1930s, assassinations, Baltic, BNFL nuclear contracts, Boris Johnson, BORIS NEMTSOV, BP, Cold War, corruption, Crimea, dangers of nuclear, Defence, democracy, environment, hex, Hitler, House of Commons, Litvinenko, London property, London real estate, mafia, Magnitsky, MI6, Money-laundering, NATO, Nazi Germany, nuclear enrichment contracts Soviet Union, nuclear industry, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, poisoning, poisonings, property, Putin, Russia, Russian assassinations UK, Russian spy, Salisbury, sanctions, Sergei Skripal, Skripal, Soviet Union, Springfields, spy, spy swap, Techsnabexport, trading with the enemy, UK, Ukraine, uranium enrichment, uranium enrichment services, USSR, Wiltshire
“Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab)
The Skripal case has disturbing parallels not only with the Litvinenko case, but with the BBC drama “McMafia”, as does the report leaked to The Guardian and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project last month, which found that millions of pounds linked to the Putin family and the FSB – Russia’s federal security service – spy network had been laundered through the London property network. Does not the Foreign Secretary appreciate how simply patting himself on the back and saying that we are leading the world looks complacent? We simply must do more to promote financial transparency….
Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)
Much as I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s strong condemnation of Russia and his reassertion of state sanctions, it is clear that they not working. I am concerned that there is a lack of political will to take the matter further, perhaps because there is an awful lot of Russian money sloshing around the City of London, driving the London property market and, dare I say it, being donated on some occasions to political parties. Could we not put further pressure on Putin by targeting those members of the Russian community over here who have perhaps brought over some of those large amounts of money?”….
Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
I urge the Foreign Secretary to think not of the 1950s and the cold war, but of the 1930s. Personally, I believe that the period we are passing through now is probably as dangerous as the 1930s. Russia is the new Germany, with a leader who is also very unpredictable and very determined to take on America and the free world. Will the right hon. Gentleman make sure that, at a time when we have a fragmented Europe and when America has, in many respects, distanced itself from the world stadium, he takes this issue seriously, because colleagues on both sides of the House are absolutely right: the Russians will listen only to force and challenge.” (Government Policy on Russia, 06 March 2018, Volume 637)
From the UK House of Commons-Hansard:
“Government Policy on Russia
06 March 2018
Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con)
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Her Majesty’s Government’s policy towards Russia.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Boris Johnson)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) for raising this important matter. Although he asks a general question about Russia, let me immediately say that there is much speculation about the disturbing incident in Salisbury, where a 66-year-old man, Sergei Skripal, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found unconscious outside The Maltings shopping centre on Sunday afternoon. Police, together with partner agencies, are now investigating.
Hon. Members will note the echoes of the death of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Although it would be wrong to prejudge the investigation, I can reassure the House that, should evidence emerge that implies state responsibility, Her Majesty’s Government will respond appropriately and robustly, although I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will appreciate that it would not be right for me to give further details of the investigation now, for fear of prejudicing the outcome.
This House has profound differences with Russia, which I outlined in the clearest terms when I visited Moscow in December. By annexing Crimea in 2014, igniting the flames of conflict in eastern Ukraine and threatening western democracies, including by interfering in their elections, Russia has challenged the fundamental basis of international order.
The United Kingdom, under successive Governments, has responded with strength and determination, first by taking unilateral measures after the death of Litvinenko, expelling four Russian diplomats in 2007 and suspending security co-operation between our respective agencies, and then by leading the EU’s response to the annexation of Crimea and the aggression in Ukraine by securing tough sanctions, co-ordinated with the United States and other allies, targeting Russian state-owned banks and defence companies, restricting the energy industry that serves as the central pillar of the Russian economy, and constraining the export of oil exploration and production equipment.
Whenever those sanctions have come up for renewal, Britain has consistently argued for their extension, and we shall continue to do so until and unless the cause for them is removed. These measures have inflicted significant damage on the Russian economy. Indeed, they help to explain why it endured two years of recession in 2015 and 2016.
