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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 2 March 2022


The President of COP26 was asked—

Succession of the UK Presidency: Timeframe

The UK took on the COP26 presidency on 31 October last year at the start of the COP26 conference in Glasgow. We hold the presidency throughout this year until the start of COP27 in November, when we pass the presidency baton to Egypt. We are already working closely with Egypt and other partners to ensure that countries deliver on the commitments they made at COP26.

Will the Minister use his remaining time as President to pivot the conference away from making climate change the No. 1 goal to making energy security the No. 1 goal?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. One of the reasons the UK has reduced its dependency on gas is precisely that we pushed out in terms of renewables. We have the second-biggest offshore wind sector in the world and we want to quadruple it. What I want, as part of the solution to tackling climate change, is a clean energy transition across the world.

One of the set-backs at COP26 was the failure to reassemble the coalition we managed to put together in Paris in 2015, which met the high ambition to bring both developed and developing countries together to put pressure on the big emitters to pull weight. In the transition to a new presidency, what is the current President doing to try to rebuild that coalition ahead of Egypt taking on the role?

I just gently point out to the hon. Gentleman that the Glasgow climate pact was delivered as a result of consensus brokered by the UK across almost 200 countries. What we now need to ensure is that we get countries to deliver on the commitments they made. That is what I am focused on during the rest of my time as COP President.

Glasgow Climate Pact: Role of Businesses

COP26 was one of the first conferences where there was a significant presence from the private sector. Collectively, business made a significant number of commitments. Five thousand international companies have signed up to the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, including over half the FTSE 100.

I thank the President for that answer. My constituent, Wayne McGuire of Grove Innovations in Tring, does excellent work fitting heat pumps to households, which can be a vital assistance in reducing the use of coal, as agreed to in the Glasgow climate pact. What provisions have the Government made following COP26 to support other businesses like Grove Innovations and ensure that the installation of green technologies is viable for all households?

I thank my hon. Friend’s constituent, Wayne McGuire of Grove Innovations, for the work he is doing to ensure a green energy transition in our own country. With regard to support, as announced in our heat and building strategy last year, the Government are launching a new £450 million boiler upgrade scheme, providing upfront grants of up to £6,000 to install heat pumps.

Loss and Damage Fund

3. What discussions he has had with his (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) international counterparts on the development of a loss and damage fund. (905814)

COP26 was the first COP where a section of the cover decisions was devoted to loss and damage. We agreed a new Glasgow dialogue on loss and damage, which will discuss the arrangements for the funding of activities that avert, minimise and address loss and damage.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report confirms that many consequences of climate change are already locked in, regardless of ongoing efforts to mitigate them, and that the consequences will fall mostly on those least able to cope and on those least responsible for the crisis. Can the President confirm that his Government will be aiming for an equitable loss and damage agreement that compensates developing nations and recognises the disproportionate role of developed nations in causing such loss and damage?

I note the point the hon. Gentleman makes. He will know that the UK already funds internationally relevant activities relating to loss and damage, including humanitarian and disaster response support. With regard to the Glasgow dialogue, that will be a consensus-driven process. Ultimately, all parties will have to reach a collective decision on the outcome and results of that dialogue. What we want to ensure is progress during this year.

The IPCC’s latest report, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) mentioned, acknowledged loss and damage, and warned that it is most concentrated among the poorest, most vulnerable populations. The loss and damage mechanism was established at COP19 back in 2013, and recognised in Paris in 2015; its details, however, are still to be finalised. The Scottish Government stepped up to the plate in Glasgow on that issue, followed by private enterprises and others, such as Wallonia. It will clearly be the subject of even more international attention at COP27. As COP President, what pressure is he putting on his own Government to follow the Scottish Government’s lead?

As I said in response to an earlier question, the UK is already funding activities internationally that are relevant to tackling loss and damage. The hon. Member knows that we are doubling our international climate finance commitment. My role is to broker consensus among almost 200 parties. That is why we are beginning to ensure that by the time we get to Sharm el-Sheikh we have made some progress on the discussion on loss and damage, but I hear what she is saying.

COP26 Presidency: Priorities

As I have already noted, we are working with Egypt, as the incoming holder of the presidency, and other partners to ensure that countries deliver on the commitments that they signed up to in the Glasgow climate pact. We want to ensure that there is progress on adaptation, finance and, of course, support for developing nations, and we need to ensure that all countries revisit their 2030 emission reduction targets.

At a local level across Keighley and Ilkley we have experienced the real impacts of climate change, including flooding in Utley, a landslide in Riddlesden, and severe water issues along Redcar Lane in Steeton. As we look to build on the deal achieved at COP26 last year, how will we work with international partners to make real progress on adapting to the damaging effects of climate change?

A number of colleagues have raised the IPCC report, and my hon. Friend raises a vital point. The report was a grim reminder to the world about climate change and how it is affecting our planet. What it underlines, and this is what we are doing through our presidency, is working with parties to ensure that there is faster progress on adaptation—particularly on finance, with the commitment to double adaptation finance. Domestically, we are putting in place robust measures, including £5.2 billion to tackle coastal erosion and flooding in the UK.

