With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the response of the Russian Government to the incident in Salisbury.
First, on behalf of the whole House, let me pay tribute once again to the bravery and professionalism of all the emergency services, doctors, nurses and investigation teams who have led the response to this appalling incident, and also to the fortitude of the people of Salisbury. I reassure them that, as Public Health England has made clear, the ongoing risk to public health is low, and the Government will continue to do everything possible to support this historic city to recover fully.
On Monday, I set out that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok—a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia. Based on this capability, combined with Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations—including against former intelligence officers whom it regards as legitimate targets—the UK Government concluded it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for this reckless and despicable act. There are only two plausible explanations: either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country; or, conceivably, the Russian Government could have lost control of a military-grade nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.
It was right to offer Russia the opportunity to provide an explanation, but its response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events. The Russian Government have provided no credible explanation that could suggest that they lost control of their nerve agent, no explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom, and no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law. Instead it has treated the use of a military-grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance.
There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom. As I set out on Monday, it has taken place against the backdrop of a well-established pattern of Russian state aggression across Europe and beyond. It must therefore be met with a full and robust response beyond the actions we have already taken since the murder of Mr Litvinenko and to counter this pattern of Russian aggression elsewhere.
As the discussion in this House on Monday made clear, it is essential that we now come together with our allies to defend our security, to stand up for our values and to send a clear message to those who would seek to undermine them. This morning, I chaired a further meeting of the National Security Council, where we agreed immediate actions to dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK, urgent work to develop new powers to tackle all forms of hostile state activity and to ensure that those seeking to carry out such activity cannot enter the UK, and additional steps to suspend all planned high-level contacts between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation.
Let me start with the immediate actions. The House will recall that, following the murder of Mr Litvinenko, the UK expelled four diplomats. Under the Vienna convention, the United Kingdom will now expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers. They have just one week to leave. This will be the single biggest expulsion for over 30 years and it reflects the fact that this is not the first time that the Russian state has acted against our country. Through these expulsions, we will fundamentally degrade Russian intelligence capability in the UK for years to come, and if Russia seeks to rebuild it, we will prevent it from doing so.
We will also urgently develop proposals for new legislative powers to harden our defences against all forms of hostile state activity. This will include the addition of a targeted power to detain those suspected of hostile state activity at the UK border. This power is currently only permitted in relation to those suspected of terrorism. And I have asked the Home Secretary to consider whether there is a need for new counter-espionage powers to clamp down on the full spectrum of hostile activities of foreign agents in our country.
As I set out on Monday, we will also table a Government amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill to strengthen our powers to impose sanctions in response to the violation of human rights. In doing so, we will play our part in an international effort to punish those responsible for the sorts of abuses suffered by Sergei Magnitsky. I hope, as with all the measures I am setting out today, that this will command cross-party support.
We will also make full use of existing powers to enhance our efforts to monitor and track the intentions of those travelling to the UK who could be engaged in activity that threatens the security of the UK and of our allies. So we will increase checks on private flights, customs and freight. We will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents. Led by the National Crime Agency, we will continue to bring all the capabilities of UK law enforcement to bear against serious criminals and corrupt elites. There is no place for these people, or their money, in our country.
Let me be clear. While our response must be robust, it must also remain true to our values as a liberal democracy that believes in the rule of law. Many Russians have made this country their home, abide by our laws and make an important contribution to our country which we must continue to welcome. But to those who seek to do us harm, my message is simple: you are not welcome here.
Let me turn to our bilateral relationship. As I said on Monday, we have had a very simple approach to Russia: engage but beware. I continue to believe that it is not in our national interest to break off all dialogue between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation. But in the aftermath of this appalling act against our country, this relationship cannot be the same. So we will suspend all planned high-level bilateral contacts between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation. This includes revoking the invitation to Foreign Minister Lavrov to pay a reciprocal visit to the UK and confirming that there will be no attendance by Ministers, or indeed members of the royal family, at this summer’s World cup in Russia.
Finally, we will deploy a range of tools from across the full breadth of our national security apparatus in order to counter the threats of hostile state activity. While I have set out some of these measures today, Members on all sides will understand that there are some that cannot be shared publicly for reasons of national security. And of course there are other measures we stand ready to deploy at any time should we face further Russian provocation.
None of the actions we take is intended to damage legitimate activity or prevent contacts between our populations. We have no disagreement with the people of Russia, who have been responsible for so many great achievements throughout their history. Many of us looked at a post-Soviet Russia with hope. We wanted a better relationship, and it is tragic that President Putin has chosen to act in this way. But we will not tolerate the threat to the life of British people and others on British soil from the Russian Government. Nor will we tolerate such a flagrant breach of Russia’s international obligations.
As I set out on Monday, the United Kingdom does not stand alone in confronting Russian aggression. In the last 24 hours, I have spoken to President Trump, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron. We have agreed to co-operate closely in responding to this barbaric act and to co-ordinate our efforts to stand up for the rules-based international order, which Russia seeks to undermine. I will also speak to other allies and partners in the coming days. I welcome the strong expressions of support from NATO and from partners across the European Union and beyond. Later today in New York, the UN Security Council will hold open consultations where we will be pushing for a robust international response. We have also notified the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons about Russia’s use of this nerve agent, and we are working with the police to enable the OPCW to independently verify our analysis.
This was not just an act of attempted murder in Salisbury, nor just an act against the UK. It is an affront to the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and it is an affront to the rules-based system on which we and our international partners depend. We will work with our allies and partners to confront such actions wherever they threaten our security, at home and abroad. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of her statement and echo her words about the service of our emergency and public services.
The attack in Salisbury was an appalling act of violence. Nerve agents are abominable if used in any war. It is utterly reckless to use them in a civilian environment. This attack in Britain has concerned our allies in the European Union, NATO and the UN, and their words of solidarity have strengthened our position diplomatically. Our response as a country must be guided by the rule of law, support for international agreements and respect for human rights. When it comes to the use of chemical weapons on British soil, it is essential that the Government work with the United Nations to strengthen its chemical weapons monitoring system and involve the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The Prime Minister said on Monday:
“either this was a direct act by the Russian state…or the Russian Government lost control of their potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”—[Official Report, 12 March 2018; Vol. 637, c. 620-21.]
Our response must be decisive, proportionate and based on clear evidence. If the Government believe that it is still a possibility that Russia negligently lost control of a military-grade nerve agent, what action is being taken through the OPCW with our allies? I welcome the fact that the police are working with the OPCW.
Has the Prime Minister taken the necessary steps under the chemical weapons convention to make a formal request for evidence from the Russian Government under article IX(2)? How has she responded to the Russian Government’s request for a sample of the agent used in the Salisbury attack to run their own tests? Has high-resolution trace analysis been run on a sample of the nerve agent, and has that revealed any evidence as to the location of its production or the identity of its perpetrators?
Can the Prime Minister update the House on what conversations, if any, she has had with the Russian Government? While suspending planned high-level contacts, does she agree that is essential to retain a robust dialogue with Russia, in the interests of our own and wider international security?
With many countries speaking out alongside us, the circumstances demand that we build an international consensus to address the use of chemical weapons. We should urge our international allies to join us in calling on Russia to reveal without delay full details of its chemical weapons programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. It is, as we on the Labour Benches have expressed before, a matter of huge regret that our country’s diplomatic capacity has been stripped back, with cuts of 25% in the last five years. It is—[Interruption.]
Order. The right hon. Gentleman must be heard. There will be adequate opportunity for colleagues on both sides of the House to put questions. Members must be heard.
I could not understand a word of what the Foreign Secretary just said, but his behaviour demeans his office.
