Litvinenko Inquiry

– in the House of Commons at 11:32 am on 21st January 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department 11:32 am, 21st January 2016

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the death of Alexander Litvinenko on 23 November 2006 and the statutory inquiry into that death, which published its findings this morning.

Mr Litvinenko’s death was a deeply shocking event. Despite the ongoing police investigation and the efforts of the Crown Prosecution Service, those responsible have still not been brought to justice. In July 2014, I established a statutory inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding Mr Litvinenko’s death, to determine responsibility for his death and to make recommendations. It was chaired by Sir Robert Owen, a retired senior High Court judge, and it had the Government’s full support and access to any relevant material regardless of its sensitivity.

I welcome the inquiry’s report today and would like to put on record my thanks to Sir Robert Owen for his detailed, thorough and impartial investigation into this complex and serious matter. Although the inquiry cannot assign civil or criminal liability, I hope that these findings will provide some clarity for Alexander Litvinenko’s family and friends and all those affected by his death. I would particularly like to pay tribute to Mrs Marina Litvinenko and her tireless efforts to get to the truth.

The independent inquiry has found that Mr Litvinenko died on 23 November 2006, having suffered a cardiac arrest as a result of acute radiation syndrome, caused by his ingesting polonium-210 on 1 November 2006. He ingested the fatal dose of polonium-210 while drinking tea at the Pine bar of the Millennium hotel on the afternoon of 1 November 2006. The inquiry, which in the course of its investigations considered “an abundance of evidence”, has found that Mr Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned by Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun, whom he had met at the Millennium hotel on the afternoon of that day.

The inquiry has also found that Lugovoy and Kovtun were acting on behalf of others when they poisoned Mr Litvinenko. There is a strong probability that they were acting under the direction of the Russian domestic security service, the Federal Security Service or FSB. The inquiry has found that the FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev, the then head of the FSB, and by President Putin.

The Government take these findings extremely seriously, as I am sure does every Member of this House. We are carefully considering the report’s findings in detail, and their implications. In particular, the conclusion that the Russian state was probably involved in the murder of Mr Litvinenko is deeply disturbing. It goes without saying that this was a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilised behaviour, but we have to accept that this does not come as a surprise. The inquiry confirms the assessment of successive Governments that this was a state-sponsored act. This assessment has informed the Government’s approach to date.

Since 2007 that approach has comprised a series of steps to respond to Russia and its provocation. Some of these measures were immediate, such as the expulsion of a number of Russian embassy officials from the UK. Others are ongoing, such as the tightening of visa restrictions on Russian officials in the UK. The Metropolitan Police Service’s investigation into Mr Litvinenko’s murder remains open. I can tell the House today that Interpol notices and European arrest warrants are in place so that the main suspects, Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun, can be arrested if they travel abroad. In the light of the report’s findings the Government will go further, and Treasury Ministers have today agreed to put in place asset freezes against the two individuals.

At the time, the independent Crown Prosecution Service formally requested the extradition of Mr Lugovoy from Russia. Russia refused to comply with this request and has consistently refused to do so ever since. It is now almost 10 years since Mr Litvinenko was killed. Sir Robert Owen is unequivocal in his finding that Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun killed him. In the light of this most serious finding, Russia’s continued failure to ensure that the perpetrators of this terrible crime can be brought to justice is unacceptable. I have written to the Director of Public Prosecutions this morning asking her to consider whether any further action should be taken, in terms of both extradition and freezing criminal assets. These decisions are, of course, a matter for the independent Crown Prosecution Service, but the Government remain committed to pursuing justice in this case.

We have always made our position clear to the Russian Government, and in the strongest possible terms. We are doing so again today. We are making senior representations to the Russian Government in Moscow. At the same time we will be summoning the Russian ambassador in London to the Foreign Office, where we will express our profound displeasure at Russia’s failure to co-operate and provide satisfactory answers. Specifically, we have demanded, and will continue to demand, that the Russian Government account for the role of the FSB in this case.

