My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:
“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 to the fortitude of the people of Salisbury. Let me reassure them that, as Public Health England has made clear, the ongoing risk to public health is low. 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 a 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 Government concluded that 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, they have 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 that 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 more than 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.
Secondly, we will 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 permitted only in relation to those suspected of terrorism. I have asked the Home Secretary to consider whether there is a need for new counterespionage 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 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 that, as with all the measures that I am setting out today, 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 our allies. 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; and, led by the National Crime Agency, we will continue to bring 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 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 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 to counter the threat of hostile state activity. While I have set out some measures today, Members on all sides will understand that there are some that cannot be shared publicly for reasons of national security. Of course, there are other measures that we stand ready to deploy at any time, should we face further Russian provocation.
None of the actions that 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 and wanted a better relationship. 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 that 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 push 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 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”.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. We are grateful for the information the Government have been able to share with us so far regarding the threat from Russia.
On Monday, I said that this incident had local, national and international ramifications. We are now seeing an escalation on all three of those fronts. The people of Salisbury are dealing with an attempted murder, through a nerve agent, on British soil and in their home town, with total disregard for the lives of British citizens. We welcome that the evidence that the risk to the public was low appears to be correct, and that those members of the public who sought medical attention for poisoning symptoms have been cleared. We again send our best wishes to Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. We also recognise that there are ongoing checks and issues in Salisbury. This was an unacceptable and reprehensible attack, and the response must be robust. We cannot continue with business as usual, and we welcome the measures announced.
The Prime Minister is clear in her Statement, as she said on Monday, too, that we deploy an “engage but beware” strategy when dealing with Russia. Following the high-level diplomatic expulsions, what form do the Government expect that engagement to take in the future? The noble Baroness will be aware of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report on Russia, which confirmed that engagement is vital both to de-escalate points of difference and avoid misunderstandings, and to better understand any threat that is faced. She will be aware that President Putin is facing the first round of Russian elections this Sunday, so currently he is obviously focused on his domestic audience. This makes the support of our allies all the more important.
The UK has called for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council. Donald Tusk has announced that EU leaders will discuss this issue at their summit next week, and there will be a NATO meeting tomorrow. International co-ordination is key for any action against Russia to be successful, so will the noble Baroness update the House on the preparations for potential UN Security Council resolutions that should be drafted in order to get the widest possible international support?
Will the noble Baroness also update the House on investigations being carried out on other deaths under similar circumstances? While the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal is confronting us today, what efforts are being made by the Government to reassess the deaths of Mr Skripal’s wife Liudmila, who died in 2012, and his elder brother and his son, who died within the past two years?
Sergei and Yulia Skripal were not regarded as facing a high risk and were not living under a witness protection programme. They lived openly under their own names. What assessment has now been undertaken to review the protection currently offered to other Russian citizens who are not currently deemed, or were not previously deemed, to be high risk?
We welcome the Government’s intention to table a Magnitsky amendment to the sanctions Bill to see the UK doing more to challenge gross human rights abuses. We look forward to seeing the detail. The noble Baroness announced plans to look at further legislative powers to support our defences against hostile state action, and we will work constructively with the Government to scrutinise the proposals that are brought forward. On plans for powers at the border, the noble Baroness will understand that there will need to be safeguards to ensure that the power is used properly to protect citizens and is not open to abuse. On all these issues, will the Government work with the Intelligence and Security Committee and all other relevant committees of Parliament to ensure we understand the threat Russia poses and the consequent pressures on our intelligence and security services and how best they are to be supported and resourced to do the job they have to do?
The Prime Minister announced that the Government have commissioned the OPCW independently to verify the Government’s analysis of the nerve agent. Will the noble Baroness provide assurances to the House that the Government will work with the OPCW to strengthen its chemical weapons monitoring system and encourage an investigation, including the inspection of relevant facilities in Russia?