As the House has heard repeatedly, the UK Government have been in the lead at the UN in holding the Russians to account for their support of the barbaric regime of Bashar al-Assad. The UK has been instrumental in supporting Montenegro’s accession to NATO and in helping that country to identify the perpetrators of the Russian-backed attempted coup. This country has exposed the Russian military as cyber-criminals in its attacks on Ukraine and elsewhere.
As I said, it is too early to speculate about the precise nature of the crime or attempted crime that took place in Salisbury on Sunday, but Members will have their suspicions. If those suspicions prove to be well founded, this Government will take whatever measures we deem necessary to protect the lives of the people in this country, our values and our freedoms. Though I am not now pointing fingers, because we cannot do so, I say to Governments around the world that no attempt to take innocent life on UK soil will go either unsanctioned or unpunished. It may be that this country will continue to pay a price for our continued principles in standing up to Russia, but I hope that the Government will have the support of Members on both sides of the House in continuing to do so. We must await the outcome of the investigation, but in the meantime I should like to express my deep gratitude to the emergency services for the professionalism of their response to the incident in Salisbury.
Order. Unfortunately, the Foreign Secretary arrived slightly later than scheduled and addressed the House for slightly longer than the time limit allows, but by virtue of my generosity of spirit, he has thus far escaped unsanctioned in respect of either offence. His acknowledgement of same would of course be appreciated by the House.
I must now make some allowance for the shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry – [Interruption.] Oh, only once we have heard from Mr Tugendhat; I am ahead of myself.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is good of you to have accorded this urgent question.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s tour of the world and of the various abuses from Russia that we are dealing with at the moment. Though it is, as he rightly says, too soon to point fingers at Moscow regarding what happened in Salisbury, it is quite clear that we are seeing a pattern in Russian behaviour. Indeed, BuzzFeed’s Heidi Blake, a journalist who has been researching this subject intensively over a number of years, has come up with 14 deaths that she attributes to Russian elements, and there are others who have pointed this out. Only today, Shashank Joshi, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute, indicated that murder is a matter of public policy in Russia today. My right hon. Friend’s ministerial colleague, the Minister for Europe and the Americas, was also absolutely right to criticise the murder of Boris Nemtsov only recently.
We are seeing a pattern of what the KGB would refer to as “demoralise, destabilise, bring to crisis and normalise”, so does my right hon. Friend agree that Russia is now conducting a form of soft war against the west, that its use of so-called fake news – more often known as propaganda and information warfare – is part of that, and that this requires a whole-of-Government response, which his Department is best placed to lead?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is indeed correct that Russia is engaged in a host of malign activities that stretch from the abuse and murder of journalists to the mysterious assassination of politicians. I am glad that he mentioned Mr Nemtsov, as in December I was privileged to pay tribute to his memory at the site of his murder on a bridge in Moscow.
It is clear that Russia is, I am afraid, in many respects now a malign and disruptive force, and the UK is in the lead across the world in trying to counteract that activity. I must say to the House that that is sometimes difficult, given the strong economic pressures that are exerted by Russia’s hydrocarbons on other European economies, and we sometimes have difficulty in trying to get our points across, but we do get our points across. There has been no wavering on the sanctions regimes that has been imposed by European countries, and nor indeed will there be such wavering as long as the UK has a say in this.
A cross-Government review is an interesting idea that I will take away and consider. As my hon. Friend knows, the National Security Council has repeatedly looked at our relations with Russia, which are among the most difficult that we face in the world. I assure him that we will be looking at it again. We must be very careful in what we say because it is too early to prejudge the investigation, but if the suspicions on both sides of the House about the events in Salisbury prove to be well founded, we may well be forced to look again at our sanctions regime and at other measures that we may seek to put in place.
Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab)
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I thank the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat), for securing it.
