Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 11 JULY 2006
Q100 Lord Lawson of Blaby:
Would you not think also that it depends on what the objective
is, or how small it is? If I draw an analogy, a bombardment to
capture a small village might be successful, but the same bombardment
designed to win a war might not be. For example, in the sanctions
field, if you had sanctions against Libya in order to get them
to surrender a couple of agents, thought, rightly or wrongly,
to have been responsible for the Lockerbie air disaster, that
might succeed, but if you had done it to bring down Gaddafi, probably
it would not have succeeded. In other words, sanctions might be
useful for almost trivial ends, but at least you achieve something
and show that you are doing something, whereas anything ambitious,
they are highly unlikely to be successful?
Mr Singleton: I think that is a very fair point,
Q101 Lord Skidelsky:
Can I just go back to your reply to the question from Lord Vallance,
when the question was the difference between general or targeted
sanctions; how do targeted sanctions work? I am just interested
in your view of the mechanism by which conceivably they might
work. If the sanctions are designed only to harm those that support
the regime, or leaders of the regime, by, say, freezing their
assets, where is the incentive for any other actors to bring pressure
on the regime? Surely, harm to others than the regime themselves
is an essential feature of any effectiveness of sanctions, other
than just as demonstration. A concrete example, how do sanctions
against Mugabe and his bank accounts actually produce any pressure
inside the economy, inside the society, for getting rid of him,
or getting him to change his behaviour?
Mr Singleton: It depends what you are trying
to achieve. By imposing sanctions, if you make it more difficult
for a dictator to govern, then you may well end up helping someone
wanting to overthrow or replace that government. For example,
if the dictator cannot afford to buy weapons and pay for the military,
as a result of very targeted economic sanctions, that might lead
to an overthrow. If all you are doing, however, is providing a
little bit of inconvenience, then I think you are right, you are
not going to achieve very much.
Q102 Lord Skidelsky:
Let me go on then. Can you give us any concrete examples of cases
in which sanctions have had an adverse impact on businesses that
were not intended to be targeted by the sanctions measures?
Mr Singleton: In terms of general sanctions,
when you impose general sanctions against a country, inevitably
you hurt businesses in general, anyone who is trying to run a
business. In Rhodesia, every small-business person was hurt by
Q103 Lord Skidelsky:
That was intended?
Mr Singleton: Yes, but it was not effective,
Q104 Lord Skidelsky:
Because they were not hurt enough?
Mr Singleton: Because, although they were hurt,
it changed their views of the outside world and it changed their
views of Ian Smith. It made them more supportive of Ian Smith,
because they felt that, okay, what he was doing was wrong, but
"at least he is on our side," in effect.
Q105 Lord Skidelsky:
Would that view have persisted had they been hurt more?
Mr Singleton: I am not sure necessarily that
hurting people is a good way of promoting democracy and human
rights around the world.
Q106 Lord Skidelsky:
With respect, why not? You are saying, if they hurt a little,
that is fine, because they strengthen support for the regime;
and then, logically, one would assume that if they hurt more,
and the more they hurt, in a sense, they would have to change
the regime, would they not?
Mr Singleton: I have not seen any statistical
analysis of that, but I think it is very difficult, because, I
think, any country which imposes sanctions which do create excessive
misery in another country is going to find it difficult politically
to impose those sanctions.
Q107 Lord Skidelsky:
Just logically, a population will revolt before it starves to
Mr Singleton: Yes, I think you are right.
The argument that general economic sanctions lead to significant
humanitarian costs for the citizens of the targeted country, are
there significant humanitarian costs associated with targeted
sanctions, in your view?
Mr Singleton: No, not in the same way as with
Q109 Lord Sheldon:
Can you give any instances where a regime has been removed, or
attitudes have been changed, as a result of economic engagement,
rather than sanctions, so that economic engagement might be an
alternative to sanctions?
Mr Singleton: That is a difficult one. I think
what tends to happen is that when you do have economic engagement,
because you create a counterbalancea middle class becomes
a counterbalance to the political eliteit changes the behaviour
of the political elite in such a way that they do not feel able
to rig elections, and so, in a sense, you do not really know what
would have happened had there not been the economic engagement.
I think it is difficult. I cannot think of an example where people
have said, "Let's do economic engagement," as a tool,
but there are plenty of examples where economic engagement has
been allowed to happen and then you have had good government as
Q110 Lord Sheldon:
You are not thinking of this as an alternative, in certain cases?
Mr Singleton: Certainly, I would favour engagements.
If you take an example of Zimbabwe, economic engagement probably
is not going to make a great deal of difference, nor are sanctions;
you have got to look at a different instrument. There are plenty
of examples where, in a sense, neither provides the right instrument
for dealing with the problem.
