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Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab):
May I make it clear that I, too, deprecate the murder and recognise the gravity of the situation caused to Londoners by that murder? The issue before the House today, however, is whether the response is proportionate and
will have the desired effect. That is where my mood differs from that of the House; I am not sure that the response will be effective. Presumably, the Secretary of State will make a statement when he reinstates the four diplomats whom he is expellingbecause that will happen; it happens by creep. Everyone knows that.
Secondly, I am deeply concerned about the Houses mood, which seems to be anti-Russian, regardless of the fact that we sometimes treat the Russians very arrogantly, and that they have people who they perceive should be facing their courts in London, protected by our system. I believe that we should pause and reflect on whether our relations are spiralling down very badly. A few moments ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) referred to Russias stalling on the conventional armed forces in Europe treaty and there is also the attitude to Kosovo. I think that we are on a dangerous course [Interruption.]
David Miliband: No one could accuse my hon. Friend of not being different. Let me say a couple of things to him. We have thought very carefully about this, we have not rushed to judgment and we have considered all aspects of our interests, but I believe that the response that I have announced today is proportionate. Secondly, it is not about being anti-Russian; this is not an anti-Russian statement. The clear desire of the UK Government and people of the UK is to have a close, co-operative and fruitful relationship with the people and Government of Russia, but I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that that relationship must be based on clear rules. Finally, my hon. Friend talked about how our system was protecting certain individuals, but we have laws of the land, which are guaranteed by independent authorities. Anyone who flouts those laws of the land goes contrary to those independent authorities and will be taken up on that basis.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Kensington and Chelsea) (Con): I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment as Foreign Secretary and endorse his proportionate response to the current crisis. The Russian Government have said that their constitution prevents them from extraditing Lugovoy, but they have offered a trial in Russia in a Russian court. The right hon. Gentleman might like to consider calling that bluff, but not in the way that the Russians are proposing. He has said correctly that having a trial in a third country would equally come up against the current Russian constitution, but that problem would not arise if a British court were permitted to hold a trial in Russia under British law. We have the precedent of the Lockerbie case in The Hague, where exactly those principles were applied. If the right hon. Gentleman and the Russian Government were interested in finding a way forward, that option should at least be considered.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who speaks with the authority of a former holder of my office, for his kind words on my
appointment. I think he will find that the option he proposesingenious though it isis not open to us, as it does not fall within the sort of creative work that we have been seeking with the Government of Russia. He will also recognise that, as I said in my statement, a proposal to conduct a trial in Russia could open our Government to legal challenge from our own citizens. Under whomevers auspices the trial is carried out, that point carries a large degree of force.
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): The Foreign Secretarys calm and measured words should not hide the very tough and bold decision that he has taken. This is the first fight back by any European Foreign Minister against Russias bullying. When you and I were young men, Mr. Speaker, it was British communists who went to the Kremlin to kneel in front of their master; now it is British capitalists who are already on the airwaves saying, Dont cause trouble; dont cause trouble. But it is the Russians who are causing the troublewhether it be on this particular issue or in respect of the British Council, the harassment of our ambassador, Kosovo or tradeand I believe that the whole of Europe will say thank you because at long last a British Foreign Secretary is taking a clear line. Yes, it is a difficult line and, in the light of what my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) said, a controversial line, but it is better to start as we mean to go on, and this is a very fine start indeed by someone who will prove to be a fine Foreign Secretary.
David Miliband: I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend. I look forward to his many contributions to our debates. As always, he speaks with an acute sense of history and an acute sense of the need for all European countries to recognise strong shared interests in this area. It would be wrong to be anything other than firm. No one is seeking to be macho; it is about being firm, clear and proportionate, and that is what we are seeking to do.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): I should let the Secretary of State know that, in relation to his appeal for a spirit of non-partisanship, the position on extradition is shared by governing parties from Scotland, Wales and Northern Irelandby the Scottish National party, Plaid Cymru and the Democratic Unionist party. Does he agree that normal countries with normal relations have appropriate extradition proceedings? Although it is not possible to make such arrangements at present, it must be a medium to long-term aim to do so. In relation to the question of European Union co-operation, can he confirm that were Mr. Lugovoy to travel to any European Union country, he would be subject to a European arrest warrant?
