Salisbury Incident 2018: Update

– in the House of Commons at 12:33 pm on 21st September 2021.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department 1:11 pm, 21st September 2021

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on today’s announcement by Counter Terrorism Policing that the Crown Prosecution Service has authorised charges against a third individual in relation to the 2018 Salisbury attack, an appalling event that shook the entire country and united our allies in condemnation. I thank the Opposition for their courtesy and support in allowing some of their parliamentary time to be used for the statement. The House will of course understand that this is an ongoing investigation, and that we are therefore limited in terms of what can be said about these three individuals.

In March 2018, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia, commonly known as Novichok. Two officers from Wiltshire police who were involved in searching the victims’ home were also poisoned with the same agent. In July 2018, a further two members of the public were found unwell in Amesbury, both of whom had been exposed to Novichok. Tragically, one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died. An inquest into her death is ongoing. I know that the thoughts of the whole House will be with the loved ones of Dawn today.

This House has profound differences with Russia. In annexing Crimea in 2014, igniting the flames of conflict in eastern Ukraine and threatening western democracies by, for instance, interfering in their elections, it has challenged the fundamental basis of international order. Although attacks such as the one in Salisbury are uncommon, this is not the first time Russia has committed a brazen attack in the UK. Today the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that it was responsible for the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko; that supports the findings of the independent Litvinenko inquiry. However, as the then Government made clear following the Salisbury attack in 2018 and as I reiterate today, we will not tolerate such malign activity here in the United Kingdom.

The UK, under successive Governments, has responded with strength and determination. As my right hon. Friend Mrs May, then Prime Minister, announced in 2018, 250 detectives were involved in the Salisbury murder investigation, working round the clock to discover who was responsible. On 5 September 2018, the independent Director of Public Prosecutions announced that there was sufficient evidence to bring charges against two Russian nationals for conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal; the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey; causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey; and possession and use of a chemical weapon, contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act 1996.

The two Russian nationals were known as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, but the police believed these to be aliases. The then Prime Minister announced that the Government had concluded that the two men were members of the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, and that the operation had almost certainly been approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state. I want to recognise the exemplary work of our emergency services, intelligence agencies, armed forces and law enforcement staff who led the initial response to this despicable and outrageous attack; I also pay tribute to the ongoing work to bring the perpetrators to justice. We will not let this go.

As Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon has said, this investigation has been extraordinarily complex, and our country is fortunate that so many brave people do such outstanding work to keep us safe. As a result of those efforts, the police have evidence that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are aliases for Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga, and that both are members of the GRU. The CPS has now authorised charges against a third individual, known as Sergey Fedotov. The Counter Terrorism Policing investigation established that Fedotov had entered the UK on a flight from Moscow to London Heathrow, and had stayed at a hotel in central London between 2 and 4 March 2018 before returning to Moscow. While in the UK, he had met Petrov and Boshirov on more than one occasion in central London.

The CT Policing investigation has established that Fedotov is in fact Denis Sergeev, that he is also a member of the GRU, and that all three men previously worked together for the GRU as part of additional operations outside Russia All three are now wanted by UK police, and arrest warrants are in place for them. The police have applied for an Interpol notice against Fedotov, mirroring those already in place against the other two suspects. Russia has repeatedly refused to allow its nationals to stand trial overseas. That was also the case following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, when a UK extradition request was refused. This has only added to the heartache of those hurt by these attacks, and, inevitably, has further damaged our relations with Russia.

As was made clear following the Salisbury attack in 2018, should any of these individuals ever travel outside Russia, we will work with our international partners and take every possible step to detain them and extradite them so that they face justice. After the attack in Salisbury, my right hon. Friends the Members for Maidenhead and for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) put in place the toughest package that the UK has levied against another state for more than 30 years, consisting of diplomatic, legislative and economic measures. We continue to take robust steps to counter the threat posed by the Russian state. In 2018, 23 undeclared Russian intelligence officers were immediately expelled from the UK. In solidarity, 28 other countries and NATO joined us, which resulted in the largest collective expulsion ever—of more than 150 Russian intelligence officers. That fundamentally degraded Russian intelligence capability for years to come.

