Skip to main content

Russia: Sanctions

Volume 710: debated on Tuesday 8 March 2022

1. What recent legislative steps her Department has taken to help strengthen the sanctions regime against Russia. (905920)

2. What recent legislative steps her Department has taken to help strengthen the sanctions regime against Russia. (905921)

21. What assessment she has made of the impact of UK sanctions imposed to date on (a) individuals and (b) entities associated with the conflict in Ukraine. (905942)

Together with our G7 allies, we have put the toughest sanctions on Russia in our history. We have sanctioned 228 individuals and entities. Our bank sanctions target £259 billion-worth of assets, compared with £240 billion by the US and £34 billion by the EU. We have also targeted more defence companies, cut access to British ports and closed airspace. Yesterday, this House passed new legislation to speed up the sanctioning of oligarchs, and from next Tuesday we will be able to do all of them.

A huge number of Bishop Auckland residents have contacted me expressing their concerns about the ongoing situation in Ukraine, so I am grateful to hear about the Foreign Secretary’s robust action. Following the amendments to our sanctions regime yesterday through the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill, does she agree that that will allow us to hit Putin’s allies harder and faster?

My hon. Friend is right. Amendments from the House of Lords to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 made it cumbersome and slow for us to sanction those individuals. They included making unlimited damages available to those individuals as well as requiring an impact test under the Human Rights Act. Yesterday’s Bill removes all of that, which means that by 15 March we will be able to sanction hundreds of individuals.

Given the barbaric invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the threats to cut off gas supplies to the west and the rising energy prices here in the UK, will the Secretary of State join me in calling for the continued expansion of renewable energy and for massively expanding and accelerating the UK’s nuclear programme to ensure that we meet net zero, dramatically lower our energy prices and ensure that we can never be held to ransom over our energy supplies?

My hon. Friend is right. The west can no longer be reliant on Russian oil and gas. We need to end dependency by agreeing ceilings with our G7 partners, agreeing a timetable for reduction and helping through price support and supply support those countries that are very dependent. Of course, nuclear and renewable energy will play a vital role in moving forward.

Targeted sanctions are critical if we are to avoid significant collateral economic damage. However, despite what the Government may claim, the facts speak for themselves. According to Castellan AI, the total number of sanctions placed on Russia since 2014 by country is as follows: the US, 1,200; Canada, 900; Switzerland, 800; the EU, 766; and the UK, just 271. This is not leadership, is it? Why are the Government so slow?

We have led on cutting Russia off from SWIFT. We have led on closing our airspace and closing our ports. If we look at the total financial impact—the aim here is to debilitate the Russian economy—we can see that the sanctions we have put on banks, defence, aviation and oligarchs add up to £364 billion. In the US, they add up to £340 billion, and in the EU, they add up to £124 billion. We have to look at the overall financial impact, and it is much higher for the UK than for our allies. Of course we encourage them all to do more, and we need to work together.

Will the Foreign Secretary speak to her colleague, the Home Secretary, about the cruel and chaotic way in which desperate Ukrainian refugees are being treated by the Home Office? It cannot be right that there is no visa application centre in Calais, with Ukrainian refugees who have travelled thousands of miles to Calais being redirected either to Paris or to Brussels. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that this brings the UK into disrepute?

The Home Office has placed staff in Poland and Hungary to help people, and the Home Secretary has announced a new pop-up application site in Lille. I can tell the right hon. Member that the Home Office has set up a surgery for MPs in Portcullis House, to which I am sure she will be very welcome to take any cases.

On International Women’s Day, does the Foreign Secretary agree that one way to amplify the message we are sending to Russia through sanctions would be to call on every woman in Russia—the mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and friends of those in the Russian army who are attacking a neighbouring state and causing such misery and suffering—to send a message to those soldiers to stop it and return home?

My hon. Friend is right that; as well as the huge humanitarian crisis for the people of Ukraine, we are seeing the death of many Russian soldiers, many of whom have been sent to Ukraine under false pretences such as the claim that the Ukrainian people want liberation, which simply is not true. As we warned in advance of this invasion, President Putin has sent thousands of young Russian men and women to their death. That message is being received in Russia.

