko’s fleet of luxury aircraft.

Financial measures prohibit dealing with transferable securities and money market instruments issued by the Belarusian state and public bodies, as well as those issued by state-owned banks and the provision of loans. This puts additional pressure on the Belarusian regime, including by preventing future Belarusian Government bonds from being listed on the London stock exchange. This comprehensive response also includes prohibitions on the provision of insurance and reinsurance to Belarusian state bodies, and prohibits the export of biathlon rifles by removing a licensing ground under the arms embargo.

The aviation measures prohibit Belarusian air carriers from overflying or landing in the UK, and that continues the temporary measures we put in place after the events of 23 May. Finally, the measures also give us the power to designate persons for providing support for or obtaining an economic benefit from the Government of Belarus. Since those measures came into force, we have made a further designation under the Belarus sanctions regime under this criterion. UK sanctions action, taken together with our allies, aims to encourage the Belarusian regime to respect democratic principles and institutions, the separation of powers and the rule of law in Belarus. The sanctions also aim to discourage the regime from actions, policies or activities that repress civil society in Belarus and to encourage it to comply with international human rights law.

We regularly review our sanctions and would consider lifting them if we saw significant progress. However, in the case of Belarus, we have seen no progress and the situation continues to deteriorate. Sanctions are most effective when implemented in co-ordination with international partners, and our measures were co-ordinated in June with the EU, the US and Canada, and we will continue to work closely with them on Belarus. Similarly, actions work best when combined with other diplomatic and economic measures, and the UK has assisted independent media and civil society organisations in Belarus, which continue to face unparalleled levels of pressure from the regime. By the end of this financial year, our programme of support to Belarus will have almost tripled since 2019.

The UK unequivocally condemns the appalling campaign of repression waged by the Belarusian regime against the rights and freedoms of the Belarusian people. The regime has oppressed civil society, rejected democratic principles and violated the rule of law. The regulations expand our sanctions in response to the situation on the ground. They demonstrate that we will not accept such egregious violations of human rights. They enable us to stand with our international partners and, most importantly, with the people of Belarus in working towards a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future. I welcome the opportunity to hear the views of Members on the regulations, and I commend them to the House.

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Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I welcome the support from the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West), and I am very grateful for the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell). He takes a really close interest, as do many colleagues from across the House, in Belarus, as I saw recently at an all-party parliamentary group meeting that I attended. I am grateful to all the hon. Members who contributed to our short but very important discussion.

I will briefly address the questions raised. On the effectiveness of sanctions, we obviously continue to monitor all the sanctions that we have in place. It would be wrong of me to pre-empt any future designations, but let me assure the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green that we keep a very close eye on such matters. As I set out in my opening speech, we work very closely with a range of international partners to co-ordinate our sanctions regimes.

As I have said, these regulations give us the power to impose sectoral sanctions that have real impact—an impact that is magnified through co-ordination with our international partners. These sanctions 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, including those who provide support for, or obtain an economic benefit from, the Government of Belarus but who have not previously been designated. The regulations also demonstrate that the UK will not stand by in the face of the regime’s unacceptable behaviour; we are ready and willing to act as part of a network of liberty, and will stand with those who believe in democracy.

I sense there is support across the House for the sanctions, for which I am very grateful, and I hope the House will support the regulations.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Wendy Morton Excerpts
Tuesday 26th October 2021

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Mundell Portrait David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T2. The Nutrition for Growth Tokyo summit will now take place in December, having been postponed by a year. In the meantime, rates of malnutrition have spiralled as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that she will use the summit to reaffirm UK global leadership on nutrition and commit to reaching 50 million people with nutrition services by 2025?

Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I know that my right hon. Friend takes a keen interest in the topic of nutrition. The prevention and treatment of malnutrition remain important for the UK as part of our work on global health humanitarian response and in support of our goals on girls’ education. I assure him that the Government are actively considering our approach to the Nutrition for Growth summit, including any commitments on nutrition, and we will update the House following the conclusion of the spending review.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T3. As we encourage the take-up of the booster jab here, we know that we are not safe until everyone is protected. The same applies globally, yet the vast majority of Africans are yet to receive a single jab. Only 2% of Nigerians have been jabbed, for example, despite Nigeria having the potential to manufacture its own vaccines. Will the Secretary of State work to identify and equip the many manufacturing and fill-and-finish facilities required in Africa, as Labour is calling for, so that Africa can afford to vaccinate Africans?

Sara Britcliffe Portrait Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T5. Does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State welcome the new agreement signed recently with Greece? Can she give examples of how the UK and Greece are working in greater

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I was delighted that yesterday the Foreign Secretary met the Greek Foreign Minister, Minister Dendias, and signed a new strategic bilateral framework that will build on the co-operation between our countries. It will open up new opportunities for trade and investment in both countries, allowing us to build on the £4.5 billion-worth of annual trade that we already have. It will also enable better co-operation among our businesses, investors and industry, and will promote even stronger security and defence co-operation, both as NATO allies and in enhancing Europe’s resilience in the face of security threats.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T4. I welcome the Secretary of State to her position. Will she update the House on her Government’s recent discussions with international allies on restarting a meaningful peace process between Palestine and the Israeli Government? Will she describe the personal importance that she attaches to achieving a two-state solution?

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Rupa Huq Portrait Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can the Foreign Secretary and former Lord Chancellor impress upon her counterparts in Poland the importance of a judiciary that is free from political interference, as that seems to be under threat there? Can she also reiterate that, post Brexit, Her Majesty’s sovereign Government control their own border policy, which totally entitles them to exclude hate speakers such as the polemicist Rafał Ziemkiewicz, as happened the other day at Heathrow airport?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

In relation to Poland, we are aware of the recent European Court of Human Rights ruling, which found that recent Polish constitutional court rulings involving controversially appointed judges did not constitute a tribunal established by law. It is for each country to decide on its constitutional arrangements, but here in the UK we expect alignment with international law.

Oral Answers to Questions

Wendy Morton Excerpts
Tuesday 20th July 2021

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
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What recent discussions he has had with the Colombian Government on the policing of protests and incidents of violence against protesters in that country.

Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

We remain concerned about reports of human rights violations in relation to recent protests in Colombia, and we regularly raise our concerns with the relevant state actors. I spoke with the then Colombian acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express my concerns and to welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of excessive use of force by the police. I also spoke with the Colombian ambassador to the UK on 12 July to ask for an update on investigations. I was pleased to learn that more than 200 investigations into alleged misconduct by the police are now open.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for that answer, but the truth is that the UK Government are providing extensive training and support to Colombian police, despite evidence of extensive police brutality, with up to 43 people allegedly murdered, a catalogue of sexual assaults and people being blinded by having tear gas canisters fired in their face. Will the Minister commit to publishing full overseas security and justice assessments for activities under this programme, so that the House can satisfy itself that the Government are not contributing to further abuses of human rights in Colombia?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

On police training, our conflict, stability and security fund’s Colombia peace and stabilisation programme launched the £2.1 million police innovations for stabilisation in Colombia project in 2021. The project is supporting the transformation of the Colombian national police, but we are not aware of any police units in Colombia that have received UK training support being involved in human rights violations. Colombia is a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office human rights priority country. We take the growing levels of violence against social leaders and human rights defenders extremely seriously, and we consistently raise our concerns with the Colombian Government and in multilateral forums.

Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
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What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on inserting clauses on human rights in future trade deals.