One of the great successes of our COP presidency was the amount of private capital dedicated towards net zero. It increased from $5 trillion to a staggering $130 trillion. How will my right hon. Friend keep up that momentum?

As my hon. Friend highlights, net zero has become one of the clearest financial trends. I pay tribute to Mark Carney and his whole team for establishing the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, to which she refers. I hope that during this year additional private capital will sign up to that alliance. Part of the work of GFANZ is to ensure that some of the funds are directed towards climate resilience projects in developing nations. We are working with GFANZ and other partners towards that objective.

It is vital that the UK seizes the opportunities of net zero to create new industries and green jobs. How is the President of COP26 prioritising skills to help the United Kingdom and the world to achieve our ultimate goal?

My hon. Friend is right to link achieving net zero with jobs creation. Of course, as we build these new green industries, it will require equipping workers with the right skills. I congratulate him on the hard work that he did in ensuring an award from the UK Government of £380,000 to Borders College in his constituency to develop green courses in entrepreneurship and carbon literacy. I look forward to visiting the college with him next week.

My right hon. Friend has committed to getting the Santiago Network on loss and damage running to provide concrete solutions. Will he provide a further update on that?

Work on the Santiago Network is under way. Submissions are being requested from parties. As my hon. Friend knows, it is a two-year programme. We want to ensure that by the end of the year, and by COP27, we have operationalised the Santiago Network, and that there is funding available to provide technical support to countries that need it.

I thank the President for attending the meeting on small island developing states recently; they really appreciated that. If global warming is kept at 2°, we will lose 99% of our coral reefs; if it is at 1.5°, we will lose 70%. It seems particularly appropriate, with COP27 being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, that that should be a priority. Could the President tell us whether it will be?

It is absolutely a priority. The hon. Lady makes particular reference to support provided for adaptation, and as I said we reached a commitment at COP26 for developed nations to double the amount of money going towards adaptation finance by 2025. I want to ensure that we are on trajectory by the time we get to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Reuters reports today that data show that the corporate world remains far from aligned with global climate goals and that some countries have gone backwards since the agreement. What does the President have to say to that?

There is clear recognition within the private sector that net zero is the right approach. It is obviously what customers and clients want, but it is also good for the bottom line. My hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Felicity Buchan) referred to $130 trillion of assets being committed to net zero, and we need to ensure that those commitments are in line with the science. That is one of the things that the UN Secretary-General is looking to do through his expert group.

The Glasgow climate pact and, indeed, the COP26 priorities contain a commitment to keep 1.5° alive, yet the UN Environment Programme production gap report warns that Governments plan to produce more than twice the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than is consistent with 1.5°. Real climate leaders do not license new oil, gas or coal and no amount of climate checkpoints will change the climate reality. Will his Government scrap their checkpoint as inconsistent with climate leadership and rule out new fossil fuel licences once and for all?

We put forward a plan for how we wanted to ensure that our climate compatibility checkpoint was consistent with our legally binding commitment to net zero by 2050. That consultation closed on Monday. I hope that the hon. Lady responded to it and I know that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will come forward with its views on the checkpoint in due course.

Just over 100 days after world leaders agreed vital efforts to limit global warming at COP26, a UN report has issued a stark warning of the dire consequences of inaction. This Conservative Government are asleep at the wheel when it comes to delivering a secure and stable future. Will the Minister go further and act faster to cut emissions, commit to adaptation finance and prevent the “atlas of human suffering” from becoming a grim reality?

The hon. Lady has to judge the Government on our record. We have cut emissions the fastest of any country in the G20 or G7 in recent years. We have the second biggest offshore wind sector in the world and we want to quadruple that by 2030. We are not reliant on Russian gas precisely because we have focused on clean energy in our country. That is what we want to see delivered across the rest of the world as well.

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the key role of marine conservation in tackling climate change and that damage to the seabed and the plants that are there can be very damaging in the battle towards climate change. With that in mind, will he look at the Bill presented yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), supported by me and others? It would ban bottom trawling, which would mean that we could tackle the problem better.

I am happy to look at the Bill that my right hon. and learned Friend mentions, of course. As we know from the IPCC report, if global warming continues at current rates, by 2070 we could be in a position in which a third of all plant and animal species are extinct.

The House stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, and the Minister’s COP presidency now faces an utterly changed context with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The crisis shows how global dependence on fossil fuels can support the most tyrannical regimes. This is a war underwritten by Russia’s oil and gas. Does he agree that the best route to protect our energy and national security and to undermine the power of Putin is not by increasing our dependence on fossil fuels, whose price is set on the international market, but by supercharging the drive to renewables, nuclear and energy efficiency so that all countries, including our own, have clean, cheap and homegrown power?

No one can fail to be moved by the appalling suffering of the citizens of Ukraine, including children. They are enduring unimaginable conditions, and our hearts and thoughts are very much with them.

The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the clean energy transition. I have said in the past that we want to see a managed clean energy transition, which is why we have put forward the North sea transition deal, and of course the Government are focused on renewables, on nuclear and on hydrogen.

An essential part of becoming less dependent on fossil fuels is reducing our demand for gas by making more progress on energy efficiency. On its own, insulating the 18 million draughty homes in our country would cut our imports of gas by 15%—double the amount we import from Russia. In his role holding Departments to account on net zero, will the COP26 President now persuade Treasury and other colleagues that it is time to finally get serious and invest at scale in the national programme to upgrade Britain’s homes, which Labour has long called for?

