Global Britain and the International Rules-based Order

Part of Brexit, Science and Innovation – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 6th September 2018.

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Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight 3:49 pm, 6th September 2018

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. Our glorious Prime Minister might not be as good a dancer as Putin, but I would rather have her as our leader.

Seventhly, we should give Ofcom greater powers. The Latvian Government regularly highlight the negative content of Russian broadcasters based in London that spew propaganda into the Baltics. I do not believe that we should close such people down, or Russia Today or Sputnik, which churn out a regular diet of anti-western nonsense. However, we need to strengthen fines and rights of reply and ensure that Ofcom investigates those potential offences more quickly. Eighthly, we need to use financial and legal powers to hurt those people around Putin. I have talked to the Minister for Security, and I am aware that things are in the pipeline and happening, so watch this space.

Ninthly, we need to look at conventional deterrence. Russia’s political and financial dealings with the west are part of a multi-faceted strategy. We need to relearn the art of deterrence for both conventional weaponry and non-conventional conflict. It is better to be robust now than to encourage the sort of adventurism that we are now seeing—perhaps we should have been robust 10 years ago.

Tenthly, we need to understand the threat to our electoral system posed by cyber-infiltration and fake news. We have seen how divisive disputed elections can be in the United States. There is little doubt that the Russians had an extremely sophisticated operation, going back to 2014, to begin the process of manipulation, by using cyber-means to break into state boards of election, by backing people around Trump, by attacking Hillary Clinton and by understanding the Democrats’ strategy by stealing the information from their servers. That was not just a case of embarrassing the Clinton campaign; it was more sophisticated and far more malign.

Indeed, we have cyber-attacks and cyber-problems here. I should declare that I wrote a definition of Russian warfare for the Henry Jackson Society, which has about 440 brute force attacks on its website per month, many of them coming from Russian IP addresses. There are regular Russian attacks on Dr Andrew Foxall, its excellent Russia expert. We are seeing these attacks, probably from Russia, perhaps from other more sophisticated state actors, on think-tanks in the United Kingdom. As well as myself, the Henry Jackson Society has hosted, rather more importantly for Mr Putin, Bill Browder and the wonderful Marina Litvinenko. We should be wary of what the Russians and others are doing here and elsewhere. It is a global problem. In the new kind of political conflict we are facing from authoritarian states, hackers, assassins and trolls, as well as market manipulators and criminals, are perhaps more useful than conventional forms of warfare.

I will leave it there, Madam Deputy Speaker. I apologise if I have spoken for too long, but I would appreciate the Minister’s thoughts on both global Britain and some of those suggestions.