The threat posed by hostile states is one of the most sensitive issues that I deal with as Home Secretary. Although not often discussed in public, our security and intelligence agencies have always, dating back to their roots in the first and second world wars, had the protection of the UK from state threats at the heart of their mission. This means countering those threats in all their guises, whether from assassinations, cyber-attacks, or more traditional espionage. By its nature this work is both less visible and necessarily more secret than the police and the agencies’ work against the terrorist threat, but it is every bit as important to the long-term security and prosperity of the United Kingdom.

The House will appreciate that I cannot go into detail about how we seek to protect ourselves from hostile state acts, but we make full use of the measures at our disposal, from investigatory powers right through to the visa system. The case of Mr Litvinenko demonstrates once again why it is so vital that the intelligence agencies maintain their ability to detect and disrupt such threats.

The environment in which espionage and hostile state intelligence activities take place is changing. Evolving foreign state interests and rapid technological advances mean it is imperative that we respond. Last November the Chancellor announced that we will make new funding available to the security and intelligence agencies to provide for an additional 1,900 officers. In the same month, I published the draft Investigatory Powers Bill so that we can ensure that the intelligence agencies’ capabilities keep pace with the threat and technology, while at the same time improving the oversight of, and safeguards for, the use of investigatory powers.

In the Government’s recently published national security strategy and the strategic defence and security review, we set out the range of threats to the UK and our allies, including from Russia, and our comprehensive approach to countering these threats. Since publication of the previous SDSR in 2010, Russia has become more authoritarian, aggressive and nationalist. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its destabilising actions in Ukraine have directly challenged security in the region. These actions have also served as a sobering demonstration of Russia’s intent to try to undermine European security and the rules-based international order. In response, the UK, in conjunction with international partners, has imposed a package of robust measures against Russia. This includes sanctions against key Russian individuals, including Mr Patrushev, who is currently the Secretary to the Russian Security Council.

The Government are clear that we must protect the UK and her interests from Russia-based threats, working closely with our allies in the EU and NATO. This morning I have written to my counterparts in EU, NATO and “Five Eyes” countries, drawing their attention to both the report and the need to take steps to prevent such a murder being committed in their streets.

We will continue to call on President Putin for Russia, as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, to engage responsibly and make a positive contribution to global security and stability. They can, for example, play an important role in defeating Daesh and, together with the wider international community, help Syria work towards a stable future. We face some of the same challenges, from serious crime to aviation security. We will continue to engage, guardedly, with Russia where it is strictly necessary to do so to support the UK’s national interest.

Sir Robert Owen’s report contains one recommendation that is within the closed section. Right hon. and hon. Members will appreciate that I cannot reveal details of that recommendation in this House, but I can assure them that the Government will respond to the inquiry’s chair on that recommendation in due course.

Finally, I would like to reiterate the Government’s determination to continue to seek justice for the murder of Mr Litvinenko. I would like to repeat my thanks to Sir Robert Owen and, in particular, Marina Litvinenko. As Sir Robert states in his report, she has shown “dignity and composure” and

“has demonstrated a quiet determination to establish the true facts of her husband’s death that is greatly to be commended.”

Mr Litvinenko’s murder was a truly terrible event. I sincerely hope that for the sake of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko, for the sake of Mr Litvinenko’s wider family and friends, and for the sake of justice, those responsible can be brought to trial. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Andy Burnham Andy Burnham Shadow Home Secretary 11:43 am, 21st January 2016

As the Home Secretary said, this is one of the most shocking and disturbing reports ever presented to Parliament. It confirms that the Russian state, at its highest level, sanctioned the killing of a British citizen on the streets of our capital city and, in so doing, exposed thousands of Londoners to unacceptable levels of risk—an unparalleled act of state-sponsored terrorism that must meet with a commensurate response. So far-reaching are the implications of the report that it is important not to rush to judgment today. Time must be taken to digest its findings and consider our response. There are difficult questions that need to be asked in formulating that response, and I intend to focus on those.

