New Amendment to Procurement Bill Moved in the UK House of Lords – Combatting Forced Organ Harvesting
Procurement Bill – House of Lords committee stage amendment on forced organ harvesting. The amendment would block U.K. public contracts with companies that could be complicit in facilitating forced organ harvesting.
“[The] amendment is designed to exclude suppliers located in a country at high risk of forced organ harvesting from being awarded a public contract involving any device or equipment intended for use in organ transplant medicine or activities relating to human tissue or any service or goods relating to organ transplant medicine or activities involving human tissue. Essentially, it would prevent any service or goods that may have been involved in or developed off the back of the forced organ harvesting trade from entering the UK. This includes organ transplant training, such as the training of Chinese organ transplant services, related education and research, as well as organ transplantation equipment.”
– Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)
Click HERE for the full discussion.
The video for the debate can also be viewed HERE.
Oct 25 2022
185: After Clause 30, insert the following new Clause—
“Excluding supplier for involvement in forced organ harvesting
(1) Subsection (2) applies if a contracting authority determines that a supplier is located in a country categorised by a Minister of the Crown as at high risk of forced organ harvesting.(2) The contracting authority must treat the supplier as an excluded supplier in relation to the award of a public contract involving— (a) any device or equipment intended for use in organ transplant medicine or activities relating to human tissue, or(b) any service or goods relating to organ transplant medicine or activities involving human tissue.(3) A Minister of the Crown must by regulations made by statutory instrument make provision for the listing of countries considered to be at high risk of forced organ harvesting.(4) A country is at high risk where—(a) the country has high levels, or is suspected of having high levels, of forced organ harvesting or trafficking in persons for purposes of the removal of organs; or(b) the government of the country is directly or indirectly seen as supporting or indirectly supporting forced organ harvesting or trafficking in persons for purposes of the removal of organs.”Member’s explanatory statement
The amendment is designed to exclude suppliers located in a country at high risk of forced organ harvesting from being awarded a public contract involving any device or equipment intended for use in organ transplant medicine or activities relating to human tissue or any service or goods relating to organ transplant medicine or activities involving human tissue.
My Lords, in a sense, this amendment is very different from my first two. None the less, we are seeking here to use procurement legislation to advance government policy in relation to the awful practice of forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China. The practice was found by the China Tribunal—as advised by Edward Fitzgerald KC, who provided expert legal opinion to it—to be a crime against humanity and part of a possible genocide against Falun Gong.
Forced organ harvesting in China involves the removal of organs from a living prisoner of conscience for the purpose of transportation, killing the victim in the process. It is state sanctioned and widespread throughout China, with the Chinese Communist Party targeting individuals because of their religious and spiritual beliefs or ethnicity. The victims are known primarily to be Falun Gong practitioners, but more recent evidence indicates that Uighur Muslims are also targeted on a massive scale. Further to that, there are several lines of evidence showing that Tibetan and house Christians are likely victims of forced organ harvesting.
Regarding Uighurs and other minorities, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights published its report on Xinjiang in August, stating:
“Allegations of patterns of torture or ill-treatment, including forced medical treatment and adverse conditions of detention, are credible, as are allegations of individual incidents of sexual and gender-based violence.”
It also stated that the treatment of Uighurs and others in Xinjiang by the Chinese Communist Party
“may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity.”
That is a most important and profound statement, made only three months ago.
Both Uighur and Falun Gong practitioners are arbitrarily arrested, detained in camps and tortured. They face sexual violence, disappear while in detention and are murdered for their organs, on a vast scale. A study published in April this year in the American Journal of Transplantation investigated whether Chinese transplant surgeons established first that the prisoners are dead, before procuring their hearts and lungs, or whether the cause of death was the organ procurement itself. The study was based on the dead donor rule—the most fundamental ethical rule in organ transplantation. It states that organ procurement must not commence until the donor is formally pronounced dead; the procurement of organs must not cause the donor’s death.