It is in moments such as these that Governments realise how vital strong diplomacy and political pressure are for our security and national interest. The measures we take have to be effective, not just for the long-term security of our citizens but to secure a world free of chemical weapons. Can the Prime Minister outline what discussions she has had with our partners in the European Union, NATO and the UN and what willingness there was to take multilateral action? While the poisonings of Sergei and Yulia Skripal are confronting us today, what efforts are being made by the Government to reassess the death of Mr Skripal’s wife, Liudmila, who died in 2012, and the deaths of his elder brother and son in the past two years?
We have a duty to speak out against the abuse of human rights by the Putin Government and their supporters, both at home and abroad, and I join many others in this House in paying tribute to the many campaigners in Russia for human rights, justice and democracy in that country. We must do more to address the dangers posed by the state’s relationship with unofficial mafia-like groups and corrupt oligarchs. We must also expose the flows of ill-gotten cash between the Russian state and billionaires who become stupendously rich by looting their country and subsequently use London to protect their wealth. We welcome the Prime Minister today clearly committing to support the Magnitsky amendments and implementing them as soon as possible, as Labour has long pushed for.
Yesterday, Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian exile who was close friends with the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in his London home. What reassurances can the Prime Minister give to citizens of Russian origin living in Britain that they are safe here?
The events in Salisbury earlier this month are abominable and have been rightly condemned across the House. Britain has to build a consensus with our allies, and we support the Prime Minister in taking multilateral and firm action to ensure that we strengthen the chemical weapons convention and that this dreadful, appalling act, which we totally condemn, never happens again in our country.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a number of questions about the nerve agent that had been used. He asked whether we were putting together an international coalition to call on Russia to reveal the details of its chemical weapons programme to the OPCW. That is indeed what we did. We gave the Russian Government the opportunity, through the démarche that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary delivered to the Russian ambassador in London earlier this week, to do just that. They have not done so.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the corrupt elites and money going through London. As I said in my statement, led by the National Crime Agency, we will continue to bring all the capabilities of UK law enforcement to bear against serious criminals and corrupt elites. There is no place for these people or their money in our country, and that work is ongoing.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about getting an international consensus together. As I said, I have spoken to Chancellor Merkel, President Trump and President Macron. Others have also expressed their support. Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary-General, said:
“We stand in solidarity with our Allies in the United Kingdom”
“Those responsible—both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it—must face appropriately serious consequences.”
The NATO Council has expressed deep concern at the first offensive use of a nerve agent on alliance territory since NATO’s foundation, and allies agreed the attack was a clear breach of international norms and agreements. Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, said:
“I express my full solidarity with PM @theresa_may in the face of the brutal attack inspired, most likely, by Moscow. I’m ready to put the issue on next week’s #EUCO agenda.”
We will be doing that.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman that this is not a question of our diplomacy or of what diplomatic support we have around the world. This is a question of the culpability of the Russian state for an act on our soil. He said that we should be trying to build a consensus. It is clear from the conversations that I have had with allies that we have a consensus with our allies. It was clear from the remarks made by Back Benchers across the whole House on Monday that there is a consensus across the Back Benches of this House. I am only sorry that the consensus does not go as far as the right hon. Gentleman, who could have taken the opportunity, as the UK Government have done, to condemn the culpability of the Russian state.
It seems to me, without any access to closed information, that the use of this particularly bizarre and dreadful way of killing an individual is a deliberate choice by the Russian Government to put their signature on a particular killing so that other defectors are left in no doubt that it is the Russian Government who will act if they are disappointed in any way by those people’s actions. In the light of that, the only sensible question the Leader of the Opposition asked was what consultation we propose to have with NATO, other European countries and the American Government about positive action that could be taken to prevent this continuing defiance of international law and the defiance of all rules on the testing and possession of chemical weapons. This is not just a question of expressing our anger about Salisbury. This is actually a serious threat to the safety of the western world unless and until we all do something together to get the Russians to do something, as opposed to simply ignoring us.
My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right. That is why not only are we talking to allies bilaterally, but there will, as I understand it, be a meeting of the NATO Council tomorrow at which this issue will be considered. The President of the EU Council has said that he will be putting this on the agenda of the European Union Council meeting at the end of next week.
My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely right: while we rightly focus initially on the use of this nerve agent here in the UK and its impact on us here in the UK, this is about the illegal use of chemical weapons by the Russian state and an illegal programme of developing those chemical weapons by the Russian state. We will leave no stone unturned in working with our allies to ensure that we respond appropriately to that.
Let me thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of her statement.
As the Prime Minister has said, the attack on Mr Skripal and his daughter was an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom. There has to be a robust response to the use of terror on our streets. We must act in a measured way to show that we will simply not tolerate this behaviour. In that regard, I welcome, and associate those of us on the Scottish National party Benches with, the measures contained in the statement. On this matter, I commit my party to working constructively with the Government.
I am sure that the House will join me in extending thanks to the members of the police and security services who are working around the clock on the recent case in Salisbury. It has been warming to see our closest friends and allies across Europe expressing solidarity and support. Our friends globally must join with us by standing up to this abuse of state power by Russia. I look forward to the discussions in the United Nations, which must speak with a clear and unambiguous voice.
The fact that we are expelling the largest number of undeclared intelligence officers in over 30 years is welcome, as is the desire to examine what can be done from a legislative perspective to defend against hostile state activity. As someone who has previously supported so-called Magnitsky measures, I am pleased that the Government are signalling action in this area. Let me commend the actions of Bill Browder—I have had the opportunity to meet him—who has personally been at massive risk, but has stood up to the effects of Russian state power.
Financial sanctions are welcome, and we must redouble our efforts against any money laundering by those responsible. It must be made clear to the Russian authorities that we will not tolerate activities that infringe international law. While we support the PM’s actions, we will continue to scrutinise them carefully, and we must ensure that any proposed legislation is properly scrutinised.
Our thoughts are with those in Russia who have suffered due to the abuse of state power. There is no doubt that that is what we are seeing. In doing so, we look forward to a time when we can engage positively and to a time of peace and co-operation, but the only response today must be a robust one towards the Kremlin and Russia.
May I, once again, thank the right hon. Gentleman not just for the tone of his response, but for the comments that he has made? I reassure him that, of course, any legislative proposals we bring forward will have due scrutiny in this House. May I thank him for his constructive offer to work with the Government on this issue, because it is a matter that should concern us across the whole House? I reassure him that, although I made reference to a number of allies who have spoken in support of the United Kingdom on this, others have done so, too? Canada and Australia, for example, have also been very clear that a robust response is appropriate. Once again, I welcome the comments made by the right hon. Gentleman.
May I commend my right hon. Friend for her strong leadership and for rising to this challenge? Some in positions of leadership have also risen to the challenge, and I am only sorry that others in such positions have fallen well short.
In the conversations my right hon. Friend is due to have with her allies, which she is quite right to have, will she raise with the German Government the issue of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on which they are engaged with the Russians? It will cut revenues for Ukraine and eastern Europe and give Russia an unparalleled ability to bully those countries in the future. If Russia is, as we now believe, a rogue state, will she try to persuade our allies in Europe and elsewhere not to treat with it or help to make it better off?
I thank my right hon. Friend. One of the things we will be discussing with our allies is how we ensure that the robust message about the act that has taken place on UK soil is consistently given, and continues to be given, by all our allies. Nord Stream 2 is regularly discussed at the European Union Council, as my right hon. Friend would, I suspect, imagine.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. Her conclusion about the culpability of the Russian state is immensely serious. In addition to its breaches of international law, its use of chemical weapons and its continued disregard for the rule of law and human rights, that must be met with unequivocal condemnation. May I welcome the measures she has taken to downgrade the intelligence capability of the Russian state, and particularly the work that I understand has started with the United Nations? Within the United Nations, it is important to expose what the Russians are doing and to build the broadest possible support against them. Will she say a bit more about what she is doing on that front?