We are all extremely concerned about the incident in Salisbury yesterday, and I am sure we all hope for the recovery of Mr Skripal and his daughter. I am sure both sides of the House will join me in praising the professionalism and frankly, given the nature of previous poisonings, the bravery of the emergency services that dealt with this incident.
As the Secretary of State says, the incident has disturbing echoes of the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko 12 years ago, and it comes after the exposure last June by BuzzFeed News of the fact that, since 2012, 14 individuals considered hostile to the Putin regime have died in mysterious circumstances on British soil. However, the investigation of this particular incident in Salisbury has only just begun, and I do not believe it is appropriate for us to indulge in speculation while the investigating authorities are still doing their job, so I will not ask the Secretary of State any specific questions about the incident or the Government’s response, although I am sure the time for those questions will come soon.
I have two related questions for the Secretary of State. He talks about working across Europe in relation to sanctions. As we leave the European Union, how will we continue to work with our European allies on sanctions?
Secondly, on the issue of Russian human rights abuses, the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill is currently upstairs in Committee where, right now, the Government are resisting an amendment that would enable Britain to sanction individuals who perpetrate gross human rights abuses, such as those who tortured Sergei Magnitsky to death in a Moscow jail in 2009. Can the Secretary of State explain why the Government are taking such a negative stance against our Magnitsky amendment? Surely they should be supporting it.
Thirdly, the Secretary of State will, like me, surely have heard President Putin’s speech and have been disturbed to hear Putin boasting about the proficiency of Russia’s new nuclear weapons systems, all in response to Donald Trump’s planned expansion of America’s nuclear arsenal. Both are driving a coach and horses through the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. What are the Government doing to urge all parties to renew their compliance with that vital international treaty?
The right hon. Lady is right to place that emphasis on the breaches of the intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty that we are now seeing and on the risk to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which is one of the great achievements of the post-war order. The UK is active in New York, and, with our American friends, we are making the case that it is time to bring the Russians firmly to heel. There is no doubt that there is a great deal of anxiety about what is now happening. Fundamentally, it is not in Russia’s interest.
The right hon. Lady makes an interesting point about so-called Magnitsky amendments. Members on both sides of the House are interested in tabling such amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which, as she rightly says, is now in Committee. We will look at all such proposals with an open mind. We are very interested in trying to address the issue of those who grossly abuse human rights, which is what everybody wants to achieve. As currently framed, the Bill, a fortiori, tackles such gross abuses because it tackles all those who abuse human rights. I am conscious that the House wishes to go further, and we are happy to look at that.
Mr Keith Simpson (Broadland) (Con)
I follow the example of the shadow Foreign Secretary by saying that, as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, I do not intend to ask the Foreign Secretary for details of the recent incident, but does he agree that, after more than a decade now, we can see the direction of travel of the Putin regime? Its ability to murder people it regards as traitors is in the finest traditions of the KGB, the NKVD, et cetera. Are the measures taken by the British Government having any effect whatsoever on Putin?
As I have told the House, we believe the sanctions that we have been instrumental in implementing have had an effect, and it is certainly the case that the Russian economy took a serious hit as a result of those sanctions – more than 100 individuals have been listed, and the sectoral measures cover energy, art, the arms trade and financial services. The sanctions are having an effect. If I may say so, it is a measure of the UK’s leading role in enforcing those sanctions and in calling Russia out that Russian rhetoric towards the UK is quite as hostile as it is.
Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP)
First of all, my thoughts go to Mr Skripal and his daughter, who we hope recover. Does this not demonstrate the different types of threat that we face? The threats are not always obvious or traceable. This is not a classic article 5 scenario, but this type of scenario is not unknown to our allies in the Baltic states. Does this not cut to the heart of the modernising defence programme in terms of how we protect human assets like Mr Skripal in this country? Can the Foreign Secretary tell us whether this type of scenario will lead to a review of how we best protect these people across the United Kingdom?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very perceptive point about the way in which such attacks affect not only the UK but many of our NATO allies. If what happened in Salisbury turns out to be as many suspect, we will co-ordinate our response with our NATO allies.
