With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement on what we are doing to tackle Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Moscow’s malign intent is clear: it has massed over 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s frontier and Russian forces are continuing to arrive in Belarus. It is only eight years since Russia illegally annexed Crimea and stoked conflict in the Donbass region, so we know that the danger is real. They have been pursuing a campaign of hybrid warfare aimed at destabilising the country. Just last week, we exposed the Kremlin’s plans to install a puppet regime in Kyiv.
This threatening behaviour towards a sovereign, democratic, independent country is completely unacceptable. It is a clear violation of the commitments and obligations that Russia freely signed up to, from the Helsinki Final Act and the Minsk protocols to the Budapest memorandum, which guaranteed to
“respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”
The only way forward is for Russia to de-escalate, pull back its troops and engage in meaningful talks on the basis of those existing obligations. That is why the UK is determined to lead the way through deterrence and diplomacy.
The Prime Minister will travel to the region this week, and later today the UK will be joining discussions at the UN Security Council to apply further pressure on Russia to take the diplomatic route. I will be flying out to Moscow over the next fortnight. That builds on our campaign of diplomatic engagement over recent weeks and months. I have led calls from the G7, NATO and the OSCE to urge Russia to desist from its reckless and destabilising activities in Ukraine, as well as in Georgia, the Baltics and the Western Balkans. I have raised these issues directly with the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov. Both the United States and NATO have set out areas where we could explore reciprocal measures to increase transparency, reduce risk, and take forward arms control. The ball is firmly in Russia’s court.
While we are determined to accelerate those efforts, we do so from a position of strength. We are combining dialogue with deterrence. That is why the Prime Minister is considering options for further deployments of our armed forces, to reassure and protect allies on NATO’s eastern flank. We are preparing to offer to support NATO with additional fast jets, warships and military specialists. As NATO’s biggest spender in Europe on defence, we are prepared to deploy our forces accordingly.
We have been very clear that a united alliance would meet any further Russian invasion of Ukraine with massive consequences for Russia’s interests and economy. We are preparing an unprecedented package of co-ordinated sanctions with our partners, which would impose severe costs. Today, I am setting out our readiness to act. We will be laying legislation before the House that will significantly strengthen our hand in dealing with Russia’s aggressive action towards Ukraine. It will go further than ever before.
Until now, the UK has only been able to sanction those linked to the destabilisation of Ukraine. This new legislation will give us the power to sanction a much broader range of individuals and businesses. We will be able to target any company that is linked to the Russian state, engages in business of economic significance to the Russian state, or operates in a sector of strategic significance to the Russian state. Not only will we be able to target these entities, we will also be able to go after those who own or control them. This will be the toughest sanctions regime against Russia we have ever had, and it is the most radical departure in approach since leaving the European Union. Those in and around the Kremlin will have nowhere to hide.
We will make sure that those who share responsibility for the Kremlin’s aggressive and destabilising action will share in bearing a heavy cost. Their assets in the UK will be frozen. No UK business or individual would be able to transact with them, and should they seek to enter the UK, they would be turned back. Laying this legislation now will enable us to act in concert with the United States and other partners rapidly, multiplying our collective impact. We will use these new powers in a targeted manner, designed to damage the interests of those who bear greatest responsibility for Russia’s actions and exert the greatest pressure to change course. I will not say now exactly who we may target, or with what measure, but Moscow should be clear that we will use these new powers to maximum effect if it pursues its aggressive intent towards Ukraine. Nothing is off the table.
We are also standing with our Ukrainian friends by providing vital support to help them defend themselves. That is why we are supplying the country with defensive, anti-tank missiles, and deploying a training team of British personnel. We have already trained over 21,000 members of the Ukrainian army through Operation Orbital. In addition, we are stepping up our investment in Ukraine’s future, ramping up support for trade up to £3.5 billion, including £1.7 billion to boost Ukraine’s naval capability. We will continue to stand united with Ukraine.
