New Russia sanction laws to be enforced ‘immediately’, despite lack of scrutiny by MPs

Labour accuses government of ‘autocratic’ move to deny parliament its say

Adam Forrest
Thursday 10 February 2022 13:23
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Liz Truss tells Russia to dial down ‘Cold War rhetoric’ in Moscow meeting on Ukraine

Legislation that will allow Boris Johnson’s government to toughen up its sanctions against Russia will come into force “immediately”, a senior minister has said.

As foreign secretary Liz Truss met her Russian counterpart in Moscow in a bid to avoid conflict in Ukraine, the Commons heard that a new law to “expand” sanctions against Russia would be in place on Thursday.

Ms Truss had promised MPs that a new sanctions law would be in place by 10 February – prompting Labour to question why MPs had not been given a chance to scrutinise the proposals.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly told the Commons: “As the foreign secretary set out on January 31, we are now laying legislation to broaden the designation criteria for the Russia sanctions regime.

He said: “As minister for Europe, I have signed that legislation which we will lay before parliament and intend to come into force this afternoon,” adding that it would “significantly broaden” the range of people and businesses the UK could sanction.

But Labour accused the government of behaving in an “autocratic” manner over a crucial changes to the rules determining the UK’s sanctions regime.

Shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy said MPs “deserve the opportunity to scrutinise and debate these measures and they need to be in place”.

“With 130,000 troops threatening Ukraine, the opposition stands ready to work with the government in the national interest to get the appropriate measures in place. We can only do so if the government keeps its promise to bring forth this sanctions legislation. Where is it?”

Mr Cleverly repeated his claim that new sanction laws against Russia would be in force "this afternoon”, adding: “As I said in my initial statement, I have signed the legislation which we intend to come into force this afternoon.”

Outraged, Labour MP Chris Bryant, said the minister was “wrong to say today that it’s just going to happen this afternoon” – claiming it was “autocratic” to publish legislation without opportunity for scrutiny.

He added: “It’s completely autocratic for government to publish legislation without any opportunity for anybody to scrutinise it, and frankly they have just been lazy. We’re Johnny-come-latelies when it comes to sanctions in this area.”

Mr Cleverly said he understood the “frustration” of Mr Bryant and others. But he said the government was “moving at a pace to ensure where possible that sanction regimes are in place ahead of this”.

Earlier on Thursday, Ms Truss warned Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov of tough Western sanctions if Ukraine was attacked – saying the Kremlin faced “severe” costs for any invasion.

Mr Lavrov responded by criticising “morality lectures” and accused Ms Truss of acting like a “deaf person” to Russian security concerns about Nato.

“I’m honestly disappointed that what we have is a conversation between a dumb and a deaf person. It’s as if we listen but we don’t hear,” he said.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson did not rule out going further in giving Ukraine military support in the event of an invasion by Russia, after putting 1,000 UK troops on stand-by.

He told a press conference in Brussels: “We will consider what more we can conceivably offer.”

The prime minister also warned that the next few days were “probably the most dangerous moment … in what is the biggest security crisis Europe has faced for decades”.

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