Order！Statement,the Prime Minister!
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the response of theRussian government to the incident in Salisbury. Mr. Speaker on Monday I saidout that Mr. Skripal and his daughter was poisoned with Novichok, a military gradenerve agent developed by Russia. Based on this capability, combined with their recordof conducting state-sponsored assassinations, including against former intelligenceofficers whom they regards as legitimate targets, the UK government concludedthat it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for this reckless and despicableact. And there are only two plausible explanations: either this was a directact by the Russian state against our country; or, conceivably the Russiangovernment could have lost control of a military-grade nerve agent and allow itto get into the hands of others.
Mr.Speaker it was right to offer Russia the opportunity to provide an explanation. But their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events. They have provided no credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent. No explanation as to how this agent came to beused in UK, no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programin contravention of international law, instead they have treated the use of a military-gradenerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance, so Mr. Speaker there’sno alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable forthe attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter and for threatening thelives of other British citizens in Salisbury including Detective Sergeant NickBailey. This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state againstUK.
Let mestart with the immediate actions. Mr. Speaker, the house will recall that following the murder of Mr. Litvinenko, the UK expelled four diplomats. Under the Vienna Convention, the UK will now expel 23 Russian diplomats, who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers. They have just one week to leave. This will be the single biggest expulsion for over thirty years and it reflects the fact this is not the first time that the Russian state has acted against ourcountry, through these expulsions, we will fundamentally degrade Russian intelligence capability in the UK for years to come. And if they seek to rebuild it, we will prevent them from doing so.
Mr. Speaker, let me be clear, while our response must be robust, it must also remain true toour values, as a liberal democracy that believes in the rule of law. Many Russianshave made this country their home, abide by our laws, and make an importantcontribution to our country, which we must continue to welcome, but to thosewho seek to do as harm, my message is simple: You are not welcome here. So wewill suspend all planned high level bilateral contacts between UK and the Russianfederation, this includes revoking the invitation to foreign minister lavrov topay a reciprocal visit to the UK and confirming that there will be no attendanceby ministers or indeed members of the royal family at this summer’s World Cupin Russia. Mr. Speaker, none of the actions we take is intended to damage legitimateactivity or prevent contacts between our populations. We have no disagreementwith the people of Russia who have been responsible for so many greatachievements throughout their history, many of us looked at a post-Soviet Russiawith hope, we wanted a better relationship, and it is tragic that President Putinhas chosen to act in this way, but we will not tolerate the threat to the livesof British people and others on British soil from the Russian government. Norwill we tolerate such a flagrant breach of Russia’s international obligations.
And can the prime minister update the house on what conversations if any, she’s had with the Russian government? And while… suspending planned high-level contacts, does the prime minister agree that it’s essential to maintain a robust dialogue with Russia in the interest of our own and wider international security? With many countries, Mr. speaker, speaking out alongside us, the circumstances demand we build an international consensus to address the use of chemical weapons. We should urge our international allies to join us and call on Russia to reveal without delay full details of its chemical weapons program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. It is as we on the benches have expressed before, a matter of huge regret, that our country’s diplomatic capacity has been stripped back with cuts of 25% in the last five years…
It is,Mr. speaker…
It is,Mr. speaker…
Order! Theright honorable the gentleman must be heard. There will be adequate opportunityfor colleagues on both sides of the house to put questions. Members must beheard.
I couldn’t understand a word of what our Foreign Secretary just said, Mr. Speaker, but thebehavior demeans his office! It is in moments such as these that government realizeshow vital strong diplomacy and political pressure are for our security and national interest. The measures we take have to be effective. Not just for the long-term security of our citizens but to secure a world free of chemical weapons.
But I say to the right honorable gentleman, this is not a question of our diplomacy,of what diplomatic support we have around the world. This is a question of the culpability of the Russian state for an act on our own soil.
And he said that we should be trying to build a consensus. It was clear, it's clear from the conversations that I’ve had with our allies, that we have a consensus with our allies. It was clear from the remarks that were made by backbenches across the whole of this house on Monday, that there was a consensus across the backbenches of this house. I’m only sorry that the consensus does not go as far as the right honorable gentleman who could have taken the opportunity as the UK government has done to condemn the culpability of the Russian state.
I completely support everything that the prime minister has said today. The truth is that under Putin, the Russian Federation has managed to combine all the worst facets of Communism and all the worst facets of rampant Capitalism. All wrapped up inside a national security state which keeps its people poor and kills his political opponents. Can I just ask about the Russian ambassador, because since he arrived here 7 years ago, Alexander Yakovenko, he has repeatedly lied to parliamentarians.He has tried to get the speaker to stop debate on Russia happening in this House,he has tried to interfere in the internal elections of this house, and surelyto God, it’s time we now told him, that we will order our affairs in thiscountry, not him, and he can go home.
Well, I say to my honorable gentleman, he’s absolutely right, we will order our affairs in this country, and we will not be told what to do by a Russian ambassador, and I fully expect the house authorities to ensure that it is not possible for external party such as that to interfere in elections in this House. And can I also say that it’s a brave man who tries to tell Speaker of the House of Commons what to do and to stand anything down.
I must say for the avoidance of doubts, he got absolutely nowhere with me. You can be sure about that.