David Miliband: I do not want to ruin the hon. Gentlemans career by saying that he has made a good point, but he has. The basic rules of the game that he describes are in the interests of all countries. Given the way in which the Government of Russia have sought to intensify their relations, not just bilaterally with us but across the whole of the EU, I believe that they recognise that. The hon. Gentleman is correct in respect of the position of Mr. Lugovoy, in that if he leaves Russia he will be subject to arrest.
Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford) (Lab): Diplomacy sometimes requires robustness; it certainly did on this occasion, and there will be widespread public support for the measures announced by the Foreign Secretary. In announcing expulsions to the Russian ambassador, I hope that the Foreign Secretary says that if the Russian Government are minded to retaliate, we shall not be deflected, but we shall continue to see the matter through if necessary. Because the murder in question came after a series of nasty murders in Russia of political dissidents and brave journalists who have criticised the Putin Government, such as Anna Politkovskaya, and because of the difficulties of obtaining rare radioactive isotopes and the skills required to transport them, many people must be worried that Russian state agencies might have played a part in the murder. If any such evidence comes to lightthat would be serious, and I am not suggesting that there is necessarily such evidencedoes he agree that even more robust measures will be required?
David Miliband: As I have said on two occasions already, I am determined today to stick to the terms of the CPS requirement for extradition. Those apply to Mr. Lugovoy and only to Mr. Lugovoy. Obviously, any other evidence that came to light would have to be considered by the CPS, but that would be a matter for it, not me.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): While I recognise and agree with the robust tones of the Foreign Secretarys statement, I do not want any more than he does to see the outbreak of another cold war. Can he tell the House how many meetings he had with the Russian ambassador here on this subject, and how many conversations he had with his Russian counterpart?
David Miliband: I have spoken twice to my Russian counterpart during my two and a half weeks in office, including earlier today, because I thought it right and courteous to do so before I came to the House. As I said in my statement, the Russian ambassador met the permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office on 22 May, and has met him again today. The judicial channels have also been extensively used. If, when I get back to the office, there is further information in relation to the hon. Gentlemans question that I have not given him, I shall write to him with further details.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): The death of Alexander Litvinenko was tragic and sinister in equal measure, and his killers deserve to be brought to justice, but does the Foreign Secretary believe that anything he has said today will cause the Russians to amend their constitution and extradite those accused of Litvinenkos murder? If he does not believe there will be any change, why did he make his statement?
David Miliband: Obviously I believe that todays statement will help to advance the three aims that I set out in it; otherwise I would not have made it. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman could not follow that clearly.
I think it important not just to send a signal, which we have done, but to take practical, concrete measures, which we have also done. Those measures are designed
to make a particular point to particular people, and I believe that they will do so. They will also lead to further international engagement, which we will undertake in a serious way. However, as a number of Members have pointed out today, there is a wider relationship which needs to be founded on a clear basis of mutual respect. That applies in each case, and also in relation to the broader picture. Todays announcement was designed to advance that relationship, and I believe it is our best hope of doing so.
Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): I join others in welcoming my right hon. Friends statement. We all hope it will have the effects that he has said are intended to flow from it. I welcome the robust terms in which he said that the heinous crime of murder must be pursued, and that that pursuit could not be set aside for any other ulterior political consideration, but how does he hope to respond to the Russian authorities when they allege hypocrisy on the part of the United Kingdom Government, and in the light of the United Kingdom Governments attitude to the murder of Pat Finucane and others?
David Miliband: Tempting as it is to wander into the terrain offered by the hon. Gentleman, the temptation is not great enough for me to do so. I am sorry that he has not been able to view this case, and the rights and wrongs of it, in and of itself. He indicated support for the Governments position in this instance, and I am grateful for that. I believe that we had no option but to do what we have done, and I hope we can proceed on that basis.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): Like many other Members here, I sit on the Council of Europe with Russian members of the Duma. They understand the rule of law, and it is therefore disappointing that the Russian Government do not understand the rule of law that the Foreign Secretary has presented to them. I fully support his announcement, although it is sad that it had to be made.
Last week I was telephoned by a Russian journalist about this issue. I said that we were heading towards a crisis over procedures that were not being followed by Russia. He said he believed that there was a tit for tat: that the Russians had called for the extradition of people from this country and we had refused, and that they failed to see the distinction involved in this particular case. Will the Foreign Secretary comment on that?