The paper, entitled Execution by Organ Procurement: Breaching the Dead Donor Rule in China, was written by Matthew Robertson and Dr Jacob Lavee. Dr Lavee is a transplant surgeon and the founder and a former director of the heart surgery unit at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. In 2005, a patient told him that his insurance company had scheduled a heart transplant operation for him that would take place in two weeks. The patient flew to China and received the heart as arranged. That would be impossible unless the time of death of the donor was known in advance. Following this incident, Dr Lavee spearheaded the organ transplantation law in Israel, the first of its kind in the world, which prevented insurance companies from reimbursing expenses associated with illicitly obtained organs. Along with a range of reforms encouraging domestic donation, this stopped the China-to-Israel organ-trafficking pipeline in its tracks.
During this recent research, Robertson and Lavee found, in 71 different Chinese medical studies published between 1980 and 2015, sourced from 56 hospitals in 33 cities, that brain death could not properly have been declared. Therefore, the removal of the heart during organ procurement must have been the cause of the donor’s death. The authors state in a recent article in the Tablet,
“the act of execution was joined with the act of heart removal, and was carried out by surgeons on the operating table.”
Just think of that.
My amendment is designed to exclude suppliers located in a country at high risk of forced organ harvesting from being awarded a public contract involving any device or equipment intended for use in organ transplant medicine or activities relating to human tissue or any service or goods relating to organ transplant medicine or activities involving human tissue. Essentially, it would prevent any service or goods that may have been involved in or developed off the back of the forced organ harvesting trade from entering the UK. This includes organ transplant training, such as the training of Chinese organ transplant services, related education and research, as well as organ transplantation equipment.
I have been very encouraged by the Government’s recent willingness to legislate on this issue, such as through my amendment to the Medicines and Medical Devices Bill last year, which included consent provisions for imported human tissue for use in medicines; and the amendments to the Health and Care Bill in April this year, prohibiting the commercialisation of organ tourism. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, have been huge supporters of this approach and I am glad to see them here today.
These legislative steps have set a good precedent, both in our country and as a signal globally. I emphasise to the Minister that passing amendments such as this into British law is significant internationally. Other countries observe what is happening, and we are part of a global movement to try to get action to stop this reprehensible behaviour.
I am grateful to the Government for their sympathy for our approach, but I want to go further. In April this year, it was stated in a ground-breaking business and human rights legal advisory, written by international law firm Global Rights Compliance, entitled Do No Harm: Mitigating Human Rights Risks when Interacting with International Medical Institutions & Professionals in Transplantation Medicine, that
“medical professionals and institutions who have collaborations with Chinese medical institutions involved in forced organ harvesting face a risk of being charged with complicity in international crimes, including crimes against humanity.”
It goes on to explain that
“aiding and abetting ‘consists of practical assistance, encouragement, or moral support which has a substantial effect on the perpetration of the crime’.”
Prestigious medical institutions, such as the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, are now taking action. In April this year, the society issued a policy that it would no longer accept submissions to its journal or for presentations at its conference related to transplantation and involving either organs or tissue from human donors in the People’s Republic of China. My forced organ harvesting amendment to the Procurement Bill is critical to protect our UK medical professionals and institutions from complicity. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, in what was a powerful, disturbing and very thoughtful speech. I think all of us who are privileged to be in the Committee today are indebted to him for that and the way he introduced this group of amendments, to which I am a signatory, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and my noble friend Lady Finlay of Llandaff. She sends her apologies for not being able to be physically present today, but she strongly supports the amendment, as does the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro. It is worth bearing in mind that both of those noble Lords have held very high office in the medical institutions in this country and it is good that their names are attached either to the amendment or to the arguments that go with it.
I declare interests as vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Uyghurs, who the noble Lord referred to, and on Hong Kong, as patron of Hong Kong Watch and as a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China. This amendment deals with a gruesome and barbaric lethal practice that has been prevalent in China. Last Thursday, here in the Moses Room, a debate was held on the International Relations and Defence Select Committee report on China, trade and security. The noble Viscount, Lord Younger of Leckie, was present throughout proceedings and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, was present and contributed to those proceedings, during the course of which a number of us referred to the levels of trade and, inter alia, the level of procurement that is carried out with China by the United Kingdom.
The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, pointed out that we have a £40 billion deficit in trade with the People’s Republic of China. That would be reason enough for considering, in the context of resilience and dependency, why procurement policies with a country designated by the Government as recently as last month as “a threat” to the United Kingdom should be radically readdressed. During the debate last Thursday in the Moses Room, I referred to earlier debates in this Committee on the Bill specifically about Hikvision. It is worth recalling that the noble Lord, Lord True, was gracious enough to have several meetings in his office to discuss this, as well as dealing with it at that stage. I know the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, well enough—I congratulate her, as others have done, on her appointment as Minister—to know that she will take this as seriously as he did.