The Government will continue to provide the security services and law enforcement agencies with all the additional tools that they need to deal with the full range of state threats, which continue to evolve. In direct response to the Salisbury attack, we introduced new powers to enable the police to stop, question, search and detain individuals at the UK border to determine whether they are spies or otherwise involved in hostile activity. These vital powers are already helping the security services and law enforcement agencies to protect the UK from the very real and serious threat posed by states that seek to undermine and destabilise our country.

In July 2020, we published a full and comprehensive response to the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report, which addressed point by point all the key themes and recommendations raised by the Committee, but we are going even further and have committed to introducing new legislation to counter state threats and protect the United Kingdom. Earlier this summer, we held a public consultation on the Government’s proposals, to improve our ability to detect, respond to, and prevent state threats, keep our citizens safe and protect sensitive data and intellectual property. Responses to that consultation are currently being considered and we will return with comprehensive legislation.

Another crucial strand of this work is combating illicit finance. To secure our global prosperity, squeezing dirty money and money launderers out of the UK is our priority. We are at the forefront of the international fight against illicit finance, combating the threat from source to destination. We have introduced a new global human rights sanctions regime and a global anti-corruption sanctions regime. The National Crime Agency continues to lead UK efforts to bring the full power of law enforcement to bear against serious criminals and corrupt elites and their assets, including through increased checks on private flights, customs and freight travel.

In July and September 2020, working in tandem with the EU, we announced sanctions against the Russian intelligence services for cyber-attacks against the UK and her allies. We have also taken robust action in response to the poisoning and attempted murder of Alexei Navalny, enforcing asset freezes and travel bans against 13 individuals and a Russian research institute involved in the case. The Government will continue to respond extremely robustly to the enduring and significant threat from the Russian state. We continue to make huge strides to counter this threat and to increase our resilience and that of our allies to Russian malign activity. We respect the people of Russia, but we will do whatever it takes—everything it takes—to keep our country safe. We will work actively to deter and defend against the full spectrum of threats emanating from Russia until relations with its Government improve.

I would like to end by paying tribute to the resilience of the people of Salisbury, who suffered a sickening and despicable act in their community, and to the people of Amesbury, who lost one of their own in the most dreadful circumstances. Our Government will be relentless in our pursuit of justice for the victims of these attacks and continue to do whatever is necessary to keep our people safe. I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, House of Commons Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

The sub judice resolution means that, other than when legislating, the House does not discuss issues that are active in the UK courts. However, where in the Chair’s opinion cases concern issues of national importance, reference to them may be made. I am prepared to allow such references during the course of this statement.

Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Home Secretary 1:23 pm, 21st September 2021

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for her statement and for giving me advance sight of it. I am also grateful to the Minister for Security and Borders, Damian Hinds, for the advance briefing yesterday.

The use of a nerve agent, a chemical weapon, on British soil was an outrage and we unite across the House in our condemnation of it. We also unite in our praise of our emergency services, whose response was nothing short of remarkable. At the time, the then Prime Minister, Mrs May, was clear that, based on intelligence, this was not a rogue operation, given the GRU’s well-established chain of command, and that it was almost certainly approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state. Let me be direct, as shadow Home Secretary—as I was then, as shadow Security Minister, and as my right hon. and learned Friend Keir Starmer, Leader of the Opposition, also was—that Labour is clear that the Russian state was responsible for this appalling act using a chemical weapon. Today, as the Home Secretary has said, the European Court of Human Rights has also confirmed the Russian state’s responsibility for the killing of Alexander Litvinenko.