--- Later in debate ---
Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
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My hon. Friend raises an important point on a very sensitive issue. International child parental abduction is a hugely distressing matter for the parents and families affected, and they have my deepest sympathy. Consular officials can provide support to British people affected by such issues both overseas and here in the UK. Officials can advise left-behind parents about the most effective way to make local authorities aware of the court orders they hold. Where appropriate, the FCDO can express an interest in the case with the relevant court and other local authorities. We can also put families in touch with partner organisations, such as Reunite International, which offers specialised support and mediation services. We can liaise with local authorities and, with the permission of UK courts, present with court orders served in the UK, but it is important to note that the FCDO is not a law enforcement body and is unable to enforce court orders in the UK overseas. We are unable to compel foreign jurisdictions to enforce UK—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. There must be shorter answers, as these are topical questions.

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Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
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Following the G7 summit, with its focus on vaccinations and their global roll-out, does my hon. Friend agree that the challenges of antimicrobial resistance are at least as great and therefore need a similar focus in terms of research, manufacturing and distribution?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

AMR is one of the most pressing global challenges we face this century, and the UK is a global leader in taking action on AMR. We champion it as a priority on the international stage, including through our G7 presidency and the work of Professor Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s special envoy on AMR. Since 2014, we have invested more than £360 million in research and development on AMR.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) (LD) [V]
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I and many of my constituents are horrified by the increasing hostility and outright homophobia and transphobia shown by the Hungarian Government towards their LGBT+ citizens. It is shameful that the UK Government are treating Viktor Orbán like a close friend when we should be making clear that such discrimination is anathema to British values. Does the Secretary of State regret the decision to roll out the red carpet to Viktor Orbán and welcome him into No. 10 just a few weeks ago?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

The Prime Minister did indeed meet Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán on 28 May. Co-operation with Hungary, as the incoming president of the Visegrad Group from 1 July, is important for the UK’s prosperity and security. As hon. Members would expect, the Prime Minister raised various values in his meeting, such as media freedom and issues of discrimination. I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that where we have issues of concern, we do not shy away from raising them.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes (Eastleigh) (Con)
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This month marks six years since the joint comprehensive plan of action nuclear deal was signed, yet Iran has faced no consequences for its flagrant violations of the deal. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that Iran has failed to live up to its nuclear commitments, and will he confirm that nothing is off the table, including the reimposition of sanctions?

EEA EFTA Separation Agreement Joint Committee

Wendy Morton Excerpts
Tuesday 20th July 2021

(1 year ago)

Written Statements
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Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
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The EEA EFTA separation agreement, which was agreed with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, and signed on 28 January 2020, covers citizens’ rights and other separation provisions.

These provisions wind down certain arrangements that the UK had with the EEA EFTA States by virtue of their participation in the single market and other EU-led initiatives. The separation agreement established a joint committee whose primary role is to supervise and facilitate the implementation and application of the separation agreement, with the power to make decisions. The joint committee has a rotating chair which is currently held by Iceland.

The second meeting of the joint committee took place on 27 May 2021, by video conference. Each of the parties gave an update on implementation and application of the separation agreement, and reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring the citizens’ rights provisions are upheld for those in scope. The independent monitoring authority and the EFTA surveillance authority also attended to give updates on their monitoring and complaints handling functions required by the separation agreement.

The joint committee adopted a decision to amend part 1 of annex I of the separation agreement to reflect decisions taken by the EU’s administrative commission for the co-ordination of social security systems that have also been incorporated into the EEA agreement. The decision of the joint committee ensures the separation agreement reflects the latest position under the EEA agreement. These decisions concern the interpretation of relevant social security co-ordination, including on data processing and exchange. They do not impact the rights provided for in the separation agreement. Full detail on and copies of this decision have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.

The joint committee will meet at least annually, with Liechtenstein holding the next rotating chair. The next meeting is expected to take place in 2022. I commit to updating Parliament immediately following future meetings of the joint committee where decisions are taken.

[HCWS207]

Colombia

Wendy Morton Excerpts
Thursday 15th July 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall
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Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Mrs Miller.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Jarrow (Kate Osborne) for securing this debate. Peace and human rights in Colombia is an issue that means a great deal to her, as it does to me, and judging by this afternoon’s debate and the correspondence that I receive as a Minister, it means a great deal to hon. Members throughout the House. I am grateful for the contributions of all Members today. I will do my best to respond to as many of the points as I can.