It might seem hard to believe that in the 21st century the citizens of a proud, sovereign, European democracy are living under the threat of invasion. We know from the lessons of history that this course of action would benefit no-one. I do not believe that ordinary Russian citizens want to enter into an intractable quagmire of needless death and destruction that could rival the Soviet-Afghan war or the conflict in Chechnya. Indeed, we have no quarrel whatsoever with the Russian people, only with the policies pursued by its leader. It is time for the Kremlin to step back from the brink, to de-escalate and to enter into meaningful dialogue. If it does not, it should be in no doubt: we will be ready to use the powers that I have set out today to maximum effect. We will join our allies and partners to ensure that such reckless action will bring strategic consequences at a massive cost. We will defend freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the right hon. Lady for advance sight of her statement, and for our discussions on this issue. I am very grateful.
As we in the Opposition have made clear since this crisis began, we stand in resolute support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and in opposition to Russian aggression. We support the essential international diplomatic efforts to achieve de-escalation and the defensive support provided to Ukraine. I said it in Kyiv two weeks ago, and I say it again now: we on these Benches believe that it is important to send a united message from the whole House. That is why we welcome moves by the Government to lay the groundwork for a robust and extensive package of sanctions against Russia in the event of any incursion or attack on Ukraine.
We believe that these measures must be broad, severe and comprehensive. They must apply widely to crucial sectors of the Russian economy, without gaps or loopholes.
They must target corrupt elites who store their money in our country. They must target not just relevant Russian entities, but those who enable, support, service or facilitate their activities. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm that UK subsidiaries of any new sanctioned targets would not be carved out of scope? We know that some oligarchs have used their wealth to seek influence and protect themselves from criticism, so may I ask for her assurance that these measures will be applied without fear or favour? Given that the measures were pre-briefed and include broad categories of potential targets, may I ask what assessment she has made of the risks of asset flight, and what steps she has taken to protect against it?
These sanctions are conditional on Russia’s actions. Their purpose is to form a serious deterrent, which when matched by unified action and the work of the G7, NATO and the OSCE, will make President Putin think again. However, there is much more that we must do irrespective of the decisions made by President Putin—things that it should not have taken an army threatening Ukraine to put in place; things that the Opposition have repeatedly urged the Government to address. For years, the Labour party and colleagues across the House have raised the alarm about the role of dirty money in keeping Putin in power.
For too long, our defences have been let down at home while the Government looked abroad. Despite warning after warning and report after report, the Government have been asleep at the wheel. London is the destination of choice for the world’s kleptocrats. We are home to the services and enablers who help corrupt elites to hide their ill-gotten wealth. We have a system of corporate transparency that permits the products of larceny on a grand scale to be hidden under our noses—and the result is the embarrassing spectacle of President Biden being warned that the widespread presence of suspect Russian money in the UK could jeopardise Britain’s response to this crisis. This is not a matter simply of individuals, welcome though that action is; it is about fixing a broken system—our openness to fraud and money laundering, our inadequate regulation of political donations, our lax mechanisms of corporate governance, and our weakness to foreign interference.
I therefore ask the right hon. Lady the following questions. Where is the economic crime Bill that the Government have just pulled? Where is the comprehensive reform of Companies House? Where is the register of overseas entities Bill? Where is the foreign agent registration law? Where are the new counter-espionage laws? Where are the new rules on political donations? Where is the reform of tier 1 golden visas? Where is the replacement of the outdated Computer Misuse Act 1990? Where is the reform of the Electoral Commission, and why does the Government’s Elections Bill make these problems worse by enabling political donations from donors based overseas?
The right hon. Lady’s movement on sanctions is welcome, but there is much, much more to do. These steps at home are not distinct from sanctions or diplomacy abroad. They must form part of a unified and coherent response—one that has been urged consistently by the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee. If she truly wants to fix the problem, she must start there.