The company Hikvision is responsible for the surveillance cameras in Xinjiang referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. But these cameras were purchased through our procurement policies by great departments of state and are used in local government and by public authorities up and down the length and breadth of this country. These cameras are used to impose the surveillance state on the Uighur Muslims referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.
At the conclusion of our debate last Thursday, the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, promised he would write to me in response to my question specifically about whether, during the next set of proceedings on the Bill—therefore, on Report—the amendments that many of us argued for at earlier stages will be agreed by the Government. I hope that the noble Baroness’s officials will talk to his officials before he writes that letter, so that we genuinely get joined-up government on this.
I hope they will also look at the Biden Administration’s legislation on goods made by slave labour, something that the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and I have raised in other legislation and that we both, as well as other members of the Committee, feel very strongly about. They should also look at legislation the Biden Administration introduced called the CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, which draw together the prioritisations of investing in domestic industry, tackling climate change and reducing dependency on authoritarian regimes. All those things should be done in the context of this Bill.
In parentheses, I remind the Committee that we bought 1 billion—not 1 million, but 1 billion—lateral flow tests from the People’s Republic of China and 24 billion items of personal protective equipment where China was recorded as the country of origin. The cost to the United Kingdom was a staggering £10.9 billion—about the equivalent of our now reduced overseas aid and development budget. This is British taxpayers’ money pouring through our procurements into the pockets of a country that stands accused of the appalling barbarism identified in Amendment 185, and indeed of genocide.
On Friday, I will seek to move the Second Reading of my Private Member’s Bill on genocide determination. I will have more to say on those monstrous crimes against the Uighur Muslims then, but today, in supporting the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, I will focus on one aspect of the genocidal practices of a country that figures over and again in our procurement policies. That aspect, as described by the noble Lord, is forced organ harvesting.
Just last month, a Japanese man, Ushio Sugawara, spoke out for the first time about his experience in August 2007, saying that he was a witness of China’s live organ trade, having seen an anaesthetised Falun Gong adherent, with tendons cut to prevent his flight, shortly before the man was placed on an operating table to have his liver carved out. In his testimony, Sugawara said that his friend’s brother was desperate for a new liver and a Chinese broker who facilitated transplant tourism with people in Japan put the brother in touch with Beijing’s general hospital of the armed police forces, a state-run military hospital. Within a month, they had a suitable donor, telling him to fly over for surgery “anytime” for the price of 30 million yen.
The day before the scheduled surgery, Sugawara visited his friend’s brother and learned that the donor was in the next room. A Chinese doctor, fluent in Japanese, asked him if he would like to have a look, drawing back the curtain to reveal a 21 year-old man. The man was unresponsive due to being anaesthetised. The doctor told Sugawara, “He’s very young. The liver is very healthy”. The doctor claimed the man to be a “bad person” and a death row prisoner, and said, according to Sugawara’s testimony, “He will die sooner or later, and this way, he can make some more contribution before his death.” He then branded the man as a “terrorist group member”. Pressed by Sugawara on what the man did, the doctor answered that he was Falun Gong.
During the Uyghur Tribunal hearings, which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, referred to and which were chaired by the eminent lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice KC, Sayragul Sauytbay testified that she had discovered medical files detailing Uighur detainees’ blood types and results of liver tests while she was working at a Uighur camp. In her statement about the Uighur camps, she says:
“They took blood samples from detainees, they drew blood periodically. I didn’t experience medical examination, but all the detainees did. Each detainee had a medical file. There were times that I was ordered to organise the medical files. And while doing that I saw the information in the file with my own eyes. In the medical file, the blood type, any infectious disease, 5 different test results of the liver, detailed results of blood tests, x-ray results … Basically whatever the information related to one’s health all clearly recorded in the file.”
A recent European Parliament resolution on reports of continued organ harvesting in China, which passed only in May this year, acknowledges that the China Tribunal concluded that
“forced organ harvesting had been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale and that Falun Gong practitioners had been one—and probably the main—source of organ supply”.
