The volume of correspondence to me from local people shows how gravely concerning the events continuing to unfold in Ukraine are. I have, of course, been raising constituents’ urgent cases with Ministers, and HM Government is doing its utmost to offer more help as our brave friends defend their homeland.
Britain remains steadfast in her support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. She did everything within her power to help Ukraine prepare; working for a number of years to support Ukraine’s security and defence, training over 22,000 members of the Ukrainian army and helping Ukraine build and sustain a naval capability. Further, as Russia’s behaviour became increasingly threatening recently, the Defence Secretary provided new security assistance to increase Ukraine’s defensive capabilities, including the supplying of light, anti-armour, purely defensive weapon systems and a small number of British personnel to provide training for a short period of time.
Following the flagrant violation of both international law and Ukraine’s territorial integrity, the Prime Minister announced the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen, including asset freezes on more than 1,000 entities and individuals. Amongst many other sanctions, this includes full asset freezes, excluding Russian banks from the British financial system and SWIFT, and banning the Russian state and private companies from raising funds or obtaining loans in the United Kingdom. HM Government has brought forward the Economic Crime Act, whilst a new dedicated ‘kleptocracy cell’ in the National Crime Agency will target sanctions on Russian assets hidden in the United Kingdom.
As well as my work as your local Member of Parliament, I have been involved with this effort, as Minister for International Trade, making new trade restrictions and stringent export controls on 25th February. These are in addition to a new ‘customs easement’ to remove a number of customs formalities, to make the moving of aid and donations to the people of Ukraine easier.
You may be interested to know that the United Kingdom spends more on defence, in cash terms, than any NATO member other than the United States; and the Foreign Secretary has both outlined the need for NATO Allies to increase their financial commitments to the Alliance in response to the threat from Russia, and encouraged others to support Ukraine’s defences, as the United Kingdom is doing. The United Kingdom is already Europe’s largest contributor to NATO, leading the NATO Battlegroup in Estonia, and we have deployed more troops to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence than any other Ally. The Ministry of Defence has put 1,000 more British personnel at readiness here at home to support a humanitarian response, if needed, too.
The Prime Minister said in a statement to the House of Commons on 24th February:
“I have just come from a meeting of G7 leaders joined by Secretary-General Stoltenberg of NATO; with permission, I will update the House on our response to President Putin’s onslaught against a free and sovereign European nation.
Shortly after 4 o’clock this morning I spoke to President Zelensky of Ukraine, as the first missiles struck his beautiful and innocent country and its brave people, and I assured him of the unwavering support of the United Kingdom. I can tell the House that at this stage, Ukrainians are offering a fierce defence of their families and their country. I know every hon. Member will share my admiration for their resolve.
Earlier today, President Putin delivered another televised address and offered the absurd pretext that he sought the “demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine”. In fact, he is hurling the might of his military machine against a free and peaceful neighbour, in breach of his own explicit pledge and every principle of civilised behaviour between states, spurning the best efforts of this country and our allies to avoid bloodshed. For that, Putin will stand condemned in the eyes of the world and of history. He will never be able to cleanse the blood of Ukraine from his hands.
Although the UK and our allies tried every avenue for diplomacy until the final hour, I am driven to conclude that Putin was always determined to attack his neighbour, no matter what we did. Now we see him for what he is: a blood-stained aggressor who believes in imperial conquest.
I am proud that Britain did everything within our power to help Ukraine prepare for this onslaught, and we will do our utmost to offer more help as our brave friends defend their homeland. Our Embassy took the precaution on 18 February of relocating from Kyiv to the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, where our ambassador Melinda Simmons continues to work with the Ukrainian authorities and to support British nationals.
Now we have a clear mission: diplomatically, politically, economically and eventually militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure. At the G7 meeting this afternoon, we agreed to work in unity to maximise the economic price that Putin will pay for his aggression. This must include ending Europe’s collective dependence on Russian oil and gas that has served to empower Putin for too long, so I welcome again Chancellor Scholz’s excellent decision to halt the certification of Nord Stream 2.
Countries that together comprise about half the world economy are now engaged in maximising economic pressure on one that makes up a mere 2%. For our part, today the UK is announcing the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen. With new financial measures we are taking new powers to target Russian finance. In addition to the banks we have already sanctioned this week, today, in concert with the United States, we are imposing a full asset freeze on VTB.
