[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I
would like to update the House on the
incident in Salisbury --
and the steps we are taking to investigate what happened and to
respond to this reckless and despicable act.
Last week my
Right Honourable Friends, the
Foreign and Home Secretaries, set out the details of events as
they unfolded on Sunday the 4th of March.
I am sure the whole House will
want to once again pay tribute to the bravery and
professionalism of our emergency services and armed forces in
responding to this incident, as well as the doctors and nurses
who are now treating those affected.
Our thoughts, in particular, are
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey who remains in a serious but
stable condition. In responding to this incident, he exemplified
the duty and courage that define our emergency services; and in
which our whole nation takes the greatest pride.
Mr. Speaker, I want to pay tribute
to the fortitude and calmness with which people in Salisbury
have responded to these events and to thank all those who have
come forward to assist the police with their investigation.
This incident has, of course,
caused considerable concern across the community. Following the
discovery of traces of
nerve agent in Zizzi’s restaurant and The
Mill pub, the Chief Medical Officer issued further precautionary
advice. But as Public Health England have made clear, the risk
to public health is low.
Mr. Speaker, I share the impatience
of this House and the country at large to bring those
responsible to justice -- and to take the full range of
appropriate responses against those who would act against our
country in this way.
But as a nation that believes in
justice and the rule of law, it is essential that we proceed in
the right way -- led not by speculation but by the evidence. That is why we have given the
police the space and time to carry out their investigation
Hundreds of officers have been
working around the clock -- together with experts from our armed
forces -- to sift and assess all the available evidence; to
identify crime scenes and decontamination sites; and to follow
every possible lead to find those responsible. That investigation continues and
we must allow the police to continue with their work.
This morning I chaired
a meeting of the National Security Council in which we
considered the information so far available. As is normal, the
Council was updated on the assessment and intelligence picture,
as well as the state of the investigation.
It is now clear that
and his daughter were
poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent
of a type developed by Russia. This is part of a group of nerve
agents known as
Based on the positive
identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts
at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down;
our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and
would still be capable of doing so; Russia’s record of
conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment
that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for
assassinations; the Government has concluded that it is highly
likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei
and Yulia Skripal.
Mr. Speaker, there are therefore
only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury
on the 4th of March: Either this was a direct act by the Russian
State against our country or the Russian government lost
control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve
agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.
This afternoon my Right Honourable Friend
the Foreign Secretary has summoned the Russian Ambassador to the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office and asked him -- asked him to explain which
of these two possibilities it is -- and therefore to account for
how this Russian-produced nerve agent could have been deployed
in Salisbury against Mr. Skripal and his daughter.
My Right Honourable Friend has stated to the
Ambassador that the Russian Federation must immediately provide
full and complete disclosure of the Novichok program to the
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. And he has requested the Russian
Government’s response by the end of tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, this action has
happened against a backdrop of a well-established pattern of
Russian State aggression. Russia’s illegal annexation of
Crimea was the first time since the Second World War that one
sovereign nation has forcibly taken territory from another in
Russia has fomented conflict in
the Donbas, repeatedly violated the national airspace of several
European countries, and mounted a sustained campaign of cyber
espionage and disruption. This has included meddling in
elections, and hacking the Danish Ministry of Defence and the
Bundestag, among many others.
During his recent State of the
Union address, President Putin showed video graphics of missile
launches, flight trajectories and explosions, including the
modeling of attacks on the United States with a series of
warheads impacting in Florida.
While the extra-judicial killing
of terrorists and dissidents outside Russia were given legal
sanction by the Russian Parliament in 2006.
And of course Russia used
radiological substances in its barbaric assault on
We saw promises to assist the investigation then, but they
resulted in denial and obfuscation -- and the stifling of due
process and the rule of law.
Mr. Speaker, following Mr
Litvinenko’s death we expelled Russian diplomats, suspended
security cooperation, broke off bilateral plans on visas, froze
the assets of the suspects and put them on international
extradition lists. And these measures remain in place.
Furthermore our commitment to
collective defense and security through NATO remains as strong
as ever in the face of Russian behavior. Indeed our armed forces have a
leading role in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence with British
troops leading a multinational battlegroup in Estonia. We have led the way in securing
tough sanctions against the Russian economy. And we have at all stages worked
closely with our allies and we will continue to do so. We must now stand ready to take
much more extensive measures.
Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday we will
consider in detail the response from the Russian State. Should there be no credible
response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an
unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United
Kingdom. And I will come back to this House
and set out the full range of measures that we will take in
Mr. Speaker, this attempted murder
using a weapons-grade nerve agent in a British town was not just
a crime against the Skripals. It was an indiscriminate and
reckless act against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of
innocent civilians at risk. And we will not tolerate such a
brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil.
I commend this Statement to the