As noble Lords have heard many times, the China Tribunal also concluded:
“In regard to the Uyghurs the Tribunal had evidence of medical testing on a scale that could allow them, amongst other uses, to become an ‘organ bank’.”
The recent European Parliament resolution calls on the Chinese authorities
“to promptly respond to the allegations of organ harvesting and to allow independent monitoring by international human rights mechanisms”.
It also includes a call to “relevant institutions” in EU member states
“to evaluate and revisit the terms of their collaborations with Chinese institutions on transplant medicine, research and training”.
I am grateful to the Government, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has already said that he is, that they have begun to legislate on this issue. It is in many respects thanks to his work that those pieces of legislation have been bicameral, and bipartisan across all parts of your Lordships’ House. I am glad that the Government have legislated on extraterritorial provisions to the Human Tissue Act but, like him, I would like to see more done. That is what this amendment is about.
In 2016, the UK signed a £300 million UK-China hospital partnership, unveiling a
“10 year exclusive global hospital partnership that includes involvement in building and managing the new 200 bed IHG Qingdao International Hospital and future projects in Shanghai and Chengdu”.
The press release on the government website goes on to say this:
“Wanda says it will invest up to £1.5 billion in the first three projects, with IHG targeting revenue of at least £300 million—another tangible example of benefits from the UK-China global partnership. Trade and investment between the UK and China has hit historic highs with up to £40 billion in deals signed during President Xi’s … State Visit to the UK.
The UK enjoys a global reputation for a high quality medical system and service. UK expertise is sought-after by Chinese companies seeking commercial healthcare partnerships from medical training to hospital operation, medical investment and specific disease treatment.”
This is a country that we have just identified as a threat to the United Kingdom, and we are boasting about a £1.5 billion investment there. I ask the Minister whether that £300 million partnership is continuing, considering the abundance of evidence that forced organ harvesting is happening in China. Does the UK-China hospital project include facilities for organ transplantation surgery?
The latest business and human rights legal advisory report by the international law firm Global Rights Compliance, entitled Do No Harm: Mitigating Human Rights Risks when Interacting with International Medical Institutions &Professionals in Transplant Medicine, says that
“the provision of medical tools, equipment and technology specifically used for organ transplantation to Chinese medical facilities or detention centres that are likely engaged in forced organ harvesting may attract criminal responsibility for complicity”—
I repeat, criminal responsibility—and that
“clinical researchers that enter research collaborations using human organs with the knowledge and intentional disregard of the fact that these organs are sourced from persons who were killed for the purpose of organ removal could likely face criminal charges”.
Further action is urgently needed. This forced organ harvesting amendment to the Bill is essential to protect United Kingdom citizens. It will send a clear message to the Chinese Communist Party that the United Kingdom is a country that upholds medical and business ethics to the highest possible standards, and that we will speak out when we see the interests of Chinese people also being compromised in the way in which they have been.
My Lords, I am a co-signatory on this amendment and, from the Lib Dem Benches, we strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, in his endeavours to combat the appalling issue of forced organ transplantation. He has made a strong and comprehensive case, as did the noble Lord, Lord Alton—as ever. Like them, I am glad that Ministers have been responsive over the past few years in relation to these appalling practices. I hope that this continues. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, the amendment is designed to exclude suppliers located in a country
“at high risk of forced organ harvesting”
from being awarded a public contract involving
“any device or equipment intended for use in organ transplant medicine”
or in related regard—for example, research.
As the Minister will know, this House has a very well-informed and cross-party approach to combating forced organ transplantation. She will be aware of the significance of such obvious and lengthy cross-party working. I assume that this might rightly be in red on the risk register for the Bill. I have noticed that that might be the case.
I recall a few years ago that a Peer, who is a current government Minister, was praising the Chinese for the speed and apparent efficiency of their transplant programme. I am certain that they would not have expressed that view had they known what we know now. That is surely thanks to the assiduous work of the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Alton, and others. They, in turn, have been supported by the meticulous examination of the evidence by the China and the Uighur tribunals, both headed by Sir Geoffrey Nice, former prosecutor in the Balkans war-crimes tribunals. They shone a light on the terrible practice of forced organ harvesting. I noted that they found—as others have noted—that victims in China were targeted because of their religion, beliefs or ethnicity.