First, however, I echo the Home Secretary’s words of praise for Sir Robert Owen and his inquiry team, without whose painstaking work this important truth would not be known. I also extend the gratitude of Labour Members to the Metropolitan Police Service for what the report calls an “exemplary investigation” and to the Litvinenko family’s legal team, particularly Ben Emmerson, who supported them on a pro bono basis, and probably without whom we would not be here today.

More importantly, I am sure the whole House will join me in sending a message of admiration, sympathy and solidarity to Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko, who have fought so courageously to make this day a reality. People will of course leap to the international and diplomatic issues that arise, but it must be remembered, first and foremost, that this was a family tragedy, and their wishes surely matter most. With that in mind, would the Home Secretary be prepared to meet Marina and Anatoly to discuss this report, its findings, and the British Government’s response? I have spoken to Marina, and I know that she would welcome that.

Let me now turn to that Government response. I welcome what the Home Secretary said about renewing efforts to bring the murderers to justice, and her new approach to NATO and EU allies. However, given that these two individuals are reported to be travelling, will she go further and directly approach all EU, NATO and Commonwealth allies individually to ask for their immediate co-operation on extradition?

There may be other individuals who are British citizens and who are facing similar dangers. Will the Home Secretary provide assurances that there will be a review of the security of those most at risk? Has she reviewed the level of security that was provided to Mr Litvinenko by the British security services, and can any lessons be drawn from this in better protecting others? That is important, because there is a real possibility that this was not an isolated incident. The House may be aware of an ongoing inquest into the death of Alexander Perepilichny, a prominent Russian lawyer who dropped dead in Surrey after going for run. While there is a limit on what we can say about an ongoing inquest, does the Home Secretary believe that there is a case for it to be upgraded and provided with extra support, possibly from Sir Robert himself?

I will now turn to potential action against the wider network of Russian interests linked to the perpetrators. Of course, no individuals commit these crimes alone, and today’s report confirms that there is a network of people who will have known about and facilitated this crime. I gather that Mrs Litvinenko has prepared a list of names, to be submitted today to the Government, of people who have aided and abetted the perpetrators, and against whom she believes sanctions should be taken. This could include the freezing of UK assets and property and travel restrictions. Will the Home Secretary give an in-principle commitment to look seriously at that list and those requests? Further, can she say whether, going forward, action of this kind would be facilitated by new legislation along the lines of the Magnitsky law in the US, and whether the Government are giving any consideration to that?

Finally, let me turn to our wider relationship with Russia. The Home Secretary indicated that there will be new diplomatic pressure, and I welcome that, but I have to say, having listened carefully to her, that I am not sure that it goes anywhere near far enough in answering the seriousness of the findings in this report. Indeed, it could send a dangerous signal to Russia that our response is too weak. What has been announced today cannot be the end of what the British Government are prepared to do.

Given what we know about the way the Russian state operates, is there not a case for a wide-ranging review of the nature and extent of this country’s relations with it—diplomatic, political, economic, and cultural? Given the proven FSB involvement, will the Government consider expelling all FSB officers from Britain immediately? More broadly, can the Home Secretary say whether the Prime Minister has ever raised this case directly with Vladimir Putin, and whether he is seeking an urgent conversation with him today to discuss the findings of this report?

On parliamentary matters, it beggars belief that one of the suspected murderers is today a leading Member of the Duma and even second in command of its Security Committee. Given that fact—this may be a question for you, Mr Speaker—what is the correct relationship for this Parliament to have with its Russian counterpart?

On cultural collaboration, given what the report reveals about the Russian Government and their links to organised crime, and given what we know about corruption in FIFA, is there not a growing case for this country to engage with others in a debate about whether the 2018 World cup should go ahead in Russia? On the economy, are the Government satisfied that the current EU sanctions against Russia are adequate, and is there a case to strengthen them?

I ask those questions not because I have come to a conclusion about them, but because I believe they are the difficult but right questions that fall out of the report and that this country now needs to debate them in the light of its findings, if we are to do justice to the Litvinenko family.