I thank counter-terror policing for their dedicated work, as well as the wider law enforcement community, our security services and the Crown Prosecution Service. The additional information we have today is the result of many hours of careful investigation that identified a third suspect, their membership of the GRU and the real identities of these men. I shall of course choose my words carefully, Mr Speaker, but I appreciate the barriers that still lie in the way of those people facing justice in the United Kingdom. The Home Secretary has mentioned the arrest warrants and the Interpol notices, but will she give us more detail on what she said about ensuring that everything possible would be done through diplomatic channels with our friends and partners around the world to ensure that if those men ever leave the Russian state, they will be apprehended?

The consequences of this appalling act have been profound. We think of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, who spent weeks in hospital in a critical condition. Our thoughts are also with the two police officers who were poisoned. It is the most sobering reminder of the unknown dangers our police officers face every time they work a shift. I have met Sergeant Nick Bailey and thanked him and all his colleagues in Wiltshire police for their service, and I thank them once again for their bravery, as I am sure the whole House does. Today we remember Dawn Sturgess, who died after coming into contact with the Novichok, and her family. We also think of the illness it caused to Charlie Rowley. A life lost and lives badly damaged by this terrible act. We also remember the people of Salisbury and of Amesbury who, in the face of despair, came together. I also want to pay tribute to John Glen, who helped his constituents during that terrible period.

This all underlines the continuing importance of the NATO alliance as fundamental for our security in the 21st century. It also underlines the imperative of implementing each and every recommendation in the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report, which was published in July last year. That report must be taken with the utmost seriousness by the Government. Can the Home Secretary update the House on the progress on implementing its 21 recommendations? Can she further confirm that the forthcoming counter-state threats Bill mentioned in the Queen’s Speech will put all those recommendations into law, without exception?

The report of the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, published in recent days, raised deep concerns about the National Security Council, the cross-government machinery that supports it, and the Prime Minister’s level of attendance. The Government’s response is due by 19 November, but in the circumstances will the Home Secretary confirm today that that response will be speeded up and made urgent? She also mentioned the issue of illicit finance. The Government imposed the first Magnitsky sanctions in July 2020. She mentioned 13 people in her statement who had been made subject to travel bans and asset freezes, but how many in total have now been subjected to Magnitsky sanctions? Can she also confirm that resources will be dedicated to ensuring that the cyber-threat posed by Russia can be effectively dealt with? Finally, let us unite in condemnation of this vile act committed at the behest of another state on our own British soil, and make it clear that we will do all we can to ensure that such a thing never happens again.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments and for the reflective way in which he has responded to today’s statement. It is correct that the charging announcement is the result of the tireless work that has been undertaken over the past few years, and of the ongoing work by policing, counter-terrorism policing, security partners and our intelligence agencies. I think that everyone in the House is fully reflective of that. Today’s statement and the charges are a sobering reminder of the threats that our country has been exposed to.

In answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s questions, first and foremost, the use of the Novichok nerve agent on British soil was an utterly reckless act. Of course, all our thoughts remain with those whose lives have been changed or lost. This was not a rogue operation but a shameless and deliberate attack, as we all recognise, and it has concentrated the whole of Government in how we not only respond to but prepare against such attacks to protect our country, our domestic homeland, in every single aspect of our national security work in the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, the Home Office, the national security apparatus and the entire UK intelligence community.

I reassure the House and the right hon. Gentleman that our resourcing is always there. Along with the whole-system approach, the resourcing effectively governs the entire UK intelligence community covering cyber, hostile state activity, the diplomatic aspects and the Magnitsky sanctions. We have applied our diplomatic levers internationally, working with our NATO allies and counterparts, as the right hon. Gentleman and I have both mentioned, in the expulsion of former intelligence officers.

None of that changes. We continue with absolute resolve and resolute determination to do everything possible to protect British citizens and our domestic homeland. Naturally, on the back of today’s announcement, there will be further investigations and, inevitably, more law enforcement work with our allies. I assure the House that all that work is under way, as all hon. and right hon. Members would expect.