First, may I thank the shadow Foreign Secretary for his constructive approach? It is vital that all Members of the House demonstrate their support for freedom and democracy in the face of severe aggression by the Russian regime, not just on the borders of Ukraine, but through Belarus, into the western Balkans, and across the world. I will take forward the united message that I have heard from the whole House to our friends in Ukraine, who very much welcome the support that they have been offered by the United Kingdom—the economic support, the support in terms of defensive weaponry, and the support in the face of Russian aggression.
The package that we are putting forward in legislation will be in place by 10 February, which means that we are able to enact wide-ranging sanctions in broad categories that really target anybody who is providing strategic or economic support to the Russian regime. There will be nowhere to hide, and I am very clear that we will apply those sanctions without fear or favour.
We have already taken steps to tighten up our regime on corruption and illicit finance through the Criminal Finances Act 2017, the global anti-corruption sanctions regimes that we have put in place and our review of all tier 1 visas granted before 5 April.[Official Report, 20 April 2022, Vol. 712, c. 3MC.] We will also be introducing the economic crime Bill. The Prime Minister committed to that at the summit for democracy with President Biden at the end of last year. Let me assure the House that our priority is the defence of freedom and democracy. That comes before any short-term economic interest not only for our country, but for the whole of Europe. We must wean ourselves and others off dependence on Russian gas. We must target the criminal and corrupt money, and that is what we are determined to do with this extension of our sanctions regime, the most radical that we have put together yet.
It is a pleasure to hear from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary about the tightening of the sanctions regime. She knows that the Foreign Affairs Committee has called for that for four years. It is extremely welcome that she is looking hard at dirty money, and here I find myself in agreement with the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy). The need to clean up the dirty money in our economy is not just about doing the right thing and standing up alongside the people of Ukraine, but about standing up for the British people, defending ourselves against the corruption that flows through our system, and making sure that our houses, our homes, are not being exploited to pay murderers on behalf of a dictator. This is not a foreign problem; this is a problem for the United Kingdom to deal with at home. The strongest thing that we can do to defend Ukraine is to defend ourselves against filth and corruption in our City.
My hon. Friend is right in what he says about the work that the Foreign Affairs Committee has done to champion this issue. This is why we are introducing a much tougher sanctions regime on Russia. As I have said, we will be bringing forward the economic crime Bill to add to the work that we already doing to tackle illicit finance.
I, too, am grateful for sight of the statement, which we support. I have already said in the House that the SNP will be part of the coalition to defend Ukraine and our democracy. It is not a blank cheque, because we will want to see some details, but hon. Members can rest assured that we will stand behind the measures.
I would be grateful for reassurance that Scottish limited partnerships will be included in the package, because they are a clear risk in terms of dubious transactions, and that property transactions will be part of it as well. I also ask for reassurance that there will be co-ordination with the EU precisely to avoid asset flight, given that the measures have been telegraphed.
I have another question, to which I do want an answer. I have pledged the SNP’s support for the measures, but I want a statement from the Foreign Secretary in response to Pippa Crerar, the political editor of the Daily Mirror, who is an impeccable journalist with impeccable sources. She reports that there was supposed to be a call between the Prime Minister and President Putin today but that:
“When the Gray report landed the Russians were asked to shift the time—but they couldn’t. So it’s off…”.
What in the name of hell impression does that give to our friends and our allies if it is true—perhaps it is not? I would be grateful for an assurance that it is not true, or if it is true, I would be grateful for an assurance that that conversation will take place.
I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that absolutely nothing is off the table in terms of who and which organisations we will target with these sanctions. We are very committed to working with our partners, including the EU. We had a big discussion at the G7 in Liverpool about the sanctions regime. I have had discussions since then with Josep Borrell and my EU counterparts to ensure that we are fully co-ordinated, as well as with the US. The Prime Minister will shortly be speaking to President Putin. As I have said, I will be travelling to Moscow in the next fortnight to speak to my counterpart Sergey Lavrov.