David Miliband: There is no doubt that there has been a serious attempt to muddy the waters, but I am afraid the parallel that people have sought to draw does not apply. The protection afforded to citizens here under the European convention on human rights becomes relevant because of peoples concerns about the situation in Russia, not because of their concerns about the situation here. This case is also about the situation in Russia, and about the Russian authorities determination to co-operate with the United Kingdom Government to bring to book someone who is alleged to have committed a very serious crime.
While I hope the hon. Gentleman will phone his Russian friend back and explain to him that it is in the gift of the Russian authorities to ensure that in all cases there are proper procedures and proper protections,
any citizen of this country who is accused of a serious crime in another country can be extradited as long as that does not violate his or her rights, and that is the basis on which we proceed.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Has the Foreign Secretary received any expert advice on the likelihood of a private citizen having been able to obtain a lethal quantity of polonium-210 from anything other than a Government-controlled nuclear agency, and has he suggested to the Russian Government that if they go down the old cold war route of tit-for-tat expulsions he has something else up his sleeve? I do not, of course, expect him to specify what.
David Miliband: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand my reasons for wishing merely to refer him to the content of my statement. It would not be appropriate to go beyond that. We decided what action to take after having looked at the issues in the round. I hope that he accepts that answer.
Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on the privilege of Members in this place. During business questions last Thursday, I discussed Greenbelt, a factoring company, and in particular its bullying behaviour. It has sent threatening letters to me and my constituent, Paula Hoogerbrugge. Company representatives also contacted her employers. After business questions, its lawyers copied me into a letter that it sent to you, Mr. Speaker. I believe that that is a part of its bullying strategy to silence me, and I would be grateful if you would confirm that I have the right to raise issues that directly affect my constituents in this place and beyond.
Mr. Speaker: I have not yet received any such letter, and the hon. Gentleman will understand that I would not discuss on the Floor of the House any letters sent to or by me. On privileges, I have always said after a general election and at the opening of a new Session that Members have privilege not outwith but in this Chamber during parliamentary proceedings, but that privilege should always be exercised wisely and consideration should be given to those being criticised.
The Minister for Housing will publish further details next week in a Green Paper to this House.[ Official Report, 11 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 1450.]
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday, we also expect an oral statement next week on the Governments housing policy.[ Official Report, 12 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 1609.]
The word spread quickly in Whitehall on Friday. All was not well with the Green Paper on plans for a big expansion of affordable housing, the flagship of Gordon Browns new legislative programme...So the planned announcement was being put back from this week, the 18th, until the 23rd or 24th, contrary to what Mr. Brown announced last Wednesday.
Mr. Speaker: I have received no such information, and the hon. Gentleman must know that the matters he raises are Government matters, and therefore that they are not for the Chair. He can, of course, ask parliamentary questions, both oral and written.
That this House notes the Serious Fraud Offices (SFO) ongoing investigation into the sale by BAE Systems plc of a military air traffic control system to Tanzania and into payments made to third parties in South Africa and other arms-related inquiries; notes with concern the consequences for the role of the Attorney General of the decision to terminate the SFO investigation into BAE Systems plc and Saudi Arabia and its implications for parliamentary accountability; believes serious damage has been done to the reputation of British business and to the credibility of the Governments campaign against corruption in the developing world; urges the Government to cooperate fully with the United States Department of Justice inquiry into corruption allegations concerning BAE Systems plc and with other international organisations; and calls for increased parliamentary accountability and transparency concerning the Governments dealings with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
I am delighted to be able to introduce another debate on the investigation of alleged corruption overseas. I have previously introduced two of themone on 7 February, which was also an Opposition Day debate, and an Adjournment debate on 1 May. Let me first explain and justify why we wish to return to the issue. It is important, as it goes to the heart of arguments about an ethical foreign policy, the rule of law and open government.
Since we last debated these issues, there have been several important developments that we must take account of and discuss. First, there are continuing arguments about the application of the law, which have been clarified by some of the discussions in the Constitutional Affairs Committee, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) chairs. The BBC and The Guardian have made revelations or allegations about the wider context of the al-Yamamah project.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): The hon. Gentleman mentioned The Guardian, with which his party is in a conspiracy. [Interruption.] Has he the faintest idea of the sort of damage that he and his party are doing to one of the most successful industries in the United Kingdom? Britains export defence industry employs around 76,000 people. Is he aware that 80 per cent. of those exports emanate from the air sector, and that BAE Systems is the most successful company? His partys motion today is sending a signal to our competitors and commercial adversaries around the world that it does not give a damn for that industrys employees in our country, because we shall ensure that
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