The right hon. Gentleman also touched on forthcoming legislation against hostile activity, as well as the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee. We will update the House in due course, and I hope he will respect that there is cross-Government work on the recommendations. We have already consulted on future legislation, and there is further work taking place. We will, of course, share further information on the national security element with the House, the right hon. Gentleman and other colleagues.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

I am sure the whole House welcomes the fact that the Home Secretary has chosen to come here today to volunteer this statement. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that the links firmly associating these murderous activities with the Russian state have been made clear. Does my right hon. Friend recall that, a few days after the death of Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006, the BBC published an account of how the upper House of the Russian Parliament, the Federation Council, had adopted a new law in the previous July that the BBC said

“formally permits the extra-judicial killings abroad of those Moscow accuses of ‘extremism’”?

As we know, one of the suspected killers later became a Russian Member of Parliament.

In the light of this brazenness and shamelessness, does my right hon. Friend agree that we ought to be very careful not only of Russians who come to this country with poison but of Russians who come to this country with funds with which they hope to make investments that allow them to get a handhold on our critical national infrastructure, which we should resist at all costs?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We know that the Russian state targets its perceived enemies at home and abroad, and we have seen far too much of that. We will always continue to work closely with the relevant law enforcement agencies to protect individuals. He is also right to highlight critical national infrastructure and other vulnerabilities, which is exactly what our future legislation will aim to address.

Photo of Ian Blackford Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader

I thank the Home Secretary for advance sight of her statement and for the opportunity to have a briefing from the Minister for Security and Borders, Damian Hinds.

I welcome the ongoing investigation into the Salisbury poisonings and the charging of a third suspect. Every avenue and every effort must be made to bring these killers to justice.

I also welcome this morning’s judgment by the European Court of Human Rights on the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. For those remaining few who apparently still needed convincing, this judgment is firm and final confirmation of Russian state murder on this island. There are no ifs, no buts and no maybes. Whether the Litvinenko murder or the attacks in Salisbury, these were acts of state-sponsored terrorism on the streets of the United Kingdom.

We are still uncovering the level and depth of Russian interference across liberal democracies, because the Litvinenko murder began the process of lifting the lid on the sheer scale of Russian money laundering, political interference and, ultimately, violence that had gone either unseen or, worse, unchallenged. The attacks in Salisbury in March 2018 show that the lid may have been lifted but that the state-sponsored terrorism continues to this very day.

I have a number of questions for the Home Secretary on how we meet all the layers of this Russian threat. The Foreign Ministers of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council will meet tomorrow. What stance and what sanction will the Foreign Secretary take with her Russian counterpart at that meeting so that these suspects are forced to face justice?

The Intelligence and Security Committee’s report on Russian subversion found that successive Governments welcomed the oligarchs and their money with open arms, with allies of the Kremlin easily laundering illegal Russian money in what they refer to as “Londongrad”. Will this Government finally launch a full independent investigation into where this illegal Russian money has gone, including money that has been funnelled into companies, assets and, indeed, political parties? As part of this, we need to tighten up the legislation on Scottish limited partnerships.

Finally, it is self-evident that co-operation with NATO allies is crucial to our defence against the Russian threat. The Prime Minister assured me last week that the AUKUS arrangement had the blessing of NATO, which clearly is not the case. Are the Government now willing to open up the agreement to include other NATO allies?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The right hon. Gentleman raises a number of important points, including on today’s ruling from the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko. He is correct that, as we have always made clear, the murder of Alexander Litvinenko was a blatant and unacceptable breach of international law and civilised behaviour—he used similarly strong language. Successive Governments have taken a robust approach, including following the publication of the Litvinenko inquiry, and this Government will always pursue every available means to bring those responsible to justice, and we will not let go of that. We will continue to deter such reckless and malign actions in future.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned that the UN General Assembly is meeting this week, and obviously there will be security meetings with our P5 partners. I assure him and the House that the Foreign Secretary and the FCDO are undertaking a range of diplomatic engagements in UN forums right now, as everyone would rightly expect, in relation to this and other associated matters. I also highlight the wider bilateral and diplomatic work and handling on the AUKUS agreement, which he also mentioned.

