Summer Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:24 pm on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence) 3:24 pm, 25th July 2019

I begin by agreeing with Stephen Kerr on the seeming inability of the House to react to the news about Scottish drugs deaths. There has been a cross-party effort this week from Scottish Members of Parliament to get this issue on to the Floor of the House. Sadly, that has not happened, but I am sure that he and many on the Opposition Benches—not least my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss—will press to draw the attention of the House to this issue at some point.

I want to talk not about anything or anyone hyper-local to my constituency, but about a woman from Russia. Her name was Elena Grigorieva and she was butchered to death at the weekend by thugs in St Petersburg. She was an extraordinary and brave woman. She was an unrelenting defender of civil and human rights. She was a thorn in the side of the thugs in Red Square in Moscow and she was a staunch proponent of LGBT rights, which is not easy in that country. She was killed at the weekend by what can only be described as complete and utter cowardice. I believe that her memory will live on and many people who knew her will keep making the case for human rights and civil rights in that country, which so badly needs them.

Elena Grigorieva was also a great believer in Ukrainian sovereignty. She was a great opponent of President Putin’s behaviour in Ukraine, not least the illegal annexation of Crimea and the illegal terrorist activities he continues to fund and co-ordinate in east Ukraine. As we have a new UK Government and all the disaster that undoubtedly will flow—I hear the word “Opportunity” from the Treasury Bench; I am sure those on the Government Benches disagree with me—I appeal to Members not to forget Ukraine, because it has to fight every single day for its independence and its sovereignty. It has just entered uncharted political territory. An entirely new Parliament was elected earlier this week. The governing party, under President Zelensky, managed to achieve a majority for the first time since independence in 1991. It should also be noted that it has elected its first ever ethnic minority Member of Parliament in the country’s history. That is a bit like the Scottish National party in 2011, which achieved a majority in our country for the first time and elected the first ever ethnic minority Member of the Scottish Parliament.

Ukraine requires our support and I encourage the fraternal support of Members of this House through the all-party group on Ukraine. It is undoubtedly a testing ground for the hybrid war that is creeping and crawling more and more into western democracies, including our own. It is incumbent on all of us to understand that; it is not enough to stand up and thump one’s chest about how terrible President Putin is and say all the right things that you read in The Times that morning. We must also understand what that interference might look like in the form of Russian oligarchs and their money in this country. This week, the United States House of Representatives announced that it will be looking into the use of Russian oligarch money in UK political parties. That is a damned sight more than what is happening in this Parliament. We will be letting the electorate down if we do not grapple with that issue after the recess.

Finally, I say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to all the staff of the House, all the Members here present, and those who are already enjoying their gin and tonics on the train or on the terrace, I hope they enjoy the summer.