Government Policy on Russia

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:41 pm on 6th March 2018.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary 12:41 pm, 6th March 2018

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I thank the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, for securing it.

We are all extremely concerned about the incident in Salisbury yesterday, and I am sure we all hope for the recovery of Mr Skripal and his daughter. I am sure both sides of the House will join me in praising the professionalism and frankly, given the nature of previous poisonings, the bravery of the emergency services that dealt with this incident.

As the Secretary of State says, the incident has disturbing echoes of the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko 12 years ago, and it comes after the exposure last June by BuzzFeed News of the fact that, since 2012, 14 individuals considered hostile to the Putin regime have died in mysterious circumstances on British soil. However, the investigation of this particular incident in Salisbury has only just begun, and I do not believe it is appropriate for us to indulge in speculation while the investigating authorities are still doing their job, so I will not ask the Secretary of State any specific questions about the incident or the Government’s response, although I am sure the time for those questions will come soon.

I have two related questions for the Secretary of State. He talks about working across Europe in relation to sanctions. As we leave the European Union, how will we continue to work with our European allies on sanctions?

Secondly, on the issue of Russian human rights abuses, the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill is currently upstairs in Committee where, right now, the Government are resisting an amendment that would enable Britain to sanction individuals who perpetrate gross human rights abuses, such as those who tortured Sergei Magnitsky to death in a Moscow jail in 2009. Can the Secretary of State explain why the Government are taking such a negative stance against our Magnitsky amendment? Surely they should be supporting it.

Thirdly, the Secretary of State will, like me, surely have heard President Putin’s speech and have been disturbed to hear Putin boasting about the proficiency of Russia’s new nuclear weapons systems, all in response to Donald Trump’s planned expansion of America’s nuclear arsenal. Both are driving a coach and horses through the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. What are the Government doing to urge all parties to renew their compliance with that vital international treaty?