The hon. Gentleman asks how we protect such individuals, which is obviously not something on which he would expect me to comment in the House of Commons. We do our best to give such individuals the protection we can.
Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con)
I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement, which highlights the very real problems that we are now encountering in our relations with Russia. He will be aware that when the Intelligence and Security Committee was reformed, we immediately announced that one of our priorities is to carry out an inquiry into Russia’s covert activities and whether we have the appropriate responses to them. He may agree that that matter perhaps now requires a greater degree of urgency. I therefore ask him to do everything possible to facilitate that inquiry and ensure that it can get under way as soon as possible.
From his vantage point as Chair of the ISC, my right hon. and learned Friend has been following this very closely. I undertake to get back to him on that matter as soon as possible.
Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
The Foreign Secretary rightly says that no attempt on an innocent life on our soil should go uninvestigated or unpunished. I would not expect him to comment on the investigation that is currently under way – obviously we all have concerns for the welfare of the two individuals – but what about the 14 suspicious deaths that several Members have now raised?
In many of those cases, UK authorities concluded that the deaths were suicides, despite the fact that there has now been considerable reported evidence, including in the BuzzFeed report, casting serious doubt on those conclusions. There are also claims that US intelligence may have provided further evidence to the contrary in those 14 individual cases, and there are serious questions about whether the police investigations were thorough enough. As a result of what he has said, will the Foreign Secretary now discuss urgently with the Home Secretary whether a National Crime Agency investigation, or other form of police investigation, and review of all 14 cases should now take place?
The right hon. Lady is perfectly right to say that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) pointed out, there are a number of deeply troubling cases, such as that of Mr Perepilichnyy. To the best of our knowledge at present, there is no further evidence that points in the direction of criminality, but what she says is very important. We will certainly follow it up and I will certainly have that discussion with the Home Secretary.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con)
It is almost exactly four years since the annexation of the sovereign territory of Ukraine in Crimea by Russia. It is two years since the public inquiry concluded that President Putin almost certainly approved the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Is it not clear therefore that existing sanctions are failing to deter Russia, possibly even from carrying out further assassinations on British soil, and that the time has come to impose far tougher sanctions against targeted individuals associated with President Putin’s regime?
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for that. Obviously, we cannot prejudge the outcome of this investigation, as that would not be right. As I have said repeatedly, in the formula I have used, if the suspicions of Members on both sides of the House are confirmed, such sanctions are going to have to be one of the options we look at.
Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD)
These developments are clearly deeply concerning – not only those in Salisbury but the Heidi Blake reports about the potential of a multiple, wider pattern of assassinations on UK soil by the Russian regime. I welcome the fact that the Foreign Secretary, in response to the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said he is going to look into those cases further. I want to press him on this point about assets, because other countries have taken a tougher line on the assets of Russian nationals than we do here in the UK, particularly in London, where there is a higher concentration of these assets. Will he look again at what can be done, not only on cases where we are yet to have further investigation, but on past cases where we already know many of the facts, such as that of Magnitsky?
I will certainly look at what the hon. Lady proposes, but I have to say that the UK leads the world in cracking down on money laundering and those – [Interruption.] We do. We lead the world in cracking down on money laundering and we are trying to expose the beneficial ownership of accounts across the world. If it is possible to expose further such illicit activity in London, or indeed anywhere in the UK, in order to hold people to account, of course we will do this.
James Brokenshire (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con)
I recognise that the Foreign Secretary will be constrained in what he can say, but at a time when the focus has understandably been directed at confronting terrorism, will he reassure us that he and other Cabinet colleagues will see that the Security Service and our other intelligence agencies devote appropriate resources and attention to the activities of Russia and other foreign Governments within the UK, and the potential threats they pose?