I thank the right hon. Lady for the strength of the statement she has just made, which I know is representative of the views of many of her right hon. and hon. Friends on the Labour Back Benches. We are taking this matter to the United Nations. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already spoken to the UN Secretary-General about this issue. The open discussion that is taking place tomorrow is the start of the process of looking at this issue. As I said in response to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), this is not just about the incident that has taken place here in the United Kingdom; it is about the use of chemical weapons—this illegal use of chemical weapons—that has taken place and about the role of the Russian state in the development of chemical weapons, contrary to international law.
No reasonable person can possibly doubt that the Russian Government have behaved with arrogance, inhumanity and contempt, not least in failing to respond to the Prime Minister’s deadline, which they surely would have done if they had known that they were innocent of this charge. In welcoming the Prime Minister’s expulsion of 23 diplomats who are really intelligence agents, may I ask her to make it clear that any retaliation in kind by the Russian Government will be met by further expulsions, perhaps including even of the ambassador, who spends so much time coming to talk to us in this place, bemoaning the poor state of Anglo-Russian relations? Does she accept that Russia traditionally respects strength and despises weakness and that the time has come to recognise that 2% of GDP is not enough to spend on defence when we are reverting to the sort of adversarial relationship that we had when we spent a much higher proportion of GDP on ensuring that this country was well defended?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his remarks. In response to his first point, as I said in my statement, there are other measures that we stand ready to deploy at any time, should we face further Russian provocation. On his other point, as we review our national security capability and our modernising defence programme, we are ensuring that we have the resources and capabilities available to deal with the variety and diversity of threats that this country faces. However, as those threats diversify, not all of them will be responded to by what is conventionally considered to be defence.
I and my party fully support the Prime Minister’s statement and position. What is her response to the brave leader of the opposition in Russia, Alexei Navalny, who is not allowed to stand in the presidential election and has said that the most effective action the British Government can take is to use their legal powers, such as unexplained wealth orders, against named individuals who are critical to the Putin operation? He names in particular Mr Alisher Usmanov, who has substantial property and sporting interests, and the First Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Igor Shuvalov, who owns, among other things, a £14 million flat overlooking the Ministry of Defence. Will the Prime Minister act?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support for the Government’s actions. As I said in my statement, we do, of course, look at issues regarding corrupt elites and criminal finances and at using the tools and capabilities at our disposal. The National Crime Agency is continuing that work.
I thank the Prime Minister for her impressive leadership. I associate myself—unusually—with the leader of the Liberal Democrats in calling for greater use of unexplained wealth orders. Will the Prime Minister also use the tools at her disposal to expose the wealth of the Putin family, given that $300 billion or more has been stolen from the Russian people by that man? We should expose him for what he is, and not be a useful idiot hiding behind the legalism of his crimes.
I thank my hon. Friend for his suggestion. Unexplained wealth orders are, of course, tools that we use, but we have to use them properly, in accordance with the rule of law, following due process.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, agree with her analysis and fully support the Government’s actions. I understand that the Foreign Office has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council. What does the Prime Minister think will be the likely result, given that one permanent member is engaging in unlawful attacks on another? Does she share my concern that Russia’s actions in this country, in Ukraine and in backing Assad’s murderous regime in Syria mean that the current Security Council mechanism is broken?
I thank the hon. Lady for her comments. As I said earlier, the Foreign Secretary spoke to the UN Secretary-General yesterday. Later today in New York, the UN Security Council will hold initial consultations. Obviously, Russia is a member of that Security Council, but it is important that we continue to use the international organisations that are available to us. The United Nations is a protector of the international rules-based order. That is what it should be, and we will continue to press for a robust international response.
It is clear that there is almost unanimous support in the House for my right hon. Friend’s proportionate and right response to this crisis. In particular, she is absolutely right to use the mechanisms of the United Nations to make it clear to everyone what has happened in this case. Will she also bear in mind that Russia has, either indirectly or directly, authorised and used chemical weapons in Syria? I thank her for what she has said about the Magnitsky amendment, which many of us across the House have been working on for some time. I hope that she will consider implementing it in full, as has happened in America and in Canada.
My right hon. Friend picks up on a point made in the previous question: this is not simply one act by Russia, but part of a pattern of various actions, including those in Syria, the illegal annexation of Crimea and its activities in the Donbass. They also include the Russian state’s use of propaganda and its attempts to interfere in elections across the continent of Europe. In response to my right hon. Friend’s second point, we will bring forward a Government amendment to reflect the Magnitsky considerations to ensure that we have the strongest possible means to deal with the issues.
We welcome the decisive action taken by the Prime Minister today, which sits in contrast to the policy of appeasement that we have heard from the Labour party Front Bench. I am sure that the people of the United Kingdom are pleased that it is the Prime Minister who is standing behind the Dispatch Box, defending the rule of law and the citizens of this country. She says that she has spoken to our allies over the past couple of days. Apart from words of support, what are the actions to which they have committed to ensure that a message is sent out about this and future actions?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks and for the Democratic Unionist party’s support for the Government’s action. On actions to be taken by international allies, they were, of course, waiting for us to announce the various actions that we will take following the decision taken by the National Security Council this morning. We will hold further discussions with our allies about how they can support what we are doing through taking actions themselves.
I entirely agree with the approach adopted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in her response to this outrageous attack. Does she agree that the difficulty we face lies not so much in getting the concurrence of our allies in agreeing the nature of the outrage, but in how we craft a sustained strategy, so that those of us who believe in the rules-based international system can apply the necessary leverage and persuasion on Russia to conform to it? The very serious risk that we run is that if we do not succeed in doing that, the level of violence that Russia will exercise with impunity against other states and us will simply increase. Our allies in particular must have regard to that if we are to make any progress.
My right hon. and learned Friend is absolutely correct that we need to address this issue in that wider sense, because it is about the way in which the Russian state is acting—it believes, with impunity—in a whole variety of ways, and the way in which it is flouting the international rules-based order. We must come together as allies to ensure that we support that international rules-based order and that we have not just a collective agreement, but a collective approach that ensures that we can challenge what Russia is doing. He is also right that one of the points we should be making to our allies is that while this may have happened in the United Kingdom, it could be happening in any of those states.
I join others in welcoming the measures that the Prime Minister has announced today. As Russia has chosen to act against us in such an outrageous way, we have to demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves. Given that Russia’s usual response is to deny all responsibility for such actions, does she intend, as well as seeking the assistance of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in identifying the sample, to ask for that organisation to carry out an investigation, as any member state is entitled to do, including an inspection of any facilities or locations in Russia, where this nerve agent in all probability was produced?
We will be talking to the OPCW about not just the ways in which the sample of the nerve agent used here in the United Kingdom can be independently verified, but other actions the OPCW might be able to take.
I welcome the decision of the Government to refer the patiently and carefully acquired evidence of this grotesque attack to the OPCW. Is it the Prime Minister’s intention that its findings should be referred to the Russians, the United Nations and ourselves? Will she consider, in the light of those findings, going further on unexplained wealth orders and other financial sanctions against Russia if necessary?
We are asking the OPCW to independently verify this, so the nature of this nerve agent can be clear to everyone. As I said earlier, we introduced, operate and use unexplained wealth orders, but we will always ensure that they are done on evidence. We operate according to the rule of law.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s clear statement, her condemnation of the Russians and the action she has taken. In particular, I welcome the fact that the Government are adopting the Magnitsky amendment. Too much money laundered out of Russia is finding its way into the British system. There are two things she could do pretty quickly which would help to tackle that. First, she could bring forward the public register of ownership of properties, which was promised by her predecessor in 2015 and has been delayed by this Government. Secondly, she could increase transparency in our corporate structures, so that we know who forms companies here and where the money comes from and deal with it if it is illicit money brought in by unsavoury people.
On transparency in relation to property ownership, I have discussed that with the Business Secretary. We have not been delaying. We need to ensure that we get it right when we introduce it—we have been discussing the timing for introducing it—because we want to ensure we have all the tools in our locker that we can use and that can help us in the endeavour we are engaged in.
