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House of Commons Hansard
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27 March 2018
Volume 638
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2. What discussions he has had with his international counterparts on the Salisbury incident; and if he will make a statement. [904583]

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7. What recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in EU member states on diplomatic relations with Russia. [904589]

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10. What discussions he has had with his US counterpart on the Salisbury incident; and if he will make a statement. [904593]

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Following the abhorrent chemical attack in Salisbury, I have had a number of discussions with counterparts across the EU, the US and elsewhere, which has helped to foster an unprecedented, robust, international response to this reckless Russian act.

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I commend my right hon. Friend for that approach. President Putin and the Russian Government should be in no doubt about the resolute response of the UK and our international allies to what remains a brazen and utterly repugnant act on UK soil. Given that we will need to continue to work with our allies, will he ensure that Russian intelligence officers, where they have been expelled from one country, will be denied entry into other countries? Will he also ensure that international co-operation is strengthened to trace tainted funds, enhance cyber-resilience and support criminal investigations into the deaths of Russian citizens in the UK and elsewhere?

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My right hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. One of the conclusions that we can draw from the 23 countries who chose to expel diplomats or people whose presence was not conducive to the public good, as they say, is the importance that they attach to co-operation with our security services. He should be in no doubt that that co-operation will intensify in the months and years ahead.

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Although Scotland suffered a self-inflicted withdrawal from the World cup, many fans will still travel from Scotland to the tournament, as will thousands of England fans. Following the expulsion of UK diplomats from Russia, has the Foreign Secretary approached any EU colleagues to ask for additional consular assistance to be made available to the UK citizens who travel?

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I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. We have not yet sought extra consular assistance from any other European country, and we are content with the arrangements that we have at the moment. The onus is clearly on the Russian authorities to honour their FIFA contract in full and to ensure that Scottish fans and all UK fans have a safe, enjoyable tournament.

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I welcome both the domestic and international unanimity on this issue. Now that the Government support the Magnitsky Act, may I encourage the Foreign Secretary to do all that he can to learn from the Americans about how they have been able to prosecute the people who were exposed by Sergei Magnitsky? The UK is the only country that has not started criminal proceedings against such people.

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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, an amendment will be made to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill on Report, and work is going on across the Chamber to get that right. We hope that that will make it even easier for our law enforcement agencies to prosecute such people. They already have such powers, and it is important that they are allowed to get on with their job without political interference.

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Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the foreign service, the intelligence services and all those others involved in putting together this exceptional coalition? Does he agree that international institutions need strengthening against Russia’s constant infiltration? Will he take steps to examine what might be done at the UN, the World Bank and the IMF to strengthen their resources against such infiltration?

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I thank my right hon. Friend, who will know that we have enjoyed strong support, not just bilaterally but multilaterally, for our explanation of what happened at Salisbury. We had the NATO statement and the statements by our friends in the UN Security Council, and the EU ambassador to Russia has also been recalled.

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21. The Prime Minister swung full support behind her position among our EU allies, which is encouraging, but how will we ever replicate that influence on foreign policy after we leave, when we will not even have a seat at the table? [904606]

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I am afraid I must correct the hon. Lady. The UK may be leaving the EU, but we are not leaving Europe, and we remain unconditionally committed to the security of our friends and partners. As she will know, we secured strong support from the EU both institutionally and bilaterally, but it is worth observing that not every EU member chose to withdraw—expel—diplomats. Many of them did, however, and that is a good omen for the future.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that the international response to the Salisbury incident demonstrates the enduring value, reliance and quality of our NATO alliance?

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I do; I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent point. NATO was one of the very first off the blocks with a powerful statement, which a lot of people then echoed.

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I too congratulate the Government on bringing together a strong, impressive and co-ordinated international response to the Russian threat, but does it not point out the need for the Government to plug the gaps in the defence budget that have been identified? We really need to match our words with our actions.

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The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point, which was raised many times in last night’s debate. As he knows, the Government are one of the biggest defence spenders in the whole European area, and the second biggest player in NATO. We remain committed to spending more than 2% of our GDP on defence.

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Does my right hon. Friend not agree that, contrary to what some Opposition Members have just suggested, despite Brexit we will have strong foreign policy relations around the world?

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I am delighted that my hon. Friend has said that, because I think that the events of the past few days have vindicated that very point. The contrast is very striking between the rather tepid response to the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 and the overwhelming global response we have seen in the past few days.

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The Foreign Secretary will be aware of calls across the House, including from the Scottish National party group leader, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), to tackle some of the financial measures, and that is very important. What conversations has he had with his counterparts about specific measures that might be taken?

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The hon. Gentleman will know that under the Criminal Finances Act 2017, which came in last April, there is provision for unexplained wealth orders to be made against those whose assets might have been corruptly or illicitly obtained, and he can be in no doubt that the National Crime Agency and the national economic crime centre are looking intently at what avenues to explore. However, I stress that this is not something for political direction or control; we in this country operate under the rule of law.

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At the end of an excellent debate on Russia yesterday, I am afraid that the Foreign Secretary failed to answer a single one of the dozens of questions he was asked over the course of four hours, so may I repeat just two of them? First, will the Government now initiate a case against the Russian state at the European Court of Human Rights for its clear extraterritorial violation of human rights in relation to the Salisbury attack?

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I believe that the right hon. Lady has legal training. We must wait for the investigation to be concluded.

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I do not really understand that answer, but I hope that the Foreign Secretary will give it some consideration. After all, a third of all cases currently before the Court relate to Russia, and its rulings have been used by leading opposition figures, such as Alexei Navalny, to send a powerful message about the Russian state’s abuses.

Let me ask a second question that the Foreign Secretary failed to answer yesterday. Given the justified criticism of Donald Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker for congratulating President Putin on his re-election, will the Government guarantee, for the sake of consistency, that they will not congratulate President Sisi of Egypt on his sham re-election when it is confirmed next week?

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If I may say so, I think that it is a bit much to bash America and the Trump Administration today, as much as that is the right hon. Lady’s instinctive reflex. The United States has just led the world in expelling 60 Russian spies. If she had an ounce of grace, she might concede that that was a very considerable gesture in the right direction. As for any future elections that might take place, we do not anticipate the outcome of any election.