Author Archives: Joshua Gray

Lord Ahmed on Parliamentary Participation in Foreign Policy

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to Parliament being offered a more meaningful participation in foreign policy, including by restricting the extent of the royal prerogative.

Question asked by Lord Waverley on 19th March 2o18

Response by Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon:

My Lords, the FCO attaches great importance to engaging with Parliament on foreign policy issues through Statements, Questions, debates, evidence to Select Committees and, indeed, informal discussion. The Government observe the convention that there is a debate in Parliament before UK military action is taken except where there is an emergency and such action would not be appropriate. ​In relation to treaty-making, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 requires treaties to be laid before Parliament before ratification.

View the full debate and Lord Waverley’s response on Hansard.

Lord Waverley on the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill

Bill’s second reading proposed by Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon on 1st November 2017

Lord Waverley’s response:

My Lords, I offer my support to government objectives at this stage of the Bill, because continuity of current arrangements is clearly an imperative. I have, however, listened carefully to the concerns of noble Lords, and I hope that the Government are on message. We have heard from the Minister that flexibility would allow Ministers to add differing components. That is helpful. He mentioned transport, trade and immigration. However, any mechanism to specifically place more emphasis on removing corruption from the world stage, alongside that on money laundering, would be propitious for inclusion in future sanctionable objectives. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, touched on that point twice in his remarks.​

Defining corruption can be a nebulous challenge, but it often extends to poor governance. It is essential to exert pressure to improve governance where needed, particularly in relation to the recipients of UK aid funds.

The use of sanctions for economic or regime change purposes, or targeted sanctions on individuals for human rights abuses—a mechanism short of more drastic measures—is on the increase. Understanding how best to measure those sanctions against their intended purpose and ensure that the unintended do not suffer disproportionally, and when expedient how to allow leaders on the receiving end to save face, are all challenges. The need is sometimes to allow or provide an assured exit route for those facing international justice or a route back to a state of peace and reconciliation for conflicted peoples.

I would welcome a global review of sanction processes at a convenient time in the future. Knowing when and how to instigate sanctions as a tool of policy does not require multilateral-level consideration by a body such as the United Nations. More effectively, it should be introduced by smaller and more coherent regional or economic groupings, such as the G7 and European Union members. Regional fora to discuss and implement sanctions have the benefit of speedier action without as much compromise on principles compared with the UN. Many crises require more timely responses while UN bodies conduct their reviews and investigations. On another note, regional groupings carry more weight in terms of “who is in the right”, as typically those in regional groupings are neighbours. For example, African Union sanctions on African states could carry more moral weight, as it is not seen as a group of western nations punishing a poor African state. I took note of this general theme when listening to the vehement remarks made recently in your Lordships’ House by his excellency the President of Namibia.

The underpinning of sanctions as a transatlantic set of initiatives is fundamental. This might serve also as a brake on occasional future excesses by the United States.

We must all be in step. If in step, what should be done about the effects of extraterritorial components unilaterally instigated by others—for example, the US Helms-Burton legislation, a United States federal law which strengthens the United States embargo against Cuba? Whether it be Cuba or elsewhere, it is often western banks and companies—notwithstanding the desperate tale outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, who is not in his place—which, against their individual corporate interests and without consultation, shoulder the burden.

However, the overall balance must be got right. We are headed possibly towards a differing geopolitical and geo-economic world. Care needs to be exercised for sanctions not to become a “them and us” circumstance. Some suggest possible future axes of those to the East standing between themselves and the ideals of the West are in the making.

While a clear set of objectives exist we should be mindful of states not being boxed into a corner or blind alley with little or no exit strategy. Any possible ​reciprocal sanctions programmes might have dramatic and untoward long-term adverse repercussions. If sanctions become a wedge between differing ideals, certain eastern economic powers might decide they are more in kilter with those in the East than the West. Presumed groupings and informal alliances are much more variable than we might think. So, sanctions achieving their end, and not beyond, are crucial.

I was struck recently by a comment from a UK Foreign Minister that encapsulates one aspect of the challenges. He noted that we live,

“not in a world where isolation works”.

View the whole debate on Hansard.

Lord Waverley on Exports to Africa and the Commonwealth

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they are making in increasing the export of goods and services to Africa and the Commonwealth.

Question for Short Debate, asked by Lord Popat on 27th November 2017.

Response from Lord Waverley:

My Lords, I offer a warm welcome to the Minister and should let her know that we are here to help—although on occasion it might not seem so. I congratulate, too, the noble Lord, Lord Popat, on securing this debate. One of the great joys in life is waking up to an African dawn.

Notwithstanding the continued march of globalism, cross-border global trade remains plagued by multiple barriers. These impede economic development in emerging economies, and particularly in small and medium-sized enterprises which take disproportionately little in world trade. The challenge has to be to address the factors that inhibit or prevent SMEs from exporting. A number of overarching principles ought to be considered central to increasing cross-border trade. These include targeting policy, especially towards SMEs and emerging markets, constructing policies in consultation with key stakeholders, growing an export culture, and raising international ambition, particularly through government briefings, school education, the improved teaching of modern languages and advisory services. I would encourage the Minister to have her team examine, if it is not already doing so, the range of existing policies and best practices from around the world, particularly on the challenge of removing informational asymmetries between market participants.

Trade is a multidimensional process that is based on four primary pillars: logistics, commerce, finance and insurance. But there is little linking within global value chains. More importantly, while the world is digitising many of its processes, this is being done in piecemeal fashion. Much of the progress to date has been between business and consumers, with relatively little from business to business. The core element, logistics, is the weakest link. The logistics industry as a whole is generally fragmented and inefficient. While some individual companies’ logistics are digitised—for example, the likes of FedEx and DHL—this has generally been done only vertically within each large company or has been limited to specific tiers within a supply chain. A horizontally integrated world trade digital economy platform would bring considerable benefits.​

The digitisation and integration of these four elements, underpinned by a multidimensional platform, would bring efficiency gains, substantial reductions in the cost of trade and an expansion in the volume of world trade. The economic, social and developmental benefits globally, in particular for SMEs in emerging economies, would be significant. Such a platform would also include the de-risking of the business process, the improved provision of trade finance and insurance, the creation of new jobs, increased cargo security, reduced fraud and tax evasion, including VAT, expedited disaster relief responses and increased post-harvest yield and strengthened contaminated food containment. This would offer increased buying power in middle and lower-income countries, which could then buy our high-value goods and services.

I have been briefed on the technology of the public/private partnership Global Coalition of Efficient Logistics, GCEL, which has already been proved in practice. The first pilot test involving complex supply chains was across the US/Canada border, one of the world’s busiest land borders. The first benchmark trade lane is in the process of being deployed between China, Japan and Indonesia, at the request of their Governments. In addition, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders have recently signed a memorandum of understanding for GCEL to digitise the operation of ports throughout the APEC region.

This trade digital economy platform technology could be an additional way to cement relationships within the Commonwealth and pan-Africa. The upcoming CHOGM, which we all look forward to—we wish the Government the best and welcome all our friends from around the world—could afford an opportunity for the UK to introduce a pioneering initiative of substance as a partner nation. I have no doubt that many small nations would take an interest.

Being innovative and achieving more with less is key to strengthening the UK’s position in tomorrow’s world. The UK is enviably well placed to spearhead and pioneer global development of the new digital economy, with our core skills and qualities of IT, innovation, finance, insurance, an educated workforce, a stable population, and the rule of law. However, we need to get a move on in readiness for the challenges and opportunities that will shortly be upon us.

View the full debate on Hansard.