Philip Hammond signals Government will back US-style 'Magnitsky' sanctions on Russia
11 March 2018, 13:54
Philip Hammond has signalled the Government could back moves to mirror US-style sanctions legislation on Russian officials in the wake of the Salisbury spy poisoning.
The Chancellor claimed the Government is "seeking to reach an accommodation" with MPs wanting a British version of the US' so-called "Magnitsky Act".
Under the 2012 legislation, which has since been extended globally, the US can subject foreign officials involved in corruption and human rights abuses to asset freezes and visa bans.
Asked if the Government could back plans to introduce similar laws in the UK, Mr Hammond told the BBC's Andrew Marr show: "The proposals that were put forward actually create a power that we already have.
"The Home Secretary already has a power to exclude individuals from the UK if she believes their presence is not conducive to our national security or the public good.
"So, it's not strictly necessary but we're seeking to reach an accommodation with those who have put this amendment forward.
"Let's see if we come to a proposal which works for everybody."
Mr Hammond promised the Government would "respond appropriately" if evidence is found of foreign state involvement in the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
MPs are campaigning for a "Magnitsky amendment" to be included in the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament.
Sky News understands Boris Johnson is backing the introduction of a UK version of the so-called "Magnitsky Act", while the Sunday Telegraph reported Home Secretary Amber Rudd is also in agreement.
Labour also back the move with shadow chancellor John McDonnell claiming such legislation could be "remarkably effective", as he highlighted his party's efforts last week to introduce similar amendments.
The US legislation was designed to punish Russian officials involved in the mysterious death in prison of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009, who had found millions of dollars worth of tax fraud linked to the Kremlin.
The law, which prompted an angry reaction from Russian President Vladimir Putin, at first blocked 18 Russian government officials and businessmen from entering the US, along with the freezing of assets.
After the US legislation was expanded in 2016, American sanctions now apply to human rights abusers worldwide.
Both the Chancellor and universities minister Sam Gyimah have defended the Conservative Party's acceptance of money from Russian-linked supporters.
It comes after The Sunday Times revealed Russian oligarchs and their associates have registered donations of more than £820,000 to the Tories since Mrs May became Prime Minister.
Mr Gyimah told Sky News' Sunday with Niall Paterson: "We have a very strict legal process in this country and Government policy towards the Kremlin has not in any way been affected by what British citizens, who are originally from Russia, may or may not choose to do by donating to the Conservative Party."
A Conservative spokesman accused Labour of "playing politics with a serious issue" after the party's shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith called into question Theresa May's willingness to challenge Russia's conduct.
He added: "As the Prime Minister has made clear we are driving reform of NATO so it is better able to deter and counter hostile Russian activity, we are strengthening our cyber security and looking at how we tighten our financial regimes to ensure the profits of corruption cannot flow from Russia into the UK.
"All donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law."
In the wake of the Salisbury poison attack, Mr McDonnell and Peter Dowd, Labour shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, revealed the party will "review" their MPs' appearances on Kremlin-controlled TV station Russia Today, which has been branded a "propaganda channel".