Let me start by saying that the UK is a key supporter of Colombia’s historic 2016 peace agreement. We are proud to lead on the issue at the United Nations Security Council. Colombia is also a human rights priority country for this Government and an important partner to the UK in Latin America. Members may read our assessment of the current state of human rights in Colombia in the annual human rights report that was published by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office last week, on 8 July.

This debate is set against a backdrop of worrying protest, which has spread across Colombia. Starting on 28 April a national strike, accompanied by widespread demonstrations, was carried out with the support of a broad range of civil society actors. The strike was mostly characterised by peaceful protests, with demands revolving around a range of issues. However, the protests also led to violent clashes between the public security forces and protesters, the deliberate destruction of public infrastructure, lengthy road blockades and alleged abuses by public security forces.

From 28 April to 16 June, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights registered allegations of 56 deaths—54 civilians and two police officers—in the context of the protests, and hundreds were injured. The British Government understand the deep concern about the reports of human rights violations in relation to the protests, and we engaged with the Colombian Government at an early stage of the protests to raise our concerns. On 14 May I spoke to the then acting Foreign Minister, Adriana Mejía, to express our concerns and to welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of excessive use of force by the police.

On Monday this week, I spoke to the Colombian ambassador to the UK for an update on the investigations and was pleased to learn that more than 200 investigations into alleged misconduct by police are now open. We have made it clear that we look to the Colombian authorities to fully investigate any reports of excessive use of force, and to take appropriate action against those responsible. We firmly support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and the Colombian Government know that we look to them to guarantee respect for the rights to peaceful assembly and association. I reiterated that message publicly on 6 May, and in doing so mirrored the messaging from our embassy in Bogotá on 4, 5 and 7 May.

Some hon. Members asked about police training. The UK’s engagement goes beyond ministerial and official discussions. We work closely with the UN verification mission and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, as well as the wider international community, in support of their efforts to reduce tensions and to promote dialogue. We are firmly committed to our programmes to help implement the peace agreement, to support peace, stability and security and to build a more prosperous Colombian society. President Duque’s promise of police reform, including increased oversight of officers, is an important step in response to the protests. One of our programmes supports the modernisation of the Colombian national police and is being implemented through the International Organisation for Migration, with strategic support and advice from Police Scotland. Like all our training of overseas law enforcement officers, the project is supported by the cross-governmental International Police Assistance Board and received an overseas security and justice assistance assessment to gauge and mitigate any human rights risks that arise from providing training to specific forces. We are not aware of any police units in Colombia that had received UK training support being involved in human rights violations.

One of our top priorities for Colombia is to support the Government to implement the 2016 peace accords. Since 2015, the UK has spent more than £63 million in support of peace, stability and security in Colombia. As hon. Members have highlighted, we lead on the issue at the UN Security Council, and we are the largest donor to the UN trust fund supporting the implementation of the peace agreement.

We recognise the important progress that has been achieved so far. Security conditions in much of the country are considerably better than over the past five years, and strides have been made towards the reintegration of former combatants. Our work at the United Nations in New York as penholder on Colombia’s peace process is making a real difference. In May, the Security Council unanimously adopted a UK-drafted resolution to expand the mandate of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia. This is a significant step, tasking the mission with verifying compliance with the transitional justice sentences of the special jurisdiction for peace.

On transitional justice specifically, which was raised by the hon. Member for Jarrow and others, the UK has always supported the vital work of the transitional justice elements of the peace accords, and we are extremely pleased that those institutions have been able to continue their work despite the challenges posed by covid-19. The UK Government have contributed over £26 million towards transitional justice mechanisms and victims of the conflict in Colombia since 2016, which includes supporting the truth commission’s work to gather testimony from Colombians—both in Colombia and abroad, including here in the UK—as well as working to enhance the investigatory capacity of the special jurisdiction for peace, Colombia’s post-conflict special court.