As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, has just said, the China tribunal concluded that forced organ harvesting has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale; and that commission of crimes against humanity against the Falun Gong and the Uighurs have been proved beyond reasonable doubt. Noble Lords have also heard the view from the United Nations; securing that was very difficult to achieve. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, as ever, calls some of the individuals concerned into our view, so we cannot say that we did not know.
The medical profession has been accused in the past of turning a blind eye to such practices. The BMJ criticised the transplant community for failing to implement high ethical standards. I note, however, that, in the BMA’s briefing for the Bill, it states that,
“upholding ethical procurement standards is essential.”
It refers to the procurement of medical equipment, including PPE, from the regions in which labour abuses have been alleged. It states that it would support
“any amendments to strengthen the legislation to help ensure ethical procurement and transparency throughout the supply chains of health-related goods.”
That would certainly apply to this amendment. In addition, as we have heard, the UK enjoys a global reputation for high-quality medical research. It is something that the Government emphasise as being key to the United Kingdom’s future. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has indicated, it is thus vital that we protect medical researchers from inadvertent involvement.
During the summer, in the then Conservative leadership debates, Rishi Sunak was asked about dealings with China. It is good that he acknowledged the potential human rights challenge. However, he also said that he sought to have a constructive engagement. This amendment would close a loophole, given that he has now been chosen by the Conservatives to be the country’s newest Prime Minister. It will help to ensure that the Government do indeed properly pay attention to human rights, which the new Prime Minister said was an aim of his.
In regard to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in relation to the hospital in China, will the Minister say whether UK Export Finance funds were given in this case? If she cannot tell me now, can she write to me? In summary, I commend this amendment to the Committee, and I hope that we will see progress and engagement with the Government.
My Lords, I apologise; I will see how long my voice lasts—not long, I imagine some people hope, but we will see how it goes.
I too congratulate the Minister on her promotion. She has already learned some of the tricks of the ministerial trade: she has gone through what she has previously said and asked her civil servants to have a look and see what she could say back if anyone raised it, which relates to what she opened with about simplification.
The serious point is that the fact that she has questioned the Bill will make her a very good Minister. That does not mean undermining the Bill, but you have to have a Minister who challenges it and listens to what people say, otherwise the whole process is pointless. From that point of view, we are all reassured by her appointment.
It is a great pleasure to support my noble friend Lord Hunt in his amendment, which is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Northover and Lady Finlay. Before we get to the specifics of Amendment 185, the context is that the big clash on this Committee is between those of us who believe that the Government should use the procurement process to further social policy and other objectives such as the environment, workers’ rights and so on and the Government themselves, who say that much of that is dealt with in other legislation and is therefore unnecessary. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has brought before us a clear example of where the Government have moved in other legislation. The example was given of the outlawing of the commercialisation of organ tourism. That is an important step forward and something that has really made a difference, but it does not go far enough. That is what my noble friend’s amendment leads on and says we should do something about.
After listening to what my noble friend Lord Hunt, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, have said, the question for the Government is: why would they not do it? Why would they not do everything they could to tackle the problems and the awful horror of what we have had explained to the Committee today? The Minister will be as against that as the rest of us. She and the Government will be as appalled as the rest of us. It is not as if there is a clash of views on it or a difference of opinion; everyone is appalled by the sort of testimony that my noble friend Lord Hunt has given us, reinforced by others in the Committee. So the fundamental question is: why do we not do something about it and change the law? Why do we not, as the amendment seeks, involve training as well as equipment and exclude those aspects from the supply chain? Surely that is the least that could be expected.
Time and again we get these examples of human rights abuses. These surely have to be right up there with some of the worst examples of such abuses. People being imprisoned because of their ethnicity or religion, even if they are criminals, is just not acceptable—I can hardly find the words. Where someone is imprisoned simply because of their ethnicity or religion and this is forced upon them, that is truly shocking.
As I say, we have a very simple amendment in front of us, laid out expertly by my noble friend Lord Hunt. The evidence that has been presented by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, is unanswerable. The Government simply cannot answer it. The Government should adopt the amendment on Report and put it into the Bill; then they will be doing all they can to get rid of a practice that is simply and utterly abhorrent to all of us, not just in this country but, I suggest, across the world. Perhaps this is idealistic, but it might also suggest to those people who are suffering from persecution in China and other places that outside there are people who care, are bothered and are seeking to do something about it.