Cutting out a cancer is both painful and dangerous. Is the Foreign Secretary aware that the previous Intelligence and Security Committee, in its Russia report, drew on the expertise of Edward Lucas, who today has a comment column in The Times headed, “Britain has become addicted to dirty money”? May I suggest that if she wants to be sure that the cancer will indeed be cut out of the body politic and the country’s wider economy, she could do far worse than to consult Mr Lucas before she finalises her proposed sanctions and their structures?
Six months ago, the Government said that they were finalising their report into how more than 700 Russian millionaires were fast-tracked for British residency via their so-called golden visa scheme. Can the Foreign Secretary tell the House when that long-overdue report will be published? Does she agree that the reason for the delay relates directly to the £4 million that has been donated to the Conservative party by seven individuals who have deep and highly dubious links to the Kremlin?
I welcome the statement and the wider steps that the UK is taking to support Ukraine. My concern is that western tactical responses are playing into Putin’s strategy. Seeking meetings with him, for example, plays to his self-importance; any sanctions actioned will drive Russia ever closer to China, which is exactly what he wants; and sending NATO reinforcements around Ukraine, but not in it, is not the way to deter an attack.
I worry that we are missing the bigger picture. Putin is using the Ukraine crisis to realign Russia militarily, economically and geopolitically with China, which has massive security implications for the west. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the only way to halt an invasion and check that dangerous trajectory is to support Ukraine militarily? This is our Cuban missile crisis. I encourage Britain to lead the call to deploy an offensive alliance and stand up to Putin’s aggression.
Our approach in dealing with the issue of Russian aggression is both deterrence and diplomacy. That is why the UK has been at the forefront in supplying defensive weapons to Ukraine, training up Ukrainian forces and working with our allies, many of whom are also supplying defensive support into Ukraine. But we have to be clear that there is a difference between a country that is a member of NATO, which has a security guarantee—Baltic states such as Estonia, where UK troops are in place—and the situation in Ukraine.
In my view, the best way of deterring Vladimir Putin from an invasion of Ukraine is by making it very clear, first, that that will not be simple or easy and is likely to result in a quagmire, as we saw in the Soviet-Afghan war or in Chechnya; and, secondly, that there will be severe economic consequences—and those are, of course, sanctions that target oligarchs and companies close to Vladimir Putin. Also, not going ahead with Nord Stream 2 is very important from the Russian point of view.
It is important that we talk to Russia and communicate these messages. We will not resile from our position on the protection of the open-door policy into NATO, but we will communicate directly with Russia so that it understands those messages.
The Foreign Secretary comes to the House, talks tough and says that the Government have a readiness to act. It is four years since the Foreign Affairs Committee produced its “Moscow’s Gold” report, which outlined Russian corruption in the UK. It is two years since the Intelligence and Security Committee published its report on Russia, which outlined similar concerns. Why have the Government not acted in those years? If we are going to implement sanctions, how can we believe that they will be effective without strong political will and the determination to make them work?
We have taken a number of measures in recent years: namely, the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and the review we are conducting of visas. I am saying that the most far-reaching sanctions regime will be in place by 10 February, making sure that Russia understands that there is a severe package ready to be in place. Of course, I am absolutely prepared to do what is necessary to make those costs severe.
My right hon. Friend is right that our argument is with President Putin and his cronies, not with the Russian people, but she will be aware that Russian citizens, and, indeed, many in eastern Ukraine, are able only to access Russian propaganda from state-owned or oligarch-owned media channels, while independent journalists are put into prison and the internet is censored. Will she look at what more can be done, perhaps through the BBC World Service and the tech platforms, to ensure that the Russian people can access objective and factual reporting?
