UK Sanctions Regime: Russia and Belarus

Lord Purvis of Tweed Excerpts
Tuesday 14th November 2023

(8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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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.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I too admire the Minister’s reshuffle resilience and welcome him to the continuation of his post. I commend the Government on the latest sanctions on gold. The Minister knows that I have been warning about the UAE gold trade in Africa for a number of months now, and the measures in Zimbabwe are extremely welcome. Can he ensure that this will now be expanded to Sudan and other areas where that trade is so pernicious?

On implementation, I looked at the updates on enforcement on the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation website just before coming into the Chamber. The Minister referred to enforcement. The OFSI has said that, since 2019, there has been £21 million of enforcement against UK businesses. But, since the Russian invasion in 2022, there has been only £45,000-worth of enforcement against UK companies. Is the Minister satisfied that there is nearly 100% adherence to sanctions, or could we be doing more on enforcement actions against those who are circumventing them?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I record my thanks to the noble Lord for his kind remarks. I recognise, as he has, that this is about cross-party working and identifying what further steps we can take. I would not be bold enough to suggest that we have 100% compliance or that we are closing every loophole that has been identified; as I said, there will be further action in these areas. I also take on board some of the countries he mentioned where we can do further work. I will work with colleagues across government to ensure that, when we identify particular areas, I will notify the Front Benches in the usual way about action we are considering taking.