More broadly, these powers will enable us totally to exclude Russian banks from the UK financial system, which is of course by far the largest in Europe, stopping them from accessing sterling and clearing payments through the UK. With around half of Russia’s trade currently in US dollars and sterling, I am pleased to tell the House that the United States is taking similar measures.
These powers will also enable us to ban Russian state and private companies from raising funds in the UK, banning dealing with their securities and making loans to them. We will limit the amount of money that Russian nationals will be able to deposit in their UK bank accounts, and sanctions will also be applied to Belarus for its role in the assault on Ukraine.
Overall, we will be imposing asset freezes on more than 100 new entities and individuals, on top of the hundreds that we have already announced. This includes all the major manufacturers that support Putin’s war machine. Furthermore, we are also banning Aeroflot from the UK.
Next, on top of these financial measures and in full concert with the United States and the EU, we will introduce new trade restrictions and stringent export controls similar to those that they in the US are implementing. We will bring forward new legislation to ban the export of all dual-use items to Russia, including a range of high-end and critical technological equipment and components in sectors including electronics, telecommunications and aerospace. Legislation to implement this will be laid early next week. These trade sanctions will constrain Russia’s military-industrial and technological capabilities for years to come.
We are bringing forward measures on unexplained wealth orders from the economic crime Bill, to be introduced before the House rises for Easter, and we will set out further detail before Easter on the range of policies to be included in the full Bill in the next Session, including on reforms to Companies House and a register of overseas property ownership. We will set up a new dedicated kleptocracy cell in the National Crime Agency to target sanctions evasion and corrupt Russian assets hidden in the UK, and that means oligarchs in London will have nowhere to hide.
I know that this House will have great interest in the potential of cutting Russia out from SWIFT, and I can confirm, as I have always said, that nothing is off the table. But for all these measures to be successful, it is vital that we have the unity of our partners and unity in the G7 and other fora.
Russian investors are already delivering their verdict on the wisdom of Putin’s actions. So far today, Russian stocks are down by as much as 45%, wiping $250 billion from their value in the biggest one-day decline on record. Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, is down by as much as 45% and Gazprom down by as much as 39%, while the rouble has plummeted to record lows against the dollar. We will continue on a remorseless mission to squeeze Russia from the global economy piece by piece, day by day, and week by week.
We will of course use Britain’s position in every international forum to condemn the onslaught against Ukraine, and we will counter the Kremlin’s blizzard of lies and disinformation by telling the truth about Putin’s war of choice and war of aggression. We will work with our allies on the urgent need to protect other European countries that are not members of NATO and that could become targets of Putin’s playbook of subversion and aggression. We will resist any creeping temptation to accept what Putin is doing today as a fait accompli. There can be no creeping normalisation, not now, not in the months to come, not in the years ahead.
We must strengthen NATO’s defences still further. So today I called for a meeting of NATO leaders that will take place tomorrow, and I will be convening the countries that contribute to the joint expeditionary force, which is led by the United Kingdom and comprises both NATO and non-NATO members.
Last Saturday, I warned that this invasion would have global economic consequences, and this morning the oil price has risen strongly. The Government will do everything possible to safeguard our own people from the repercussions for the cost of living, and of course we stand ready to protect our country from any threats, including in cyberspace.
Above all, the House will realise the hard and heavy truth that we now live in a continent where an expansionist power, deploying one of the world’s most formidable military machines, is trying to redraw the map of Europe in blood and conquer an independent state by force of arms. It is vital for the safety of every nation that Putin’s squalid venture should ultimately fail, and be seen to fail. However long it takes, that will be the steadfast and unflinching goal of the United Kingdom, I hope of every Member of this House and of every one of our great allies, certain that together we have the power and the will to defend the cause of peace and justice, as we have always done.
I say to the people of Russia, whose President has just authorised an onslaught against a fellow Slavic people, that I cannot believe this horror is being done in your name or that you really want the pariah status that these actions will bring to the Putin regime. To our Ukrainian friends in this moment of agony, I say that we are with you and we are on your side. Your right to choose your own destiny is a right that the United Kingdom and our allies will always defend, and in that spirit I join you in saying “Slava Ukraini”.”
Further, the Secretary of State for Defence set out a "Ukraine Update" in the House of Commons on 9th March:
“For our part, the United Kingdom continues to play a leading role in supporting Ukraine. On 17 January, I announced to the House the Government’s intention to supply military aid to the Ukrainian armed forces. The aid took the form of body armour, helmets, boots, ear defenders, ration packs, rangefinders and communication equipment, and for the first time it also included weapons systems. The initial supply was to be 2,000 new light anti-tank weapons, small arms and ammunition.
