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Business of the House

Volume 709: debated on Monday 21 February 2022

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

Tomorrow’s business will now be remaining stages of the Charities Bill [Lords], followed by remaining stages of the Public Service Pensions and Judicial Offices Bill [Lords], followed by a motion to approve the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI, 2022, No. 123).

The business for the rest of the week remains unchanged from 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 advance notice of and a copy of the business statement.

First, I wish to make it absolutely crystal clear that Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition of course support the Government on standing up to threats of Russian aggression. It is vital that we do so across the House in a united way, as the Secretary of State for Defence said earlier, because we must not and will not allow Putin to divide us. I put on the record my thanks to the Secretary of State for Defence for how he has worked with colleagues in Labour’s Defence and Foreign Affairs teams.

Labour’s commitment to NATO is unshakeable and part of our DNA. We are acutely aware of both the threat to Ukraine and the potential impact of any Russian aggression against Ukraine on our European NATO allies on the border. Britain is right to have stepped up military, practical, economic and diplomatic support, and we support the imposition of sanctions against Russia.

We must now also strengthen defences at home against the influence of Russian money. Labour has long called for action to tackle this influence. We hope that the Government will urgently take action following the imposition of sanctions. For instance, we have called for the reform of Companies House, for the registration of overseas entities and for the implementation of the recommendations of the Russia report. I heard the Secretary of State for Defence say earlier that the Government are considering some of those things and that an announcement would be made shortly. I understand that the Leader of the House may not be able to give me an instant answer, but will he please go back to his colleagues and find out for us when that will be? If not, will he commit to make time for a debate on the subject?

We look forward to the debate tomorrow and hope that it will be followed quickly by one on the need to take action on corrupt Russian money.

I thank the hon. Lady for her support. It is vital that the House stands united at this time against an aggressive Russian state. She has had ample opportunity to ask questions today, not only in Defence questions but following the statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, but there will also be adequate time tomorrow to debate the statutory instrument and get all those matters on the record. I encourage all colleagues from across the House to come and engage in that debate.

If there is an invasion this week, what opportunities may there be to have further conversations about the issue and about what steps are being taken on the defence side to provide deterrent assets for the Ukrainian side?

I hope the hon. Gentleman took the opportunity to question the Secretary of State for Defence an hour ago. There will be another opportunity tomorrow to get those matters on the record and to question the Secretary of State at the Dispatch Box.

A Russian invasion and occupation of Ukraine will lead to a refugee crisis in eastern Europe. Will the Leader of the House ensure that sufficient time to debate the humanitarian response of the UK Government and partners to such an eventuality?

I will make another business statement on Thursday, when the hon. Member will have an opportunity to ask for such a debate. He will be aware of the avenues open to him to secure a debate of that nature.

Last week I met Lesia Vasylenko and Alona Shkrum, two Ukrainian MPs, who urged me to press the Government to impose economic and financial sanctions, particularly on proxies of the Russian regime. Will urgent action be included in the Government’s response to the debate tomorrow?

It will. That is the purpose of the SI: the sanctions are being provided for so that the UK Government can take strong action against an aggressive Russian state. Should Russia take unilateral action and go into Ukraine, the sanctions will be available to us and will be very robust.

We Liberal Democrats support the Government’s introduction of this sanctions legislation, but believe that they should go even further and root out dirty money now. The Registration of Overseas Entities Bill will do just that, and it is ready to go. Does the Leader of the House agree that we do not need to wait until the next parliamentary Session, because we can get on with that now?

This statutory instrument widens the scope of the individuals against whom we can take action. I thank the hon. Lady for her support. It is vital that the House be united on this matter, and I hope that the Liberal Democrats will be in the Chamber tomorrow to engage in the debate and to make those points.

I thank the Government for bringing forward this statutory instrument tomorrow, and assure them that my party fully supports their intentions regarding sanctions. Will tomorrow’s debate also cover the sanctions that will be carried out by other European countries, NATO and the USA?

Order. I do not think that it is quite in order for the hon. Gentleman to ask now what will be in the debate tomorrow. This statement is only about the fact that the debate is tomorrow, but I am sure that the Leader of the House will give part of an answer to him.

The hon. Gentleman is a long-time campaigner for people all over the world who face oppression. He will have an opportunity tomorrow to engage in the debate, and I know that he will be present.