My experience of the House leads me to conclude that when somebody pays a Member a compliment, they should bank it and move on. However, although I am grateful to the Minister and the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), it is important to say that a lot of people have worked on the Magnitsky amendment or law, as it has come to be known, many of whom sit on the opposite side of the House. Many of them have also been involved in this matter for a lot longer than I have, but I do stand to speak in support of new clause 3.
Mr Robert Neill:
I welcome everything my right hon. Friend has done around the Magnitsky law and the fact that the Government have accepted it. Is he aware that the Government and Parliament of Gibraltar have already introduced a Magnitsky law, which indicates their willingness to be ahead of the game, rather than having to be dragged forward?
Then they should feel extremely virtuous. It is important that we recognise that we are today is putting in place something that already exists in a number of other legal jurisdictions—the Baltic states, the United States and Canada. A number of other countries are looking to do this, too.
David Cameron has been mentioned a lot today, and his commitment on this matter has been vital. In a recent speech to Transparency International he said:
“One of my regrets of my time in office was that we didn’t introduce the Magnitsky Act. The Foreign Office argument was that Britain’s existing approach was better, because we could sanction all the people on that list—and more besides. And I went along with it.
But I soon realised this ignored the advantages of working together—with other countries—under a common heading. It’s not PR, it’s a fact. You get extra clout from coming together across the world and saying with one voice to those who are responsible for unacceptable acts: ‘We are united in our action against you.’”
He then paid tribute to his successor as Prime Minister and to Parliament for passing the provisions in the recent Criminal Finances Act 2017, and also referred to a person who deserves mention in this House today. Bill Browder, along with others, has put himself at huge risk to make sure that those who murdered his lawyer and friend Sergei Magnitsky are not able to travel around the world, bank, buy property and operate in a manner that we rightly take for granted in this country but should be denied to people who have behaved in that way. If we remember anyone today, we should think of the piteous image of Sergei Magnitsky after months of imprisonment. He was extremely unwell and then beaten to death by thugs at the behest of people who have still not been held to account. Today we are saying to them, “Not in our country are you going to be able to do business,” and we should feel proud of that.
In an act of extreme serendipity, I found myself on the Bill’s Committee. I am extremely grateful to members of that Committee, to the Minister and his officials, and subsequently, in recent weeks after the Salisbury incident, to the Prime Minister for absolutely accepting that we need to have what will be known as the full Magnitsky. We went a considerable way towards that a year ago with the Criminal Finances Act, but are now in a position to say that we are in accordance with the Magnitsky provisions of other countries. It is important that we get the definitions right—I do not think that we got there in Committee—but to now have a definition of gross human rights abuse that is in accordance with the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 is important.
My brief comments today will be about what Parliament does now, because the Bill is gratifyingly loose in its description of what kind of review mechanism Parliament will impose. This is crucial. In recent days, I have had useful discussions with Committee Clerks, the Chairmen of the Liaison and Procedure Committees and a number of others about what kind of structure we could create in accordance with the Bill to allow individuals—Members of this House, members of organisations such as Amnesty International or Bill Browder’s, or any individual—to say to the Government, “We have evidence that these people have done this and should be sanctioned.” The Government will produce a report to Parliament every 12 months setting out who has made representations to them. In an important response to the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), the Minister made a clear assertion that the names on the sanctions list will be made public. That is important.
Mr Jonathan Djanogly:
I have to say that the Minister did not go into very much detail in his excellent opening remarks about what would be in the report proposed under new clause 3. If my right hon. Friend has had discussions with him on that, it would be interesting to hear about them. If not, it would be interesting to hear more from the Minister later on.
We have it in our power to create something in Parliament that will hold future Governments as well as this Government to account. I am full of respect for what our security Ministers have been doing recently to freeze the bank accounts of certain individuals, and I absolutely believe that the Government have the will to ensure that we get our economy sorted out so that we cannot be a safe haven for these people. However, what we are talking about will be happening way into the future. It will affect future Governments as well, and we must hold them to account.
We could put this in the hands of an existing Committee —perhaps a Select Committee—but I suggest that that might not be the right framework. A Select Committee has the specific role of holding a Department of State to account and looking into certain details. I personally like the idea of a bespoke Committee that would draw together members of different Committees. The example that I would throw out there for others more important than me to grab is the Committees on Arms Export Controls—the CAEC. It has a specific remit, with members from various Select Committees, and I think it would be an effective model.
May I urge the right hon. Gentleman to read new clause 10, which sets out a proposal for a scrutiny Committee?
Well, I have. I just think the new clause 3 leaves it much more open for Parliament to make a decision, and I am quite content with that, although I am open to other suggestions. Some people say that the Joint Committee on Human Rights might be best placed to carry out this scrutiny, but I see, from delving into the Standing Orders, that Standing Order No. 152B(2)(a) states that the Joint Committee has a remit to look at
“matters relating to human rights in the United Kingdom”.
What we are talking about here is matters relating to human rights anywhere. We could be talking about someone who is evicting the Rohingya, for example, or actions taken in conflicts or situations as yet unknown and unforeseen. We need to ensure that we can look at human rights everywhere.
As a member of the CAEC, I urge the right hon. Gentleman to think again about using it as a model for a scrutiny Committee. I sit on it, and it struggles to function—it did not meet for two years—but one thing that it did recommend was a measure to allow the Government to shut down brass-plate companies, on which I have tabled an amendment in the next group.
I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman is making. I am not completely wedded to that idea. I simply say that this is in our grasp—this is now Parliament’s duty. Following the very good discussions that I have had with my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), the Chairman of the Liaison Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, as well as with other wise heads and people with much more experience than I have, I know that we need to design something that really works. The crucial thing that works in Congress and in other Parliaments is what is known in the United States as the “congressional trigger”, under which it is possible to really ask questions of the Executive. Through the measure that we are discussing today, the Executive are giving Parliament the power to get this right, and we must take that duty very seriously.