The transitional justice institutions established by the peace agreement are now reaching a critical phase in their work, with the special jurisdiction for peace due to hand down its first sentences, and the truth commission due to issue its final report, later this year.

Colleagues have also raised the issue of human rights defenders, so let me just say a few words on that issue, because despite what I have said and despite the fantastic progress that has been made, the situation in Colombia remains challenging and fragile. The country is in the grip of a prolonged third wave of covid-19. During 2020, Colombia saw a 6.8 percentage point increase in poverty levels and 7.4 million people, which is 15% of the population, now live in extreme poverty.

The continued presence of illegal armed groups in Colombia, and the impact that their violence and intimidation have on the vulnerable population, is a serious concern. In 2020, the UN confirmed that 133 human rights defenders had been killed. Since the signing of the peace deal with FARC in 2016, over 275 community leaders and former FARC members have been killed.

The UK has funded programmes to help Colombia tackle the conditions that make people susceptible to recruitment by armed groups, and that foster the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders, social leaders, former FARC-EP combatants, trade unionists and others.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not delay the Minister for too long. I asked about the transfer of land, because I believe that if we tackle the real bread-and-butter issues, such as giving the land to the people who should be getting it through the agreement and the peace accords, that would also help to take away some of the sting.

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue, and I was just about to come on to the issues of sustainable recovery, trade and economic opportunities, all of which are important.

As for raising our concerns, I can assure Members that we regularly raise specific cases of concern with the Colombian authorities. In February, the UK ambassador for human rights, Rita French, conducted a virtual visit to Colombia to discuss human rights issues. That followed on from Lord Ahmad’s human rights-focused virtual visit to Colombia in October 2020.

As Colombia begins its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the UK is committed to supporting the promotion of sustainable economic opportunities that will help tackle some of the root causes of the ongoing violence there. Our international climate finance commitments play a vital role in addressing that challenge. Since 2011, we have provided over £237 million in Colombia to help halt deforestation, improve land use and create profitable, sustainable supply chains that protect the environment. Last year, we announced a £64 million programme to support the Colombian Government in reducing deforestation, specifically in conflict-affected areas.

I am also pleased to say that this year marks the second anniversary of the signing of the UK-Colombia partnership for sustainable growth. As we look forward to COP26 later this year, that partnership is a concrete example of how a bilateral commitment for nature and sustainable growth can foster climate ambition globally.

Let me assure Members of our continued commitment to prioritising human rights in our relationship with Colombia, and I thank colleagues from across the House today for their interest, concern and activism, as well as for sharing their many ideas with me today. We welcome your perspectives, all of which help us to build a productive dialogue with the Colombian authorities and civil society groups to address the ongoing challenges in the implementation of the peace accord and to shore up the gains made since 2016.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Wendy Morton Excerpts
Monday 28th June 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Ministerial Corrections
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Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

What recent assessment he has made of the potential effect of reductions in the UK aid budget on tackling the covid-19 pandemic.

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton [V]
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[Inaudible]—is having on the world’s poorest countries. The FCDO is committed to the global effort to tackle the pandemic. We have made new public commitments worth up to £1.3 billion of ODA to counter the health, humanitarian and socioeconomic impacts of covid-19 and to support the global effort to distribute vaccines equitably, as well as adopting our programmes in 2020 amounting to more than £700 million. As we have heard, the Prime Minister announced at the G7 that the UK will donate 100 million vaccine doses within the next five years, with 5 million of those by the end of September, to ensure global vaccination by the end of 2022.

[Official Report, 15 June 2021, Vol. 697, c. 112.]

Letter of correction from the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton). An error has been identified in my response to the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham).

The correct response should have been.

Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton) [V]
- Hansard - -

[Inaudible]—is having on the world’s poorest countries. The FCDO is committed to the global effort to tackle the pandemic. We have made new public commitments worth up to £1.3 billion of ODA to counter the health, humanitarian and socioeconomic impacts of covid-19 and to support the global effort to distribute vaccines equitably, as well as adopting our programmes in 2020 amounting to more than £700 million. As we have heard, the Prime Minister announced at the G7 that the UK will donate 100 million vaccine doses within the next year, with 5 million of those by the end of September, to ensure global vaccination by the end of 2022.

Deforestation in the Amazon

Wendy Morton Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd June 2021

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall
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Wendy Morton Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Wendy Morton)
- Hansard - -

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) on securing this debate. We have had a very broad debate with a lot of contributions from right across the House. This issue means a lot to my right hon. Friend and quite clearly to Members across the House. It means a lot to me as well. Given the breadth of the debate, I will endeavour to answer as many questions as I can. On whether I will have time for interventions, let us see how I canter along, but I will try my best.

Protecting the Amazon is a priority for the UK. The pandemic has been a powerful reminder of the great global challenges that pose an existential threat to our security and prosperity here in the UK. We recognise that in our integrated review of UK foreign policy, in which we said that tackling climate change and biodiversity loss is our No. 1 international priority. Climate change and biodiversity loss are inseparable. We cannot stop climate change without protecting the natural environment, and we cannot protect the natural environment without tackling climate change. Conserving the Amazon is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

As we heard, the Amazon is one of the world’s most precious places. It is one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Its role in the global ecosystem, producing oxygen, absorbing carbon dioxide and regulating rainfall and temperatures, is huge. It is home to numerous indigenous people. Around a quarter of all drugs used today are derived from rainforest plants. It is estimated that the Amazon stores almost five years’ worth of global emissions of carbon dioxide. If deforestation is allowed to carry on, it will reach a tipping point—potentially in the next 10 years. Unchecked, the Amazon will be turned from carbon sink into source of emissions. That is one of the gravest risks that the world faces. It is a critical time for action on climate change, as we prepare to host COP26 in November. We know there is no path to net zero without a massive escalation of efforts to protect and restore nature, and crucially to protect the Amazon.

As president of COP26 and recently president of the G7, we have put nature at the heart of our response to tackling climate change. The leaders’ 2030 Nature Compact set out G7 ambition to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, highlighting nature’s role in tackling climate change; tackling deforestation through supporting sustainable supply chains; and participating in the COP26 forest, agriculture and commodity trade dialogue.

The problems with deforestation do not stop with climate or biodiversity. There is a strong link with security. Across the Amazon, illegal deforestation is inseparably bound up with criminal organisations. They operate transnationally, trafficking wood, minerals, drugs and people. Tackling illegal deforestation is vital, whether through alternative livelihoods or law enforcement co-operation. More than anything, it requires strong and principled political leadership.

It is not a challenge for any one country or even one region alone. The world’s tropical forests benefit all of us, and all countries have a shared responsibility as consumers and producers alike. The furniture we buy and the food that we eat can make a difference. We know that to protect the Amazon we need to support the efforts of countries in the region. There are three that contain more than three quarters of the forest between them: Brazil, Colombia and Peru. We cannot achieve our aims without Brazil, and I welcome Brazil’s recommitment to zero deforestation in the Amazon by 2030, which it announced at the Earth Day summit this year.

We are eager to see the robust implementation plans that Brazil will need to deliver on that commitment. We are using our diplomatic capabilities and ODA programming to encourage the Brazilian Government to recommit to implementing and enforcing the Brazilian forest code, which is an important legal mechanism for protecting the Amazon rainforest. For Brazil, setting out those plans will bring advantages. It will shore up investor and consumer confidence and unlock private sector financial flows.

We are working at a national level with Brazil and with individual regions, for example, supporting the state of Mato Grosso to reduce deforestation, through our climate finance programmes. Brazil needs to tackle its problems of deforestation urgently, and we are closely watching the rates of deforestation and Brazil’s actions, as the dry season approaches.