My right hon. Friend speaks for many, on both sides of the House, in wanting to see our intelligence services, which are one of the great global assets of this country, properly funded, particularly now, not just in the war against terror but in the struggle against malign Russian activity.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
I do not think the Government have been robust or consistent enough over these past few years, and I have said that for a long time. Putin’s violent record is a matter for all to see – Beslan, the Moscow theatre, Crimea and Ukraine, Anna Politkovskaya and many other journalists, Sergei Magnitsky, Boris Nemtsov and so on. The truth is that this Government have repeatedly just shrugged their shoulders. After the Litvinenko inquiry found that Putin was personally responsible, the Government did absolutely nothing in response. What happens when a murdering dictator is told that nothing is going to happen? They just do it all over again. I urge the Foreign Secretary to think long and hard about a proper Magnitsky Act, which many other countries have adopted already. Let us make it absolutely clear to Russia: you cannot kill people on our soil with impunity.
I agree with the last sentiment the hon. Gentleman expressed, but I do not agree that the UK stood by and did nothing after the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. On the contrary, we have led the world in tough action against Russia: both at the United Nations and in the European Union we have been in the forefront of those calling for tough measures against Putin’s Russia. I made exactly those points in Moscow when I saw Sergei Lavrov, as some hon. Members may recall. As for the hon. Gentleman’s substantive point about a Magnitsky Act or a Magnitsky amendment, as I said in an earlier answer to an Opposition Member we are certainly willing to look at sensible proposals.
James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East) (Con)
Is the Foreign Secretary concerned, as I am, about future Russian attacks on critical infrastructure in the UK? I am conscious that the Economic Secretary to the Treasury is probably here more as the Member of Parliament for Salisbury, but is the Foreign Secretary particularly concerned about financial services infrastructure? As we carry less cash and cheque books, we are reliant on our electronic cards.
Absolutely. It is clear from the NotPetya attack and others that Russia is certainly prepared to attack our infrastructure, and we should guard against that possibility with every preparation we can.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)
I may have misinterpreted the question from the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, but it left me with the worrying impression that the Government are resisting the Committee’s attempts to hold an investigation into Russian interference. I would therefore be grateful if the Foreign Secretary could reassure the House on that point. The BuzzFeed investigation was published last June, so perhaps he could tell the House what the Government did then.
I have a couple of points to make on that. No attempt is being made to resist any investigation. On the contrary, as I have told the House repeatedly, this Government have mounted the strongest possible resistance across the world to Russian aggression and interference. I think hon. Members will readily concede that plenty of other Governments trade freely with Russia, oppose sanctions and are massively dependent on Russian hydrocarbons, and it is up to the UK to stand up for decency and to resist what Russia is doing.
Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con)
As someone who has campaigned for some time on the so-called “Magnitsky campaign”, may I say that the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill offers an opportunity for us to have the full Magnitsky, as opposed to Magnitsky-lite which we got last year in another piece of legislation? The Opposition’s amendments were well intended but can be improved on. May I tell my right hon. Friend that on Report there will be an opportunity for the whole House to come together to give a clear message? I urge him, with all the measures I can, to listen to all sides, because this issue concerns people right across this House.
My right hon. Friend is right to say that this issue greatly exercises Members on both sides of the House. As I have said repeatedly, we will certainly address the issue and we will try to find a way forward that addresses Members’ concerns.
John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op)
The Government’s response to Sir Robert Owen’s findings on Alexander Litvinenko was criticised at the time for not providing a sufficient deterrent effect. Whatever the Foreign Secretary’s view on whether the Government have taken action so far and no matter what findings in relation to Mr Skripal come through in time, does not this increasingly comprehensive picture show that the deterrent effect that the Government have desired is not working and that much more is needed?