In response to further acts of aggression by Russia, we have now increased that supply. I can update the House that, as of today, we have delivered 3,615 NLAWs and continue to deliver more. We will shortly be starting the delivery of a small consignment of anti-tank javelin missiles as well. I want to assure the House that everything we do is bound by the decision to supply defensive systems and is calibrated not to escalate to a strategic level.
Britain was the first European country to supply lethal aid. I was pleased that not long after a military aid donor conference I held on 25 February, many more countries decided to do the same. From right across Europe, the donations came. In particular, I want to highlight the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Romania, the Baltic states, Belgium and Slovenia for their leadership, and we should not ignore the significance of the German Government joining us, in a change of stance, and donating such aid.
Donations are not enough; the delivery of aid to the frontline is just as important. Here, again, Britain is leading, because alongside Canada, the United States and Sweden, we have invested in building Ukrainian military capacity since 2015, and we find ourselves able to co-ordinate the delivery alongside our partners…
Today the estimated number of Ukrainian civilians killed or injured stands at more than 1,000, but the true figure is expected to be much higher, and I am afraid that worse is likely to come. It is for that reason that the UK will increase its funding for Ukraine to £220 million, which includes £120 million of humanitarian aid. That will make the United Kingdom the single biggest bilateral humanitarian donor to Ukraine. We are also supporting humanitarian work with the Polish and Romanian Governments on the borders.
As I said in my last statement, we still believe that it is worth trying to build diplomatic pressure on Russia. This week, my good friend the Prime Minister met the Prime Ministers of Canada, the Netherlands and Poland. He also spoke to the leaders of France, Germany and the United States, and the Prime Ministers of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The Foreign Secretary is in Washington at the G7, and also attended the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting earlier this month. I myself met the Ukrainian Ambassador just this morning. President Putin should be and can be in no doubt that the international community is united against his actions. It remains strong, and will not back down.
As well as giving direct military support to Ukraine, we continue to bolster our contribution towards NATO’s collective security. NATO Defence Ministers will gather next week in Brussels to discuss the next steps. The UK is doing its bit in giving military support and reassurance to its allies…
Few of us will not have been moved by President Zelensky’s speech yesterday. His people are fighting for their very survival. His country is united against this aggression, and it is indeed his country’s darkest hour. Yesterday I saw footage of a Russian armoured train, bristling with guns, heading towards Mariupol. A single brave Ukrainian woman ran to the train and shouted “Slava Ukraini”—unmoved, unintimidated by the guns. That woman’s bravery should inspire us all.
I know that many of our constituents, and our colleagues, are fearful of what will happen next. President Putin and the Kremlin continue to threaten countries that offer help to Ukraine. Their military campaign will, I am afraid, become more brutal and more indiscriminate, but it is my firm belief that our strength to stand up to such bullying comes from our alliances. As long as we stand united, both as a House and as the international community, the Kremlin’s threats cannot hurt us. We should take strength from the peoples right across Europe who are standing shoulder to shoulder to protect our values—our freedom, our tolerance, our democracy and our free press. That is our shield.”
The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy made a statement on the "Russian Oil Import Ban" on 9th March:
"With permission, I would like to make a statement on the UK’s phase-out of imports of Russian oil in response to Vladimir Putin’s brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine.
First, I want to say what a privilege it was for all of us to hear President Zelensky’s historic address to the House yesterday. I am sure that all Members will join me in thanking him once again for his inspiring words and great leadership. It is with those words in mind that I come here today.
The UK joins key allies, including the United States, in halting the import of Russian oil, which makes up 44% of Russian exports and 17% of the Russian Government’s revenue through taxation. This action follows the most punishing set of sanctions that the British state has ever imposed on a G20 nation. Our trade, financial and personal sanctions are having an effect on the Russian economy. As I speak, the rouble has now fallen by nearly 42%, and the Moscow Exchange’s stock trading has been shut since 25 February. The British Government have sent a clear message to Putin’s regime and to those who support him in his war against Ukraine.
It is important to remember that Russia produces only a fraction of the fuel products currently imported in the UK. In a competitive global market for oil and petroleum products, demand can be met by alternative sources of supply. As a result of international revulsion at Putin’s invasion, Russian oil is already being excluded from much of the market, and currently it is trading at quite a sharp discount from other crude oil sources.