A number of hon. Members referred to vulnerable communities and indigenous peoples. We are engaging with state Governments and local authorities. We have a results-based agreement with the states of Mato Grosso and Acre, which helps indigenous communities to develop sustainable income sources, and strengthen food security. Around 20,000 families have benefited so far.

Through the ICF partnerships for forests programme, the UK also supports almost 2,000 indigenous people, to strengthen their livelihoods through sustainable forest management. Our embassy international programme works to better understand the needs of indigenous peoples, supporting vulnerable communities during the pandemic.

As we ask other countries to act on climate change, it is only right that we make our own commitments. We have committed to double our international climate finance to £11.6 billion over the next five years, and to invest at least £3 billion of that in solutions that protect and restore nature. We are engaging the multilateral development banks and asking them to put nature first across all their work, and to support countries to fulfil their environmental commitments

As we announced at President Biden’s climate summit, we are helping to build the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance coalition, which aims to mobilise $1 billion in financing. It will kick off what is expected to become one of the largest ever public-private efforts to protect tropical forests and support sustainable development.

Reducing our footprint overseas is critical to that development. This year, through the forest, agriculture and commodity trade dialogue, we are bringing together the biggest producers and consumers of the commodities that drive deforestation—cocoa, cattle, soy and palm oil. Together with those countries and co-chair Indonesia, we are agreeing actions to protect forests and other carbon- rich ecosystems, such as the Amazon, while promoting trade and development.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

While the Minister is speaking about the private-public partnerships, could she comment on the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) on the banking—financial—sector, which we are famous for, so that it is a virtual circle?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
- Hansard - -

I am about to come onto that point. In May, our joint statement, drafted with the 24 signatory countries on collaboration, was endorsed by critical Amazon countries, such as Brazil, Colombia and Peru. I have talked about a responsibility to reduce our impact at home. We are bringing forward a law that will make it illegal for larger businesses in the UK to use forest risk commodities produced on land used illegally. That will make sure there is no place for illegally produced commodities on our supermarket shelves, and support other countries to enforce their own forest protection measures. At the same time, we are working with UK businesses to improve the sustainability of their soy and palm oil supply chains through roundtables on these.

On the point raised by the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) about the importance of engaging with the financial sector on deforestation, the UK Government are funding a phase 2 global resource initiative taskforce, tasked specifically to make recommendations on addressing deforestation and linked finance. It will report with recommendations to the Government in the autumn.

Those initiatives are helping UK supermarkets and restaurants reach 100% sustainable soy and palm oil to reduce the UK’s environmental footprint overseas. Alongside that engagement with businesses, we urgently need financial decision making and investments to take account of nature. The launch of the taskforce on nature-related financial disclosure this month marks an important milestone in that process and builds on our leadership in green finance.

Chris Grayling Portrait Chris Grayling
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

All the Minister has described is part of a great step forward in the policies of the UK Government, and I commend them. However, the reality is the urgency of what is happening in the Amazon is serious. I encourage the Minister, and her colleagues in the Foreign Office and diplomatic service, to step up the pressure. Does she agree that we cannot afford to wait to stop the deforestation in Brazil? Will she commit to telling the diplomatic service to step up what it does with the Brazilians, and look at other ways of putting pressure on them to bring this to a halt as quickly as possible?

Wendy Morton Portrait Wendy Morton
- Hansard - -

My right hon. Friend makes an important point, and reminds us of the importance of climate change. We do engage with the Brazilians. The Foreign Secretary recently discussed with the Brazilian Foreign Minister how we can work more constructively together to deliver COP26 objectives. UK Ministers and diplomats in Brasilia routinely engage with the highest levels of the Brazilian Government, on this and many other important items. Protecting the Amazon is critical if we are to tackle climate change and restore nature, and for long-term prosperity in the region. The UK is working closely with our partners there to support their efforts to reduce deforestation and protect the Amazon.