There is a question about how the Government go about formulating their response and the considerations that will guide them. Although the Home Secretary ordered this review, it is important to note that she originally refused to do so, citing international issues. She has mentioned them again today, but should not it be considerations of justice, not diplomacy, that lead the Government’s response? Will she give a categorical assurance to that effect? There can be no sense of the Government pulling their punches because of wider diplomatic considerations. If we were to do that, would it not send a terrible message to the world that Britain is prepared to tolerate outrageous acts of state violence on its soil and appease those who sanctioned them?

Once all those considerations are complete, will the Home Secretary commit to coming back to this House and updating it on the final package of steps that the Government will take? The Litvinenko family deserve nothing less after their courageous fight.

I wish to finish by recalling Alexander Litvinenko’s last words to his son, Anatoly, who was then 12 years old. He said:

“Defend Britain to your last drop, because it has saved your family.”

He believed in Britain and its tradition of justice and fairness, standing up to the mighty and for what is right. Should not we now find the courage to show his son and the world that his father’s faith in us was not misplaced?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

First, may I echo the comments made by Andy Burnham about the investigation by the Metropolitan police? As he said, it was identified by Sir Robert Owen as exemplary and, as I indicated in my statement, the investigation remains open. The right hon. Gentleman also said right at the very beginning of his comments that time needs to be taken to look at the report. It is very thorough and detailed, and he is right to say that we need to look at it carefully.

The right hon. Gentleman asked whether I would be willing to meet Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko. I wrote a private letter to Marina Litvinenko yesterday and I would be very happy to meet them to discuss these and other issues that I understand she has raised today in response to the report.

The right hon. Gentleman asked a number of other questions, including about a potential Magnitsky Act. I know that the shadow Leader of the House, Chris Bryant, who is sitting next to the right hon. Gentleman, has raised that issue in the Chamber on many occasions. There are a number of actions we can take in preventing individuals from coming to the United Kingdom, but in this case, of course, we actually want Lugovoy and Kovtun to be in the United Kingdom to be able to face justice. The right hon. Gentleman said that there were reports of them travelling. There are Interpol red notices and European arrest warrants in place, which will lead to their being arrested if they travel outside Russia.

Of course, we take the security of individuals in the United Kingdom very seriously and look at and review those issues regularly. The right hon. Gentleman said that we need to review our relationship with Russia. We have just been through the exercise of the national security strategy and the strategic defence and security review. I referred to that in my statement, and that makes very clear the issues in relation to Russia. I assure him that the Prime Minister will raise the matter with President Putin at the next available opportunity. EU sanctions are of course agreed across the European Union, and the UK has actually been leading on EU sanctions and encouraging such action to be taken.

Finally, the right hon. Gentleman commented on the importance of justice. We agree on this issue. Everybody in the House recognises the significance of this report’s findings, and the significance of the fact that this act of murder took place on the streets of London and was state-sponsored. We want to see justice for the family: we want those who undertook this murder in London to be brought to justice. That is something which we share, and we will make every effort to ensure that justice is found for Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Conservative, North Somerset

I thank my right hon. Friend for her comprehensive response to the report. Sir Robert points out not only that Lugovoy has not been extradited to the UK, but that he

“has been lionised in Russia. He has become a member of the Duma, and indeed was awarded an honour by President Putin during the course of the Inquiry’s hearings.”

This calculated snub adds insult to injury. Is it not clear that, while such a position is maintained and the suspects are not extradited, the Putin Government can never and should never be treated as an equal and full partner in global political affairs?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in his description of what has happened in relation to Lugovoy in Russia. That tells us all we need to know about Russia’s attitude to the action that took place on the streets of London. Russia does of course participate in such a way—it is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council—and, as I said in my statement, there will be national interests that require the British Government to engage guardedly with Russia. For example, there are issues relating to Syria and the resolution of the conflict there. However, I assure my right hon. Friend that we are very clear about such issues in relation to Russia. We were clear about those issues in the SDSR. That is why, when we engage with Russia, we will, as I say, do so guardedly.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

I, too, thank the Home Secretary for her statement. I pay tribute to Sir Robert Owen and his inquiry team for their work, and indeed to all those who have contributed to getting to the truth. All Members will share a sense of outrage at this cowardly and awful murder, and we again express our condolences to Mr Litvinenko’s family. As the Secretary of State has said, the apparent involvement of the Russian state at the very highest level makes this murder doubly shocking.

