Ben Bradshaw

Working Hard for Exeter

Speech on Ukraine

I spoke in yesterday’s debate on the crisis in Ukraine, urging the Government to take meaningful action through asset freezes and travel bans.

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): I commend the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) for his superb speech and I agree with every single word he said.

I welcome the fact that the Government have allowed time for the debate, although given the seriousness of the threat to security and peace in Europe—the worst for decades—it would have been nice if we had had a little more time. Perhaps we can have some more time in the days and weeks to come.

Given the time limit, I shall restrict my comments to asset freezes and travel bans. I welcome what was announced yesterday by the European Union and United States, but the mood of this House is that that did not go nearly far enough. As the Foreign Secretary will know, Russia is based on a kleptocracy and a lot of the corrupt senior officials and politicians around President Putin have their money in London. Russia’s own central bank has estimated that two thirds of the Russian assets and money in London come from the proceeds of crime and corruption, yet all the organisations that campaign on this issue, from Transparency International to anti-corruption organisations, have said for a long time that the Britain has a very poor record of doing anything about that.

Two years ago, the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr Raab) tabled a motion in this House that was unanimously passed. It called on the Government to take measures similar to those taken by the United States and along the lines of the Magnitsky Act that would have imposed asset freezes and travel bans on named Russian officials who were associated with the outrageous torture and murder of the Russian lawyer, Magnitsky. I am afraid that the Government did nothing and, as far as I can see, have done nothing since. None of the names announced by the European Union is on the Magnitsky list. They all seem to have a very narrow association with the immediate military action in the Crimea.

The Foreign Secretary said that he had the powers to act, so if the Government want to do something now why does he not announce—the Leader of the House could even announce this when he winds up the debate—that the Government will honour the will of this House, unanimously passed two years ago, and introduce similar measures to those introduced by the Americans? Only when the kleptocracy and the elite around President Putin begin to feel some of the pain of the sanctions and measures that have been outlined will Putin feel anything and realise how intolerable his actions were.

I appeal to the Government to go much further at the European Council on Thursday and finally to take meaningful action on the money laundering and dirty money in London and against those Russian officials who are propping up Putin and putting their money here.

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