Q111 Lord Layard:
That is interesting. What other instruments do you have in mind?
Mr Singleton: I think, in the case of Zimbabwe,
it needs to be an African solution. It requires, I think, long-term
work to encourage leadership, for example, on the part of South
Africa, and through the African Union. It is something that I
do not think will be solved through either sanctions or economic
Q112 Lord Paul:
How important is it for us to understand the conventions of the
regime before you start considering sanctions. How important is
it to understand the compulsions of the local regimes and the
extent you want to go to for sanctions, because sometimes they
have some local problems which are not easily understood by outsiders?
Mr Singleton: I think that is very important.
Q113 Lord Vallance of Tummel:
This is not exactly sanctions, but increased economic engagement,
it seems to me, clearly has a very important role, say, on the
Balkans, say, in Bulgaria, say, in Rumania; these were pretty
repressive regimes, Turkey even. Certainly, the possible sanctionnot
being allowed in the EUon increased economic engagement
is obviously very important, is it not? I think I may be stretching
it too far, but you can see the pressures in those sorts of countries,
can you not?
Mr Singleton: Yes. I was in Turkey a few months
ago and it was interesting talking to economists there of their
view of the EU. Certainly there was an overwhelming feeling that
they wanted to be part of it. They felt also that their government's
behaviour was changing as a result of the desperation to get in.
I think, when you look at the Balkans as well, having economic
engagement with Europe has been hugely beneficial there. I think
we will not worry, 20 years from now, about human rights abuses
in Turkey, through economic engagement.
Q114 Lord Layard:
Can I ask about Cuba? Have the nature and intensity of American
sanctions changed over time, or how far do other countries comply
with the sanctions that the US proposes, and what do you think
has been the overall impact of sanctions against Cuba?
Mr Singleton: Periodically, Americans tighten
up, particularly because they have significant ex-Cuban residents
in Florida and often they are the strongest supporters of tightening
sanctions. I do not think that the effect of sanctions has been
all that significant economically, because they do have trading
relationships with the rest of the world they do have exports,
for example, cigars, which are very successful globally. The tragedy,
I think, is that Cuba is able to blame the bad bits of their economy,
which is the central planning and also the human rights abuses,
on the Americans, in effect. Castro is able to cling onto power
because whenever people have hardship he is able to say, "Well,
it's the Americans," when, in fact, it is his own leadership.
Q115 Lord Vallance of Tummel:
On Iraq, how would you judge the balance of success and failure
of sanctions across the board, and, more specifically, how far
do you think those sanctions met the objectives behind the relevant
UN Security Council Resolutions?
Mr Singleton: I think the sanctions between
the two wars, between the Gulf War and the Iraq War, were a failure,
by any measure. I do not see that actually they achieved anything
useful. Probably they helped Saddam Hussein win support from his
population, because, again, like in Cuba, he was able to blame
foreigners for problems in his country. Whether economic engagement
would have been the solution, I would not say necessarily that
would be the solution, in that particular case, but thinking that
somehow sanctions would help, I think it would have been better
just to allow trade with Iraq and leave it at that, for those
Q116 Lord Vallance of Tummel:
You do not think then that those sanctions achieved at least a
halt to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction?
Mr Singleton: The belief that you should allow
trade on most things is not the same as you should allow trade
in arms, necessarily. Obviously, where you have rogue states you
have got to stop certain products from being traded, but we should
not stop trading everything just because of that.
Q117 Lord Vallance of Tummel:
It is not just trade, it could have been the development of WMD
rather than trade in WMD, and is not there an argument that at
least very strong economic sanctions across the board so crippled
the economy that they could not develop that weapon?
Mr Singleton: Perhaps. I think you have got
to look at other policy instruments as well. The tragedy is, with
Iraq, that clearly, if you were going to remove Saddam Hussein,
it would have been better to do it significantly earlier rather
Q118 Lord Paul:
Even goods like arms and weapons, etc., those states which want
to buy them will have no shortage of suppliers, so how will sanctions
on anything help with that?
Mr Singleton: I think that is a good point.
In most cases where there are sanctions imposed you will have
a black market happening. Actually, the sorts of people that you
buy weapons from are the sorts of people who will break embargoes,
so I think that is a very important point.
There is one question which slipped by, which I hoped was going
to be asked when we were talking about frozen assets. I do not
know whether you can help us on that, but are there, in your view,
any official mechanisms or other means available in the United
Kingdom for innocent people or organisations to challenge asset
freezes, and do such means as there are give adequate protection
Mr Singleton: That I do not know. I would be
happy to find out and send a note to the Committee.
Chairman: Thank you very much; that would
be very helpful. Otherwise I think we have asked all the questions
we wanted to, and we are really very grateful to you for coming
along and helping us with our inquiry. Thank you very much indeed.