Two weeks into this awful war, Ukraine has suffered terribly but stands defiant. Putin is isolated, his economy is in freefall and his actions are condemned around the world. We are united in our desire to ratchet up pressure on Putin, but the UK has sanctioned just eight of the Navalny 35 list of oligarchs. The EU has sanctioned 19 and the US has sanctioned 15. We welcome the Government’s U-turn on sanctions legislation yesterday, which should help us to catch up, but sanctions against oligarchs work only if we know where their wealth is hidden. Will the Government commit to urgently reforming Companies House, to leave Putin-linked crooks with nowhere to hide?

First, the right hon. Gentleman needs to look at the overall size of our sanctions. The UK has targeted £364 billion-worth of assets, whereas the US has targeted £340 billion and the EU has targeted £124 billion. We have led the way, whether on SWIFT, freezing bank assets or closing ports.

As for the right hon. Gentleman’s point about the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, it was the Labour party that wanted changes to make it tougher for us to sanction oligarchs. The hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds), who is now chair of the Labour party, said on Third Reading that the Act gives Ministers “excessive power” that could not be

“justified by the need for speed”.—[Official Report, 1 May 2018; Vol. 640, c. 239.]

She even called for additional bureaucracy through a cross-Whitehall committee. The U-turn is on their side.

The world watched Putin’s premeditated stalking of Ukraine. We saw the lies, the false diplomacy and the manufactured grievances, and then we witnessed the destructive invasion of a sovereign state. This is a crime of aggression. The creation of a special tribunal will help the global community to hold Vladimir Putin and his cronies personally responsible for this war, and it would complement the International Criminal Court’s investigation. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister backs it, several of our allies and partners back it and leading lawyers back it. Will the Foreign Secretary now do the same?

I completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we are seeing horrific crimes taking place in Ukraine, and they are the responsibility of President Putin. That is why the United Kingdom has worked with our allies to put a case to the ICC—there were 38 states, making it the biggest ever group referral to the ICC. That is the right route to tackle the war crimes that we consider could have taken place or are taking place in Ukraine. We want to work with countries to collect the evidence. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice will be travelling to The Hague to work on that specific issue.

I very much welcome the strong package of sanctions imposed by the Government, but if President Putin is to understand that we are serious, he also needs to know that we are going to be able to sustain that package over a considerable time. He will believe that only if we are honest with the public that that will mean not just a cost to Russia but a significant economic cost here. We have to make the argument that it is necessary to pay for it, in order to keep us safe and secure in the future, and I urge the Foreign Secretary to do so.

Of course, there will be an economic cost to these sanctions for British people, in their energy bills and in the cost of living, but that cost is nothing compared with the cost to the people of Ukraine of the horrific barbarism that they are facing or with the cost of allowing Putin to succeed. We know that if Putin does not lose in Ukraine, it will not be the limit of his ambitions. He has already been clear that he wants to see a greater Russia, which could encompass countries such as Moldova and the Baltic states. So it is vital that we throw everything at sanctions, and we help as much as we can with getting defensive weaponry into Ukraine, because this is a battle that Putin needs to lose.

The SNP has supported the Government’s efforts on Ukraine. We took some criticism for that, but it was the right thing to do. In that spirit, I have to say that there is mounting frustration on these Benches at the lack of progress on and ambition in the UK’s sanctions regime. The rhetoric is simply not matched by the reality, which is that the European Union has gone further and faster on these sanctions matters. I urge the Foreign Secretary to work more closely with the EU, particularly on the due diligence on individual sanctions, and to replicate the EU’s sanctions in order to complement the EU’s efforts and have a much more comprehensive sanctions regime, rather than sending it a nice letter with a month’s notice to sort its financial affairs.

What the hon. Gentleman says simply is not the case. We are seeking to debilitate the Russian economy. We have targeted and sanctioned £364 billion-worth of assets, whereas the EU has targeted £124 billion. Yes, there are specific issues over individuals, which we are addressing through the emergency legislation that went through the House which will be in place next week. We will be able to sanction all the individuals that he is referring to. It is simply not true to say that the UK has not led on this, as we have. We led on SWIFT, on banning ships from British ports, which I know he was arguing for last week, and on closing airspace to Russian planes. What he is saying simply is not true.