Finally, all this serves to emphasise how essential it is that we work internationally. International co-operation, European co-operation and engagement are the only way to tackle any threats and, indeed, to seek to prevent them.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. Like her, I start by paying tribute to the professionalism and dedication of the emergency services, the medical staff and others in Salisbury who are dealing with what is clearly a more complicated business in cleaning up and in dealing with a rather larger number of people who have been affected by this incident than was at first apparent.
The conclusion that this incident represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom is stark and unavoidable. On these Benches, we agree with the Government that, that being so, this act needs to be met with a full and robust response. The challenge is to identify practical and effective measures to constitute that response. The Government have come up with a number. The first proposal is to,
“expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers”.
If they are indeed undeclared intelligence officers, this seems a fully justified measure.
Secondly, the Government plan to,
“develop proposals for new legislative powers to harden our defences against all forms of hostile state activity”.
While we will obviously wish to scrutinise any such measures very carefully, and for understandable reasons we do not have the details of them yet, we welcome the proposal to introduce the Magnitsky powers. That is something that we have been calling for for some time, so the Government will have our support in getting those powers on to the statute book. Is the noble Baroness able to tell us whether it is intended that those powers will be introduced by the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill or whether they will be coming forward in free-standing legislation?
Thirdly, the Government plan to,
“increase checks on private flights, customs and freight”.
On a number of occasions, your Lordships’ House has debated the potentially damaging consequences of the lack of checks on private flights, so this is welcome. The concern is that this is potentially a very big commitment, because there is a very large number of small airports which are currently almost totally unregulated. We look forward to hearing from the Government how they expect to be able to do that effectively and what the manpower and cost implications will be.
The final strand of the Government’s proposals relates to working together internationally. Of course, that is very much to be welcomed. Within that strand, there are two principal international interlocutors, the first being NATO. Given the strength of the Prime Minister’s language, about the incident involving the unlawful use of force by the Russian state, have the Government given any consideration as to whether these events would justify invoking Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty? Finally, it is obviously the case, as the Government have recognised, that the attitude of our EU partners is very important. The Prime Minister has spoken to Chancellor Merkel and President Macron. I believe that earlier today President Tusk proposed adding to the agenda of next week’s European Council an item relating to this incident. Could the noble Baroness tell us whether the Government have yet accepted that invitation?
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their comments, and I will endeavour to answer the questions that they have posed. The noble Baroness asked about continued engagement with Russia. As the Statement made clear, we have suspended high-level engagement, but of course we will continue to engage with Russia through international fora such as the UN, so there will be mechanisms by which we will maintain a dialogue.
Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord were absolutely right to point out the need to work with international partners. As we made clear in the Statement, the issue will indeed be put on the agenda for next week’s EU Council, and we look forward to that discussion. We have been engaging with NATO at the highest levels, as the noble Baroness rightly said, and there is a meeting of the NATO Council tomorrow to discuss this. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked about Article 5. We do not consider this incident needs to be raised under NATO Article 5, given the engagement already under way. Later today, the UN Security Council will also hold initial consultations, and as the Statement made clear, we will be pushing it for a robust international response. But we were waiting, as indeed our international partners were, to see Russia’s response to the reasonable questions that were set out yesterday. Obviously now that we have had that response, we will start to work together with our partners to engage with them on where we go next.
The noble Baroness asked about previous incidents involving Russians. We of course take seriously any suggestion that a foreign state has engaged in murder on UK soil. Our immediate priority is the Salisbury investigation, but my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has replied to a letter sent by Yvette Cooper, saying that in the weeks to come she will want to satisfy herself that the allegations made about previous incidents in which investigations at the time did not discover evidence of foul play are nothing more than that. The police and MI5 agree and will assist in that endeavour. She will make the information public if anything further comes to light as a result of that.
The noble Baroness also asked about the OPCW. We will be working closely with it. We made a national statement to its executive council yesterday and will continue to talk to it about what further action it might take. We are of course working with the police to enable the OPCW to independently verify our analysis and share it with international partners.
Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness mentioned the Magnitsky amendment. It is our intention that that will be brought forward within the sanctions Bill in the other place.
