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UK News

Bishops in House of Lords add to Government defeat on Genocide amendment

by Cara Bentley

The House of Lords has forced the Government to look again at an amendment to the Trade Bill which would give British courts the power to decide whether a genocide has taken place in a country and therefore impact whether trade deals should be made. 

Christian Peer Lord Alton (pictured) urged the Government to look again at the matter and nine Bishops supported his amendment, with it passing with a majority of 171 (359 to 188). 

Lord Alton said the Government had frequently pointed to the fact that such atrocities need to be officially labelled as genocide, which is a legal term decided by the International Criminal Court, but that China, currently accused of causing death and trauma to thousands of Uighur Muslims, have a veto at the United Nations on what is recommended to the ICC, meaning that route cannot be depended upon. 

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Manchester voted for the amendment, as did the Bishops of Salisbury, Oxford, Worcester, Coventry, Blackburn, Leeds and St Albans. 

The clause allows the High Court of England and Wales, or the Court of Session in Scotland, or the High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland, to make a preliminary determination that another country involved in, for example, a trade agreement, has committed genocide. 

This decision would be made if a person or group belonging to an ethnic, racial or religious group, (or an organisation representing them), alleged to have been the subject of that genocide applies for such a decision. 

The Court's findings would then be presented to Parliament and the Government would be required to make arrangements for debates in both Houses in relation to the trade agreement.

Government ministers say it would damage the separation of powers between the courts and the executive, as their decisions would have political implications. 

UK and China trade is also currently worth approximately £76 billion and China is the UK's fourth-largest trading partner.

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