It will clearly take some time fully to digest all the findings and recommendations of the report and to think through its implications, but some initial questions arise. Most immediately, we need to know what more, if anything, can be done to bring Mr Litvinenko’s killers to justice. We welcome the action against Mr Kovtun and Mr Lugovoy announced today, and the request made to the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, what, if any, further options are being considered? Will we hear from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs about what he believes to be the appropriate response?

To look back at the circumstances of the murder, will the Home Secretary say what, if any, information our security and intelligence services had about Mr Kovtun and Mr Lugovoy prior to their meeting with Mr Litvinenko? Were they aware that the meeting was taking place, and had they assessed whether it represented a risk to his life? Most importantly, what do we know about how the killers were able to acquire such a significant dose of radioactive polonium and use it in this country as a weapon? Finally, what more can be done to prevent any such awful event from happening again in future? Has any assessment been made of the risk to those who have fled regimes and sought shelter in the UK, so that we can prevent such attacks from happening again?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As I have said, we all share the hon. Gentleman’s desire to bring these individuals to justice. That is why I have written to the DPP this morning to ask her to explore whether there are any other options that she can look at in relation not just to the extradition of the two individuals, but to criminal asset freezes.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should make a statement on this issue. As the hon. Gentleman can see, my right hon. Friend is present. The statement I made is obviously the view of the Government, and we have discussed the approach we are taking on these matters.

The hon. Gentleman asked about access to polonium-210. As I said earlier, this is a very detailed report, and sections of Sir Robert Owen’s report cover that particular issue. We are grateful to Sir Robert for the thoroughness with which he has conducted his inquiry.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

I thank the Home Secretary for the tenor and thrust of her statement. The magisterial report written by Sir Robert Owen says in paragraph 10.16:

“The FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin.”

Given the secrecy of the Russian state, I do not think we need to worry too much about the word “probably”. This is way beyond the normal civil legal requirements and what is needed to take economic, political and diplomatic action. What is certain is that the Russian state under President Putin has killed over 100 opponents—lawyers, accountants, journalists and politicians. It is a kleptocratic state that uses assassination as a policy weapon.

May I ask the Home Secretary what we intend to do about Patrushev and Putin? We cannot tolerate their ordering assassinations on the streets of our country. Will she take targeted economic sanctions against them and, where possible, travel sanctions, although obviously those are not possible with a Head of State? Will there be an expulsion of intelligence officers—both FSB and others—from the Russian embassy, which would be entirely appropriate? It has been asked whether we should encourage our allies to help us. Of course we should, but we should also tell countries such as the Bahamas, Switzerland and Cyprus—all the Russian financial boltholes—that there is no hiding place for the money of these people.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

First, on the results of the inquiry, what Sir Robert Owen has found in relation to the individuals responsible for the murder of Alexander Litvinenko and, indeed, the responsibility of the Russian state will come as no surprise, as I said in my statement, because successive Governments have made the assessment that there was state involvement in this act. That is why the Government at the time took a number of measures, some of which remain in place today, in relation to our relationship with the Russian state. I assure my right hon. Friend that it is in no sense business as usual and that there is not the sort of relationship that we would have with most states.

As I indicated, action has already been taken against Mr Patrushev in his current role in the form of sanctions. As my right hon. Friend himself indicated in his question, relationships with a Head of State are a different matter. As I indicated earlier, the Prime Minister will raise this matter with President Putin.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

Is this not proof, were any further evidence needed, that what we are dealing with in Putin’s Russia is a rogue state? The British public will be aghast that the two murderers have only today had their assets frozen by the Treasury. Does that not point to complete complacency on the part of this Government? When will they take meaningful action against the dirty Russian money and property here in London that sustain the Putin kleptocracy? When will the Government implement the will of this House, which in 2012 voted overwhelmingly in favour of passing Magnitsky Act-type legislation?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I have answered the last point that the right hon. Gentleman made about the Magnitsky Act that exists in the United States. We have measures that we can take to prevent people from coming into the United Kingdom. In respect of the two individuals whom the inquiry found committed this murder on the streets of London, it is important that we take every step to bring them to the UK, rather than stop them coming here, because we wish to see them brought to justice. He talked about the position of Russia. As I indicated, we have seen recent examples of the increasing nationalism, authoritarianism and aggression in Russia.

