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Business of the House

Volume 709: debated on Monday 28 February 2022

Madam Deputy Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement.

Business later today will now be a debate on motions to approve the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 and the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 2022, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the National Insurance Contributions Bill, followed by a motion to approve the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation etc.) (Revocation) (England) Regulations 2022

The business for the rest of this week remains unchanged to that previously announced and I shall make a further business statement in the usual way on Thursday.

I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement and advance notice of it. The Opposition support the Government’s work on sanctions. Indeed, we have called for them. We want to work in a collaborative, cross-party and constructive way. In order to facilitate my colleagues in the shadow Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office team, I wonder if the Leader of the House could pass on to the Government team the request that they make themselves available and meet my colleagues at the earliest possible opportunity, technically tomorrow in parliamentary day terms and today in calendar terms. That would be extremely helpful, because we want to be constructive and we want to be able to facilitate the smooth passage of regulations that are going to sanction Russia, as they rightly should, for its egregious actions in Ukraine.

I thank the Leader of the House for his co-operation and I hope that his nodding from a sedentary position indicates assent.

Of course, we will facilitate that. We are grateful for the Opposition’s support in this matter. A united House is the right message to send.

I thank the Leader of the House for coming to the House to give us the supplementary business statement. I entirely agree with the shadow spokesman, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), and nothing I am going to say in any way criticises the Government. My point is about how we found ourselves here tonight in the House.

We are considering very grave and important matters relating to sanctioning Russia. The Russia (Sanction) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 194) is 11 pages long, with five pages of explanatory notes. The Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No.3) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 195) is 29 pages long and has five pages of explanatory notes. It is difficult consider SIs that have actually already come into force—they came into force a few minutes’ ago—and were only laid before the House two hours ago, at 10 pm. One problem is that some Members may want to change things and put in tougher sanctions. I think the answer will be that it cannot be done, but it would be useful if we could find a mechanism so that they could be amended and we could go further if that is possible. None of that is a criticism. It is just the position we find ourselves in tonight.

It is not for me to encourage my hon. Friend to amend Government business, but of course there will be a Bill coming very shortly which he will be able to scrutinise. He will understand that the House is making very rapid decisions on trying to tackle a very aggressive action in Ukraine by a very desperate leader in Russia.

I echo the comments of the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), and the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone). I think everybody recognises that things are moving very, very quickly and at very short notice, but at the same time we all want to be constructive. Therefore, as much notice and as much sight as possible on any kind of sanctions and statutory instruments would be very much appreciated, I think, by all Members, if the Leader of the House could bear that in mind. I absolutely recognise the situation, but it is not a lot of time for Members to prepare for what they would hope to be very detailed scrutiny of such important sanctions.

I am sure the House will recognise my enthusiasm to be here earlier was evident, but unfortunately business went on late, which is why we are doing it at this time.

I do not think anybody in the House would disagree with the need to move ahead with sanctions, but the Lord President of the Council will be aware that we already have legislation on statute that allows us to issue unexplained wealth orders. As far as I am aware, the UK Government have not proceeded down that route. That could make life very difficult indeed for about 2,000 people in the City of London. So, yes, absolutely look at sanctions, but can the Leader of the House come forward with a statement on what we are going to do with unexplained wealth orders, which is a tool that we have available to us?

The hon. Gentleman will have to wait for the Bill. This is a further step on the way to sanctioning Russia. This is part of a suite of measures which are being brought forward. We did a substantial amount last week. We are doing more tomorrow. I am sure if he is here on Thursday for the business statement, there will be more in the statement on Thursday.

I very much welcome the commitment from the Leader of the House to the sanctions Bill tomorrow. It is very important that we have the correct amount of time set aside to make our contributions on that as well as on the two SIs, which are equally important. Will extra time be set aside for the sanctions Bill and the SIs, so that we can all debate these things fully and comprehensively?

Just to be clear, the SIs are being debated tomorrow. They will be allowed three hours, subject to the business motion being supported by the House, and there will then be a further update on the timetabling for any future legislation in the usual way on Thursday.

We all support exactly what the Government are doing, even if we sometimes want to go quicker, but these are fast-moving events. It would be useful with some of the sanctions to compare them directly with what our NATO allies are doing and to make sure that we are keeping up with them—[Interruption.] And leading, I am sure. A clear table for Members for the debate would be extremely useful, if that could be fed back. That is the case not just for sanctions, but for the humanitarian response and, for example, accepting Ukrainian refugees. We need to lead on all fronts and to be able to do that with a clear table that all Members can use.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question; he is right to be supportive and I am grateful for his comments. I am sure that he will be able to question a Minister at the Dispatch Box tomorrow.