Patel vows to face down UK’s enemies with tough laws in stark warning to Russia and China

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The Cabinet minister warned Russia and China new powers are being drawn up that will curb their increasingly hostile activities. Hardline sanctions will be imposed on spies and their governments. New laws will also stop hostile countries interfering with British businesses as well as buying them up. She told the Daily Express: “Security is what we are about, protecting our people, our country, our state.”

Ms Patel revealed her plans days after a report by parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) warned that Britain has “underestimated” the threat posed by Moscow for too long and is “’clearly a target for Russian disinformation”.

The Home Secretary said the report, based on evidence given two years ago, was out of date and the position was a “world away” from the one it set out.

“We’ve moved on,” she said.

“When it comes to our adversaries we are much stronger than we were four or five years ago. I think it is really important for your readers to know that.”

The ISC report into Russian meddling said the government was “playing catch-up” and needed to take “immediate action” to deal with the threat from Moscow.

It said London had been turned into a “laundromat” to clean up dirty money, fuelling a boom in lawyers and estate agents who were “enablers”, some knowingly.

Moscow has targeted the UK with disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks, MPs said.

The ISC, former spy chiefs and Scotland Yard’s Dame Cressida Dick, have all called for laws to be overhauled.

Reforms were signalled in the Queen’s speech setting out the blueprint for new laws.

Ms Patel said she is drawing up plans to impose tougher sanctions on spies and the states they work for in a new bill.

“Espionage is really important because it is around the way foreign nations operate.

“But also in terms of sanctions against them, very clear powers targeted against them but also their governments and their countries too because clearly this is all linked.

“You can’t erode at a marginal level. You have got to have a plethora of effective sanctions and tools that are deployed.”

Ms Patel said the way the intelligence and security agencies now work with each other is “fundamentally different” to the position when the ISC report was written.

“It’s much more integrated,” she said. “Our agencies are interoperable in terms of skills, intelligence, not just in the UK but internationally as well where we work with our partners.”

New laws will also tackle hostile activities against British companies, including a crackdown on intellectual property theft.

China has infuriated the West by allowing its firms to copy product designs and new technology, then sell the final goods on at a much cheaper price than the business behind the ideas.

Ms Patel said: “We are doing much more on national security, foreign agent registration, much more on companies as well, protecting our intellectual property, protecting businesses from some of the pernicious behaviour that could come in from third party countries – buying up our companies as well.

“We are completely geared up for them.”

She added: “The world is changing. We have seen China responsible for all sorts of actions even through COVID. We have seen an increase in cyber attacks.”

Ms Patel praised the UK’s intelligence and security agencies.

“I’m at the forefront of everything that goes on in government on hostile state activity,” she said.

“So I will speak very proudly about the work that our security and intelligence agencies and services do because I see it, I feel it, I experience it every single day.”

It comes as the UK accused Russia of launching a “projectile with the characteristics of a weapon” during a satellite test.

It is the first time the Ministry of Defence has publicly condemned Russian activity of this sort.

The US also slammed the action, describing the event as a test of an anti-satellite weapon.

The head of the UK’s space directorate, Air Vice-Marshal Harvey Smyth, said: “We are concerned by the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites by launching a projectile with the characteristics of a weapon.

“Actions of this kind threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends.

“We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing.

“We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space.”

The US space command said Russia “injected a new object into orbit” from the satellite Cosmos 2543.

“The Russian satellite system used to conduct this on-orbit weapons test is the same satellite system that we raised concerns about earlier this year, when Russia manoeuvred near a US government satellite,” said General Jay Raymond, US Space Force chief of space operations.

“This is further evidence of Russia’s continuing efforts to develop and test space-based systems, and consistent with the Kremlin’s published military doctrine to employ weapons that hold US and allied space assets at risk.”

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