Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill - Committee (3rd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 7:37 pm ar 7 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green 7:37, 7 Mai 2024

My Lords, I rise to offer Green support for Amendment 20 while stressing our continued opposition to the entire Bill. The argument for Amendment 20—that Clause 3(7) not be in the Bill—has already been powerfully made, but I will make three brief points. The first is about international law. This point has been powerfully made by many noble Lords already, and you do not have to listen to me; you can listen to Alicia Kearns MP, chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, who pointed out that, as the Bill is written, it constitutes a departure from British foreign policy that

“puts the UK in breach of our commitments under UN Security Council resolution 2334

My second point picks up a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Oates. We have seen changes, over the months, in the British Government’s rhetoric at least, if not in their policy, when it comes to arms sales to the Israeli state, which will become only more legally, diplomatically and politically pressing. But we are not here talking about policy. We are talking about law: something on the statute book that remains until the law is changed. The convention, of course, is that no Parliament binds its successors, but we know how time-consuming and energy-consuming it is to change past errors as circumstances change.

The third point I want to make is one that no one else has made, but I am afraid that I have to, which is to refer to what is happening as we speak. Hundreds of thousands of people are in desperate fear with nowhere left to run, nowhere to seek safety. The Israeli state has seized the Rafah border crossing. A couple of figures haunt me. One of them is, of course, the death toll, which is approaching 35,000 in Gaza, but another figure I saw last week is that 5% of people in Gaza have been killed or injured. That is a deeply shocking figure.

There are many horrors around the world. We hear little enough in your Lordships’ House and elsewhere about Sudan and South Sudan. As Greens, we are always seeking support to focus on the massive human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. I also have to put the situation of the people of Afghanistan, particularly its women, into this list. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, referred with displeasure to what is happening now in our universities and those around the world, where mostly young people are expressing their horror at what is being done to an occupied people, of whom 5% have been killed or injured. I believe those young people should have the right to do that. We will come shortly to the issue of universities.

I must stress that the horror and anger must not be directed at the wrong targets but we are seeing people expressing their humanity and their care for others, particularly the most vulnerable. To suppress that is indefensible in general, but to pick on an area where there is so much suffering at this moment makes Clause 3(7) particularly indefensible.