The right hon. Gentleman and I both mentioned the serious and important issues of dirty money, money laundering and the facilitation of Russian money that comes through the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman is well aware and has sight of the Government’s work on unexplained wealth orders, investigations with law enforcement and the work with the economic and financial institutions, which takes place in a very detailed and strategic way. That work continues, and the Security Minister and I will be meeting many of our counterparts within financial institutions tomorrow to continue to up the ante and focus on what more can be done on money laundering, following the money in every way and dealing with the routes and where that money leads to assets being purchased and investments being made in the UK, all of which, clearly, we need to change.

Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden

I welcome the Home Secretary’s response today, which I have to say contrasts with the responses of previous Governments to the Litvinenko murder on Putin’s orders, including that of our own Government under David Cameron, who tried to prevent an inquiry and I am afraid subordinated justice to trade interests. They were overruled in 2014 by the High Court, which is how we end up today with the European Court of Human Rights ruling against Putin’s Russia on this killing. After that, the Skripal attempted killing happened. The lesson is very clear: if we do not act very firmly, they will do it again. So we should act, not just against the GRU officers the Home Secretary has properly highlighted, but against all the manifestations of the Russian mafia state. I am afraid that that includes some of the oligarchs in London who act as proxies for Putin’s Russia; whether they own property, companies, newspapers or football clubs, it does not matter; we should act to make sure they do not corrupt our state. The Home Secretary is doing the right thing pursuing the perpetrators of this evil crime, but will she talk to other members of the Cabinet to find other ways in which to punish this evil Government who gave these orders? If our Government do not act more firmly now than we did after the Litvinenko murder, this will happen again.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments and suggestions. He is correct in the proposition he has spoken of; there is much more to do. That is partly the purpose of my statement today, not just in providing the wider update, and rightly so, but in illustrating that the Government will not tolerate these types of malign activity—state sponsored terror that has taken place on the streets of the UK. Importantly, as a Government we have to do the right thing in protecting our citizens and our domestic homeland. He is right about this and that work will continue across the whole of government.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee

I thank the Home Secretary for this statement, and for the work of the police and of the intelligence and security agencies to have brought us to this point. The Salisbury attack was a truly appalling attack on UK soil, with charges now laid against the agents of a foreign state. It should be unthinkable that this could happen and for it to come at the same time as the ECHR confirmation that Russia was behind the murder of Alexander Litvinenko is further disturbing evidence of Russia’s willingness to use dangerous weapons in other countries. I support the work the Government have been doing on this, but may I ask her specifically about the review launched three years ago into the so-called “golden visas”, the tier 1 visas, to look at oligarchs with close links to the Russian state who might be using criminal money and others? We have not heard any update on that review, so will she update the House now on what work is being done?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the right hon. Lady for her questions and remarks. She is right to point to the whole area of the tier 1 investor visa route, which, historically, as the whole House is well aware, has led to a range of the wider issues we have just been speaking about—investments, illicit finance, corruption and a lack of transparency. The purpose of the review was to look at exactly that. I cannot provide the full update right now, but I want to reassure the House and to let it know that the whole of government is acutely aware of how these routes have previously been used. I would go as far as to say they have been abused for malign purposes—for entry into the UK to do us harm and to harm our country. That is why we will never rule out changes, which we constantly make to our immigration system and to our visas.

Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley

I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept my congratulations on her mentioning the ECHR judgment on the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, after which many of us thought such events would never occur again. Will she welcome the calls I have made this morning, as the leader of the UK delegation to the Council of Europe, for an urgent debate on this issue next week at the full meeting of the Council of Europe, both to gain support for our move against Russia and to make sure we can address the Russians face to face, to show them down?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