I absolutely 100% support the Prime Minister’s statement and the actions she is taking. Following on from the previous question, I want to pick up on the Prime Minister’s statement that there is no place for serious criminals and corrupt elites, or their money, in our country. There are amendments, which I am sure Parliament will support, but will the Prime Minister also bear it in mind that the Select Committees could have a real role in teasing out information about what is going on to tackle dirty money in this country, whether in the City of London or elsewhere, to bring evidence to the House that could shape amendments and actions the Government could then take?
I thank my right hon. Friend for her suggestion. I recognise the role that Select Committees can play. I suspect that my right hon. Friend has just set up a stream of work for her own Treasury Committee to undertake.
I assure the Prime Minister that most of us on the Labour Benches fully support the measures she has announced today. Indeed, some of us think they could have come a bit sooner. On the wider issue of Putin’s hybrid warfare against our country, will she task the intelligence and security services to investigate Putin’s influencing operations in our universities, our think-tanks, our financial institutions and our political parties?
The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the propaganda activities being undertaken by the Russian state. I will certainly look at the suggestions he makes.
We should all be thanking God today that it is my right hon. Friend in her place and not the so-called alternative. I am not expecting my right hon. Friend to comment on the detail, but this morning residents in Hyde road in Gillingham in my constituency saw the Metropolitan police and the Army in place, the street in lockdown, and vehicles and items linked to the Salisbury incident removed. I do not expect my hon. Friend to give a running commentary on current operations, but can she confirm two things: first, that she, the Government and the security services are doing all they can to keep my constituents safe; and, secondly, that she can arrange for somebody to provide a briefing to me, as the Member of Parliament, as to precisely what is happening?
I am very happy to do that. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the police investigation continues. We cannot say where that investigation will take the police in terms of their further inquiries, but I will ensure that he is provided with a briefing as the Member of Parliament.
I completely support everything the Prime Minister has said today. The truth is that under Putin the Russian Federation has managed to combine all the worst facets of communism and all the worst facets of rampant capitalism, all wrapped up inside a national security state that keeps its people poor and kills his political opponents. May I ask about the Russian ambassador? Since Alexander Yakovenko arrived, he has repeatedly lied to parliamentarians. He has tried to get Mr Speaker to stop debates on Russia happening in this House and he has tried to interfere in the internal elections of this House. Surely to God, it is time we now told him that we will order our affairs in this country, not him, and he can go home?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we will order our affairs in this country and we will not be told what to do by the Russian ambassador. I fully expect the House authorities to ensure that it is not possible for an external party to interfere in elections in this House. I would also say that it is a brave man who tries to tell the Speaker of the House of Commons what to do and to stand anything down.
I must say, for the avoidance of doubt, that he got absolutely nowhere with me. The House can be sure about that.
It is noticeable that the length and breadth of this place has completely supported not just the wise words and leadership of the Prime Minister but her firm actions, with the notable exception of those on the Opposition Front Bench. That was a shameful moment. Further to the question asked by the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), democracy is a fundamental British value and there are long-held concerns that Russia has been seeking to undermine it and interfere in it. If those concerns now turn to evidence, will she take equally robust action against Russia to ensure that our great British democracy continues to be protected?
I am very happy to give the assurance to my right hon. Friend of the action we take. We recognise that the first duty of the Government is to safeguard the nation. We treat the security and integrity of our democratic processes, as of everything else in this country, very seriously. In terms of disinformation used by the Kremlin, we know that it persistently uses it to destabilise perceived enemies. Managing that is a long-term priority for the UK. We will continue to work not just as the United Kingdom but with our international partners on efforts to counter that.
Diolch yn fawr. Alongside many colleagues in the House, I speak on behalf of my party in calling for a robust and immediate response. Sources inform us that Russia is the UK’s biggest weapons-grade nuclear substances export market, despite several attempts at a moratorium on depleted uranium by the European Parliament and the United Nations. Will the Prime Minister confirm whether the UK is still exporting nuclear substances to Russia? If so, surely this should be among the very first sanctions imposed?
I thank the hon. Lady for her remarks and for the support that she has given from her party for the actions that the Government are taking. What we have been talking about today is the use of a nerve agent—of a chemical weapon—on UK soil and the blatant flouting of the international rules-based order and legal structure around that use of chemical weapons by the Russian state.
When I served as Security Minister and my right hon. Friend was Home Secretary, I became aware both of her outstanding determination and dedication and of the commitment and expertise of our security services and the police who deal with counter-terrorism. She knows, as the House knows, that that is led by the Metropolitan police, but this event happened in Salisbury and could have happened in Berkshire or Lincolnshire. Will she ask the Home Secretary to look at whether our local police forces, given the dynamic nature of these threats, are equipped and informed adequately to deal with them in the first instance?
As a former Security Minister, my right hon. Friend has a particular understanding of these issues. The ability to bring in the capabilities of the counter-terrorism police, who do not just operate in the Metropolitan police, as he knows, but have regional bases around the country, is part of the layered structure that we have in relation to police forces. I am sure that he will be making sure that the police look at the immediate response that they had to this incident. We certainly do not want to see an incident of this type happening again on United Kingdom soil and that is why we are giving a very clear message to the Russian state, but we do want to ensure that all our police forces are aware of the threats that they may face.
The Prime Minister’s words were appropriate, measured and correct, and she has my full support. She mentioned dirty money from Russia. Can she look again at the role of tax havens internationally, including those in British overseas territories and Crown dependencies?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. As he knows, we have been taking a number of measures in relation to financial activities in the British overseas territories and dependencies, and we continue to press on those. Of course, we have enhanced our ability to deal with these issues here in relation to economic crime through the formation of the national economic crime centre. I am pleased to say, having formed the National Crime Agency, that we have now set up that national economic crime centre as part of the NCA, which brings a number of capabilities together to deal with these issues.
My constituents of Harlow will be strongly reassured by the way in which my right hon. Friend is guarding the nation’s security. Can I ask her to condemn the remarks of President Putin, who attacked Jews and other nations for meddling in the United States elections? Given that she has also talked about the possible rogue use of these chemical weapons, can I ask her what the prospect is of such chemical weapons ending up in the hands of extreme Islamists?
First of all, I also condemn the remarks that my right hon. Friend referred to that were made in relation to certain communities in the United States. In relation to the second part of his question, what we are talking about here is a nerve agent that was developed as part of a chemical weapons programme by the Russian state, and I think that will give him a clear message in relation to this.
I fully support what the Prime Minister said in her statement and the actions that she outlined today. I have some concerns about whether we have a proper strategy in place to combat chemical weapons attacks against this country and in particular, these small-scale attacks—it is joined up with the security services, the Government and the armed forces. Will she give me some reassurance or tell me whether work is continuing to improve that?
Yes. Obviously, this is an issue that we do look at and we have a strategy in place, but we will ensure, given what has happened, that we review that. We will look again to make sure that we have the best possible opportunity to ensure that this cannot happen again.
While welcoming the Prime Minister’s statement, as almost everyone else has, I join my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) in mentioning the importance of the international rule of law and say that this is a very important moment of decision for China—to decide which side she is going to sit on in this arrangement. I urge my right hon. Friend to make sure that we take the most energetic steps to ensure that China stands with the rest of the civilised world on the side of law and responsibility
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue in this way. We want to see the maximum possible adherence to the international rules-based order across the whole world. In different contexts, this is a matter that I raised when I was in China recently.
Order. This is an extremely important parliamentary occasion and it is understandable that very large numbers of Members should want to question the Prime Minister. Can I politely suggest that colleagues should seek to ensure that their questions are as succinct as the Prime Minister’s replies have been? That way, we might get through a very great many more quickly than we otherwise would.