My Lords, the noble Baroness the Leader of the House mentioned that the ongoing risk to public health is low, but I am concerned about the 38 people who reported to the hospital that they had been exposed last Sunday. I know that the noble Baroness has seen the report in the Times of an interview with Mr Vil Mirzayanov, who said that the chemical was 10 times more powerful than nerve gas, that the damage to the human body was “irreparable”—which is what I said to the noble Baroness on Monday—and that there is no cure. He said that symptoms might develop gradually, so the people who were cleared on Sunday might well develop symptoms later, and that anyone exposed should have permanent medical surveillance. Would the noble Baroness kindly ask the Secretary of State for Health to advise all GPs in the Salisbury area of the possibility that patients might come with severe health problems later on in life? I know that the symptoms can be very bizarre and am concerned that these patients are not set on the mental health route. Would she also give those who have reported—they can presumably be traced—some sort of identification or ensure some means of getting on to their medical notes the fact that they have been exposed, even in tiny amounts?
We are certainly aware of a number of individuals who have presented at Salisbury District Hospital following the recent incident. Those individuals have been assessed and discharged, and have been advised that if they subsequently feel unwell they should re-present at hospital. Advice has been provided to GPs, acute hospitals and emergency departments across the NHS on the action that should be taken if individuals present following exposure to chemicals. There is some evidence that repeated exposure to trace levels of a contaminant over an extended period could cause harm, and that is why a lot of the focus of the current work is on preventing long-term exposure. However, I shall take the comments and suggestions made by the noble Countess back to the Department of Health.
My Lords, an attack with a weapon of mass destruction on British soil is profoundly serious and very dangerous, and the Government deserve our support throughout the House on their reaction to this. It is very clear that Putin is using this to boost his nationalist image of “Russia surrounded”, and we have to be aware of the propaganda value of that. We also have to be aware that he uses it to threaten and frighten anyone in Russia who is thinking of moving over to the West; this is really a terrorist-type attack on such people. The Chemical Weapons Act is profoundly important here. There seems little doubt that the production of banned chemical weapons is going on in Russia, and that needs to be addressed at every level possible. All our allies are important in that.
My other point is about Russia Today. I regard RT as a pretty sophisticated propaganda channel but it would be a mistake for us to take any action to ban it, for two reasons. First, if we did, it would give the Russians—or the Russian Government, to be more precise—a wonderful excuse to ban the BBC, which is one of our ways of talking to the Russian people. Secondly, it would make us look, and the Russian state would certainly use it in this way, as if we were against a free press.
I thank the noble Lord for his very constructive comments, and I agree with them. The noble Lord sitting in front of him asked earlier in the week about Russia Today. As I said then, any revoking of a broadcasting licence is a matter for Ofcom, which obviously has stringent rules relating to ensuring that news is reported accurately and impartially. The noble Lord is right, however: Russia enjoys a near monopoly over Russian-language media across the post-Soviet space and uses it to spread disinformation. It is as important as ever that Russian speakers have a choice in the media that they consume and are able to access reliable and objective information. So, in addition to BBC Russia, we will be investing about £8 million next year in supporting public service and independent media operating in the Russian language.
My Lords, I must wonder how this incredibly dangerous substance got into the UK. Given the Government’s conclusions overall, one cannot but speculate that the Russian Government may have abused the Vienna conventions on the immunity of diplomatic bags to bring it in. It is not the sort of thing that you bring in on an aeroplane and hope will not be detected at customs. Are there any provisions by which the immunities for Russian diplomatic bags could be suspended?
My Lords, we on these Benches, as my noble friend Lord Newby said, very much welcome the measures outlined in the Statement to ensure that those seeking to carry out hostile state activity cannot enter the UK—for example, by enhancing our efforts to monitor and track the intentions of those travelling to the UK, and increasing checks on private flights, customs and freight. Bearing in mind that the current Border Force budget is £51 million less than it was in 2012-13, when 23 million fewer passengers entered the UK than entered last year, can the Minister reassure the House that the Border Force budget will be increased to ensure that those measures can be effectively implemented?
