The speech made by Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 26 April 2021.
We warmly welcome today’s announcement. We agree that corruption is a global scourge. It costs the global economy billions every year, it sustains rotten Governments, it protects the dishonest and the criminal, it tilts the playing field against businesses that do the right thing and it denies people around the world money that belongs to them and that should be spent on our shared prosperity, our healthcare and our opportunities. As I told the Foreign Secretary last June, the absence of measures on corruption left a huge hole in the global human rights sanctions. If we want to crack down of human rights abusers, we have to follow the money, so we are really pleased to see the Government following the standard set by the USA and Canada in plugging this hole today, and we will study the regulations and the policy note carefully.
However, I hope the Foreign Secretary can assure the House today that there will be resources to support investigations and enforcement, because the current rate of prosecutions for economic crime is woefully low, as he knows. To put it bluntly, if he is serious about what he is saying today, he needs to put his money where his mouth is and ensure that agencies such as the National Crime Agency have the resources they need, allow Parliament to put forward names to be considered for designation and, as I pressed him to do last year, allow parliamentary scrutiny of who is and, crucially, who is not designated, to ensure that there is no prospect or suggestion that big money can corrupt our politics and influence the decisions that are taken. That last one really matters, because while I welcome his words today, the mass of revelations that have come to light in the last few days alone have shown a tangled network of financial interests and cosy relationships at the heart of Government that appear to send a green light to many of the very regimes that he has mentioned in his statement. We need to know that this announcement it is not just a gloss on the surface of a grubby system that underneath signals business as usual.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Saudi, but may I ask him what message it sends to the Saudi regime when he sanctions officials implicated in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi but we then find that all it takes is for the Crown Prince to WhatsApp the Prime Minister to tell him that relations will be damaged between our countries unless the path is cleared for him to buy a key economic asset in the UK, and that instead of standing up to it, he deploys his top aide to investigate? The Foreign Secretary mentioned sanctions against Chinese officials engaging in genocide in Xinjiang, but what message does it send to the Chinese Government when on Saturday we learned that a former Prime Minister could simply message the then Chancellor to ask for Chinese investment into the UK in areas of critical national infrastructure, such as energy, and could gain access, despite having been only 15 months out of office and despite this being in clear breach of the rules?
And for all the Foreign Secretary’s admirable words about Sergei Magnitsky, the UK still acts as a haven for the dark money that sustains the Putin regime, with more than £1 million in Russian-linked donations to the Tory party since the Russia report was handed to the Government, but not a single recommendation acted upon to safeguard our country in all that time. Surely the Foreign Secretary can see the problem. He signals an intent to crack down on corruption and human rights abuses by causing economic pain to those responsible, but just down the road those very same regimes can call up the Prime Minister to advance their own interests, even when those interests are at odds with the interests of the British people. The Foreign Secretary has used very strong words today, but while he is rightly pressing ahead with sanctions, he is either turning a blind eye to the real power relationships in Government or he is being played. We deserve to know which it is.