I think all Members would concede that, in the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, we need to await the outcome of the investigation. Let us wish them every possible good fortune in their recovery. The Government are obviously going to look very carefully at whatever we can do to stop such a thing happening again. If things are as suspected by Members on both sides of the Chamber, we may have to come forward with much tougher measures, but we obviously cannot prejudge the investigation. The most important point is that the UK is in the lead around the world in standing up against Russia. It may well be that that explains the particular hostility we are currently having to endure. All I will say to the House is that it is worth it for this country to carry on with what it is doing to stand up to Russia, even if it exposes us to this kind of threat and challenge.
Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
Over the years, I have tried to understand the Russian position, and particularly the Russian attitude to the right of self-determination of the Russian majority in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, but the way to preserve peace with Russia is by having peace through strength. There is no point in giving commitments to the Baltic states without hardware and men on the ground. Will the Foreign Secretary echo the words of the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who is sitting next to him and who said in the estimates debate last week that spending 2% on defence was not enough?
I am not going to join my hon. Friend in calling for an increase in another Department’s budget right now, although it is absolutely right that we should be spending at least 2%. I should say, though, that out of that 2% we are able to fund- [Interruption.] The shadow Foreign Secretary says that we should spend it properly; we are, for instance, spending it on the 800 UK serving men and women in Tapa in Estonia, on the frontline with Russia, who are giving reassurance to a vital NATO ally. That is what the UK is doing. Believe me, the Russians know that we are doing that and that we are in the lead in calling for France and other EU countries to step up to the plate and deploy in the Baltics. The Russians know that we are in the lead in standing up for our friends in that part of the world. Yes, it may be that we in this country are paying a price for that, but we are not going to resile from that commitment.
Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op)
Following the apparent poisoning of Mr Skripal and his daughter, will the Foreign Secretary tell us whether the toxicology report will be made public, and if so, when?
I must respectfully tell the hon. Lady that, as I said right at the beginning of my response to the urgent question, I am not going to give a commentary on the investigation.
Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the work that Britainâ€™s National Cyber Security Centre does to resist Russian cyber-attacks on the UKâ€™s critical infrastructure? How does he categorise such attacks – are they just nuisances that we have to learn to live with and deal with, or are they, as some would say, acts of war?
That is a very perceptive question. I increasingly think that we have to categorise them as acts of war, which means that we need to elaborate a new doctrine of response and a new doctrine of deterrence. We certainly are doing that – it was one of the conclusions that we reached in the National Security Council a few months ago.
Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East) (Lab)
The Foreign Secretary speaks of the UK leading the way on EU sanctions on Russia. When we leave the EU, we will lose our seat at the table. In the six-monthly review of the sanctions, we have continued to push for their renewal. How will we exert influence when we have left the EU? What will be the legal status of the sanctions during the transition period?
I think the hon. Lady may have been in the House when we introduced the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, when I explained that although we may be leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe, and we will be intimately involved in the development of sanctions and other foreign policy. That is the intention of not only the UK but all our European partners. Fully half of EU sanctions listings depend on UK intelligence. We are an integral part of the European sanctions environment and will continue to be so.
Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
We could speak softly if we carried a big stick, so was not the peace dividend at the end of the cold war utterly misconceived?
I respectfully disagree with my right hon. Friend, in the sense that, appalling though recent events have been – as I say, we do not know exactly what has taken place in Salisbury, but if it is as bad as it looks, it is another crime in the litany of crimes that we can lay at Russia’s door – as somebody who grew up during the cold war, I resist the comparison between events today and the misery and horror of the gulags and the suffering of the peoples of eastern Europe that I remember. I do not think we should necessarily equate the conflict and difficulties that we have with Russia today with the existential threats that we faced during the 1970s and 1980s.
Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab)
The Foreign Secretary is right to say that the current situation is not the same as it was during the cold war, but is it not time to have an open and honest dialogue with the British people about how Russia uses instability, uncertainty and violence across the continent as part of its hybrid warfare, which is not peace but not war? That is the situation we are in and that conversation needs to be had. Will the Foreign Secretary lead it?
