Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure from Tory MPs to make a “meaningful” compromise over proposals to outlaw trade deals with countries that are committing genocide.
Conservative former leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith urged the Government to “stop this nonsense” and accept Trade Bill changes to ensure ministers have to withdraw from any free trade agreement with any country which the High Court rules is committing genocide.
The House of Lords reinserted this trade safeguard into the legislation after the Prime Minister was able to narrowly overturn it in the Commons.
The Bill returns to the Commons on Tuesday, with Conservative MPs demanding action – particularly in light of fresh reports of abuses being carried out against the Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.
Responding to an urgent question on the treatment of Uighur women in Xinjiang detention camps, Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams said the UK is “carefully considering” further sanctions against officials in China.
He also insisted the Government is working with MPs ahead of Tuesday’s debate on the Bill, adding it believes there should be “more enhanced scrutiny” for Parliament on genocide.
Senior Tory Sir Iain asked for further sanctions against individuals involved in the abuses, telling the Commons: “A litany of terrible, terrible abuse, rape… concentration camps, people being sterilised, people being maltreated, abused, tortured. This sounds like something of 75 years ago, but it isn’t, it’s today.
“And so I say to (Mr Adams): it’s no good any more, with respect to him, coming to the despatch box saying that he agrees with all of this – where are the Magnitsky sanctions on the individuals? We’ve got all the evidence that’s necessary.
“And finally, why, oh why is the Government going out of its way to block this amendment that’s coming back to the House of Commons which will give the courts the power to decide that this is a genocide?
“He’s just said in his statement that only the courts can say it is genocide. So let’s stop this nonsense please and allow this amendment to go through and to get the courts to make this decision of genocide.
“It will be a leading position from a British Government. That’s the way to go.”
Mr Adams replied : “Can I again be absolutely clear, we understand the strength of feeling, and particularly around the Trade Bill.
“We do believe there must be more enhanced scrutiny for Parliament on genocide and our response to this crime.
“That’s why we will work with him, we will work with other honourable and right honourable members in this regard.
“As we have said, competent courts include international courts such as the ICC and the ICJ and national criminal courts that meet international standards of due process.”
Conservative Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) added: “Does the Foreign Office believe it is ethically right to sign preferential treaties with states credibly accused of genocide, systematic rape, sexual torture, forced sterilisation, re-education camps, forced labour, Orwellian surveillance?
“This is a tragedy happening in our time and it demands moral recognition, so why is the Government blocking our meaningful genocide amendment in the Trade Bill?
“And will the Government please work with us to bring in a meaningful amendment to that Trade Bill that recognises the criticality, the moral imperative of recognising genocide and a genocide that is happening in our age?”
Mr Adams replied: “Of course it’s not right that we should be entering into these agreements with genocidal countries.
“I can again be absolutely clear that we understand the strength of his feeling on this matter, and other (MPs). We are working with (MPs) right across the House, work that will continue in the run-up to next Tuesday when the Bill comes back to this place.”
Conservative former minister Nus Ghani, who secured the urgent question, earlier said there should be “no deepening of ties” between the UK and China until there has been a “full judicial inquiry” into claims of genocide against the Uighur people.
Conservative Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield) argued the Chinese state is “denying genocide”, adding: “We must have the courage and confidence to resist inhuman despotism, as this country proudly has in the past.”
For Labour, shadow Foreign Office minister Stephen Kinnock said the time for “tangible action” against China “has now come” and called for the Government to amend the Bill.