This is just weak, weak, weak. Honestly, since 2010, when the Conservatives came to power and they first started saying that they wanted to press the reset button with Putin, we have been weak, ambivalent and vacillating towards the Russian Federation. We have no quarrel with the Russian people; it is with President Putin. It does not work to try to look tough when the Government have refused to deal with the issue of tier 1 visas. It is shocking that the Foreign Secretary does not even have a proper answer to that question this afternoon. This has been going on for ages; we have been giving them out to thousands of Russian oligarchs. She still does not have an answer—maybe she will have now—to the question about unexplained wealth orders. If we cannot make them, how will this new legislation make any difference? This is far, far too late. It is not a question of whether the horse has bolted; they have invited the horse in, sat it down at the table and given it plenty to eat.
The answer is that the Ukrainian Government are very grateful for the support that the United Kingdom is giving. Of all the European NATO allies, we are the largest supplier of defensive weapons to Ukraine. We have helped to train up the Ukrainian forces, we are providing economic support, and the sanctions package that I am announcing today goes far further than the EU sanctions regime which, presumably, the hon. Gentleman supports.
I very much welcome what my right hon. Friend has said today. It is quite understandable and right that our focus is currently on Ukraine, but is not this just part of a bigger picture? What we have is a Russia that is trying to build an arc of instability around NATO, from the Arctic through the Baltic to the Balkans and the Caucasus. Does this not require a sustained, consistent and strong policy of deterrence, using diplomatic, economic and military elements? Would it not be a good start if all members of NATO carried their fair share of the defence spending burden?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why the UK is supplying support from the high north through to the Baltics and through to the Black sea, backing up NATO as the largest defence spender of all the European NATO allies. That is being recognised. Contrary to what those on the Opposition Benches say, that is being recognised by our allies in the Baltic, by our allies in eastern Europe, and by our allies in Ukraine.
We cannot sanction what we cannot see, and while I welcome this statement, I would like some clarity on whether this new legislation will finally include a register of beneficial owners for overseas entities. The Foreign Secretary will know that many of these oligarchs hide their money, particularly in UK property. The press release from the FCDO says that it is going to leave Russia “nowhere to hide”, so is that loophole finally going to be closed?
The legislation we are putting forward is about being able to target entities and individuals that are of strategic or economic interest in the Russian state. We are broadening it out much more widely than before, when we would have been able to apply sanctions only to those who were actively destabilising Ukraine. We can target asset freezing, and we can target the ability to enter the UK of those individuals and entities. The register of interests that the hon. Lady is talking about is part of the economic crime Bill that is being brought forward by the Treasury, and the Prime Minister has committed to that happening this year.
I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s statement today, and the announcement of new powers. They are long overdue, but I am glad that it is this Government who are delivering them, and doing so by 10 February. That will also be welcomed by the Rada in Kyiv and by the Government of Ukraine. Is it not the case that Ukraine is not NATO’s border and not the EU’s border, but that it is democracy’s border, which is why Ukraine matters? I thank her for her good offices in working hard to galvanise opinion in Washington and across EU capitals to ensure that we have that strong defence, strong deterrence and strong diplomacy.
I thank my hon. Friend for his work as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ukraine. Ukraine is vital. It is a freedom-loving democracy in Europe. If we do not work hard—we are—to defend Ukraine from Russian aggression, that will simply encourage aggressors around the world. This is not just a regional security issue, important though it is; it is a global security issue.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Alyn Smith), I support much of what is in the statement. The statement says that the Secretary of State will not name who or what may be targeted with sanctions, but can she clarify that whatever the new legislation looks like, it will enable the Government to take action against Kremlin mouthpieces and outlets in this country, for example RT UK?
As I said, I am not going to talk about the individuals or entities that could be targeted, but it will be anyone who is of strategic or economic interest to the Russian state. The hon. Gentleman can imagine that that is quite a broad list of people and entities.
My right hon. Friend will know well that Kyiv was the original capital of Rus, and was an area of fabulous wealth and education until invaded by the Khans. The Russians and the Rus called them the Tatars. Many reports have come out that tens of thousands of Tatars have disappeared from Crimea. That human rights atrocity cannot be properly investigated. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must try to find out exactly what has been happening to the Tatar population?