We want to go further. Yesterday I set out that the UK will be phasing out imports of Russian oil during the course of the year. This transition will give the market, businesses and supply chains more than enough time to substitute Russian imports. Businesses should use this year to ensure as smooth a transition as possible, so that consumers will not be affected. The Government will work with companies through a new taskforce on oil to support them to make use of this period in finding alternative suppliers. Yesterday I spoke with businesses, unions and representatives from the sector, and of course I and officials in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will continue to engage with and support British business.
Although Russian imports account for 8% of total UK oil demand, we should remember that the UK is a significant producer of crude oil and petroleum products. We participate in a global market for those products and we have resources in place in the unlikely event of supply disruption. Over the course of the year, the taskforce that we have set up will work closely with international partners, including the USA, the Netherlands and the Gulf to ensure alternative supplies of fuel products. Last week I addressed the International Energy Agency and tomorrow we will have an extraordinary meeting of the G7 Energy Ministers to discuss further steps.
Although businesses should do everything they can to secure oil from alternative sources, it is important to emphasise that they will still be able to import Russian oil during this transition period. These measures target oil-related products imports only. The UK is not dependent on Russian natural gas, which makes up less than 4% of our supply. However, I will be exploring options to end that altogether.
I want to make it clear to the House that we must end our dependency on all Russian hydrocarbons. In the meantime, we need more investment in North sea oil and gas production as we make the move to cheaper, cleaner power. Turning off domestic production at this moment, as some are calling for, would be completely the wrong thing to do. We are not going to do that. The Prime Minister has also confirmed that the Government will set out an energy strategy to explain the UK’s long-term plans for greater energy security, including renewable and nuclear power, building on our 10-point plan.
This measure to phase out Russian oil, and those being taken by our allies, will move the west away from dependency on Russian oil. It will take us on a road to building a stronger and more resilient British energy system. It will increase the growing pressure on Russia’s economy and, ultimately, hamper Russia’s ability to impose further misery on the Ukrainian people.
Turning to Ukrainian citizens escaping or displaced by Russia’s advance, HM Government is playing its part. First, the expansive Ukrainian Family Scheme allows family members of British nationals, settled persons and certain others to come or stay in the United Kingdom. Those joining this free Scheme, which has no salary or language requirements, and no longer requires Ukrainians with passports to go to a Visa Application Centre to give their biometrics, will be granted leave for three years and be able to work and access public funds."
Second, the new humanitarian ‘Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine’ pathway opens a route to the United Kingdom for Ukrainians who may not have family ties, but who are able to match with individuals, charities, businesses and community groups. There will be no limit on this scheme; individuals will be granted leave for up to three years and will be able to work and access public services.
Third, Ukrainians already here can either extend their visa or switch to another immigration route, where eligible, even if their visa does not normally allow them to do so.
As the Home Secretary set out in her statement on "Refugees from Ukraine" in the House of Commons on 10th March:
“I am grateful for this opportunity to update the House on the Government’s humanitarian response to Putin’s depraved war on Ukraine. As the House knows, the UK’s humanitarian support for Ukraine has been developed following close consultation with its Government and Governments in the region. On 4 March, I launched the Ukraine family scheme, which applies to immediate and extended Ukrainian family members, and everyone eligible is granted three years’ leave to enter or remain. Today, I want to set out further changes that I am making to the process to make it quicker and simpler.
I have two overarching obligations: first, to keep the British people safe; secondly, to do all we can to help Ukrainians. No Home Secretary can take these decisions lightly, and I am in daily contact with the intelligence and security agencies, which are providing me with regular threat assessments. What happened in Salisbury showed what Putin is willing to do on our soil. It also demonstrated that a small number of people with evil intentions can wreak havoc on our streets.
This morning, I received assurances that enable me to announce changes to the Ukraine family scheme. Based on the new advice that I have received, I am now in the position to announce that vital security checks will continue on all cases. From Tuesday, Ukrainians with passports will no longer need to go to a visa application centre to give their biometrics before they come to the UK. Instead, once their application has been considered and the appropriate checks completed, they will receive direct notification that they are eligible for the scheme and can come to the UK.
In short, Ukrainians with passports will be able to get permission to come here fully online from wherever they are and will be able to give their biometrics once they are in Britain. That will mean that visa application centres across Europe can focus their efforts on helping Ukrainians without passports. We have increased the capacity at those centres to over 13,000 appointments a week. That streamlined approach will be operational as of Tuesday 15 March in order to make the relevant technology and IT changes.