I add my support to the measures that the Prime Minister has announced and the condemnation of what is increasingly looking like a rogue state. On the question of the integrity of the United Nations Security Council, we must now begin to talk about reform. Russia cannot be allowed to simply sit pretty, thumbing its nose at the rest of the world community and feeling that it is immune from the rule of law internationally. Will she initiate that sort of reform discussion with the Secretary-General?
Once again, I thank the hon. Gentleman for the remarks he has made today and the support that he has given to the Government, as he did on Monday. We talk to the United Nations about reform of the United Nations in a whole variety of ways. The Catch-22 is that any decision that might be taken in the Security Council to reform it could be subject to a veto by Russia, which is sitting there, but the point has been raised not just by the hon. Gentleman but by others, and this is something that we will look at.
The Prime Minister has underlined to the House that the Russian state has either been utterly reckless at best, or at worst, directly complicit in the deployment of a harmful substance on our soil. She said in the statement that she would be taking new measures to harden our defences against hostile state activity. With that in mind, will she ensure that the appropriate balance is provided between counter-terrorism and counter-espionage to ensure that our excellent security and intelligence agencies are appropriately focused to combat and directly disrupt those who would cause harm in our country?
I say to my right hon. Friend, who also, as a former Security Minister, has a particular knowledge and understanding of these issues, that I entirely take the point that he has made. We constantly ensure that the balance is right between counter-terrorism and counter-espionage, and we will of course continue to ensure that that balance is maintained properly.
Responding with strength and resolve when your country is under threat is an essential component of political leadership. There is a Labour tradition that understands that, and it has been understood by Prime Ministers of all parties who have stood at that Dispatch Box. That means when chemical weapons are used, we need more than words, but deeds. May I ask the Prime Minister what more she can do to enhance our solidarity with our allies, particularly at a time when nationalist forces are trying to drive wedges between democratic countries, with some of those forces backed and supported by the Russians themselves?
First of all, the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: there is a strong tradition in the Labour party of recognising the importance of acting in the national interest and acting when our national security is under threat. We have seen that from Governments of all complexions over the years. In relation to the point about international activity and the deeds that we need to take, it is right—we will be continuing to talk. We have been speaking to our allies, even before this event took place, about the ways in which we could deal with and address some of the activities and actions that Russia is taking across the continent of Europe and elsewhere, but we will of course redouble those efforts now.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of our best assets against Russian disinformation and propaganda is the BBC World Service, and will she consider ways of extending its reach, perhaps by incorporating world television? Does she also agree that we need to be very careful not to give any pretext, however unjustified, for the Russians to take action against the BBC and other free media outlets?
I would hope that the Russian state would be prepared to accept the importance of the free media, but sadly, from one or two things we heard last night, it seems that that might not be the case. My right hon. Friend is right, however, that the broadcasting of the BBC World Service is an important element of the UK’s reach and an important outlet for those who believe in democracy, the rule of law and free speech and expression.
I was glad to hear the Prime Minister mention the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, and I welcome the commitment to the Magnitsky amendment, but she will understand that many opaque Scottish limited partnerships and limited liability partnerships are engaged in money laundering from Russia, via Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine, through this country. Will she speak to Cabinet colleagues and consider introducing amendments to the Bill to tackle these corrupt elites, as she put it—because money laundering is happening via Companies House at the moment?
We take money laundering very seriously and have been working for some time with law enforcement and the financial sector on ways to improve the action we take against it. This is one of the things I expect the national economic crime centre to be looking at very closely.
I strongly welcome the action that my right hon. Friend has announced today. One way Russia seeks to extend its influence in Europe is by building relationships of energy dependence. Is she aware that Britain has recently started to receive shipments of liquefied natural gas, and does she agree that Britain should not provide a market for Russian gas? If we need to bring in extra LNG imports, we have allies such as Qatar, Malaysia and Australia who are more than willing to sell it to us.
I can reassure my right hon. Friend that in looking at our gas supplies we are indeed looking to other countries.
As a strong advocate for the defence and security of our country, I am another one who supports the Prime Minister’s statement today. I would like to draw her attention to something she said in her statement that I would not want to get lost, which is that although our response must be robust, it must also remain true to our values. As such, will she say, as I think she has already, not that we will ban Russia Today, which is a strong point to make, but that this country believes in a free media, that we are not frightened of it, even though we hear opinions that are against us, and that we also believe in the rule of law and democracy?
The hon. Gentleman is right. We do believe in the rule of law and democracy and in a free media, although of course the question of the status of Russia Today in broadcasting in the UK is not a matter for the Government but for Ofcom, which is independent, to consider.
The Prime Minister is absolutely right to say that our argument is not with the Russian people but with the Russian state, which has sponsored murder on our streets. Today we have heard absolute solidarity from across the western world and most political parties, but what statement of support has she received from the one political party that gives unequivocal, 100% backing to the Leader of the Opposition, the Communist party of Great Britain?
I do not believe I have received any such statement from the Communist party of Great Britain, although I noticed just one or two weeks ago it said it would not stand candidates against the Labour party and that it now felt more comfortable working with it.
I strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement but urge her to go further and, as others have said, use energy policy as a new way of tackling this Russian threat. We all acknowledge the significant British energy interests in Russia, but will she confirm that Putin’s military and intelligence assets are primarily funded by the sale of Russian fossil fuels, and can I commend to her the EU’s energy security strategy, which was largely written in London and is reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels?
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point—one that others across the House have made—about the extent to which Russia uses its energy and the finance it provides to influence and have an impact on countries in receipt of it. I assure him that we will continue to discuss with the EU not just our energy security but the wider energy security issue.
Many Members of this House and the other House are members of multilateral parliamentary organisations, such as the Council of Europe and the NATO parliamentary assembly. Does my right hon. Friend agree that one way we can get behind her leadership and the Government’s position is by getting the message across when we attend events and explaining the Government’s policies, what has happened and why our allies should support us?
My right hon. Friend has raised an extremely valuable point. I welcome his suggestion and would encourage him and other Members who are members of those multilateral organisations to do just that.
The Prime Minister will know that I do not shy away from criticising the Government’s international policies when they get it wrong, but she should know that she has my full and unequivocal support for the measures she has set out today. Particularly in the light of the revelations coming out of the Mueller inquiry and some of the other questions today, will she assure us that she will leave no stone unturned when examining the Russian state’s attempts to subvert our parliamentary democracy, whether with human assets or financial, cyber, propaganda or other means, however uncomfortable some of those findings might be for us?
I am happy to give that commitment to the hon. Gentleman, and I thank him for his comments. He is not backwards in coming forwards when he wishes to criticise the Government, but he has given support to the Government—not just today but on Monday—and I welcome that and thank him.
I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend’s clear and decisive actions. Can she reassure British citizens looking to travel to Russia over the coming weeks and months that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will provide regular updates and that their safety will be paramount?
I can give that assurance to my hon. Friend. I suggest to those who wish to travel to Russia that they check the Foreign Office advice. My understanding is that the travel advice has not changed, but of course people should check that before they leave.
This is a day for the House to speak as one for the nation. The Prime Minister will be reassured to hear that a clear majority of Labour MPs, alongside the leaders of every other party, support her firm stance. Does she realise that this situation will probably get more difficult before it gets better, and is she prepared to stay the course and face down this international bully and wrecker of liberty and the rule of law across the world?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks—he made a strong statement on Monday in the House as well—and assure him that I and the Government will stay the course. As I said in my statement, we recognise that there might be further Russian provocation. If there is, we have further measures we can deploy, but it is important—and we will encourage our international allies to do this too—that we recognise that this is an important moment to stand up and say to Russia, “No, you cannot do this!”
The Russian economy is a fraction but its expenditure on offensive capability a multiple of ours. Is there a lesson there?
Of course we constantly look at the resources we put in to ensure our national security, which is assured across a number of Departments, and we continue to do so.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s robust response today. Further to the confirmation that no Minister or member of the royal family will attend the world cup this summer, does she believe that this should also extend to senior FA officials, and will she ask our NATO and EU allies to join us in this endeavour?