Equally, for those who do not feel it is important or that we should somehow let Russia have the Russian empire, as President Putin outlined in his essay last year, that goes against every principle of freedom and democracy of standing up to fascist Governments who want to ethnically cleanse people over centuries of hatred.
My right. Friend is completely right. Let us remember that Russia signed up to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the 1994 Budapest agreement. It signed up to that, and what it is seeking to do is renege on its commitments, stoke aggression and seek to undermine Ukrainian democracy in a variety of ways, whether by false flag operations or cyber-attacks or by trying to install puppet regimes in Kyiv.
A few minutes ago, the Prime Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and said, in response to questions on partygate, that his is the Government who are bringing countries together “to stand up against Putin”, but just last week, our closest allies went public with their concerns over Russian influence in this country. Will the Secretary of State admit that her Government have undermined our diplomatic status and our national security by refusing for so long to take seriously Russian influence and dirty money?
I do not accept the hon. Lady’s talking down of the UK’s role. It was at the G7 meeting in Liverpool that we agreed with our allies, including the United States, the EU and Japan, that the Russian regime would face severe consequences of an incursion into Ukraine. That language has now been adopted by all our allies and partners. We have led the way in providing defensive weaponry to Ukraine. We have led the way today with our package of economic sanctions, which go beyond what we were able to do as a member of the EU.
The time for deterrence diplomacy is now. Over the last two weeks, from Kramatorsk, to Donetsk, from Kyiv to Sarajevo and Mostar, civilians have been clear with me that they believe the west will either save them or there will be bloodshed in Europe. What consideration has my right hon. Friend given to blacklisting Russian banks? Will she look at joining the US in sanctioning Milorad Dodik in Bosnia, whose ethno-nationalist, separatist, genocide-denying agitation also risks bringing bloodshed to Europe?
Any war on the border between Ukraine and Russia will be utterly disastrous for the people of Ukraine, the people of Russia and the future of peace throughout the whole continent of Europe. When the Foreign Secretary travels to Moscow to have discussions with the Russian Government, I hope that she will be able to reassert the agreements reached in the 1990s that recognised Ukrainian independence, but will she also try to take the whole thing a stage further with a new disarmament agreement with Russia, revisiting the previous agreements? Will she ensure that the British state is represented at the Vienna convention on nuclear weapons in the middle of March, as a way to take forward the de-escalation of stress and threats and thereby to wind down the tensions on the border? If we carry on building up massive numbers of troops on both sides of the border, something awful is going to happen and it will be very hard to get out of it.
Let us be clear: it is the Russian regime that has amassed the tanks and troops on the Ukrainian border. It is the Russian regime that has escalated aggression, and not just towards Ukraine but through Belarus and in the western Balkans. It is the Russian regime that needs to step back before it ends up entering into what could be—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on this point—a very serious quagmire, with appalling consequences for the people of both Ukraine and Russia. That is the point that I will make when I travel to Moscow in the next fortnight.
I thank the Secretary of State for her very robust approach. This is not a criticism of her, but we still lack a comprehensive and coherent approach to dealing with Russia’s hybrid war. Frankly, this is a decade too late—so there is no criticism of her—and it is clear that deterrence is not working. My question is on facilitators, which a few other people have mentioned. Does she understand how corrosive it is to have young UK service personnel—ordinary kids in uniform—in forward positions in the Baltics while in London a morally vacant and corrupted class of lawyers, bankers, reputation launderers and kompromat-style private investigators coin it, serving the needs of a parasitic, murderous oligarch class that is part of a neo-fascist regime that now threatens war in Europe? What are we doing about this corrupt facilitator class?
As I outlined earlier, we have taken action against illicit finance and corruption. We have established the National Cyber Security Centre and we are working hard to support Ukraine on the cyber-attacks it faces from the Russian regime, and I have announced today a sanctions regime that is by far the toughest we have ever had against Russia.