The right hon. Gentleman asked why the asset freeze has been put in place only today. Obviously, I looked into what further action could be taken following the results of the inquiry by Sir Robert Owen. Of course, action was first taken in relation to this matter in 2007 as a result of the initial investigations and the initial assessments that were made by the Government and others. Asset freezes were not put in place at that time. We have looked at that and decided to do so today.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Why was my right hon. Friend’s case put to the High Court in January 2014 in the following terms:

“There was no clear public interest in the immediate establishment of a statutory inquiry to investigate the Russian state responsibility issue.”?

Does she regret that that was put on her behalf?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Successive Governments, including this one, have wanted to try to get to the truth behind this issue, but it was not until 2011 that the coroner decided that the trial was unlikely to take place, so that an inquest could go ahead. That inquest was started, and at the time we felt that the most appropriate form in which these matters should be assessed was through that inquest. It then became clear through a decision of the divisional court that certain evidence was necessary and not available to the inquest. At that stage, in order to ensure that all evidence was available and that all matters could be considered, I decided to turn the inquest into a statutory inquiry.

Photo of Ian Austin Ian Austin Labour, Dudley North

Well, they’ll be quaking in their boots in the Kremlin today, won’t they? Putin is an unreconstructed KGB thug and gangster who murders his opponents in Russia and, as we know, on the streets of London, and nothing announced today will make the blindest bit of difference—nothing at all. We need much tougher measures to target Putin and the people around him, and those calling for a US-style Magnitsky Act are completely right. We need to target the crooks and murderers who have been involved in murders and corruption, and prevent them from coming to the UK, from keeping their money in British banks, and from buying property here in London.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I say once again to those who think that the creation of a Magnitsky Act and a list of people who are excluded will, in some sense, add to the strength of measures that we already have that it is already possible for us to exclude people from the United Kingdom. I repeat: we want those individuals who came to London and committed this act on its streets to be brought to the UK to face trial, so that justice can be done.

Photo of Jonathan Djanogly Jonathan Djanogly Conservative, Huntingdon

We are constantly reminded of Russia’s human rights abuses against its own citizens, and we have initiated sanctions against Russia for its abuse of human rights against citizens of other countries such as Ukraine. Surely it is now imperative that we initiate sanctions against Russia, as well as against those individuals responsible for killing a British citizen on British soil.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend’s portrayal of the Russian state is right, but a number of sanctions have already been implemented in relation to this matter. As I indicated, in 2007 the then Government took a number of measures, including the expulsion of certain officials from the Russian embassy and visa sanctions, and some of those measures remain in place. Sanctions have been implemented, and further sanctions have been taken against individuals in relation to Russia’s actions in the Crimea and Ukraine. We are very clear about the nature of Russia, which is why we have continued to consider steps that can be taken. Anybody who thinks that sanctions are not in place is wrong—sanctions are in place.

Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Labour, Wakefield

The Home Secretary and Parliament have before them a report that sets out that the Russian state probably sponsored and sanctioned the murder by nuclear material of a UK citizen, just a couple of miles from this building. Does the Secretary of State agree that her refusal to act strongly in response to that, including taking the matter to the United Nations Security Council, will be seen as a sign of British Government weakness by Putin?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am not sure what action the hon. Lady thinks the United Nations Security Council, of which Russia is a permanent member, would take in relation to this matter. I have drawn the issue to the attention of a wide variety of colleagues in the European Union, the “Five Eyes” countries and NATO, to ensure that they are aware of the findings of this inquiry and its potential implications for them.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