Some very worthwhile amendments to this Bill have been put forward to change public procurement policy and pursue various social and environmental objectives. This must surely be one of the most important amendments—if not the most important—in which we seek to use procurement policy to pursue an objective that we would all agree with. It will be difficult for the Government to say that they object to it for any reason I can imagine.
With that, I again congratulate my noble friend Lord Hunt on bringing this amendment forward and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for their remarks. I look forward to the Minister’s response, which I hope will be positive.
My Lords, Amendment 185 would require the Minister to publish in regulations a list of countries considered to be at high risk of performing forced organ harvesting. It would also require contracting authorities to exclude suppliers from those countries from certain procurements.
Clearly, I appreciate the seriousness of the issue of organ harvesting; I agree that it is a difficult matter for the Government. This is an abhorrent practice, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, which is all the more egregious when sponsored by the state. It is an issue that has been frequently debated in recent years; I recognise the dedication with which it has been pursued by the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, with the support today of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro. It is understandable that they take opportunities such as today to draw attention to the awful things that are happening and the scale of the issue.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is right to record that the Government are taking action to address this issue on a number of fronts. The Health and Care Bill was amended during its passage through Parliament to prohibit commercial organ tourism and send an unambiguous signal that complicity in the abuses associated with the overseas organ trade will not be tolerated. Equally importantly, the Government continue to monitor and review evidence relating to reports of forced organ harvesting in China, and they maintain a dialogue with leading NGOs and international partners on the issue. This includes Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Ministers writing to the World Health Organization in Geneva to encourage it to give careful consideration to the findings of the China Tribunal on organ harvesting, published in March 2020.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
My Lords, I was talking about the international angle and the importance of doing things internationally. I am particularly grateful for the reminder of the need to discuss these issues with my noble friend Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park. I will also talk to the FCDO, DHSC and DIT about the UK-China hospital partnership and whether there has been any use of UK Export Finance. I have not been briefed on the issue, but I will write to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, who is not in his place, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, if they are content.
Turning to the main issue, I must resist this amendment on a number of counts, which I will explain. First, it treats suppliers as excluded simply for being located in a country at high risk of organ harvesting. This is guilt by association. It would undermine the principle, which runs throughout the exclusions regime, that suppliers can be excluded only where the supplier or a connected person has committed relevant misconduct. This is really important to ensure fairness and proportionality in exclusion decisions. The amendment could also have perverse effects—for example, preventing the NHS procuring life-saving devices in a country, even though they have nothing to do with organ harvesting or people trafficking.
Finally, there is already a provision in the Bill which would allow for the exclusion of suppliers who participate in forced organ harvesting. The Bill is clear that any serious breach of ethical or professional standards applicable to the supplier would meet the discretionary exclusion ground for professional misconduct. It is almost certain that involvement in these practices by suppliers of goods or services related to transplant medicine or human tissue would constitute a breach under the detailed standards set by health sector institutions.
The exclusion ground of professional misconduct is intended precisely to cover all the particular ethical issues that arise in different industries and sectors. That is of course an exclusion we agreed earlier, which merited further discussion. The grounds for exclusion cannot and should not list every issue within a particular industry. I should repeat that the exclusion and debarment regime in the Bill represents a significant overhaul and enhancement of the EU system; we should not forget that.
Finally, to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, I have already promised, in his absence, to write on the subject of the hospital, but I am also of course aware of the concerns regarding Hikvision.
I apologise to the noble Baroness; I got trapped in the Chamber when the doors were locked at the end of the Division—it serves me right. Some people may wish it had been permanent. I am grateful to the noble Baroness and look forward to reading her reply in Hansard.
I look forward to getting delayed in the Lobby in the next Division.
I am aware of the concerns regarding Hikvision and other Chinese technology companies; we take these concerns extremely seriously, as the noble Lord knows. We are taking action in the Bill to introduce a new ground for exclusion, specifically to address situations where a supplier poses a threat to national security. The new exclusion ground allows a contracting authority to reject bids from suppliers that the authority considers pose a threat to the national security of the United Kingdom.