The question of attendance at sporting events is a matter for the sporting authorities. They will be aware of my statement today and that we are saying no Ministers or members of the royal family will attend the world cup, and I am sure they will want to consider their position.
As chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, last year I led a delegation to St Petersburg and was met with great warmth and hospitality by many Russian people. Will the Prime Minister stress that our opposition is not to them but to their appalling leadership? The Russian ambassador has made it clear that we can now expect retaliation. Will she send a clear signal to him and Moscow that the UK will not be threatened?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I think that last night I saw the Russian ambassador quoted as saying that Russia was not a country that accepted ultimatums. Well, I can say to my hon. Friend and others that the United Kingdom is not a country that accepts threats, and we will stand up against them.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s reminder that we have no argument whatsoever with the people of the Russian Federation, who, after all, are living under Putin’s dictatorship all the time. Inevitably, the action that must be taken against Putin will make it more difficult for organisations that seek to maintain good relations with the ordinary people of the Russian Federation. Is there anything more that the Government can do to help those organisations to continue their good work, even while we are invoking more strict and robust sanctions against their dictator leader?
As I said in my statement, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) said in his question, we are very clear about the fact that we have no argument with the Russian people. It is with the Russian state—with the Russian Government and their actions—that we are concerned. I think that in the response that we make, it is important for us to make that clear not just in our words but in our actions. What I have talked about today is a response that affects the Russian state and the Russian Government, but not the Russian people.
When it comes to the longer term, given the actions of the Russian state under President Putin, has the time not come for a fundamental reassessment of our defence spending—preferably in collaboration with our allies, but alone if that is not possible?
As my hon. Friend will know, we are one of the limited number of countries in NATO that maintain the commitment to spending 2% of GDP on defence. As I am sure he also knows, the modernising defence programme is currently being undertaken alongside the national security capability review. It is important for us to be able to deal with the variety of threats that we face. However, I must say to my hon. Friend, as I have said to other Members, that as we look at how we deal with those threats, not all of them will be dealt with in a way that would conventionally be considered a matter for the Ministry of Defence.
The Prime Minister has rightly said that the attacks in Britain have been part of an ongoing contempt for Britain, contempt for the rule of law and contempt for our values. There has also been a contempt for our alliances, both political and military. Will the Prime Minister work with those political and military alliances, so that together we can bring about a root-and-branch removal of Russian interference in our political, educational and financial institutions? Let this be a marker: no more. Now they will fear what we will do to hit back at the interference that they have shown us.
I thank the hon. Lady for the commitment that she has shown, as a parliamentarian, to the alliance that we have through NATO, which is very important to us It is the bedrock of European defence. I can certainly say that we will continue to work through those alliances to ensure that we are sending a very clear message that this is not acceptable.
I commend the Prime Minister for her decisive and vigorous action in response to what was, after all, an attack on the United Kingdom. In some ways it had flashes of the Iron Lady about it. But it was also in stark contrast to the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, who simply could not bring himself to condemn Russia for this outrageous act.
He simply could not do it. Is that not because he remains at heart what he has always been—a CND badge-wearing apologist for the Russian state? [Interruption.]
I think that people will draw their own conclusions from what they have heard today, but let me also say to my hon. Friend that I am sure that he, like me, takes great reassurance from the positive messages of support that have come from the Labour Back Benches.
Our way of life in this country and in the west is based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law—
When you read Hansard you will see. [Interruption.]
Order. Strongly held opinions have been expressed, and everyone can consult the record. I understand that there is an intensity of feeling, but the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Phil Wilson) must have his question heard, and then the answer will be heard.
Our way of life in this country and in the west is based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and should be defended. That is why the Prime Minister is right to impose sanctions against a state that does not believe in those principles. Will the Prime Minister give a commitment to come back to the House if she feels that there is a need for further consideration of sanctions?
The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point. I said in my statement that there were further measures that we might wish to deploy if we were subject to further Russian provocation, and if we choose to do so, I will of course come back to the House.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the actions of the Russian Federation are totally incompatible with membership of the Council of Europe, which believes in democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and will she ensure that we can expel Russia from the Council of Europe as a reprisal? Its continuing membership seems to fly in the face of our commitment to those important values.
That, too, is an important point. I do not think that it is within the hands only of the United Kingdom to expel Russia from the Council of Europe, but my hon. Friend will have heard our right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) suggest that Members of Parliament who are members of such multilateral groups should be making every effort to make the point about the illegitimate activity that has been undertaken by Russia.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and the measures that she has announced, which will only be strengthened if our allies take similar action. Will she say more about NATO, and tell us whether she will be bringing together NATO Heads of State and Government to discuss a co-ordinated response?
As I think I said earlier, I believe that the North Atlantic Council will be meeting tomorrow to discuss this issue, and I shall be talking to a number of allies within NATO about the co-ordination of the response. As I also said earlier, they have been waiting to hear the details of our response, which I brought first to Parliament.
The Prime Minister is clearly aware that the Kremlin is using a full spectrum of tools in what it considers to be its “new generation” warfare against the west—and assassination is one element of that. Is she also aware of the important work done in the 1970s and 1980s by the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the United States to methodically expose Kremlin subversion, espionage and disinformation, which in that era were called “active measures”—aktivnoye miropviyatnoe? Will she consider the possibility of similar work in this country now? Shining the light of truth on Russian subversion today, whatever one calls it, is a critical part of defending democracy and undermining that Russian subversion.
I was not aware of the details of the work of the Senate Committee to which my hon. Friend has referred, but it is the case that this Government are not afraid to call out Russian actions in public when we see them taking place. I take his point about a more detailed and forensic look at the activities of the Russian state, and I will certainly consider it.
I support the Prime Minister’s strategy, but may I remind her that during the Putin years he has become emboldened, sometimes because our allies, in Europe and internationally, have not always been prepared to face down aggression of this kind in view of their commercial interests? If we are going to stay the course, will the Prime Minister remind our allies that they are as much under threat as we have been with this act of state terror?
The hon. Gentleman has made a very important point. This may have happened on UK soil today, but it could have happened in any one of a number of countries. Other countries are themselves seeing other actions being taken by Russia, such as attempts to interfere in elections and propaganda and disinformation campaigns. It is important that we work together as far as possible.
May I add my support for the cool, calm, collected and correct way in which the Prime Minister has responded to a very serious threat to this country? Would she be pleased to know that the First Ministers of both Wales and Scotland have tweeted their support for her and for the action that she has taken, and will she undertake always to keep the devolved Administrations fully informed of what is happening?
I thank my right hon. Friend for letting me know about the tweets put out by the First Ministers in Scotland and Wales. I am pleased to say I will be meeting both of them later this afternoon in both the bilaterals and the Joint Ministerial Committee plenary meeting. We have been keeping the devolved Administrations aware of what we have been doing, and I certainly undertake to continue to do that.
The Prime Minister has made the right call on the facts before her today, and her judgment in this matter is correct. Will she also look at the transport of materials and assets from other countries, because material will often not go direct from Moscow to London? Will she ensure that our European and NATO partners take the same action if evidence leads to that conclusion?
That is an important point and it has been raised. We will be looking at the movement of materials and indeed, as I indicated in my statement, at any further action we can take on the movement not only of materials, but of people. We will of course be discussing that with our allies.
The Prime Minister has such widespread support because she has learned the lesson of history that tyrants must be stood up to. May I encourage her to impose a freeze on assets, so that people do not have the opportunity of taking them out of the country in the short term, and to boost the military resources in Estonia, where we already have 800 troops, to show very tangibly that we will support our friends and allies who might also be at risk from Russia?