The public inquiry has been a triumph for Marina Litvinenko and the British justice system. It has established in the open what the Government have either known or certainly assumed for the past decade about the nature of the current Russian state. Will the Home Secretary confirm that the current state of relations with Russia is already heavily conditioned by that understanding? The challenge remains, with this as the background, to advance our remaining common interests, not least in the fight against violent Islamic extremism and in bringing to an end a bloody civil war in Syria. That challenge, answering the difficult questions posed by the shadow Home Secretary, is at the core of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s current inquiry into the British-Russian relationship.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the fact that his Committee is undertaking that important review into the British-Russian relationship. He is absolutely right. Our relationship with Russia is already heavily conditioned. As I indicated earlier, shortly after the murder took place sanctions of various sorts were put in place, including visa sanctions. Those have remained. Our relationship with Russia is, as he said, heavily conditioned. As I said earlier, it is also the case—he is absolutely right—that there are issues in the British national interest on which a guarded engagement with Russia may be important. Of course, the future of Syria and resolving the conflict in Syria is just one of those issues.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

A slap on the wrist for Russia won’t do it. President Putin’s heart will not miss a beat if the UK cancels a trade mission here or a cultural visit there, but it will if we expand the scope of the sanctions already in force because of Russia’s illegal activities in Ukraine. Will the UK Government now ban any other Russians implicated in the murder, however senior, from travelling to the UK and freeze their assets? An assault on our sovereignty, which saw a British citizen murdered on British soil in a nuclear attack, requires nothing less.

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

As we have said, it is of course right that we take extremely seriously the nature of the attack that took place and the findings of the inquiry. As I indicated, this is not something that comes as a surprise. An assessment has been made by successive Governments of the responsibility and involvement of the Russian state in the act, as well as of the two individuals who have been named as undertaking the act here in the United Kingdom. We have a series of sanctions in place. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the reaction to Ukraine. I indicated earlier that it is in fact the United Kingdom that has been leading the European Union effort in placing sanctions on individuals in Russia.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

Russia’s incremental bilateral relations are improving on the issues of Syria, Iran and global counter-terrorism. Is it not the case that, while that is welcome, the diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Russia can never be fully re-set until there has been justice over what the Home Secretary has rightly said is state-sponsored murder on the streets of London?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

We are very clear that it is not business as usual with the Russian state. Our relationship with Russia is heavily conditioned. As I have indicated, there may be some issues on which it is necessary to engage with Russia very carefully, but it is not the case that we are lifting or changing the relationship. Successive Governments have been clear since 2007 that it was necessary to take action. That action has remained.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Scottish National Party, Glenrothes

What we are looking at here is an act of terrorism sponsored and carried out by the Russian Government. The report leads only to one possible conclusion: we now have to regard the Russian state as an organisation actively involved in commissioning, funding, supporting and directing acts of terrorism against UK citizens within the United Kingdom.

I appreciate that the Home Secretary cannot go into detail about everything that is happening in response to that, but may we have an assurance that, in the pursuit of justice, the Russian terrorist organisation and those involved in directing it will be pursued with exactly the same vigour as anyone else who directs acts of terrorism against United Kingdom citizens?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

We are very clear that we want to ensure that those responsible for the murder are brought to justice. That is why, as I have indicated, every effort is being made in relation to the two individuals named in the report as having conducted the act here in London. The investigation is ongoing and every effort is being made to ensure that they can be arrested and brought to justice here in the UK.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick Conservative, Newark

I, too, was struck by the reported final words of Mr Litvinenko to his son, Anatoly. What an assured and articulate man he has grown into, as we saw on the TV recently. To repay the confidence of Mr Litvinenko in this country, may I ask the Home Secretary to go further? In particular, will she respond in detail to Mrs Litvinenko’s request regarding the additional names she has prepared with Ben Emmerson, and whether those individuals should be banned and sanctions taken against them?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I echo my hon. Friend’s comments about Anatoly Litvinenko. His demeanour in the interview on television last night showed a fine young man who has grown up in this country against a background of very difficult circumstances, given what happened to his father. As I indicated earlier to the shadow Home Secretary, I would be happy to meet Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko. Obviously, that would provide an opportunity to discuss the matters my hon. Friend raises.

