UK Sanctions Regime: Russia and Belarus

Lord Collins of Highbury Excerpts
Tuesday 14th November 2023

(7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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My Lords, I start by saying how pleased I am to see the Minister in his place. I also repeat what I have said many times before: the Opposition are at one with the Government in supporting Ukraine and sanctioning those responsible for starting this horrendous war.

However, there are serious concerns about the effectiveness of our sanctions regime, nearly two years after the invasion. It is unacceptable that 130 UK companies have admitted breaching Russia-related sanctions. I welcome the Statement of the Minister in the other place, that the Government are closing loopholes, but can the Minister set out what assessment has been made of the alleged existence of specific loopholes to allow indirect imports of Russian- and Belarusian-origin steel, or indeed Russian-origin crude oil that has been refined in third countries? This is a really serious issue in terms of the loopholes that have been identified.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks. Your Lordships’ House will be pleased to know that we will be having two FCDO Ministers here, which underlines the strong commitment of the FCDO and, indeed, His Majesty’s Government to your Lordships’ House.

Lord Collins of Highbury Portrait Lord Collins of Highbury (Lab)
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It should have been you!

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I shall carry on with the Answer. The noble Lord is totally right, and I appreciate him confirming again the importance of standing in solidarity against Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine. As an aside, I have literally just come over from a Ukrainian survivor event that we were hosting at the Foreign Office—some of them very young survivors who have been through the most horrendous ordeals. It is important we send a message of unity.

On the specifics, I followed last week’s reports from City A.M. about 130 companies. There is a positive here, because this was voluntarily admitted, although there is of course inadvertent non-compliance. I assure noble Lords that we are working with our colleagues across government, particularly in the Treasury as well as other departments. The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation is looking specifically at how we can further tighten some of the procedures. While we have fined companies that have acted inappropriately, and called others out, other methods are being put in place, including warning letters and mitigations. We are working particularly closely with the Treasury team to ensure, as I have always said, that loopholes are identified. Other loopholes identified as the sanctions are applied will also be closed.

The noble Lord rightly asked about some of the other specific industries and the sanctions we have imposed recently, including on areas such as oil and other contraventions. I assure noble Lords that, as we apply further sanctions, we will continue to identify such areas and loopholes. Only last week, on 8 November, we announced a further targeting of 29 individuals and entities operating in and supporting Russia’s gold, oil and strategic sectors, which are critical sources of revenue.