Salisbury Incident

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:42 pm on 12th September 2018.

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Photo of Ben Wallace Ben Wallace Minister of State (Home Office) (Security) 1:42 pm, 12th September 2018

I was going to come to that, and we should also thank the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which basically took over the decontamination of the site when the crime scenes were released and worked continuously with Government scientists and international experts to ensure that we got it right. We will jointly fund the decontamination costs. Part of the support package for the local authority will include that, but obviously there will also be internal money going out, but the work is being funded.

Again, this goes back to the United Kingdom’s expertise and knowledge, but from about 2010 we already had in place something called the chemical, biological or radioactive response framework. It was an easy-use, off-the-shelf guide to what to do and where to get scientific advice—Members who have sat on the Science and Technology Committee will know that it held an inquiry about 18 months ago into whether that advice is shared correctly through local government—so the network and the structures were in place. Certainly I have never felt that DEFRA or the local authority wanted for support. There are lessons to be learned. I went down to visit DSTL and the laboratories last Monday. We have seen a nerve agent that we have not seen before—it is not something that I think any of us would have predicted 10 months ago would be on our streets—and that will feed into our ongoing work on decontamination and detection capability. We are confident that DSTL and our aerospace sector have some of the finest minds in detection, and we will continue to invest in ensuring that we keep that.

Following the incident in March, we took action against Russia with one of the toughest packages of measures that the UK has levied against another state in three decades. We have expelled 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared Russian intelligence officers. In doing so, we have helped to degrade their capability in the UK for some years to come. Twenty-seven other countries, as well as NATO, joined us in collective solidarity and, in recognition of the shared threat that we face, expelled 153 intelligence officers, the largest collective expulsion ever. Mr Putin should be under no illusion: the solidarity shown that day by the international community in response to the actions of the GRU has not waned.

In the United Kingdom, we have introduced schedule 3 of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which had its Third Reading last night and has moved to the other House, to allow examining officers to stop, question, search and detain a person at UK ports and the border area in Northern Ireland to determine whether the person appears to be, or has been, engaged in hostile state activity. I was also pleased that Parliament passed the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018, which was taken through earlier this year by the Foreign Office and which gives us powers to sanction individuals or entities for a wide range of purposes, including those who fail to comply with, or are in breach of, international human rights law.