Tory anger after ministers attempt to stop genocide vote

Liz Truss in the House of Commons

International trade secretary Liz Truss in the House of Commons - Credit: Parliament Live

Tory rebels have accused the government of using game-playing to prevent a Commons vote on an attempt to outlaw post-Brexit trade deals with countries that are committing genocide.

MPs are threatening to back a House of Lords amendment forcing ministers to withdraw from any free trade agreement with a country which the High Court rules is engaged in genocide.

Ministers want to overturn the measure in Tuesday’s Commons vote, arguing that trade deals should be a matter for the government and parliament rather than the courts.

The government is backing a compromise amendment tabled by senior Conservative Bob Neill, which seeks to give parliament a say on deals involving countries with concerns of genocide.

The proposal prevents a straight up and down vote on the Lords genocide amendment, instead of seeking to disagree with that and one other and replace it with the compromise proposal.

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Tory former leader Iain Duncan Smith called for a “straight vote” on the amendment, saying: “The government has run out of arguments and is now using arcane procedural games which demean our democracy and the House of Commons.”

Conservative former minister Nusrat Ghani accused the government of using “every tactic and trick in the book to prevent a vote on the New Genocide Amendment”.

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“The government first says that genocide is a ‘judicial matter’ and then attempts to outlaw the courts from getting involved, and now they’re banning parliament from playing a role and voting as well. Is this really how we want our country to behave in the face of genocide?”

Tory MP Bob Blackman said: “Last week we all remembered the atrocities of the Holocaust, vowed to learn the lessons of the past and all stood up to say ‘never again’ must we let this happen anywhere in the world.

“Today was parliament’s chance to make ‘never again’ a reality yet instead the government has chosen to deny a clear majority of the House of Commons a chance to vote. Genocide is not a game and Global Britain should be above this political gamesmanship.”

Conservative Imran Ahmad Khan added: “I am disappointed by the cynical manipulation of procedure which seeks to deny the House the right to vote on an issue it clearly wishes to divide on.

“We must not let this sort of game playing go unopposed. It is vital colleagues vote against the Neill amendment.”

It comes amid renewed international scrutiny of Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur minority population in China’s Xinjiang province.

When the Commons considered the amendment to the Trade Bill last month, the government’s majority was cut to just 11 – with more than 30 Tory MPs voting to retain it.

That emboldened the Lords to defy the government and to send it back to the Commons for a second time, in the hope that more Conservatives will be persuaded to back it.

The prime minister’s official spokesman previously said: “The government shares the grave concerns about human rights abuses in Xinjiang behind Lord Alton’s amendment and understands the strength of feeling on this issue.

“However, that amendment could embroil the courts in the formulation of trade policy and conduct of international relations and risks undermining the separation of powers.

“The amendment put forward by the chair of the select committee, which the government will be supporting, addresses the concerns raised by the parliamentarians to take a stand on credible reports of genocide by a prospective trade partner while ensuring a specific duty on government to act.”

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