Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

National Security and Russia

by Lloyd on 26.03.18 in Uncategorised
I appreciate the debate that we are having today on this very important issue. I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised, by the slightly shrill tone from Government Members during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, but I must say that the tone has greatly improved. I commend my right hon. Friend for his response to these attacks.
I appreciate the debate that we are having today on this very important issue. I was a bit disappointed, but not surprised, by the slightly shrill tone from Government Members during the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, but I must say that the tone has greatly improved. I commend my right hon. Friend for his response to these attacks.

It has often been misinterpreted—I hope not deliberately, but one can never judge that totally—but it has been about ​proportionality and ensuring that we do not get ahead of ourselves and refrain from unnecessarily inflaming language such as, “Shut up and go away.” It is also worth noting that few have worked harder in this place than the Leader of the Opposition on peace, the protection of human rights and the rule of law.

I remember being asked in St Petersburg by the Minister of Education in the Russian Government at the time to leave that city after I condemned them for their ongoing human rights abuses. I wonder how many MPs in this Chamber can say that they have stood up to a Russian Minister and been asked to leave the country. I suspect very few, so it is important that we also respect the different ways in which many of us wish to express condemnation of ongoing human rights abuses in Russia without suggestions that some of us are traitors or without us having to face other horrible things that have been said in the media.

Diplomacy works, of course, as we have seen in this case—and the Government should be applauded for securing co-ordinated multilateral action and making a show of strength—but is that not exactly what the Leader of the Opposition called for when he said he wanted our action to be co-ordinated? It is welcome that the Government listened.

The important point was that a sample should go for independent verification and through all the appropriate processes. Whether it needed to go to Russia or The Hague was, of course, for The Hague to determine.

Diplomacy must, however, be backed by strong financial sanctions, and of course corruption is rife in many of our companies that channel Russian money. That is why we need stronger anti-corruption and money laundering laws. Several of us suggested amendments to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill that would have allowed the Government more easily to shut down brass-plate companies used in sanctions busting and money laundering. It would have been welcome had the Government accepted them, but they rejected them in the other place, because, they said, they could have infringed the human rights of sanctions busters. I hope they will reconsider.

We suggested sensible changes under which the burden of proof on sanctions busting and money laundering would not have had to come from the UK. Brass-plate companies tend to use the UK as a front, of course, and do not do the illegal or nefarious activity here, so a criminal bar for shutting them down will never be acceptable; we will always need an intelligence-led solution. Transparency around beneficial ownership will be vital, too, if we are to follow the money and hurt people who hurt our country where it matters—in their pockets.

That is the kind of robust leadership we can expect from the Labour party and which we could expect from a Labour Government—one who works within international frameworks, shuts down loopholes and brings our allies along with us, even if that means pausing and waiting a few moments. While Labour has called for cool heads, some Government Members have not, but I am delighted ​that we have now moved forward with co-ordinated action. There are, however, other things to do. Members have talked about the ongoing IT security threat that Russia poses. We must consider investing in security technologies based on crypto-graphics and tackling the real danger that Russia poses in systematically using social media—not illegally but not alone—to determine fake news. It is not the first time, of course, that Britain has had the media seek to infiltrate elections, and it will not be the last, which is why things such as Leveson and other media regulation inquiries are so important. That is why Leveson 2, which would have looked at standards in our media, much of which, of course, is also owned by foreign interests, would have been an important step forward.

There are things that we can continue to do—shutting down the corruption in our City would be one of them—but we must applaud both the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister for keeping level heads and we must not refer to people as “traitors” or “enemies”. We are in this together.

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Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

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