The right hon. Gentleman is right. Buildings are responsible for 20% of emissions in the UK; in our heat and buildings strategy, we set out our aim to ensure we insulate homes. He is right that that is how to reduce not only emissions, but costs for individuals and businesses.

Outcome of COP26

At COP26, almost 200 countries agreed to the historic Glasgow climate pact, which keeps alive the aim of limiting the average global temperature rise to 1.5°. At the Munich security conference last month, John Kerry, the US special envoy for climate, referred to COP26 as perhaps the best or one of the best of the COPs, saying that it did more than Paris; it really gave life to Paris. We now need to ensure that the commitments are acted on.

Given the horrible events that we are witnessing in Ukraine at the moment, does my right hon. Friend agree that the move from COP towards more renewables is more important than ever, particularly for our European neighbours? They need to wean themselves off Russian gas and oil for the good of our world.

There is a lot of consensus in the House that the UK’s significant expansion of renewables in the past decade, particularly in the offshore wind sector, has reduced our dependence on gas. My hon. Friend is right that we need to continue to push out on this to ensure our domestic energy security. As I say, we want more on renewables, more on nuclear and more on hydrogen.

Now more than ever, we have to ensure security of supply. Following COP26, does my right hon. Friend agree that investing in technologies such as new nuclear is so important for constituencies such as mine and for the wider Lancashire area?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When I was Business Secretary, we set out our 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, in which we made it very clear that we would be supporting nuclear. We have followed that through; I know that my hon. Friend will have particularly welcomed the funding that is going towards new small modular reactor technology.

I recently met the brilliant people at Rolls-Royce who are working on small modular reactors, which will help to fill the gap between fossil fuels and renewable energy. Does my right hon. Friend agree that more investment in nuclear power will help to combat global climate change and, more importantly, help our desperate constituents who are having to choose between eating and heating right now?

I share my hon. Friend’s view: nuclear has to be part of our clean energy mix. We are investing in SMR technology through Rolls-Royce, as he has acknowledged. It also provides an export opportunity for the UK and the creation of jobs in our industrial heartlands.

Will my right hon. Friend set out what steps he is taking to ensure that the Glasgow climate pact starts delivering this year, in 2022?

Delivery of the Glasgow climate pact is very much the focus for this year. As I said in Glasgow, we managed to keep 1.5° alive, but its pulse is weak and will strengthen only if Governments honour their commitments. Since COP, I have engaged with Ministers from more than 30 countries. I will continue to engage and press them to honour their commitments.

The credibility of the presidency depends on action at home. Next month, the Advanced Construction Skills Centre in my constituency will host my apprenticeships fair. Does the COP26 President agree that the jobs of the future and apprenticeships offer a credible way to take action at home? Will he support my fair? Will he say how his Government are supporting the jobs of the future?

Apprenticeships, of course, are a big focus for this Government. We have created many hundreds of thousands over the past years. Ensuring apprenticeships in green technologies is vital, and I wish the hon. Lady well with her fair.

Mr Speaker, do you and the Minister agree that, if we are to take COP26 seriously, it should be about what we do locally as well as what we do nationally? Is the Minister aware that the company that the House of Commons Commission has chosen for the contract to construct the holocaust memorial building, which I fully support, rather than putting all the materials and the waste and all that traffic on the river, which would be easily done, will put it on the road, to snarl up London traffic and pollute the air? Could we look at this question locally and nationally, right now?

I note the point that the hon. Gentleman has made. He will appreciate that it is not part of my responsibilities, but I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, and other relevant colleagues will have heard his call for action.

In its report this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put forward its bleakest warning yet, stating that

“progress on adaptation is uneven and there are increasing gaps between action taken and what is needed to deal with the increasing risks”.

It emphasised the urgency of immediate action, concluding:

“Half measures are no longer an option.”

Given that, will the COP President outline what concrete steps have been taken since COP26 to scale up finance for adaptation, whether he will increase ambition in the light of the report, and whether he will commit to bringing a plan to this House on how we will meet the 2025 target?

The hon. Lady raises a very important point. Of course, the report was a stark warning—yet again; another code red—that we need to take action. I set out in answer to earlier questions what we are doing to push forward, particularly on finance—we are doubling adaptation finance. We will ensure that, by the time we get to COP27, the trajectory has moved forward.

Topical Questions

Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is at the forefront of all our minds, as are the brave and courageous people of Ukraine, who are having to defend themselves from the despicable onslaught of Putin’s forces. Supporting and standing with Ukraine is rightly our most immediate priority, but as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report earlier this week highlighted, the chronic threat of climate change has not gone away. That is why we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that countries deliver on their commitments set out in the Glasgow climate pact.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the path to net zero not only creates clean, green energy but makes us energy resilient, which will further reduce our need for imported oil and gas?

My hon. Friend is entirely right, and I can tell her that when I speak to Governments around the world, they see the UK as a leader in the clean energy transition. On my recent visit to Vietnam, for instance, they were particularly keen to understand the revenue mechanisms we have put in place to ensure more private sector investment in our offshore wind sector.