I will of course update the House if the security picture changes and if it becomes necessary to make further changes to protect our domestic homeland security. Threat assessments are always changing and we will always keep our approach under review. In the meantime, I once again salute the heroism of the Ukrainian people.”
Further, the Home Office Minister made a statement on "Ukraine: Urgent Refugee Applications" in the House of Commons on 8th March:
“President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a barbaric and unprovoked attack and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people. He must fail in Ukraine.
This Government have brought forward a generous humanitarian offer to those Ukrainians who want to come to the UK to escape the conflict. Last week, the Home Secretary announced a new Ukraine family scheme for those with family ties to the UK, and we are extending the scheme further to include aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins and in-laws. The scheme went live last Friday and has already seen over 10,000 applications submitted, for which over 500 visas have been issued, with more being issued as we speak. We have also announced that we are setting up a new humanitarian sponsorship visa, and we are working at pace with our colleagues in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to set that up. We will also work with the devolved Administrations.
We have made significant progress in a short space of time, on top of the first phase of the package that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary set out to the House last week. I also remind the House that a crucial part of the application process is providing biometrics so that we can be sure that applicants are who they say they are. Sadly, we are already seeing people presenting at Calais with false documents claiming to be Ukrainian. With incidents like Salisbury still in our minds, the Government will not take chances with the security of this country and our people. Our friends in the United States, Canada and Australia are rightly taking the same approach as we are.
I would like to update the House on the measures that we are taking to speed up and process the applications and to ensure that we can help applicants as quickly as possible. We have surged staff to key visa application centres across Europe, particularly in Poland, and moved more biometric kit to support them. We have ensured that casework teams are standing by in the UK to process applications to ensure that there are no delays.
We will also establish a larger presence in northern France to help Ukrainians in the region. It is essential that we do not create a choke point at places like Calais, where dangerous people smugglers are present, and ensure the smooth flow of people through the system from across Europe. Alongside that, we are working with our embassies around the world to ensure that we use our diplomatic channels to support our efforts and to provide the latest information.
We have taken decisive action. We are now providing regular public updates on our casework numbers and we will continue to keep the House updated on this progress…
I appreciate that there are concerns. We are training new caseworkers, who, as of tomorrow, will take more decisions. We are looking to review what we can and to use some of the technology that we have—for example, around what we deployed for the British nationals overseas route and how that could be brought into effect. We are also reviewing some of the requirements on biometrics for under-18s to free up visa appointments in visa application centres.
On my hon. Friend’s specific points on northern France, we are looking to establish a presence in Lille and potentially looking at transport options from Calais to Lille. There are issues with providing particular application points at the port, but we are looking at how we can do it, and we expect that to be set up within the next 24 hours.”
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations made a statement on the "Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme" on 14th March:
"With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on our Government’s response to help those fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.
This Government and this House—indeed, everyone in the UK—continue to be in awe of the bravery of the people of Ukraine. They are victims of savage, indiscriminate, unprovoked aggression. Their courage under fire and determination to resist inspires our total admiration.
The United Kingdom stands with the Ukrainian people. My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary has been in the vanguard of those providing military assistance. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been co-ordinating diplomatic support and, with my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and Business Secretary, implementing a new and tougher than ever sanctions regime. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Home Office have also been providing humanitarian support on the ground to Ukraine’s neighbours, helping them to cope with the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people—but more can, and must, be done.
To that end, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already expanded the family route. She has also confirmed that from tomorrow Ukrainians with passports will be able to apply for UK visas entirely online without having to visit visa application centres. As a result, the number of Ukrainians now arriving in this country is rapidly increasing and numbers will grow even faster from tomorrow.
We also know, however, that the unfailingly compassionate British public want to help further. That is why today we are answering that call with the announcement of a new sponsorship scheme, Homes for Ukraine. I thank my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and officials in the Home Office, in my own Department and across Government for their work over the course of the past days and weeks to ensure that we can stand up this scheme as quickly as possible. In particular, I thank my noble Friend Richard Harrington, now Lord Harrington of Watford, whose experience in ensuring that the Syrian refugee resettlement programme was a success will prove invaluable in ensuring that we do right by the people of Ukraine.
The scheme that Lord Harrington has helped us to design draws on the enormous good will and generosity of the British public, and our proud history of supporting the vulnerable in their hour of greatest need. The scheme will allow Ukrainians with no family ties to the UK to be sponsored by individuals or organisations who can offer them a home. There will be no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can benefit from it.