I can certainly assure the noble Lord that we adopt a rigorous approach to border security. Agencies work together at the border to manage a range of threats, including those posed by terrorism and serious and organised crime. The Border Force has a range of capabilities to detect, target and identify substances and materials that could cause harm. This includes Cyclamen, a joint Home Office and UK Border Force counterterrorism initiative to detect and intercept the illicit importation of radiological and nuclear material into the UK.
My Lords, does not the use of Novichok in the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, which is reminiscent of the use of the VX nerve agent, used to assassinate Kim Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur Airport, and the use of chemical weapons in the conflict in Syria, remind us that chemical and biological weapons are not a throwback to the Cold War? Should we not therefore be giving consideration now to the re-establishment of the Army’s disbanded chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear regiment?
The noble Lord is absolutely right to highlight the seriousness of the situation facing us. We obviously comply fully with all our obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and we will be working very closely with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to ensure that we try to prevent this happening again.
I thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. I support entirely the Government’s robust response in these dreadful circumstances. On 29 September last year, President Putin declared that the Russian Federation had destroyed all its chemical stocks and chemical production facilities. It was congratulated by the then director-general of the OPCW on having done so. The logical conclusion that Russia has a production facility in contravention of international law exposes a serious flaw in the inspection and verification system of the international prohibition and nuclear weapons regime. This may not be an immediate priority, but soon will we not need to convene with our allies—at the very least a conference of experts—to look at how this international regime can be improved and, in particular, whether modern technology, of which there is much, can significantly improve our ability to inspect and verify countries that claim to be free of these dreadful weapons, when perhaps they are not?
The noble Lord is absolutely right that the international community, including ourselves, welcomed the OPCW statement in September 2017 on the complete destruction of Russia’s declared chemical weapons stockpile. It is important to clarify that these were declared weapons of the Russian state, which is exactly why the Prime Minister asked for an explanation of how the Novichok nerve agent came to be used in Salisbury last week. The noble Lord is absolutely right, as I said in a previous answer, that we made a national statement to the OPCW executive council and we will be talking to it about further actions we can take in the future.
My Lords, what advice are we giving British visitors to Russia, particularly those who are of Russian birth but are now naturalised British subjects who are planning to go this weekend, which happens to be an election weekend? Can my noble friend pass on any advice? I have a specific reason for asking.
There has been an update on travel advice. Due to heightened political tensions between the UK and Russia, travellers should be aware of the possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment. If anyone is in Russia, or due to travel in the coming weeks, they are advised to remain vigilant, avoid any protests or demonstrations and avoid publicly commenting on political developments. While the British embassy in Moscow is not aware of any increased difficulties for British people travelling in Russia, they should of course follow the security and political situation closely, and keep up to date with further travel advice.
My Lords, the Minister may be aware that there is a NATO summit scheduled for Brussels later this year. Might I suggest that it would be a relevant opportunity for enhancing and developing the levels of co-operation that are obviously essential in order to meet the new threat posed by events in Salisbury, and indeed perhaps for strengthening NATO’s strategic concept?
Certainly, the Secretary-General has recognised this incident as of great concern to NATO. In fact, the NATO council published a statement today, saying:
“Allies expressed solidarity with the UK, offered their support in the conduct of the ongoing investigation, and called on Russia to address the UK’s questions including providing full and complete disclosure of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Allies agreed that the attack was a clear breach of international norms and agreements”.
It is clear that the House welcomes what was said in the Statement about defensive measures. I certainly do—I think they are appropriate and proportionate. I am, however, surprised that so little was said in the Statement about deterrent measures. The one mention of sanctions was that we shall take powers to be able in future to do more on sanctions. Why are we not saying anything about sanctions now?