I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. As I said in my statement, we will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they might be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents. I was pleased to be able to visit our troops in Estonia last September. We are of course there with other allies, and I was pleased that at the Anglo-French summit in January President Macron committed to a continuing contingent of French troops joining our troops in Estonia. That is an important collective symbol of our determination to protect the west against Russia.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. Given the inevitable focus over recent years on ISIS and the terrorism we have seen at home, is the Prime Minister content that across the Government, the Home Office, the security services and other agencies we have enough specific Russian expertise as well as enough resource, or do we need to increase that expertise given this event and many others which show that the Russian Government are intent on undermining our democracy?
The hon. Lady is right that in recent years there has been an appropriate and correct focus on counter-terrorism, but that does not mean we have not been looking at hostile state activity and at counter-espionage measures, because we have. We keep these in balance as we go forward and assess the threats we are facing, and we will continue to do so.
Ever since Russian troops first entered Ukraine, friends from many different countries have told me how false news stories emanating from Russian sources have been used aggressively to influence public opinion and undermine legitimate democracies. They use social media platforms and traditional media; hybrid warfare is a key part of this. Will the Prime Minister call for an international strategy to deal with hybrid warfare? Can it be on the EU agenda next week and be discussed at the NATO summit in July?
I have already raised at previous meetings of the European Union Council the issue of the Russian use of disinformation and propaganda and would expect to raise it again. We recognise the importance of the disinformation campaign work being done by the Kremlin; managing it is a long-term priority for the UK, but in doing that we will of course work with our international allies.
Order. If colleagues were willing to imitate the legendary succinctness of the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) in terms of the format of questions, we could probably accommodate everybody, but if there are going to be mini-speeches some might lose out.
I listened very carefully on the subject of travel advice and advice for Football Association officials. The Prime Minister will remember the pitched battles in Paris that English supporters faced; will she reappraise the protection and security afforded to them if they travel?
Yes, we will of course look at the security and protection of any UK football fans who are travelling.
I, too, strongly support the Prime Minister’s robust position. Does she recall the enormous efforts made during John Major’s Government to build good relations with Russia? Indeed, John Major went to see President Yeltsin, and I was lucky enough to go with him. Will the Prime Minister stress that our beef is not with the people of Russia, with whom we share cultural links, but just with the leadership, and if we can persuade Russia to return to the rule of law we can rebuild those relations?
As I said before, our argument is not with the Russian people and we continue to recognise that this is about the actions of the Russian state and Government. As I said earlier in my statement, many of us looked at a post-Soviet Russia with hope when that was first developed, but, sadly, because of the way in which President Putin has been dealing with these matters, the picture is very different today.
In welcoming the Prime Minister’s actions and statement, may I point out that one notable ally who has not yet spoken out against Russia’s actions in Salisbury is President Trump? Will she urge him to condemn vociferously Vladimir Putin and the Russian Government’s actions, and to do so without delay?
I spoke to President Trump yesterday and he has spoken out against this incident. We will be continuing to speak with the American Administration because they are among the allies we would encourage to work with us in a collective response to this issue.
I also commend my right hon. Friend on the package of measures she has taken today against this outrageous and illegal act on British soil. May I ask that all suspicious deaths be thoroughly investigated by the police, and that if the Russian Government are implicated in any of them, she stands by to take further tough measures against that state?
My hon. Friend raises an important issue, and this question has been raised before. Of course the reinvestigation of any deaths is a matter for the police; it is for them to consider what action to take. At present, their focus is clearly on this investigation, but I am sure they will look at that matter in due course.
The Council of Europe has already been mentioned as one of the platforms on which we engage with Russia, although Russia has been withholding its payments to it for some time now. There is a motion on Magnitsky before the 46 other countries, and there is also an inquiry into the death of Boris Nemtsov. Would it be helpful if the Minister for Europe and the Americas came to our next session in Strasbourg to help spread the word that we need a Magnitsky law across Europe?
I am certainly willing to look at the hon. Lady’s proposal.
We have recently seen a marked increase in Russian activity in the Balkans, very often using the Serbs as a proxy to try to dissuade some of the western Balkan states from joining NATO. Will my right hon. Friend urgently commit to discussing with NATO how to make sure those countries can accede to it as quickly as possible?
My right hon. Friend raises an important point. We are happy to look at the accession of certain of those countries to NATO, and I am pleased that we will be hosting a western Balkans summit here in the UK in July.
I endorse the actions that the Prime Minister has taken and the unavoidable conclusion she has come to. Was she as disappointed as I was that shortly after the powerful and excellent statement from Secretary of State Tillerson he lost his job in the Trump Administration? Will she pass on to President Trump the message of how much we supported the words of Tillerson and encourage President Trump to ensure that the person he appoints as his replacement is equally robust about the dangers from Russia?
Who forms part of the American Administration is not a matter for me; it is for the President. However, we are leaving our American colleagues in no doubt about the seriousness of this issue. Mr Tillerson did indeed make robust comments after this incident, and I am sure we will be working with his replacement to ensure that America is one of those allies who stand alongside us.
This attack on our soil is part of a long and aggressive strategy by Russia not just to undermine the west, but to divide and rule. With that in mind, does the Prime Minister agree that we need to do more to call out the Putin regime, including by recognising their occupation of Georgia? That is what it is: an occupation.
We of course stand ready to call out the Putin Administration and Russian Government; we do that across a number of fronts and will continue to do so.
I thank the Prime Minister for her statement and the concern she expressed to me yesterday regarding the surprise substances some of us received in our parliamentary post this week—not on a Salisbury scale, but frightening none the less. Will she commit to those who operate within and outside feeling the full force of the law, and go a bit faster on the long-promised public registers of property, many of which are Russian-owned? This has been Government policy since David Cameron, and if they were in place by now, we would know where the assets are to freeze.
I reiterate the comment that I made at Prime Minister’s questions that these were appalling acts against Muslim Members of this House, and of course a full investigation is taking place. I have discussed the public register of ownership with the Business Secretary and it is the Government’s intention to bring that forward, so that we can ensure that we shine a light on the issue.
While we have been sitting here, the political journalist Tom Newton Dunn has tweeted:
“Corbyn’s spokesman clarifies he does not believe there is proof yet that Russia is responsible for #Salisbury—and MI5/MI6 may be wrong: ‘There is a history between WMDs and intelligence which is problematic, to put it mildly’.”
Will my right hon. Friend reiterate the faith that she has in the intelligence services to be absolutely certain about the evidence that she receives? [Interruption.]
Order. This is not so much about the views of a journalist. The hon. Gentleman is in order to ask for the views of the Prime Minister on the intelligence services, and that he has done. That is perfectly orderly.
I am surprised and shocked by the statement that has been put out by the spokesman for the Leader of the Opposition. [Interruption.] As I was going to say, it is clear from the remarks that have been made by Back Benchers from the Labour party that they will be equally concerned about that remark. They stand four-square behind the Government in the analysis that we have shown and the action that we have taken.
In 2010, Gareth Williams, a British security employee, was found naked and decomposing in a padlocked holdall. The coroner ruled that it was an unlawful killing and that a professional contortionist would not have been able to get out of the bag. In the light of the events with Russia, will the Prime Minister now reopen that case to find out whether Mr Williams was indeed another victim of Vladimir Putin?
I recall the case that the hon. Gentleman has raised. As I said in response to an earlier question, investigations into criminal activity will be a matter for the police, and it is for them to determine whether they reopen the case.
On behalf of the people of South Leicestershire, may I welcome the Prime Minister’s robust but measured statement? On Monday, I met members of the senior management of the BBC World Service at BBC Broadcasting House. The Prime Minister is correct to have told the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) that broadcasting is a matter for Ofcom, but funding is not. I understand that the BBC World Service is in communication with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and with the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Will the Prime Minister assure the House today that if the BBC World Service needs additional funding to combat Russia Today, particularly in the Balkans and the Baltic, she will speak to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury about that?
My understanding is that discussions are indeed taking place on the funding of the World Service and that we expect a resolution in due course.
