Financial Sanctions Regime

Treasury – in the House of Commons at on 20 June 2023.

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Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Defence)

What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the financial sanctions regime.

Photo of John Glen John Glen The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

The Government undertake extensive assessment of the effectiveness of the sanction regimes, which are eroding Russia’s financial base. We have sanctioned 28 Russian banks, covering 80% of Russia’s banking sector, and frozen more than £18 billion of Russian assets, and we have implemented unprecedented trade sanctions in addition.

Photo of Rachel Hopkins Rachel Hopkins Shadow Minister (Defence)

Constituents in Luton South have raised concerns about the financial sanctions regime with me. Can the Government confirm whether it is still the case that Russian account holders in the UK can hold £50,000 or more in their accounts? What is to prevent individuals of concern simply parcelling up assets through proxies into a large network of accounts below the permitted level?

Photo of John Glen John Glen The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation works closely with our allies across the G7 to ensure that we have co-ordinated action among our international partners on this unprecedented package of sanctions. We have frozen the assets of 1,600 individuals and entities. We have implemented 35 different sanction regimes across government. I would be happy to take away the specific question that she has asked, because it is technical, and respond.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

A multimillion-pound start-up project that could be transformational in my constituency is now at risk because the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation is yet to process an asset freeze licence application in respect of just 0.002% of the company’s capital, which was submitted in April. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that such applications are dealt with swiftly? If I provide him with details of the company, will he ensure that the application’s progress is expedited?

Photo of John Glen John Glen The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

I am happy to take up my right hon. Friend’s case. We have expanded the OFSI resources. We have a monthly monitoring and efficiency dashboard. I accept how frustrating it can be for constituents’ businesses when such situations arise, and I am happy to take the matter away and get back to him swiftly.

Photo of James Murray James Murray Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury)

As the war in Ukraine continues, we must not let up for a second on efforts to tighten the net on the accomplices and beneficiaries of Putin’s regime. We welcome the direction of the measures announced yesterday. Can the Minister confirm whether those measures will close all the loopholes and specifically the ownership thresholds, which Russian oligarchs and their enablers have been able to exploit to evade the bite of sanctions?

Photo of John Glen John Glen The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

The Government will be relentless in their pursuit of illicit assets. As I said, we have sanctioned 24 banks with global assets of over £940 billion and 120 elites with a combined worth of £140 billion. Working closely with our allies, we have incrementally and sequentially tightened that net and immobilised more than 60% of Putin’s war chest of foreign reserves worth £275 billion. We continue to work closely with our allies to intensify those measures as opportunities arise.

Photo of Robert Syms Robert Syms Conservative, Poole

I have one or two constituents in Poole who lost their jobs because they were in companies owned by Russians who were sanctioned, and they have found it difficult to have an orderly wind-up because banks run a mile from loaning those businesses a reasonable amount of money to sort them out. I know of one situation where people have not been able to get P60s as the business cannot get money from any of the banks—they do not want to be involved in anything to do with sanctions—so it cannot pay the accountants who would produce them. May I have a word with the Minister about that? In some cases, we are going over the top, and it is affecting our constituents.

Photo of John Glen John Glen The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Those points demonstrate how serious and extensive the Government’s actions are, but I recognise that sometimes unfortunate situations arise and I am happy to look at that case and take it back to the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

To pursue the issue of proxies raised by my hon. Friend Rachel Hopkins, am I right in thinking that the Minister said a few minutes ago that he was prepared to examine the possibility of taking action against proxies and those persons of interest who use proxies?

Photo of John Glen John Glen The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

What I would say is that the Government are committed to an ever-tighter grip on illicit finance and those individuals close to Putin who make a material contribution to his regime. Obviously, I will not commit on the Floor of the House to individual extensions to what we have already done, but I have set out the range of sanctions regimes that exist across multiple Departments of Government and I am happy to receive representations on whatever case the hon. Member wishes to bring to me.