Preparations to allow the UK government to “toughen and expand” its sanctions against Russia have come into force, the House of Commons has heard.
As Foreign Secretary Liz Truss met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow to seek a diplomatic solution to troops massing on the Ukrainian border, the Commons heard that a new law to “toughen and expand” sanctions against Moscow would be in place by the end of Thursday.
Ms Truss had promised MPs that a new sanctions law would be in place by February 10, but Labour questioned why MPs had not been given time to debate the new measures.
“As the Foreign Secretary set out on January 31, we are now laying legislation to broaden the designation criteria for the Russia sanctions regime," Mr Cleverly told the Commons earlier.
“As minister for Europe, I have signed that legislation, which we will lay before Parliament and intend to come into force this afternoon.
“We are toughening and expanding our sanctions regime in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
"This legislation will significantly broaden the range of people, businesses and other entities that we can sanction in response to any further Russian aggression.”
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said the government had broken its promise for inclusion in such legislation.
“The House rises today leaving no parliamentary time for the government to put the legislation in place until after the recess," Mr Lammy said.
“Promises made to this House should be kept. Members deserve the opportunity to scrutinise and debate these measures and they need to be in place.
“With 130,000 troops threatening Ukraine, the opposition stands ready to work with the government in the national interest to get the appropriate measures in place.
“We can only do so if the government keeps its promise to bring forth this sanctions legislation. Where is it?”
Mr Cleverly repeated his claim that new sanction laws against Russia would be in force “this afternoon”.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office later confirmed the measures had been laid before Parliament.
“The government now has the power to impose tough new sanctions against Russia, after legislation was laid in Parliament today as part of measures to urge the Kremlin to end its campaign of aggression in Ukraine”, the office said.
Labour MP Chris Bryant said it was “autocratic” to publish legislation without scrutiny.
“The foreign secretary told us that the legislation would be in place by February 10 and we were told that it would be an affirmative measure, which means that it doesn’t come into force unless the House has voted for it," Mr Bryant said.
"So he’s wrong to say today that it’s just going to happen this afternoon.
“It’s completely autocratic for government to publish legislation without any opportunity for anybody to scrutinise it, and frankly they have just been lazy.
"We’re Johnny-come-latelys when it comes to sanctions in this area.”
The government claims the reform “provides the framework for the strongest sanctions regime the UK has had against Russia”.
The UK could now impose sanctions on Russian businesses and people in a range of significant sectors, such as the chemical, defence, extractives, information and communication technologies and financial services industries.
“The UK is resolute in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and right to self-determination," Ms Truss said.
“We urge Russia to de-escalate and choose the path of diplomacy. If Russia persists with its aggression towards Ukraine, the UK and its partners will not hesitate to act.”