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Foreign Office Minister David Lidington refused to seal Britain's borders to Russian officials suspected of involvement in the death of Sergei Magnitsky

Foreign Office Minister David Lidington refused to seal Britain's borders to Russian officials suspected of involvement in the death of Sergei Magnitsky

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Foreign Office Minister David Lidington refused to seal Britain's borders to Russian officials suspected of involvement in the death of Sergei Magnitsky

Explicitly sealing Britain's borders to Russian officials suspected of being implicated in the death of whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky would not help bring about justice, a Foreign Office Minister has said.

David Lidington said it was the long -running policy of the Government to deny entry to individuals believed to be responsible for human rights abuses.

But challenged by the Tory benches in the Commons to commit to following the United States' lead in creating a Magnitsky Act and barring named individuals from entry, the Minister declined.

Under the Magnitsky Act, signed into law by President Obama last year, American officials last week named and barred 18 Russian government officials from the US. The Russians responded with a list of their own.

Speaking at an adjournment debate in the Commons, Mr Lidington said the case was "deeply troubling" and of great concern.

But he told MPs: "I'm afraid we have to conclude from what has happened in recent weeks in Russia is there is no evidence to suggest the passage of the act in the United States has brought any closer or is likely to bring any closer the outcome all of us wish to see - which is justice for Mr Magnitsky's family and a thorough, above board investigation into his death.

"Altering our own fair and long established practice of entry requirements for foreign nationals seeking to come to the UK is unlikely either to contribute to achieving justice for Mr Magnitsky."

Mr Lidington said the presence of "credible evidence" allowed people to be denied entry under current rules.

The Commons debate was held at the urging of Tory South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, who condemned the recent developments in the case. These have included the launching of a posthumous criminal investigation in Mr Magnitsky's affairs. He dubbed the situation as "truly in the theatre of the absurd" and highlighted the actions of the US authorities.

Mr Buckland told MPs it was well known wealthy Russians enjoyed visiting Britain to shop and said this privilege should not be extended to those implicated in the case. He said: "It is only right Britain sends a clear message to those implicated in this scandal that we are on the side of justice and those who do not share those values do the eternal name of Russia no service and are not welcome here."

PA Media