The Foreign Secretary’s announcement shows that the Government can act speedily when they want to—these measures will be on the statute book by 10 February—so will she explain to the House why we are still waiting for all the measures referred to by the shadow Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), in his response to the statement? Why can those measures not be acted on as speedily as the sanctions that the Foreign Secretary has announced to the House today?
The Foreign Secretary is absolutely correct to highlight that our partners in central and eastern Europe—Poland and the Baltic states—recognise the leadership that Britain is providing with regard to these new tensions, but they also recognise the increasing divergence between London and Berlin in how to tackle Russia over this nefarious behaviour. Does she agree that it is important now to go back to our German partners and re-emphasise the need for them to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which gives the Russians an umbilical cord to the heart of Europe? We import less than 1.5% of our gas requirements from Russia, whereas the Germans import more than 60% of their energy requirements from Moscow.
I had a discussion with my colleague Foreign Minister Baerbock last week about precisely this issue, and I welcome the statements from her and Chancellor Scholz about Nord Stream 2, in which they were very clear that it will not go ahead in the event of a Russian incursion. We do need to reduce dependence on Russian gas. I welcome the work that the United States is doing to look at how supplies can be augmented, and we are working with partners across the middle east. This is a strategic issue for Europe and we do need to reduce dependence on Russian gas—there is no doubt about it.
More than £4 million has been donated to Tory MPs, including to a quarter of the current Cabinet, by Russian-linked individuals—this is dirty money from an evil regime. Is that why the Government have so far failed to take the Russian threat to our democracy seriously? How will what has been announced today help? Will the Foreign Secretary pledge to this House to fly at least business class to Moscow in the next couple of weeks, instead of using half a million pounds of taxpayers’ money, as she did when she flew to Australia?
In addition to targeted sanctions against Kremlin-linked individuals, our friends and allies in the US Senate are considering three further steps. The first is sanctioning Russian state banks, to prevent the flow of foreign capital. The second is having export controls on key technologies that are useful to the Kremlin. Thirdly, a number of Senators, led by Ted Cruz, are proposing a return to sanctions against Nord Stream itself, and related entities and individuals linked to the organisation. Will each of those be included in the Bill that my right hon. Friend intends to bring forward?
Our American allies have just issued an unprecedented rebuke to the British Government, saying that any new sanctions would be worthless as long as London remains the main international laundromat for dirty Russian money. I remember that this Prime Minister tried to stop the publication of the Russia report and removed the Whip from the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), who now chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee, when his own patsy candidate failed to get the job. I am still not clear, however, whether the Foreign Secretary is reinstating the economic crime Bill, because that has not been said on the record from the Dispatch Box before. If she is, can the admirable Lord Agnew have his job back, please?
My right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) rather took my thunder, but this is such an important point that I would like to reiterate: if ever there was a reason to take a fresh look at NATO and its role and responsibilities, this threat by Russia of an invasion in Europe must be it. Has the Foreign Secretary spoken to the other NATO countries that are not spending the 2%? Has she been given reassurance that they will spend 2%? If they have not given her that, what does she intend to do to make them spend 2% of their GDP?
We are already spending more than 2% of our GDP; we are the largest European NATO supplier of troops and security around Europe, and we want to see others step up, because, as my hon. Friend says, these threats are getting worse. We have seen an increase in aggression and we need to see all NATO allies step up and fulfil their commitments.
The Government’s attempt to claim some kind of moral high ground on Russian sanctions is sheer hypocrisy when the right hon. Lady’s party has accepted donations from oligarchs and her Government have turned a blind eye to the Kremlin meddling in our democracy and have held open the door to Putin’s cronies to have their money laundered in London. Can she tell us whether that is why there is still this delay to the promised register of overseas entities, which would shine a light on Russian ownership of British property? In her replies to the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran), she showed a remarkable lack of urgency on whether the economic crime Bill might be introduced sometime this year. That is not good enough when we are talking about what pressure can be brought to bear on Russia now.