T3. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that the voices of environmental and human rights defenders are heard in the COP process, and that their safety and security are protected worldwide? (905830)

At COP26 and in the lead-up to it, we ensured that the voices of civil society and youth were heard, and I am sure that is something that all future COPs will want to ensure too.

T2. The energy security of Europe will clearly be central to the security of us all. I commend the COP President for his tireless work to promote the growth of renewable energies across Europe. Will he update the House on his plans to press ahead with the nuclear agenda in particular, with our allies in Europe? (905829)

Thankfully, the UK is not reliant on Russian oil and gas because we have invested significantly in renewables, and we will continue to do so. However, my hon. Friend makes an important point. Every country needs to think about a managed clean energy transition and security of supply.

T4. The next generation of jobs and apprenticeships is going to be delivered in the industries that the COP President talks about. Would he praise those employers reaching out to young people at my apprenticeships fair just a few weeks ago in Consett for all the work that they are doing to deliver great jobs in these high-tech sectors for the next generation? (905831)

Employers in the private sector are going to be vital to the transition to net zero. I commend all the employers who attended my hon. Friend’s apprenticeships fair and indeed employers across the country for everything they are doing to ensure a clean transition by 2050 in our country.

T5.   Many countries will be considering how they can reduce their dependence on Russia for energy supplies. Will my right hon. Friend use his presidency to help other countries to ensure that they can diversify their supplies and use renewable energy with British assistance? (905832)

Yes; my right hon. Friend makes a really important point. We are working with developed country partners to see how we can support other nations to make that transition to clean energy and to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

Does the President recognise that consideration for biodiversity loss needs to be given parity in the Government’s plans for environmental protection, alongside their existing plans for delivering net zero?

As the hon. Lady will know, we had a big focus on nature at COP26 and we had a commitment from over 140 countries representing over 90% of forests around the world to ensure that they are protected. We will of course continue to work on this issue with partners around the world.

Before we come to PMQs, I wish to remind Members of what I said last week. I want concise, focused questions so that we can get through the list, and I want much less barracking and heckling of Members. That behaviour is discourteous and does nothing to enhance the representation of our House, or its ability to scrutinise the Prime Minister. I expect Members to reference one another in a courteous and orderly fashion.

Finally, I want to welcome to our Gallery the Ukrainian ambassador—[Applause.] Your Excellency, we generally do not allow applause in this Chamber, but on this occasion the House quite rightly wants to demonstrate our respect and support for your country and its people in the most difficult of times.

Before we start, I would like to point out that the British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Yesterday, I was in Warsaw and Tallin reaffirming our commitment to NATO and our solidarity with Ukraine. Putin has gravely miscalculated. In his abhorrent assault on a sovereign nation, he has underestimated the extraordinary fortitude of the Ukrainian people and the unity and resolve of the free world in standing up to his barbarism. The UN General Assembly will vote later today, and we call on every nation to join us in condemning Russia and demanding that Putin turn his tanks around. If, instead, Putin doubles down, then so shall we, further ratcheting up economic pressure and supporting Ukraine with finance, with weapons and with humanitarian assistance. Today, the Disasters Emergency Committee is launching its Ukraine appeal, and every pound donated by the British people will be matched by the Government, starting with £20 million.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Men, women and children terrorised, murdered and maimed. Indiscriminate munitions unleashed on civilian populations with a total disregard for international law and human life. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that we will accelerate the transfer of military supplies to the Ukrainians and maintain this country’s proud record of support for refugees fleeing war?

I hope I spoke for the whole House when I spoke to President Volodymyr Zelensky this morning and told him that we will, indeed, do everything we can to accelerate our transfer of the weapons my hon. Friend describes. As the House knows, the UK was the first European country to send such defensive weaponry, and we are certainly determined to do everything we can to help Ukrainians who are fleeing the theatre of conflict.

I am very glad the ambassador is here to hear me repeat what I have said to him privately on a number of occasions, which is that this House and this country stand united in our support for the Ukrainian people in the face of Russian aggression. We are all appalled by the shocking footage that has emerged over the last few days. We must stand up to Putin and those who prop up his regime.

Roman Abramovich is the owner of Chelsea football club and various other high-value assets in the United Kingdom. He is a person of interest to the Home Office because of his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activities and practices. Last week, the Prime Minister said that Abramovich is facing sanctions, but he later corrected the record to say that he is not. Why on earth is he not facing sanctions?

It is not appropriate for me to comment on individual cases at this stage, but I stand by what I said in the House and what we put on the record. Be in no doubt that the actions that we and this House have already taken are having an effect in Moscow. By exposing the ownership of properties and companies in the way we are, and by sanctioning 275 individuals already and a further 100 last week, the impact is being felt. In addition, we will publish a full list of all those associated with the Putin regime, and of course we have already sanctions on Putin and Lavrov themselves. The House will have heard what the President of the United States had to say last night. The vice is tightening on the Putin regime, and it will continue to tighten.

I hear what the Prime Minister says and the way in which he puts it. I hope it means we will see some action in the near future.

