Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing another showdown with rebel Tory MPs after the House of Lords has again amended the Government’s Trade Bill in a bid to provide justice for victims of genocide.
Peers have backed the new amendment by 367 votes to 214, a majority of 153, and it will now go back to the Commons for MPs to look at.
The bill has gone back and forth between the House of Lords and the House of Commons due to a row over how the UK approaches post-Brexit trade deals with countries suspected of committing genocide.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister narrowly avoided a Tory backbench rebellion on the issue as 31 Tory MPs voted against the Government on an amendment to its Trade Bill, with Mr Johnson narrowly avoiding defeat by just 15 votes.
However, the Government was branded “shameful” and accused of “dirty tricks” by ministers after it blocked a separate vote on the genocide amendment, tabled by Catholic peer Lord David Alton of Liverpool, which would have forced ministers to withdraw from any free trade agreement with any country which the High Court ruled is committing genocide.
Lord Alton’s amendment, which received cross-party support, was replaced by a Government-backed compromise amendment, enabling select committees of either House to consider whether a country is committing genocide.
However, peers have now voted in favour of a further amendment tabled by Lord Alton, which would see a parliamentary panel of former judicial experts, rather than the High Court, involved in making a determination on whether a country has committed genocide.
Speaking during a debate on the bill in the House of Lords, Lord Alton told peers: “We fail to predict genocide. We fail to prevent genocide, to protect victims of genocide and to prosecute perpetrators of genocide. The genocide amendment is a modest attempt to address some of those failings.
“We have tweaked the government amendment, which would enable the appropriate select committee to refer evidence, if they have found some, to an ad hoc judicial committee comprised of members of our House who have served at the highest levels of the judiciary.
“Although emphatically it is not a court, which was the preferred option of peers, it would be empowered to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to support the claim that genocide has been or was being committed by a state counter-party to a bilateral trade agreement.”
The genocide amendment comes amid reports of China’s brutal treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province, where thousands of people are said to be living in concentration camps.
Lord Alton has urged constituents to contact their MPs before the next vote in the House of Commons.
Picture: Rohingya Muslims protest against their treatment in Myanmar. (CNS photo/Rupak De Chowdhuri, Reuters).