My hon. Friend is correct in the case he is making. There has to be a fair degree of openness, honesty and transparency on the acts that have taken place; lives have been lost and today’s ruling is significant, so he is absolutely right in the way in which he has been making the case, and I hope he achieves the outcome he is seeking.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement, and join her in thanking the security services and all those involved. The judgment sends a clear message that even though these individuals are outside our jurisdiction, we are not going to give up pursuing them. Will she share the intelligence behind the latest developments with the Intelligence and Security Committee? I welcome her commitment to implement the recommendations from the Russia report, particularly in respect of the registration of foreign individuals pursuing other states’ interests. Those recommendations are important, but there are existing weapons in her armoury that need to be used, including against the facilitators of these acts—the estate agents, lawyers, accountants in London. If she grasps that, and her new Security Minister grasps it, she could make some great progress and hurt the Russians very hard.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his questions and the points he has made. He is right about the tools or levers that exist across government and across law enforcement—many strong laws are in place. As ever, this is about the application of the law and the levers that could help to denude capability further, so he is absolutely right on the point he makes. On the ISC, we will be in touch directly with the Committee after today’s statement, even on the basis of how information and intelligence is shared.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

The Home Secretary mentions the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, of which I am a member, has pathetically allowed Russia back into the Assembly and has done so for one reason only—money. These Putin thugs strut around there and ignore any motion passed by the Assembly. Russia does not care a damn about the ECHR and will simply ignore it, but this same court is constantly invoked by human rights lawyers when we try to save lives at sea, when dealing with migrants, or when we are trying to run our prisons. This is just a fig leaf for tyranny. Perhaps the time has come to replace the Human Rights Act with our own British rights Act and get out of the ECHR altogether.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. Today’s judgment and ruling from the ECHR is important and significant, particularly in the context of what we are speaking about. He is also right to touch on some of the other issues he has mentioned, which obviously link to our work in the Home Office in dealing with illegal migration. There is always more we can do and we would welcome greater support, through some of the courts, to help us in how we tackle some of these very challenging issues.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement. We now know that not one, not two, but three Russian agents were able to get into this country by basically just walking into the airport. In the statement, the Home Secretary talked about

“new powers to enable the police to stop, question, search, and detain individuals…to determine whether they are spies or otherwise”.

Does she believe that those new powers would have prevented the three individuals from getting into this country?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point with his question. The fact of the matter is that those powers were introduced as a direct response to the Salisbury attack, as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, to enable the police to effectively stop, question, search and detain individuals. Those powers came in after the attack and there is no doubt that they would have made a difference at that particular time. The fact of the matter is that those powers are now being used in the way we have spoken about and to which I referred in my statement. On a day-to-day basis people are being stopped, detained and asked significant questions. As I said in my statement, we will look at everything—all measures—in terms of how we not only protect our border but prevent individuals with malign intent from coming to our country.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

I commend the Home Secretary for her statement and the action that she and the Crown Prosecution Service have taken. To follow on from the previous question, state-sponsored terrorism in the UK cannot happen if state-sponsored terrorists are blocked from entry. This case was made worse because they were carrying poison. Regardless of any new powers, people travelling on false passports should not be allowed into the country. Is the Home Secretary confident that the requisite changes have been made at the passport entry desk to prevent GRU agents—they used to be known as the KGB—from coming into this country when they want, leaving when they want and doing all sorts of things that we do not want them to do in the United Kingdom?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Yes. My hon. Friend raises an important and serious point about wider security and how we keep out those who should not come into our country. As I mentioned, the changes introduced in 2019 speak exactly to that, but not only that: they also speak not just to the primary control point at the border but to the level of information exchanged behind the scenes among intelligence agencies, law enforcement operatives and Border Force, way before individuals even come towards our country. Those significant changes have been made over a period of time.

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence)

I do not disagree with anything that was in the Home Secretary’s statement and commend every word of it, but will she explain something that I am perhaps just not understanding? Why is it that we were able to identify the two individuals so swiftly after the event but it is has taken three years to identify the third individual who was involved in the Salisbury poisoning? I know it is a complex investigation, but I would be grateful if she could outline something that I am perhaps not picking up.