The scheme will be open to all Ukrainian nationals and residents, and they will be able to live and work in the United Kingdom for up to three years. They will have full and unrestricted access to benefits, healthcare, employment and other support. Sponsors in the UK can be of any nationality, with any immigration status, provided they have at least six months’ leave to remain within the UK.
Sponsors will have to provide accommodation for a minimum of six months. In recognition of their generosity, the Government will provide a monthly payment of £350 to sponsors for each family whom they look after. These payments will be tax-free. They will not affect benefit entitlement or council tax status. Ukrainians arriving in the United Kingdom will have access to the full range of public services—doctors, schools, and full local authority support. Of course we want to minimise bureaucracy and make the process as straightforward as possible while doing everything we can to ensure the safety of all involved. Sponsors will therefore be required to undergo necessary vetting checks, and we are also streamlining processes to security-assess the status of Ukrainians who will be arriving in the United Kingdom.
From today, anyone who wishes to record their interest in sponsorship can do so on gov.uk; the webpage has gone live as I speak. We will then send any individual who registers further information setting out the next steps in this process. We will outline what is required of a sponsor and set out how sponsors can identify a named Ukrainian individual or family who can then take up each sponsorship offer. Because we want the scheme to be up and running as soon as possible, Homes for Ukraine will initially facilitate sponsorship between people with known connections, but we will rapidly expand the scheme in a phased way, with charities, churches and community groups, to ensure that many more prospective sponsors can be matched with Ukrainians who need help. We are of course also working closely with the devolved Administrations to make sure that their kind offers of help are mobilised. I know that all concerned want to play their part in supporting Ukrainians, who have been through so much, to ensure that they feel at home in the United Kingdom, and I am committed to working with everyone of good will to achieve this.
Our country has a long and proud history of supporting the most vulnerable during their darkest hour. We took in refugees fleeing Hitler’s Germany, those fleeing repression in Idi Amin’s Uganda, and those who fled the atrocities of the Balkan wars. More recently, we have offered support to those fleeing persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. We are doing so again with Homes for Ukraine. We are a proud democracy. All of us in this House wish to see us defend and uphold our values, stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies, and offer a safe haven to people who have been forced to flee war and persecution. The British people have already opened their hearts in so many ways. I am hopeful that many will also be ready to open their homes and help those fleeing persecution to find peace, healing and the prospect of a brighter future. That is why I commend this statement to the House."
The Minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said in the House of Commons on 31st March 2022:
“We have balanced the need to move rapidly with the equal need to get the Homes for Ukraine scheme right. The visa application process opened on Friday 18 March, since when we have seen the first arrivals come to the UK. Members on both sides of the House are as invested as we are in making the scheme as efficient and effective as possible. We are minimising bureaucratic foot-dragging and cutting unnecessary red tape, while making sure people are set up in the best possible situation to start a life in the UK and to access the right local services and support.
The scheme will be a success only if local and national Government work as one, so we are providing councils with £10,500 per guest to help with all the support they will need. We have been working with the Local Government Association and individual councils across the country to fine-tune the scheme’s practicalities and logistics. As the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said, we will keep things under review to ensure that local government has and gets what it needs. We are also working closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that we have a consistent offer across the country. Some 4 million Ukrainians have been displaced by this bloody and unjust war so far. The UK will continue to respond to the gravity of the conflict and we will continue to work with Members of the House to open up our communities to Ukrainians in the weeks and months ahead...
How will councils know? We have a matching process and once the sponsor has been matched with the guest online with the form, councils will be alerted so that they know that a match has been made for a sponsor in their area. They can then begin the process of preparation immediately.
Will checks need to be completed fully before people travel? Inasmuch as once the visa is granted, checks will already have started, we will already have started to investigate whether there has been criminality on the part of either party. We need to make absolutely sure that we are reassured of the safety on both sides of the equation—of the person travelling here and of the people opening up their homes. Those checks will be carried out initially and then further checks will be carried out by the receiving authority once it has been notified of the match.
Once the authority has been notified, it will be expected to go out and inspect the property to make sure it is appropriate for such people’s needs, and begin the process of further checks, as required. For example, if there are children or vulnerable adults in the households that are coming, a further enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check will be required.”
Be assured that the United Kingdom will continue to work with her allies to defend Ukraine’s right to choose their own destiny, encourage de-escalation in that part of the world and to hold Russia to account for the threatening, destabilising and malign actions we have seen.