I warmly welcome the actions my right hon. Friend is taking. Nobody should think they are safe from sanctions, so will she confirm that this new legislation will ensure that any company of interest to the Kremlin will be able to be targeted so there can be nowhere for Putin’s oligarchs to hide?
We will be able to target any company linked to the Russian state that engages in business of economic significance to the Russian state or in a sector of strategic significance. We will be able not just to target those entities but to go after those who own or control them, so the net is very wide.
I am going to give the Foreign Secretary a third chance. Does she agree that the UK Government will continue to look weak on the Russian threat while Tory MPs and Members of the other House continue to accept cash from Russian-linked individuals?
I thank the Foreign Secretary for her statement. She is absolutely right that we need to widen the breadth of sanctions on Russia to reflect the reality on the ground. In my constituency those realities are very clear to see—the dirty money invested week in, week out. Can she assure me that this Government will follow through on the legislation and ensure that the financial and professional services involved will be held to account, and that we follow a “banks and tanks” strategy in fighting corruption and Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine and across Europe?
We have taken steps to deal with illicit finance and corrupt elites through the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and our anti-corruption sanctions regime. I have already talked about the commitment to introduce legislation through the economic crime Bill. Today is about showing that the UK is ready with a package of severe sanctions that can target any organisation or individual who is remotely linked or of economic significance to the Russian state, showing there will be nowhere to hide in the event of an incursion into Ukraine. This is about making sure that those economic consequences are as severe as possible. My hon. Friend makes excellent points on the broader issue, but today we are talking about deterring Vladimir Putin from an incursion into Ukraine.
Why have the Government delayed the economic crime Bill? Why are they doing nothing to stop lawfare in the UK courts? Why is the Serious Fraud Office being sued by oligarchs rather than indicting them? Without the laws, the courts and the prosecutors to tackle corruption and dirty money here in Londongrad, are the Foreign Secretary’s threats not empty and vacuous? Will she ensure that the Tories’ Russian gold finds its way back to Moscow?
I have already given the steps that Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Ministry of Justice are taking on the issues that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. The sanctions regime is under direct Foreign Office control. That is why we are taking action as soon as we can, by 10 February, to get these sanctions in place so that we can exercise them in the event of an incursion.
I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for her announcement on sanctions. She said in her statement that the UK will join discussions at the UN Security Council to apply further pressure on Russia. Could she explain what she hopes to gain out of this and what success would look like?
I, too, welcome the broad tenet of the Foreign Secretary’s statement, the details of which included fast jets going to bolster NATO forces in Europe. Has she had discussions with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that when, quite appropriately, bolstering Ukraine’s eastern flank, we do not create any problems for the United Kingdom’s northern flank by redeploying quick reaction alert Typhoon aircraft from either Lossiemouth or Coningsby?
I am in regular touch with the Defence Secretary to make sure that, of course, we protect UK defence interests at the same time as we provide air support, particularly around the Black sea region, to make sure that we are working with our NATO allies to keep a free and safe Europe.
President Putin is reported as saying:
“Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere”—
of artificial intelligence—
“will become the ruler of the world.”
Given the dangers posed by lethal autonomous weapons, will the Foreign Secretary explain why the British Government seem reluctant to support efforts to place legally binding instruments to control their development and use?
We are shortly about to launch our international tech strategy, which will talk precisely about setting standards in areas like artificial intelligence and quantum. It is important that it is the free world that is setting those standards rather than their being dictated by authoritarian regimes.
There are concerns in the food industry that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could lead to food shortages in the UK, as Ukraine is becoming a significant exporter of goods such as cereal products to the UK. What plans do the Government have to protect UK food supplies if Putin opts to disregard sanctions and presses ahead?
We have an important trade relationship with Ukraine, which is why it is so important that we support Ukraine economically. That is why we have built in extra trade co-operation, and why it is so important that we deter the Russian Government from an incursion into Ukraine.