The Somerset Guardian, 20th January 2021

This week, the Trade Bill returned to the Commons from the Lords who inserted an amendment on genocide into the prospective legislation. The Lords included this stipulation following allegations about genocide being committed against the Uighur Muslim people.

A second amendment, which has been passed by the Lords, would give Parliament the power to reject a free-trade bill with any country that were found to be in breach of human rights violations, this is aimed at China. However, in an unusual development, responsibility would be given to the High Court in England and Wales to assess whether any nation were in violation of the terms and any trade arrangements made by the government would be dependent upon their rulings.

There are, of course, many continuing concerns pertaining to how certain countries operate both domestically and internationally. The lack of good faith by the Chinese government to respect the joint declaration over Hong Kong has inevitably heightened concerns. Any diplomatic arrangements that the United Kingdom has need to reflect not only the political reality but also democratic values of our country. Yet, this balance in foreign affairs is best achieved by the votes of an elected Parliament and not the judiciary, which ought to remain separate from politics.

It is, therefore, welcome that on Tuesday the House of Commons voted to ensure that our courts may not rule on the validity of a trade deal, a fundamentally political agreement. The Bill will be considered again by the Lords and I am hopeful they agree that on matters of politics it is Parliament that is sovereign.

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