Genocide (Prevention and Response) Bill [HL] - Third Reading – in the House of Lords am 10:06 am ar 17 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws:

Moved by Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws

That the Bill do now pass.

Photo of Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws Llafur

My Lords, I would like the opportunity, with the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, to speak briefly to the purpose of this Bill and the stage we have now reached. Noble Lords will remember that the Bill came into being because of the horrifying global events we have all witnessed over recent years. The levels of violence and degradation are not new, but we thought that the experience of the Holocaust had taught the world lessons that might have enabled early intervention, possible diversion and maybe even prevention.

Genocides do not come from nowhere. They are invariably preceded by terrible atrocity crimes, and even before that there is a long trajectory. The whole point of this Bill is that, in retrospect, we should be responding to early displays of hostility, land grabs and the many different ways in which there are red flags as to trouble ahead. The Holocaust did not start with concentration camps. It started with evictions, sackings, trumped-up prosecutions, assaults by extremist thugs, humiliations and so on—for example, the whole business of cleaning streets with toothbrushes.

The events which led to this Bill were the horrors of what happened to the Yazidis under ISIS: the enslavement of so many women; the slaughtering of men and boys. Similar horrible atrocities happened to the Rohingya, with killings and rapes in Myanmar. There is also the case of the Uighurs in China. There are the horrors of what happened, and is still happening, in Sudan in Darfur. We hear, of course, the language of genocide being discussed by Ukrainians about their current experience, and in the Middle East by both sides who perceive existential threat.

The Bill is designed to strengthen a very small atrocity unit created 18 months ago in the Foreign Office. It consists of three people, working on identifying and working around atrocity crimes. We need to strengthen this work going forward, and that is the purpose of the Bill.

The Bill has five key elements. First, it establishes that we monitor closely, as the Elie Wiesel Act does in the United States of America, the red flags of potential genocides. Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, promoted that. Secondly, it establishes that a Commons Minister will respond to genocide prevention issues, have that as part of their remit and be directly responsible and accountable in Parliament. Thirdly, it establishes training for people entering the Foreign Office—good, extensive training that will continue at different stages of people’s careers, particularly in respect of the hotspots where such things might happen. Fourthly, it establishes that that Minister will report regularly to Parliament. Fifthly, it establishes a small fund to assist particular victims. That would not deal with this issue to a large extent, but it would, for example, help some of the women who fled enslavement and were unable to return to their homes in northern Iraq to re-establish their lives elsewhere.

That is the nature of this Bill. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, who met with me, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and another colleague. The Minister gave a very positive response to the Bill. It is very important in the next months and years that we have a much more effective team working on this, specifically within the Foreign Office. I look forward to hearing from the Minister.

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

My Lords, I welcome the comments of my noble friend and thank everyone who has engaged on this. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, said at Second Reading that many elements of the Bill were commendable and aligned with the Government’s own activities. I hope that, following the meeting my noble friend had with others, the noble Lord will also meet with me to look at how we can progress these things strongly. I welcome the comments and what the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, has said.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, I put on record my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, the noble Lord, Lord Alton—who is not in his place—and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for a constructive meeting recently. The Bill has been an extremely important tool to bring focus to this important issue of atrocity prevention. As I have reminded the noble Baroness a number of times, I am the Minister responsible for this, but I work alongside other colleagues in this respect.

As I have said, there are many elements within the Bill that we are already undertaking and have committed to take forward. It proposes to establish a “genocide monitoring team”—we agree with that, and a dedicated unit is following this issue directly at the FCDO. Following the meeting we had with noble Lords earlier this week, I have asked officials directly to schedule a private briefing on how we compile, for example, the sharing of areas around early warning systems.

The Bill would provide for training for civil servants; again, it has been a useful tool for focusing on that issue. As I outlined to noble Lords, both at Second Reading and during the meeting, we have already invested in diplomats who have benefited from atrocity-prevention training. I am exploring options for making atrocity prevention training a requirement in the training provided directly to diplomats prior to their being deployed to conflict zones or areas with a high risk of atrocities. I recognise that there is more to do on building capacity, but, as I said, we do not believe in the primary legislation route here; much is already being done.

The Bill calls for the Government to report to Parliament. We have the human rights report, but we are also looking to see how we can be more specific on the elements raised in the Bill.

As ever, I am grateful to all noble Lords who participated in the important debates on the Bill. We are all at one on trying to prevent atrocities. Sadly, and tragically, we are not succeeding in that objective around the world today. But this means that we need to be more focused. As the Minister with responsibility for such matters, I assure all noble Lords that we at the FCDO are very seized of this.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, and I meet regularly to discuss a raft of issues, and I say to him that I am keen to ensure that this becomes embedded in FCDO policy. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, and others who have once again drawn attention to this important issue. I look forward to working with noble Lords across the House on strengthening our atrocity prevention response.

Bill passed and sent to the Commons.