24 Nov 2017
A draft of Britain’s sanctions law gives ministers too much power and lacks clarity in a number of areas, according to a lawyers’ lobby group.
The Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which was introduced in October, will give the United Kingdom the necessary legal powers to continue to implement sanctions and new measures post-Brexit.
In its current form, the Bill allows ministers to create criminal offences punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and also to create rules on aspects such as evidence consideration.
However, such “substantive criminal offences, with penalties of up to 10 years, should only be introduced by means of primary legislation following thorough discussions in Parliament,” the Law Society said in its brief outlining its views on the proposed bill.
It added that ministerial powers should be subject to greater limitations and safeguards than currently proposed.
The lobby group also called for more clarity in a number of areas, including how powers will be apportioned between various government ministers linked to the Bill.
“The Bill also states that any of the powers are to be exercised by the “appropriate Minister”.
The Bill should specify, or be accompanied by guidance that specifies, how powers are to be apportioned between the Home Office, the Department for International Trade, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Treasury or several of them acting together,” the brief stated.
How the UK will respond in applying sanctions to regimes such as Russia will be closely watched.
European Union members have at times been deeply split on the subject of sanctions.
While under the EU, the UK strongly backed sanctions against Russia for its operations in the Ukraine in contrast to other EU countries that advocated for a ‘softer’ stance.
The UK plans to maintain existing sanction regimes currently imposed through EU law, but at the same time wants to provide the legal underpinning for it to decide how to react to new threats.
The Law Society, however, is also concerned that aspects of the Bill contradict EU law.
For example, the point that any United Nations listed person is automatically designated in the UK is different to the EU position that “it is contrary to the rule of law for a UN listing to be implemented without procedural safeguards (i.e. reasons, supporting evidence, rights of defence, effective judicial review & quashing order, proportionality).”
“If these requirements are not complied with, the EU listing could be annulled,” the brief explained.
The Bill was discussed at Committee state in the House of Lords on Tuesday and will be discussed again next week.
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