I have two questions. First, given that the EU sanctions on Russia following the Crimea and then the Donbass were surprisingly effective, and given that the Government played a commendable role in ensuring that they were introduced and then maintained, are the Government contacting the EU about sanctions against Russia over this crime committed in an EU member state? Secondly, given that the sanctions that do least damage to the Russian people and have most effect on Kremlin thinking are those on particular individuals and on where they put their money, can the Minister tell us what the Government envisage on that front, on targeted sanctions against individuals known to be close to the Kremlin?
As the noble Lord will know, the National Crime Agency will continue to bring all the capabilities of UK law enforcement to bear against serious criminal money. There is no place for these people or their money in our country. As I mentioned on Monday, we have now introduced unexplained wealth orders, which can be used to compel individuals to explain their sources of wealth; indeed, the first UWOs have already been issued by the court.
In relation to our conversations with our EU partners, this will, as I mentioned, be an agenda item at the EU Council next week and we will of course be talking to our EU partners. The Prime Minister has already spoken to Chancellor Merkel and President Macron, among others, to see what ways forward we can find with our EU partners to look at the precise areas that the noble Lord set out.
My Lords, Salisbury is my home town and we are still in shock. Can my noble friend tell me how Mr Skripal and his daughter—and indeed brave Sergeant Bailey—are doing and what their prospects of recovery are? Have there been any signs of anyone else getting ill, which would obviously concern us a lot?
As I said in my answer to the noble Countess, we are aware of a number of individuals who have presented at Salisbury District Hospital following the recent incident, but they have been assessed and discharged. Advice has of course been provided to GPs, acute hospitals and emergency departments across the NHS. Mr Skripal and his daughter remain in an extremely serious condition; Detective-Sergeant Nick Bailey has been making some recovery and has been able to communicate, but all have obviously had their lives put in grave danger.
Will the Leader of the House accept that her Statement tonight is extremely welcome and does she agree that the use of an undeclared weapons programme in our country, seriously threatening the lives of our country men and women, remains most unacceptable? Does she also agree that, if there is further retaliation of a criminal nature against our country men and women, it will be taken very seriously indeed, and that the purpose of the Government will be to protect the lives of our country men and women, as they have in the past?
My noble friend is absolutely right: ensuring the safety of our citizens is one of the primary functions and roles of the Government. We believe that what has been presented today is a robust but proportionate diplomatic response to this unlawful use of force against the UK by the Russian Federation. There are further measures that we stand ready to deploy at any time should we face further Russian provocation.
I am not sure. I would have to get back to the noble Baroness as to whether additional nurses have been brought in to work in Salisbury District Hospital. Certainly advice has been provided to GPs, acute hospitals and emergency departments, and all individuals who have been assessed have been discharged.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that half of Britain’s imports of liquefied natural gas so far this year have come from Russia? Does she agree that we should look closely at our energy security? In asking this question I declare my interest as a director of an energy company.
My Lords, has the Leader of the House seen the statement that the Russian embassy has put out in response to the Prime Minister’s Statement this afternoon, and the statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs? It says:
“Theresa May in Parliament on measures to ‘punish’ Russia constitutes an unprecedented, flagrant provocation that undermines the foundations of normal dialogue between our countries”.
The embassy has added, for good measure:
“We believe it is absolutely unacceptable and unworthy of the British Government to seek to further seriously aggravate relations in pursuit of its unseemly political ends”.
Do those two statements not completely sum up the attitude of the Russian Government, who are in flagrant defiance, so far as one can see, of international law and good bilateral practice—with not a word of regret or apology for the events that have taken place on the streets of Salisbury, which amount to attempted murder by one state against the citizens of another state? The noble Baroness says that we have suspended high-level contacts with the Russian Government. Can she say why the Russian ambassador has not been asked to leave the country in the light of these statements put out in his name by the Russian embassy?
I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord. As I said in a previous answer, we believe that this presents a robust and proportionate diplomatic response to the unlawful use of force against the UK by the Russian Federation. We thought it right to give the Russian Federation the chance to answer some significant questions that we put to them. It has failed to do so: therefore we have taken action—and we stand ready to take further action if that is proved to be necessary.