Boris Johnson is facing a showdown with Conservative rebels as peers inflicted a third defeat over the so-called genocide amendment aiming to prevent trade deals with countries guilty of such crimes.
In a heavy defeat for the government, the House of Lords backed a cross-party amendment to the Trade Bill by 367 votes to 214 — majority 153 — which would allow a parliamentary panel of judicial experts to make an initial determination on whether genocide had been carried out by a signatory to an agreement.
The vote is the latest iteration of the legislative tussle between the House of Lords and Commons — known as parliamentary “ping pong”.
With original proposals to give the High Court powers to determine whether a foreign power has committed genocide rejected by the government, the crossbench peer Lord Alton put forward a fresh amendment on Tuesday.
Proposing a “tweak”, Lord Alton pressed for a parliamentary panel of former judicial experts — rather than the High Court — to be involved in making a determination on whether genocide has been carried out by a signatory to a trade agreement.
Arguing for the measure, Lord Alton told peers: “We have failed to predict genocide, we have failed to prevent genocide, we have failed to protect victims of genocide and we have failed to prosecute perpetrators of genocide.
“The genocide amendment is a modest attempt to begin to address some of those failings. The all-party amendment is a genuine attempt to try and meet the government halfway.