I should like to add my full support to the Prime Minister’s robust response today. As director of the British Council in St Petersburg from 2005 to 2008, I have first-hand experience of the utterly ruthless way in which the Russian state can operate. Does she share my concern that holding the World Cup in Russia this summer could be perceived as a global vindication of Mr Putin’s regime? If so, will she be making representations to FIFA to explore the possibility of postponing the World Cup until 2019 and holding it in a more appropriate host country or countries?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support, which is particularly valuable given his experience with the British Council. The holding of sporting events and the choice of venues are matters for the sporting authorities. The sporting authorities here in the United Kingdom will have heard what I have said today about the actions of the Russian state.
This attack could have been so much worse. What if a group of schoolchildren playing in the park had been the first to approach the victims after they collapsed? Does the Prime Minister share my disgust that the perpetrators of this crime must have known that?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, one other individual, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, was affected as a first responder, but it could have been so different. It is thanks to the prompt action of the emergency services that this matter has been contained in the way that it has, but those who undertook this brazen and despicable act must have known the potential implications.
Facts are chiels that winna ding, which is why there can be no feigning of impotence anywhere on these Benches. What is the Prime Minister’s assessment of the example advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin Docherty-Hughes) on Monday regarding asking the Spanish Government to halt the use of their ports for refuelling by the Russian fleet?
At least one other member state of the European Union has indeed refused the Russian state the possibility of refuelling its ships. This matter is raised from time to time, and I recognise its significance and the passion with which the hon. Gentleman and his colleague have raised it.
Nobody should be surprised that Russia has denied responsibility for the attacks in Salisbury. It is a country that has denied taking part in the Olympics doping scandal and in the rigging of elections. Worst of all, it has denied any involvement in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko. Given that, will the Prime Minister please assure the House that Russia will be treated according to its actions and not its words?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We should all be clear that the attitude of the Russian state is shown by what it does, not by what it says.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and the actions that she has outlined. She said that there was a need for a new targeted power to detain at the UK border those suspected of hostile state action. Many of us will be surprised that we do not already have that power. Is there a plan to bring forward emergency legislation, so that such a power could be put in place quickly?
The power currently exists in relation to those who are suspected of terrorism, but not of hostile state activity. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be looking urgently at the most appropriate legislative vehicle to bring that power forward.
The Prime Minister was right to point out that this is simply the latest act by a criminal rogue state. We remember the Malaysia Airlines jet that was shot down, the invasion of Crimea and the support for the murderous regime in Syria. I fully support her position, and I am horrified by the statement that has been read out on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition’s spokesman. I should like to add my voice to those who have asked the Prime Minister to look quickly and seriously at financial sanctions for individuals closely associated with the Putin regime, as well as for the wider Russian economy.
We look at all the tools available across the board, but we operate within the rule of law, and there are certain criteria that need to be met if sanctions are to be applied.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and I look forward to her aggressively chasing down that dirty Russian money. There have now been 15 suspicious deaths, and I should like to ask about the prevalence of these deaths in the UK. Are there more in the UK than in similar western countries? If so, why? Is it because we have more Russians here, or because Russia is deliberately targeting the United Kingdom?
I would just caution the hon. Gentleman when he describes all those deaths as suspicious. I believe that one of the families involved have made it very clear that they do not consider there to have been any suspicion around the death of their loved one. If the police believe that it is right to reopen cases, they will do so. It is up to them to make that operational decision.
I thank the Prime Minister for her calibrated, proportionate and robust response. Will she join me in paying tribute to the brave British intelligence agents who serve our country? In the light of the increasingly violent and erratic approach of the Russian state, does she agree that if there needs to be a reassessment of their personal security here in the UK, that should take place without delay?
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in welcoming, congratulating and thanking all those who work for our security and intelligence agencies for the valuable work that they do for us on a day-to-day basis. Each of those agencies will consistently ensure that they are considering the safety of their staff. They recognise the important work that those people do and how important it is to ensure that they are safe.
Russia has consistently behaved in this manner over a long period, but that has not stopped the elite of our major sporting organisations, such as the IOC and the proven-to-be-corrupt FIFA regime under Sepp Blatter, from allocating major sports tournaments to Russia. Does the Prime Minister agree that the elite in our sport need to look at themselves and not isolate themselves from human rights issues and criminal law when they allocate major tournaments?
The hon. Gentleman will know that the elite in certain sporting organisations have found themselves under scrutiny in a variety of ways over recent years, but it is important that we all have a care towards human rights issues and other matters when such things are being considered.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s robust and proportionate statement. Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke), the Leader of the Opposition’s spokesperson seems to have suggested that there is some parallel between Salisbury and Iraq. Will the Prime Minister confirm that, while no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq, three people are in hospital because chemical weapons were used in Salisbury? Will she also give us an update on their condition?
My hon. Friend is right. We are talking about the use of a chemical weapon—a military-grade nerve agent—against people here in the United Kingdom. That is very clear. It is wrong and outrageous that the Leader of the Opposition’s spokesman has made those comments.
The horrendous incident in Salisbury has placed a huge unforeseen burden on local police. We know that the police service has faced unprecedented cuts, so I wonder whether the Prime Minister can give an assurance that the additional burden will be met from central resources and that it will not fall to the local police to pick up the bill.
The initial response to the incident was of course taken by Wiltshire police. When the nature of the incident became clear, the force was able to draw on support from neighbouring forces and, crucially, the counter-terrorism capability came into place. Counter-terrorism police have taken on and are running the investigation. This is about not just the resources, but the capabilities that police officers and the counter-terrorism force have brought to bear in this instance.
Is the Prime Minister able to give any update on the treatment and health of the brave policeman who was harmed after going to help, and will she pay tribute to him?
I am happy to pay tribute to Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. As I think I mentioned the other day, I believe he said that he was merely doing his job. That is the attitude that is taken by all our police officers on a daily basis no matter what danger they find themselves in. My understanding is that he remains seriously ill, but he is conscious and has been engaging with people.
The Prime Minister’s reaction to the terrible incident in Salisbury is proportionate, appropriate and robust, but does she agree that we need to go further and set an example in this House? All right hon. and hon. Members should immediately and permanently desist from appearing on any Russian propagandist channels, including RT and Sputnik.
The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. I have spoken about the actions that the Government can take, but there are actions that individual Members can also take to send a clear message.
I strongly welcome my right hon. Friend’s steadfastness and statesmanship in standing up to this Russian aggression. Does she agree that this attempted murder on our soil by the Russian state will not enrich the lives of a single Russian citizen at home in Russia, and that this is the autocrat’s classic con trick down the years, externalising internal discontent with aggression abroad because the leader in question knows that he cannot and will never deliver the prosperity, freedom and democracy that the Russian people are so long overdue?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not one person living in Russia will benefit or see their prosperity or life chances increase as a result of this action. This is about the Russian state; it is not about its care for the Russian people.
I condemn Russia for this attack. The Prime Minister will know that a strong Royal Navy is a strong deterrent against Russian aggression, so will she ensure that sufficient new money is provided, so that there are no cuts to the Royal Navy or the Royal Marines?
We have of course been providing extra funding to the Royal Navy and have been enhancing its fleet. Last summer, I was pleased to go on the new aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, which is a fine example not just of our Royal Navy’s capability, but of this Government’s commitment to defence.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and her robust defence of a rules-based international order. Too many people died in the 20th century to establish that order just to throw it away in the 21st century. Will she confirm what discussions we are having with the Republic of Ireland? Given that we share a common travel area—she has rightly referred to the border and the need for security there—what discussions does she plan to have to ensure that the whole border area is secure?
The common travel area and its operation are things that we discuss on a regular basis with the Irish Government. We have recently been looking at enhancing the security arrangements that we have put in place and we will continue to do so.
I thank the Prime Minister and all colleagues who have questioned her this afternoon.