Last week, Putin summoned to the Kremlin the cronies who prop up his regime. They dipped their hands in the blood of Putin’s war, and among them was Igor Shuvalov, Putin’s former Deputy Prime Minister. Shuvalov owns two flats not five minutes’ walk from this House, and they are worth more than £11 million. He is on the EU sanctions list, but he is not on the UK sanctions list. When will the Prime Minister sort this out?

The House should be proud of what we have done already, and there is more to be done. Thanks to the powers that this House and this Government have taken, we can sanction any individual or company connected to the Putin regime. This Government were among the first in Europe to ban Aeroflot from our skies. This Government led the way last week on banning Russia’s use of SWIFT. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman talked to any of our European partners, he would understand the leading role the UK has already played and the impact that those sanctions are already having in Moscow. As I told him, the squeeze is growing and will continue to grow on the Putin regime.

I support the measures that have been taken so far. The ownership of Shuvalov’s flats is registered under Sova Real Estate, which is actually owned by Shuvalov and his wife. We know which oligarch lurks beneath that shell company only because of the information obtained and disclosed by Alexei Navalny, who was of course poisoned by the Russian state and now sits in a Putin jail. Transparency is essential to rooting out corruption. It should be built into our law, but it is not. I am ashamed that we know about Shuvalov’s Westminster flats only because a dissident risked his life. Is the Prime Minister?

I repeat that the UK, of course, is doing everything we can to expose ill-gotten Russian loot. We have been working on that for a long time. We were the first to impose sanctions on those who were guilty of the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentions. But what we are bringing forward now is the exposure of the ownership of properties in London, and across the whole of the UK, in a way that has not been possible before and that I believe will continue to tighten the noose around Putin’s regime. Be in no doubt: it was the UK that led the way on putting sanctions on the Russian central bank and on putting sanctions on Russian banks altogether. I am afraid that we are still out in advance of several of our friends and partners. We want them to go further, I believe that they will and we will continue to put pressure—ineluctable pressure—on the Putin regime.

The Prime Minister refers to the long overdue economic crime Bill, which, to be clear, we support and will vote through on Monday with speed. The key plank of that Bill is a register of who truly owns property in the UK, but it does not come into force for existing owners such as Shuvalov until 18 months after the Bill passes. At best, that is autumn 2023, which is far too long for the Ukrainian people. Why are we giving Putin’s cronies 18 months to quietly launder their money out of the UK property market and into another safe haven?

Let us look at the impact of what the UK is doing. The whole House should be proud of what we have done, because we have led the way on this. We led the way on SWIFT, on Aeroflot and on freezing the assets of banks. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asks about the speed of results. I can tell him that, on Thursday, $250 billion-worth of assets were wiped off the Russian stock market and the rouble fell by about 40%. We are now on the third day on which the Russian stock market has not been able to open. That is thanks to the package of global sanctions—western sanctions—that the UK has led in enforcing on the Putin regime. I think he should acknowledge that.

I have acknowledged it and I do again. What I am offering is support to speed this up on Monday. The Prime Minister knows he has the House with him when the economic crime Bill goes through. We could do this on Monday at speed, and I think the whole House would welcome that. So this is an invitation to work together, Prime Minister.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a White Paper this week. It rightly sets out that the UK’s companies register is being exploited to further the interests of the UK’s enemies and to help them to move stolen money into the west. But the same Department, on the very same day, published an economic crime Bill that did nothing to address that, leaving Companies House untouched and still exploited. So will the Prime Minister work with us to amend the Bill on Monday to include the most basic reforms such as identity checks for directors?

As I have said, we are bringing forward, at an accelerated pace, measures to whip aside the veil of anonymity of those who own assets in this country and those who own property in this country. Furthermore, we are going to be publishing a list of all those who have assets that are related to the Putin regime. I am delighted by the support that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is offering. If we can work together to make sure that we strengthen and accelerate the package, all the better.

We will work in that spirit to bring forward amendments on Monday to try to achieve all the ends that I have identified in these questions. I think that this can be voted through on Monday at speed, with the full support of the House. I am very pleased that we can show that unity with the ambassador here watching us.

In this week of darkness, we have seen glimmers of hope: in the resolve of Ukraine; in the unity of our allies; and in the bravery of Russian protesters. They remind us that the Russian people are not our enemy; they are the victims of thieves, who have stolen their wealth and stolen their chance of democracy. For too long, Britain has been a safe haven for stolen money. Putin thinks that we are too corrupted to do the right thing and put an end to it. Does the Prime Minister agree that this House and this country stand united in our support for Ukraine, and now is the time to sanction every oligarch and crack open every shell company so that we can prove Putin wrong?

Yes, and that is why this Government have brought forward the unprecedented measures that we have. I know that the whole House would agree with me that nothing we do in rooting out corruption and corrupt money in London or in any other capital—I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman very strongly—should for one minute distract from where the true blame for this crisis lies, which is wholly and exclusively and entirely with Vladimir Putin and his regime. I am glad that those on the Opposition Benches are as resolved as we are that Putin must fail in his venture and that we must ensure that we protect a sovereign, free and independent Ukraine. That is what we are going to do. With the unity of this House, with the continued heroism and resolve of the Ukrainian people, which is so amazing, that we have seen over the past few days, and with the unity of the west that we are seeing, which I think has also taken President Putin aback, I have no doubt at all that he will fail and that we will succeed in protecting Ukraine.

