Sanctions are imposed on an individual in two stages - by Ministers first making regulations and secondly designating the individual, using a power in those regulations. Parliament has a role in the first stage, but not the second.
In the UK, the legislative framework for sanctioning an individual has two stages.
The first stage is the use of powers delegated to Ministers in Acts of Parliament, often powers in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, to make regulations that specify the sanctions that can be imposed against individuals.
The role of Parliament depends on the purpose of the sanctions regulations.
If the regulations are made to comply with UN obligations then they are subject to the ‘made negative’ parliamentary scrutiny procedure – they don’t require active parliamentary approval to remain law but can be rejected by Parliament.
Ministers can also make regulations for what are called “discretionary purposes”. These are purposes listed in the Act such as furthering the prevention of terrorism or promoting the resolution of armed conflicts.
Generally, regulations made for discretionary purposes are subject to the ‘made affirmative’ procedure - they require retrospective parliamentary approval to remain law, usually within 28 days.
The second stage is the use of a designation power contained in the regulations to name and subject a person to sanction measures specified in the regulations, such as asset freezes or travel bans.
This is done on a separate administrative list. It does not involve Parliament.
The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 has amended the requirements in the 2018 Sanctions Act that a Minister must meet before exercising a designation power under sanctions regulations.
As a standard procedure, a Minister must have “reasonable grounds” to designate someone.
The 2022 Act also adds an urgent procedure, under which a Minister can designate a person before establishing “reasonable grounds”, provided that relevant sanctions apply to that person under the law of certain international organisations and countries, such as the United States and the EU. The Minister must also consider that the urgent designation is in the public interest.
An urgent designation is temporary. It ceases to have effect after 8 weeks, though this can be extended by the Minister once, for a further 8 weeks. Before the period of urgent designation ends, the Minister must certify that there are reasonable grounds for the designation to continue to have effect.
Banner image: Roman Abramovich’s motor yacht “Luna” docked in San Diego, January 2013. Photo by Sam Morris (CC-BY-3.0)
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