- Jeremy Corbyn has firmed up his language about Russia being to blame for the Salisbury attack, while leaving open the possibility that the Kremlin did not directly order the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. (See 6.45pm.)
No, I’m sorry, that is not what I should be doing, my political secretary does a very good job. As I have said any statements that have been made were personal statement.
That’s all from me for today.
Thanks for the comments.
This is what Jeremy Corbyn said in his speech about the evidence for Russia being responsible for the Salisbury attack.
Based on the analysis conducted by government scientists, there can be little doubt that the nerve agent used in this attack was military-grade novichok of a type manufactured by Russia. Since that analysis was revealed by the prime minister two weeks ago the Russian state has had every opportunity to offer a plausible explanation as to how a nerve agent stock of this type came to be used in this attack.
They’ve offered nothing concrete in response except denials and diversion. Indeed, the only solid assertion they’ve offered so far in their defence was that all stocks of nerve agent were destroyed many years ago, an assertion that has been contradicted by intelligence reports. That suggests that just over a decade ago Russia invested in the use of nerve agents and developed new stockpiles of novichok to that end.
There is clear evidence that the Russian state has a case to answer and that they’ve failed to do so and we can therefore draw no other conclusion other than Russia has a direct or indirect responsibility for this.
This stance Corbyn is taking her is subtly different from the stance he was taking in the week straight after the Salisbury attack (the week before last). In his Guardian article on Thursday 15 March he referred to the possibility of a Russian mafia-like group being responsible. Here he does not explicitly float that possibility. Also, he expresses no doubt about the accuracy of UK intelligence (contrary to the line taken by his spokesman on Wednesday 14 March.) Most of what is in this statement echoes in tone the joint UK/US/France/Germany statement, and the joint EU statement issued on Thursday night. He even uses a version of the Boris Johnson argument that you can tell Russia is guilty because of the “smug sarcasm” (Johnson’s phrase) that Moscow has been deploying.
But Corbyn did not quite give full backing to the May/US/joint EU position. He gave himself a two-word let-out.
There is clear evidence that the Russian state has a case to answer and that they’ve failed to do so and we can therefore draw no other conclusion other than Russia has a direct or indirectresponsibility for this.
Corbyn is still holding out the possibility that a third-party may have got hold of Russian nerve agent and used it to try to kill Sergei Skripal and his daughter. The UK government and its allies have dismissed this as a plausible theory. Corbyn hasn’t – although he was making the point that the Russians would deserve the blame even if a third-party were directly responsible (because they produced the nerve agent – he is not contesting that).
So, Corbyn has firmed up his stance on Russia being to blame, but still won’t say it was definitely directly responsible for ordering the attack.
In the Commons Corbyn says he has been criticising Russia for 20 years.
The Labour MP John Woodcock intervenes. He says that is just not true. He recalls reading articles by Corbyn about Ukraine which did not criticise Russia.
Corbyn thanks Woodock sarcastically for his intervention.
- Corbyn claims he has been criticising Russia for 20 years, but Labour MP tells him that’s not true.
A Tory MP intervenes, and asks Corbyn for a clear answer: does he hold it responsible for the Salisbury attack, yes or no?
Corbyn says he has already answered that.
Vicky Ford, a Conservative MP, goes again. Can Corbyn confirm that he thinks there is no alternative explanation other than the Russian state being responsible?
Corbyn says he has been very clear. He suggests Ford is trying to deflect attention from what Corbyn is saying about Russian money.
The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw intervenes. Bradshaw (no Corbynite, by any stretch), says Corbyn has been clear; Corbyn said there was no alternative explanation to the Russian state being responsible, Bradshaw says.
Corbyn thanks him for what he said.
In the Commons Jeremy Corbyn is now speaking in the Russia debate, following May.
He condemns what happened in Salisbury. And he says the Russians have offered no plausible explanation for what happened.
There is clear evidence that Russia has a case to answer. It has failed to do that, and therefore there is no alternative other than that Russia has direct or indirect responsibility, he says.
- Corbyn says Russia has either direct or indirect responsibility for the Salisbury attack.
Back in the Commons May is winding up her speech now.
She says the UK does not want to be in a permanent state of dispute with Russia. Many of us thought that, after the cold war was over, a better relationship would be possible, she says. But she says the UK will do everything necessary to keep its people safe.
Here is Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, on why EU countries have been so willing to support the UK’s stance against Russia.
Jeremy Corbyn has posted on Twitter the text of the open letter he has sent to the British Board of Jewish Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council. (See 5.10pm.)
The Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has helped to organise the rally outside parliament protesting about antisemitism in the Labour party, has been tweeting from the event.
Here is another picture of the protesters.