Q5. First, may I say how brave the Ukrainian people are and that they have the full support of the whole House? May I also commend the Prime Minister and the Government for the excellent actions that we have taken so far? Ukraine is very much the bread basket of the world and it grows much wheat. We therefore need to make sure that there is food security and also security of global food supply. Does the Prime Minister agree that we need also to look to our production in this country to make sure that we can maintain a good standard of food production and enhance our food production in order to keep good and affordable food for the future? (905801)

Yes, my hon. Friend knows whereof he speaks. He is a great advocate of UK food and farming. That is why we are increasing the farming investment fund to £48 million. We have a massive opportunity, particularly for UK fruit and vegetables.

May I join you, Mr Speaker, in welcoming the Ukrainian ambassador to our proceedings?

With every passing hour, the world is witnessing the horrors of Putin’s war in Ukraine. In Kherson, a family of five—a mother, her parents, her six-year-old daughter and her baby son—were murdered in cold blood by Russian troops. In the same city, a 12-year-old boy watched his mother die as he desperately attempted to save her from the rubble of her own home. These are war crimes happening in Europe right now.

Vladimir Putin is a war criminal, and, one day soon, he must face justice in The Hague. To prosecute Putin and his regime, the full range of war crimes charges need to be used, including the crime of aggression by a state, but the UK has always refused to sign up to the prosecution of this crime in international law. Surely with Putin’s crime of aggression in plain and horrific sight in Ukraine, now is the time to drop that opposition. Will the Prime Minister meet with me to discuss this, and will he amend the UK War Crimes Act 1991 and support the International Criminal Court prosecution of Putin for his crimes of aggression against the people of Ukraine?

I am, in principle, happy to meet the right hon. Gentleman at any stage, but I can tell him that, in my view, what we have seen already from Vladimir Putin’s regime in the use of the munitions that it has been dropping on innocent civilians already fully qualifies as a war crime. I know that the ICC prosecutor is already investigating, and I am sure that the whole House will support that.

I thank the Prime Minister for that answer. Let us work together across this House to ensure that Putin is prosecuted and held to account. Just as we seek to punish and prosecute Putin for his crimes, we need to help the Ukrainian people right now. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are fleeing the horrors of this war, and they desperately need refuge and sanctuary. The United Nations estimates that well over half a million Ukrainian refugees need urgent help, most of them women and children.

This is a moment for Europe to stand united in the face of Putin’s war. The European Union has acted to waive all visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees; the UK Government stand alone on our continent in so far refusing to do the same. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, has made clear that our country stands ready to open our borders and our hearts to the people of Ukraine, but the UK Government must bring down the barriers. Will the Prime Minister join our European partners and waive all visa requirements for the people of Ukraine who are fleeing war?

The EU already, because of its Schengen border-free zone, has its own arrangements with Ukraine, and they have differed for a long time from those of the UK. What we have is a plan to be as generous as we possibly can to the people of Ukraine; the numbers that will come under our family reunion scheme alone could be in the hundreds of thousands, to say nothing of the special new path we are opening up, the humanitarian path, which is also uncapped. That is the right thing to do. What we will not do is simply abandon all checks. We do not think that is sensible, particularly in view of the reasonable security concerns about people coming from that theatre of war.

Q6.   On 28 July last year, every Labour councillor in Bury voted in favour of Andy Burnham’s plan to impose a 493 square mile clean air charging zone on my constituents and the residents of Greater Manchester. The Mayor’s plan is an attack on jobs and opportunity; it is based on flawed data and should be scrapped. Does my right hon. Friend agree? (905802)

Yes, and as somebody who once had to deal with a badly thought out low emission zone, it is totally wrong to impose measures thoughtlessly that damage business and do not do very much to protect clean air. The Mayor of Greater Manchester has done the wrong thing, and I am glad we are delaying it. I congratulate my hon. Friend and other local Conservative MPs in the Manchester area who have shown common sense.

My Wales-based constituent works for the British International School in Ukraine. The school employs 60 British citizens, most of whom thankfully escaped via a bus over the weekend. I heard the Prime Minister’s response to my colleague the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), but, given the lack of a humanitarian corridor, 173 Ukrainian colleagues from that school are stuck in Kyiv and Dnipro, and ineligible for the Home Office’s humanitarian sponsorship pathway due to the school being domiciled in Ukraine. Wales aspires to be a nation of sanctuary. Our neighbours in Ireland have waived all visa requirements for three years. Why will the Prime Minister not allow us to provide the same humanitarian welcome?

I thank the right hon. Lady very much and I know the whole House will want to help the 173 she mentions in Ukraine. I think the arrangements we have are right, and they will be very generous—they already are very generous indeed. The House should be proud, by the way, of what the UK has already done to take vulnerable people; I think we have taken more vulnerable people fleeing theatres of conflict since 2015 than any other country in Europe.

Q7. The nurses and doctors working at Warrington Hospital in my constituency provide selfless care for families living in some of the most deprived areas of England, where life expectancy is 12 years lower than the national average. At the same time, the population has expanded, with thousands of new homes being built in Warrington and putting pressure on services, particularly at the general hospital. Does the Prime Minister agree that tackling health inequalities is key to levelling up, and will he support my campaign for a new hospital in Warrington? (905803)

This Government are building a record number of hospitals—a total of 48—across the country. I am forbidden, unfortunately, from pre-empting the application process that I know my hon. Friend’s wonderful hospital is going through, but I wish him every possible success.

