Global Britain and the International Rules-based Order

Part of Brexit, Science and Innovation – in the House of Commons at 3:24 pm on 6th September 2018.

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Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes Labour/Co-operative, Ilford South 3:24 pm, 6th September 2018

But I do want to say a few words about Russia. Given the challenges to the global international order that we face and the direct challenges to our country as a result of the criminal murder in our country by the Russian state, this is the worst possible time for our country to be leaving the European Union. We need partners, allies and international co-operation. I asked the Prime Minister about this yesterday and she confirmed how important it is that we continue to have security and defence co-operation with our EU neighbours and friends. That is not guaranteed if we get the no deal situation and we have no agreement—I will leave that there.

What is also clear is that we need to be serious about not only the crimes in Salisbury, but the 14 other suspicious deaths linked to Russia that have occurred in recent years. There has been a remarkable development this week, with the Chair of the Select Committee on Home Affairs being written to by the Home Secretary in a letter that said:

“I can now formally confirm that the Government’s assurance work around the 14 cases is complete. The Police have confirmed that there is no basis on which to re-open any of the investigations. Clearly, should any new information become available, then the relevant police force will continue to monitor this position and take additional action as necessary”

That letter was written on 23 August. In the light of what we now know and the Prime Minister’s comprehensive and detailed statement yesterday, I call on the Government to revisit this issue, because there have been other murders and other deaths of Russian exiles in this country, over several years. I am not convinced and satisfied that they are not linked to the way the Russian state carried out an attack in our country in Salisbury this year. I therefore ask the Home Office to look again at that issue.

While we are talking about Russia, I wish to say something to my party and to my Front-Bench colleagues. In March, the spokesman for the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Seumas Milne, was quoted as saying to journalists that

“the government has access to information and intelligence on this matter which others don’t;
however, also there’s a history in relation to WMD and intelligence which is problematic to put it mildly.”

When pressed on whether he thought that Russia was being framed for the events in Salisbury, he then said that

“if the material was from the Soviet period, the break-up of the Soviet state led to all sorts of military material ending up in random hands.”

Frankly, he was implying that the Russian state was not responsible. In the light of what we now know, we need an unequivocal, unambiguous, clear statement.

In my opinion, Mr Seumas Milne has been dissembling and attempting to divert attention from the real cause and the real culprits: the Putin regime in Moscow. Perhaps that should not come as any surprise, because this is the man who hosted President Putin at the Valdai forum in Sochi. This is the man who said in The Guardian on 4 March 2015, under the headline “The demonisation of Russia risks paving the way for war”, that the events in Ukraine were justifiable from the Russian perspective. He wrote:

“Russian covert military support for the rebels, on the other hand, is denounced as aggression and ‘hybrid warfare’”.

He criticised the fact that Putin was portrayed in the west as a “reckless land-grabber”, and he criticised attempts to challenge this as “interventionism and even neoconservatism”.

Frankly, all that goes against the whole basis of the historic Labour tradition of standing up to the aggression that came from the Soviet Union in the cold war period, our establishment of NATO under Clem Attlee’s Government, and the consistent support for our values and for the defence of our society by successive Labour Governments. I believe very strongly that the Labour party would be in a much better place, and that we would have much greater clarity on foreign affairs matters, if we had people working for our party leadership who actually believed in those Labour values.