Photo of Madeleine Moon Madeleine Moon Chair, Defence Sub-Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

Bill Browder, a British citizen, wrote his book “Red Notice” explaining how he took the Magnitsky Act to the United States, because he could get no interest in it here in the UK. Is it not now time for the Home Secretary to meet Bill Browder, look at how the Magnitsky Act has made such a huge difference and consider what the United Kingdom can do to introduce the Act here in the UK?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I apologise, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I will repeat what I have said to a number of Members who raised the issue of the Magnitsky Act. The Act excludes or stops certain individuals from coming into a country, in this case the United States. We already have powers that are at least as robust, if not more so, than the powers in the Magnitsky Act. It is on that basis that I think we have the powers we need to exclude people. I repeat the point I made earlier: if people think that introducing the Magnitsky Act will mean that those who perpetrated this heinous crime will be brought to justice, they are very wrong.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

A unilateral boycott of any sporting event in Russia by this country would be futile. There is no denying that delivering the world athletics championships, the winter Olympics and the 2020 World cup, while behaving like an international pariah, is a major propaganda coup for Putin. What does the Home Secretary think we can do to work with sympathetic nations to ensure that Putin cannot deliver these sorts of propaganda coups in future?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I recognise that a number of Members have indicated their desire for the Government to intervene in decisions taken by various sporting authorities. I have set out that a number of decisions have been taken by the Government. Sanctions have been put in place over a period of time in a number of different ways against the Russian Government. We are very clear that we maintain measures started under the Labour Government in 2007. As I have indicated, we are looking to see what further action can be taken against Lugovoy and Kovtun as a result of the report.

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Labour, Sunderland Central

I welcome the Home Secretary’s report and I look forward to seeing what extra measures and actions she takes as a result of it. I am very concerned about people currently living in this country who have spoken out against the Putin regime. We already knew they were in a dangerous position, but clearly it has now been proven that they are in a dangerous position. Will she look at their security arrangements? Will she review how the polonium-210 came in, and how secure we are living in a city with the threat of it just wandering around our streets?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

We look very carefully at the measures taken on our borders in relation to goods and individuals coming into the United Kingdom. On sanctions or other actions taken against individuals and the Russian state, I have answered that question on a number of occasions already.

Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Labour, Walsall South

The House should pay tribute to the great British scientists without whose dedication and expertise it is widely accepted we would not have come to the truth. Will the Home Secretary join me in thanking them?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity to do just that. The work of the Atomic Weapons Establishment played an important part. The scientists who helped to investigate and get to the truth of the matter did a very important job.

Photo of Angela Rayner Angela Rayner Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

I am sure I speak on behalf of my constituents and the whole nation when I say that my thoughts are with the Litvinenko family and that everything must and should be done to ensure they have justice. My constituents will be extremely concerned that a foreign nation could have come to our country—to our heartland of London—and, bearing in mind how it killed Litvinenko, put our citizens at risk. Based on what my right hon. Friend Andy Burnham and others have said, can the Home Secretary honestly say she is doing everything she can to keep our citizens safe?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I can assure the hon. Lady that the Government take extremely seriously their prime responsibility for maintaining the safety and security of British citizens. We have, for example, introduced legislative proposals, and continue to do so, to ensure that our security and intelligence and law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to keep us safe.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

I thank the Secretary of State for her statement. Given the revelation that President Putin most likely signed off on the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and the fact that decency and moral correctness mean nothing to the Russian authorities, does she agree about the importance of sanctions? That said, many people inside and outside the House, and perhaps she herself, are frustrated that sanctions do not seem to be biting in the way they should. Will she outline what new and unique sanctions are in place to make these people more accountable?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman invites me to comment again on the sanctions put in place against the Russian state and individuals. I repeat that we continue with the visa sanctions introduced in 2007. As I indicated, the UK led the economic sanctions that resulted from the EU discussions that followed Russia’s action in Ukraine, and of course any sanctions applied at EU level require agreement throughout the EU.