As the hon. Lady will know, the Prime Minister herself spoke in her Mansion House speech about this very matter and set out clearly her deep anxieties about how Russia is behaving. What we need to do is to concert international activity, sanction individuals who are part of Putin’s regime and keep the international community focused on exactly the points that the hon. Lady makes. Believe me, there is growing support around the world for what she says.
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
Having listened closely to today’s exchanges, I am sadly struggling to avoid the conclusion that Russia has now reached the point where it has little or no respect for Britain’s foreign, defence and security policy. If I am wrong, will the Foreign Secretary tell me why?
I have to disagree with my hon. Friend, because I believe that the UK is in the frontline of a struggle between two value systems. As the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) said, Russia is determined to impose its own way of thinking, particularly on the peoples of central and eastern Europe – the countries of the former Soviet Union. Russia is effectively revanchist, and it is the UK that is in the lead in standing up to it. Many other countries would prefer to turn a blind eye. Many other countries would prefer to go to the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, step up their trade in hydrocarbons and ignore what is going on. Believe me, there are many countries around the table in the European Union that would like to do that, and there are many countries around the world that believe that it is wrong and misguided to stand up to Russia.
We do not take that view; we take a principled view. We have been in the lead in the imposition of sanctions. We have been in the lead in standing up against Russian-supported aggression in Syria and in calling out Russia for what it did in the western Balkans and Montenegro. We are having a summit in this country in July on the defence of the western Balkans and all those countries against Russian encroachment. It is the UK that is resisting. As I have said to Members repeatedly, it may very well be that Russia will behave towards us in a way that is notably aggressive, but we will not be bowed and we will not allow such action to go unpunished.
Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab)
The Skripal case has disturbing parallels not only with the Litvinenko case, but with the BBC drama “McMafia”, as does the report leaked to The Guardian and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project last month, which found that millions of pounds linked to the Putin family and the FSB – Russia’s federal security service – spy network had been laundered through the London property network. Does not the Foreign Secretary appreciate how simply patting himself on the back and saying that we are leading the world looks complacent? We simply must do more to promote financial transparency.
I certainly agree that more can be done to promote financial transparency, but across the world the UK is second to none in doing that.
Paul Masterton (East Renfrewshire) (Con)
Does the Foreign Secretary share my concern about the basing of Sputnik in Edinburgh from where it spreads misinformation and peddles conspiracy theories to foment division in the UK? Does he also agree that it is incredibly disappointing that current MPs and former First Ministers give Russia Today and Sputnik a pretence of credibility that they do not deserve?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Members from all sides of the House should think long and hard before they appear on Russia Today, which is clearly a vehicle for Kremlin propaganda.
Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
The Foreign Secretary, like many other people, has spoken powerfully about the extent to which Russia – while not at war with us – can be seen only as an enemy of the best interests of the United Kingdom. On that basis, is it not time to review whether we should continue to sit on the UN Security Council and have Russia in a position where it is able to decide whether the actions that we take with our military are lawful?
If things turn out as many Members on both sides of the House suspect they will – to return to that formula – we will have to have a serious conversation about our engagement with Russia. Thinking ahead to the World Cup this summer, it is very difficult to imagine how UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way, and we will certainly have to consider that.
Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
The southern gas corridor, which is currently under construction by BP, stretches from Azerbaijan to Italy, with spurs across Europe. It will end the reliance on Russian gas, which makes it a threat to Russia’s potential finances. Will the Foreign Secretary undertake a review of the security of that pipeline to ensure that Russia cannot interfere with it, so that Europe can then get its proper gas supplies in an appropriate way?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on gas supplies and the political strategic use that Russia makes of those supplies. I will certainly look at the point that he raises about the Azerbaijan pipeline.
