As it happenedended1521201215

Westminster today: Theresa May promises 'appropriate' response if Russia is behind Sergei Skripal poisoning - as it happened

Prime Minister speaks after Home Secretary gives statement in House of Commons on Salisbury poisoning case

Ministers said Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, remain in a 'very serious condition'
Ministers said Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, remain in a 'very serious condition'

Theresa May has promised an 'appropriate' response if Russia is found to be responsible for the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned in Salisbury on Sunday with a chemical that investigators have confirmed was a form of nerve agent.

The Government is facing growing calls to take tough action against Russia if it becomes clear that Moscow was involved in the apparent assassination attempt.

MPs also held a debate to mark International Women's Day. Labour MP Jess Phillips read out the names of all the women killed by men in the last year.

Elsewhere, Liam Fox and John McDonnell delivered speeches at the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference.

As it happened...

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Welcome to The Independent's Westminster liveblog. 

Amber Rudd spoke to the BBC's Today programme a few minutes ago. 

She refused to be drawn on whether she believes Russia was responsible for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yullia. Rudd said:

“Whatever attribution takes place in the future we have to make sure we have all the evidence. They key thing is to have a cool head and allow [investigators] to continue that job, which they are doing with speed and with detail and with the support of professionalism we can expect.”

Asked how the Government might respond if Moscow is found to have been involved, she said:

“The government has a range of options, including people, including sanctions, including other things it can do, but at the moment we are not really speculating on those are. We are making sure we look after the incident.”

She had earlier told ITV's Good Morning Britain that the policeman who was also taken ill after helping the Sergei and Yulia Skripal remains in a serious condition but is conscious and talking. She said:

“I’ve spoken to Mark Rowley this morning. The two targets are still in a very serious condition. The policeman is talking and is engaging, so I’m more optimistic for him. But it is too early to say. This is a nerve agent. We are still treating it as very serious.”

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A new report by Labour calls on the Government to use next week's Spring Statement to plug the £2bn funding gap for children's services. John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said vulnerable children are "paying the price" of austerity.

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Amber Rudd suggested this morning that the UK has a plan to deal with the people behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, if and when the culprits are identified. 

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The Government has rejected the EU's demand that Britain give European countries access to its fishing waters after Brexit.

Brussels has proposed that "“existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources should be maintained" when Britain leaves the EU.

Asked about the issue in the House of Commons, George Eustice, the farming minister, said:

"I simply say this is an EU position. They currently benefit considerably from access to UK waters. At the moment the UK fleet access around 100,000 tonnes of fish in EU waters. The EU access 700,000 tonnes of fish from UK waters. So, they would say that, wouldn’t they? But it is not a position that the UK government shares."

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Speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce conference this morning, Liam Fox accused the EU of acting “like a gang” over threats to punish Britain over Brexit as talks move towards a critical phase.

The International Trade Secretary called for an “economic Brexit rather than a political Brexit” to protect consumers.

Dr Fox said: “The idea of punishing Britain is not the language of a club, it’s the language of a gang.”

He added: “I do believe that rationality and common sense will win the day if we conduct ourselves with decorum and patience.

“I think therefore it’s in all our interests to keep the temperature down.”

Taking aim at gloomy newspaper reports about Brexit, Dr Fox said: “If you read some of our national publications, I don’t need to name them I imagine, you could be forgiven for thinking we were about to enter some sort of economic black hole.

“Nothing could be further from the truth.”

He said there was a “bright future” outside the European Union but the “practices and patterns of the past” cannot determine Britain’s future.

He cited predictions from the IMF that 90% of global growth would be outside the EU and praised the dynamism of China as well as African nations

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Amber Rudd is now giving a statement to MPs on the Salisbury poisoning investigation.

The Home Secretary said the victims, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, remain in hospital in a "stable but critical condition".

A third victim, a police officer who responded to the incident, is in a  "serious but stable" condition and is "conscious, talking and engaging", she adds.

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Speaking in the House of Commons, Amber Rudd says she will not comment further on the nerve agent that was used, saying "we must give the police the space that need to conduct a thorough investigation".

The investigation is "fast moving" but may take some time, she says. "Hundreds of officers" are involved in following numerous leads. 

Ms Rudd calls the poisoning "a brazen and reckless act", adding: "This was attempted murder in the most cruel and public way."

However, she urges people to "avoid speculation and allow the police to carryon their investigation".

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The House of Commons Brexit Committee has just published a key Brexit impact assessment that the Government had fought to keep private. Parts of the document were initially leaked to the media, prompting the House of Commons to pass a motion instructing ministers to give MPs access to the paper. 

MPs were allowed to read the document under strict conditions last month, but it has now been published in full, apart from one annex that was withheld.

You can read the document here.

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A bit more on Liam Fox's speech at the British Chambers of Commerce conference this morning, courtesy of Lizzy Buchan

The International Trade Secretary told the conference:

“I think that in the end, it’s in all our interests to have as open and liberal relationship with the European Union on trade. If we were to see tariffs introduced that would result in about on figures of about £82 billion trade surplus – it would result in about £14-15bn of European tariffs being paid to the UK and about £6bnin the other direction. 

"First of all that puts up prices to our consumers, which nobody actually wants to see.

“The second thing of course is the money coming to the UK comes to our Exchequer, the money – or the tariffs going in the opposite direction – goes to the European Commission budget, not the member states.

“In other words, European member states would get some of the pain but not the mitigation. We’d get some of the pain but more of the mitigation. That doesn't make any sense. What makes sense to me is that we maintain a tariff free environment, we don’t add business costs, we don’t add costs to our consumers."

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