Former shadow minister says Salisbury poisoning a 'smokescreen' for government problems
A former Labour frontbencher has accused the Government of using the Salisbury nerve agent attack to divert attention from its domestic problems.
Chris Williamson said ministers - particularly Boris Johnson - had "raced ahead of the evidence and used this terrible incident not so much as a smoking gun but as a smoke screen".
He said the timing of the diplomatic row with Russia over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal was "very convenient for the Government" at a time when it is under pressure over Brexit and the economy.
Mr Williamson's remarks, which he made on Kremlin-funded TV channel RT, come after the Foreign Secretary was criticised for wrongly claiming that scientists at Porton Down had claims the Novichok nerve agent which poisoned Mr Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, had been made in Russia.
That was later contradicted by the chief executive of the laboratory, leading Jeremy Corbyn to claim that Mr Johnson had "egg on his face".
Labour has now demanded an investigation into whether Mr Johnson had "misled" the country.
Asked about the row, Derby North MP Mr Williamson said: "It seems to me that the Government were indulging in political point scoring; particularly Boris Johnson, who raced ahead of the evidence and used this terrible incident not so much as a smoking gun but as a smoke screen.
"It was very convenient for the government to use it as a way of diverting attention away from Brexit and economic policy."
Mr Williamson, who was sacked as shadow fire minister last year after calling for council tax to be doubled on high-value homes, added: "I think Jeremy Corbyn was absolutely right to urge caution and to ask for clear evidence before we start to raise international tensions."
Labour has also attacked the Government after Security Minister Ben Wallace admitted some intelligence about the Salisbury attack had been withheld from Jeremy Corbyn.
Meanwhile, Yulia Skripal has said her "strength is growing daily" in her first public comments since the poisoning last month.
In a statement issued by the Metropolitan Police, she said: "I am grateful for the interest in me and for the many messages of goodwill that I have received.
"I have many people to thank for my recovery and would especially like to mention the people of Salisbury that came to my aid when my father and I were incapacitated. Further than that, I would like to thank the staff at Salisbury District Hospital for their care and professionalism.
"I am sure you appreciate that the entire episode is somewhat disorientating, and I hope that you’ll respect my privacy and that of my family during the period of my convalescence."