Q2. The situation in Ukraine continues to appal most of the world and shame the rest—and, importantly, highlights the need to break our economic dependency both on Russia and on China. Does the Prime Minister agree that our national security must be protected, and our food, energy, fibre and national infrastructure must be secure, both now and in the future, from hostile Governments? Specifically, will he commit to the real hydrogen strategy that both industry and trade unions such as the GMB are calling for by doubling the hydrogen production target for 2030? (905798)

I thank the hon. Lady for her very far-sighted question. That is exactly what we should be doing. We are moving to much more energy resilience and self-reliance. It was a shame that Labour cancelled so much of our nuclear power while it was in government—or failed to develop it. The agenda that she is setting is absolutely right, including on hydrogen.

Q9.   Last September, my constituent Dylan Rich, who was a talented 17-year-old footballer, tragically collapsed and died during a youth FA cup game. His family and his club, the West Bridgford Colts, raised money in his honour to buy more defibrillators to put on-site, but were faced with a VAT bill of hundreds of pounds on each life-saving device. Will my right hon. Friend commit to reviewing the VAT on commercial defibrillators to bring them in line with the zero rate applied to other medical instruments, and will he meet me, Dylan’s family and his club to discuss this much-needed change? (905805)

I think the whole House will want to echo my condolences to Dylan’s friends and family. My hon. Friend raises a very important and emotive issue. At the moment, defibrillators are bought through voluntary contributions and donated to charities that may be eligible for VAT relief, but I am very happy to meet her to discuss the matter further.

Q3. Will the Prime Minister instruct the Conservative party to give to Ukrainian humanitarian causes the £2 million it has accepted from Lubov Chernukhin? This includes £80,000 referred to in data released today by the Electoral Commission. I know he does not want to tar everyone with Russian links with the same brush, and neither do I, but leaked documents—[Interruption.] Conservative Members might want to listen to the question. Leaked documents show that Lubov Chernukhin received £8 million from a Russian member of Parliament, an ally of Putin who was later sanctioned by the United States. This is an opportunity for the Conservative party and for the Prime Minister to end the suspicion of conflicts of interest with Putin, while showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people. (905799)

It is absolutely vital, if we are to have a successful outcome in what we are trying to do collectively, united with Ukraine, that we demonstrate that this is not about the Russian people; this is about the Putin regime.

Q11. Does my right hon. Friend agree that choices always have consequences? Putin has chosen to inflict death and destruction on the people of Ukraine and must be made to pay, but others, including those in the Russian military and Russian oligarchs, could still choose to be on the right side of history. Will my right hon. Friend and other world leaders tell them to make the right choice and to make it soon, because in this conflict, time is life? (905807)

My right hon. Friend has made a very powerful and important point. I do hope that those who have any links with the Putin regime whatever—any so-called oligarchs and all those who are in any way associated with the regime—take this opportunity, as some brave individuals already have, to dissociate themselves from this barbaric invasion.

Q4. Two weeks ago in a letter to the Prime Minister, I outlined that over half a million people in the UK are immunocompromised, and to them, the idea of living with covid is frightening, while many charities such as the MS Society are not reassured by the Government’s lifting of restrictions around free testing and isolation. Does he agree that in order to protect this group, free covid-19 testing must continue, and include their families and friends as well as any unpaid carers, so that they can really be allowed to live with covid? (905800)

As I think I said to the hon. Lady last week, it is absolutely essential that those who are immunocompromised and the clinically extremely vulnerable continue to have access to free testing and all the therapies and antivirals that they need.

Foreign Lobbying Bill and Economic Crime Bill

Q12. What assessment he has made of the viability of a potential (a) foreign lobbying Bill and (b) economic crime Bill. (905808)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We are carefully reviewing responses to our recent consultation on a range of legislative proposals to counter state threats, including foreign agents registration. We will update Parliament in due course.

I would like to thank the Ukrainian ambassador. Dobryi den, druh mii, shanovnyi posol. Diakuiu, diakuiu vashomu narodu. Slava Ukraini! [Translation: Good day, my friend, dear Ambassador. Thank you, and thank you to your people. Glory to Ukraine!]

Key oligarchs enforce the Kremlin’s hybrid conflict. In Britain, one of its aims is to ensure safe passage for money flows offshore, while law firms intimidate into silence those who would investigate, be it the media or even the National Crime Agency. Does the Prime Minister understand that this is how state corruption happens, and that this is systemic, planned subversion? Does he realise the seriousness of what has been happening to the law firms and finance companies in recent years?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Law firms in this country are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. They were reminded on 23 February of the need to comply with sanctions regulations and legislation, and there are regular checks to ensure that they are doing so. They have responsibilities under that regime to safeguard the UK and to protect the reputation of the United Kingdom legal services industry. Clearly they will face sanctions if they fail to do so.