Given that we are talking about a breach of the chemical weapons convention, why has the Home Secretary not announced a single new sanction or diplomatic response, given that we know that the crime involved more people than we initially thought who came to this country and left? Why were there not more expulsions or sanctions? Does the range of threats emanating from Russia, whether in Ukraine, Salisbury or Syria, not underline the need for greater Euro-Atlantic defence and security co-operation, not less?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his questions. There are a number of points to make. First, the hon. Gentleman himself referred, as have I, to the fact that the investigation is complex. A great deal of work has been done by the security and intelligence agencies and counter-terrorism policing, but I am not in a position to speak of the details at the Dispatch Box today, because there are a lot of sensitivities, including in terms of how much of that information has come together. I know that the hon. Gentleman and the entire House will respect that.

On the wider threats, it is fair to say that from this Dispatch Box and across the House and its various Committees, including the Intelligence and Security Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Defence Committee—across all aspects of national security—we see Russia at the heart of not only the many threats that some of us see on a near-daily basis, but the type of threats that do not manifest because of the brilliant, exemplary work done by those who are employed to protect our homeland.

The hon. Gentleman referred to some of the wider work that could take place; we rule nothing out. As I said earlier in response to the questions from his colleague, Ian Blackford, discussions are taking place. The UN General Assembly is taking place and the Foreign Secretary is currently at the UN. All such discussions with our allies and many of our bilateral counterparts are absolutely in flight. We are constantly having discussions—more so now, at this particularly pressing time—to consider the other levers we have and what the next steps should be.

Photo of Lilian Greenwood Lilian Greenwood Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

I join the Home Secretary in extending our gratitude to all those who responded to this terrible crime, to all those who are working to keep our country and its citizens safe and, of course, to those who are seeking to bring those responsible to justice.

It is clearly essential that we do everything possible to respond to the investigations and learn from the attack. Will the Home Secretary say a little more about the progress that has been made and outline how many of the recommendations in the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report have already been implemented?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

If I may, I refer the hon. Lady to my earlier comments on that. Work is taking place across Government—not just from a Home Office perspective but involving the FCDO, too—and much of it involves our national security apparatus. There will in due course be an update on the report and its recommendations. I ask the hon. Lady and all colleagues in the House to persevere and we will obviously come back in due course.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

Today is a sober reminder of the scale of the security threats that we face as a country. I thank the Home Secretary for her statement. While we reflect on the terrible events in Salisbury three years ago, it is right to remind ourselves of the cyber-threats that the country faces. Will the Home Secretary say a little more about the work her Department is doing to deter the investment that countries such as Russia are putting into breaking our cyber-security?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Lady is absolutely right, as have been many other right hon. and hon. Members, to touch on the cyber-security threat to our country. Of course, cyber-threats manifest themselves in many forms and guises, from attacks on key and critical national infrastructure right down through attacks on local government, financial institutions and retail outlets. Extensive work takes place across the entire UK intelligence community. The National Cyber Security Centre is led by incredible individuals with whom we have the privilege to work on a daily basis, and there is work across the Cabinet Office as well. Extensive work is taking place in the cyber space, and not just Russia but other countries are involved in the cyber-threat. When it comes to cyber, all Members have a responsibility to ensure that we take all the necessary measures and steps, and our local authorities and the organisations that we come across on a daily basis should also make sure that they are doing everything to enhance their cyber-security.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank the Secretary of State for her statement. Among those in and outside the House, there can be no doubt about the Secretary of State’s determination to catch those responsible for the murder of British citizens on British soil by subversive Russian agents. Will the Secretary of State confirm what discussions she has had with other countries regarding the parameters of diplomatic immunity and whether we need to and should reconsider them?

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel The Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the need to work with other countries and, as I said earlier, to use every diplomatic lever we have. Post the appalling Salisbury incident in 2018, we saw the work led by our then Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend Mrs May, and the collective diplomatic effort in terms of expulsions and sanctions. I touched on the fact that the Foreign Secretary is currently in New York at the UN General Assembly, and we are in no doubt that we are pressing every single lever. The FCDO and the Foreign Secretary will rightly lead on the key discussions.