Chris Evans (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op)
International arrest warrants are still outstanding for the two people alleged to have killed Litvinenko. There is no chance of extraditing them to this country. Yesterday, whether it was poisonous gases or substances that we saw on the streets of Britain, they could have caused harm to our citizens. If the Foreign Secretary cannot bring Litvinenko’s killers to justice, how can he guarantee that those who perpetuated yesterday’s crime will equally be brought to justice?
Obviously, we must leave it to the police and the security services to do what they can to bring the perpetrators of yesterday’s crime, or attempted crime, to justice.
Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
Here in the UK, we often say that pride comes before a fall. In Russia, it is rather different. They say that if you have no pride, you will surely fall. Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that, in the dealings of the Foreign Office and other Departments with Russia, full account is taken of the Russian psychology, which respects only strength?
My hon. Friend is entirely right, which is why the UK has been at the forefront of those calling for a robust approach to Russia both in the Baltics and in the western Balkans.
Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
Given the various concerns expressed in this Chamber about both today’s events and the demonstration of Russian power, which we saw earlier in the week, can the Foreign Secretary reassure us that discussions on how to counter this are taking place with current EU member states and other allies?
If the hon. Lady will forgive me, she makes a good point, but we must really await the outcome of the investigation before we begin to draw conclusions with our friends.
Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab)
Russia has conducted cyber-attacks against European countries, invaded the sovereign territory of Ukraine, abducted an Estonian border guard, and murdered people on British soil. Given Putin’s strategy of divide and rule, does the Foreign Secretary not agree that the UK response to Russian aggression needs to be robust, but, to be most effective, should it not also command the support not just of his party and the Government, but the whole of this Parliament?
I very much agree with both the manner and the content of what the hon. Lady has said, and I know that she speaks for the vast majority of people in both Houses of Parliament.
Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
I urge the Foreign Secretary to think not of the 1950s and the cold war, but of the 1930s. Personally, I believe that the period we are passing through now is probably as dangerous as the 1930s. Russia is the new Germany, with a leader who is also very unpredictable and very determined to take on America and the free world. Will the right hon. Gentleman make sure that, at a time when we have a fragmented Europe and when America has, in many respects, distanced itself from the world stadium, he takes this issue seriously, because colleagues on both sides of the House are absolutely right: the Russians will listen only to force and challenge.
The hon. Gentleman is completely right that the Russians only respect force, which is why the UK has been so absolutely insistent on the enhanced forward presence in Estonia, in supporting the Baltic countries, in resisting Russian aggression in the western Balkans, and in imposing sanctions for what Russia did in Ukraine. There are plenty of other Governments who do not believe that we should take this lineâ€”that do not believe that the international community should be taking this line. It is the UK that has been in the lead and will continue to be in the lead.
Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)
Much as I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s strong condemnation of Russia and his reassertion of state sanctions, it is clear that they not working. I am concerned that there is a lack of political will to take the matter further, perhaps because there is an awful lot of Russian money sloshing around the City of London, driving the London property market and, dare I say it, being donated on some occasions to political parties. Could we not put further pressure on Putin by targeting those members of the Russian community over here who have perhaps brought over some of those large amounts of money?
Let us await the outcome of the investigation. Let us get to the bottom of what has happened to Sergei Skripal and his daughter, and then we can consider what more we can do. ” https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-03-06/debates/E416F6C5-50D9-47FF-8C3E-0946CE99E6CA/GovernmentPolicyOnRussia
© UK Parliament-House of Commons, 2018, OGL: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/
This needs explaining: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2018/03/05/the-uk-refuses-to-produce-documents-related-to-nuclear-materials-contracts-with-the-soviet-union-during-the-cold-war-citing-costs/
“Sheerman was born on 17 August 1940 in Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex and went to Hampton Grammar School (became the independent Hampton School in 1975) on Hanworth Road in Hampton then Kingston Technical College. He was educated at the London School of Economics (BSc Economics 1965) and at the University of London (MSc 1967). He became a lecturer at the University of Wales, Swansea in 1966 and remained there until his election to parliament in 1979.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Sheerman