It is the long-standing policy of successive British Governments that judgment as to whether genocide has occurred is for a competent national or international court. It is not for the contracting authorities. Genocide is a crime and, like other crimes, whether it has occurred should be decided after consideration of all the evidence available in the context of a credible judicial process.
This has been an important debate. I have learned a lot but, for today, I respectfully request that this amendment be withdrawn.
I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify a little her argument as to why organ trafficking—which is prohibited under the UK’s statute book—cannot be mentioned in Schedule 6 under the mandatory exclusion grounds. Under labour market, slavery and human trafficking offences, there is a fairly comprehensive list of UK domestic offences that are mandatory grounds. I do not see why that list cannot be added to, as I cannot see where the ethical grounds are included within Schedule 6 on the mandatory grounds.
Can the Minister also clarify why, in Schedule 7, on discretionary grounds, those offences are included for prevention orders? The Government seem to be suggesting that for a company that is subject to prevention orders for these heinous crimes—or could be subject to them, if it were a foreign supplier—this is simply discretionary. A contracting body would have to make a judgment itself as to what it considers would be the likelihood of a supplier meeting the threshold for a prevention order, rather than an offence. That does make any sense to me. I would be grateful if the Minister could address those two points.
I will need to take the noble Lord’s first point away and look at it. His explicit point is that there is a bit of legislation, so why do we not refer to it? His second point is tied up with how this discretionary schedule works and how we define “professional misconduct”, which, in our interpretation, includes ethical issues. I thank him for raising these issues again.
I would be grateful if the Minister were willing to consider this. It is not about the ethical point. It comes under paragraph 1 of Schedule 7, which is headed “Labour market misconduct”. Sub-paragraphs (a) to (d) specifically refer to slavery and trafficking prevention orders and trafficking and exploitation prevention orders. If a supplier is considered to be acting in a way that would satisfy a prevention order in the UK, it would be a discretionary exclusion ground rather than what I consider it should be: a mandatory exclusion ground. I am happy for the Minister to reflect on it and write if she cannot answer today.
Clearly, I have learned during this debate. I will obviously have to learn a little more about how we have tackled this issue. As was said right at the beginning of the debate, there is clearly some difficulty around the principle of how much detail to include and how many things to cross-reference in the Bill but, in the light of the noble Lord’s helpful clarification, I will go away, look at the various areas and come back to him.
My Lords, this has been a very interesting debate. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and my noble friend Lord Coaker for their profound speeches. Of course, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, who cannot be here today.
The noble Lord, Lord Alton, put a number of pertinent questions to the Minister, not just about the UK-China hospital partnership but more generally about the principles behind our trade with China. I must say that I find government policy inconsistent and incomprehensible. The new Administration, if I can call them that, need to get a grip on what exactly our relationship with China ought to be in terms of diplomacy, trade and strategic investment. Over the past few years, it has seemed completely all over the place.
There is an argument—my noble friend Lord Coaker referred to it—about the principle of how much we should use procurement legislation for wider, desirable policy aims. I believe passionately that it is right to use a Procurement Bill to try to influence this abhorrent practice. I am grateful to the Minister because she gave a careful response and appreciated the seriousness of this abhorrent practice, which we are doing our best to help eradicate. She also acknowledged the changes made in legislation in the past few years. However, she was critical of the amendment’s wording; she has quickly taken on the mantle of ministerial office again, by finding all amendments that do not emanate from her own department technically deficient.
The Minister’s key point around what is wrong with the amendment is that it is guilt by exclusion. I understand that but I believe that the amendment is tightly drawn. It is not just about excluding suppliers
“located in a country categorised … as at high risk of forced organ harvesting.”
It would exclude only in the event of
“a public contract involving … any device or equipment intended for use in organ transplant medicine or activities relating to”
that. That is tightly drawn and entirely justifiable.
The Minister also said that these practices would be covered by the exclusion grounds in the Bill. We have now had a debate on that; I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, raised some important questions. I accept that one can look to general provisions in a Bill and say, “Well, those cover it”, but I believe that there is sometimes a strong place for explicit provision on a practice that we find abhorrent. I hope that the Minister will be prepared to discuss this with us between Committee and Report because I am convinced; I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Coaker for his pertinent comment that we will come back to this on Report. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 185 withdrawn.