Q8. Putin is the only enemy, but I do feel ashamed. The United Kingdom signed the Budapest accord in 1994, guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Twenty-three men who once sat on these Benches gave their lives for plucky little Belgium, and they have shields on the wall down at that end of the Chamber. Twenty-two did the same for Poland, and they have shields down at this end. We are not guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Ukraine. I do not want war—no one wants war—but we are not yet even sanctioning Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defence Minister, nor Igor Osipov, the commander of the Black sea fleet, nor Usmanov, Sechin, Peskov, Abramovich, Roldugin or the Members of the Russian Duma who voted for this war. Why do we not use parliamentary privilege to get this out there, so that the lawyers cannot attack the sanctions that we must surely bring rapidly today? (905804)

I hear the hon. Gentleman, and I know that the whole House will understand his feelings and his frustration that no country in the west is going directly to the support of the Ukrainians with direct military assistance. That is a reality we simply have to accept, because the consequences of a direct confrontation between the UK and Russia, and indeed between other western countries and Russia, would not be easy to control. To repeat the point I made earlier, I think that would play directly into Putin’s narrative. He says that this is about him versus the west and him versus NATO. We say that it is about him versus the Ukrainian people, and that is the difference.

As for what the hon. Gentleman says about shame, I am proud of what the UK has been able to do so far. I am proud that not only have we given a lead on sanctions, where we insisted on the toughest measures, including for SWIFT, which had a dramatic effect, but we took the lead of all European countries in offering military assistance to Ukraine, and we will continue to do so. If I understand him correctly, he would like to go further, but I can tell the House that we will continue to go further, and not only with military assistance but by tightening the vice on the Putin regime.

Q15. In addition to the tragedy in Ukraine, I know that the Prime Minister wants to slash red tape to make Britain more internationally competitive. David Cameron succeeded, but after he left we abandoned his proven one-in, two-out regime and added billions in red tape costs instead. Last month’s document, “The benefits of Brexit”, repeats that mistake and vetoes one in, two out for another toothless regime. I urge him to step in before it is too late, because otherwise the blob will win and we will fail to deliver a key benefit of Brexit. (905811)

I am delighted to say that we have a new Secretary of State for post-Brexit freedoms, and he is driving a campaign to reform, repeal and replace outdated legislation and regulation across the board. I do not know about the blob, but I can think of no more fearsome antagonist of the blob than my right hon. Friend.

Satellite images show a 40-mile convoy of military hardware heading to surround the cities of Ukraine. We know from Grozny what Vladimir Putin’s intention is: hundreds of thousands of people will be murdered in those cities. I ask all hon. Members to think of their families, their neighbours and relatives who they may have abroad. They are going to be murdered. The Prime Minister has led the world in the reaction to what is going on and I am proud of what he has done. I ask him—I know he has probably not been to bed for a week—to use every second he has remaining until that tragedy surely unfolds to try to prevent it.

That was, of course, one of the subjects that I discussed this morning with Volodymyr Zelensky. Many people looking at it will wonder why it is impossible to interrupt the progress of those tanks with airstrikes from a drone, for instance, which we know that the Ukrainians have. Technically and militarily, however, it turns out that, unfortunately, it is not as easy as people might think. The tragic reality is that Vladimir Putin is going to continue to grind his war machine forwards if he possibly can. That is why it is vital that we continue the military support that we are offering and that, together with the United States and all our friends and partners in the west, we intensify and accelerate the programme of economic sanctions that is already hurting.

Q10. London is known as the world’s capital for corrupt Russian money. Some £100 billion a year is awash in our country. The scale of that corruption could not happen without what the Intelligence and Security Committee describes as the “enablers”—the lawyers, accountants, PR specialists and so on—including those who challenge our brave independent journalists for identifying them. The Prime Minister did not fully respond to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) about how he will tackle the activity of those enablers who have, for too long, been corrupting the rule of law in our country. (905806)

With great respect, let me repeat and reinforce what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely). The legal profession and everybody involved in assisting those who wish to hide money in London and in assisting corrupt oligarchs have been set on notice that their actions are under scrutiny. If they break the law, and if they undermine the interests of this country and advance the interests of Putin’s war machine, they will pay a price.

Q13. In the last few days, I have been overwhelmed and heartened by the incredible response of my constituents to the crisis in Ukraine. There have been countless offers of accommodation and financial support for refugees. The community sponsorship route is a slow process, however, and it will struggle to meet the challenge that we face. Does the Prime Minister agree that we need a faster and more effective route, and a better way to offer sanctuary to refugees and the people of Ukraine, than the Government’s current proposals? (905809)

I thank the hon. Member very much, and I know that the sympathies of the whole House are with her in what she is trying to do. I talked to our Polish friends yesterday about what we can do in partnership with them to bring people directly to the UK who are fleeing to Poland. I have set out for the House, as I know my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already, the big, big package of measures that we are putting in to help people fleeing Ukraine. I just want to repeat: look at the numbers we took from Afghanistan and look at the numbers of BNOs from Hong Kong. Huge numbers of people have come to the UK. I think we have settled 25,000 vulnerable people since 2015, which is more than any other European country, so we should be proud of our record.

My grandfather Paul Kreciglowa was a Ukrainian who was deported by the Soviets to the gulags of Siberia. I am proud of my Ukrainian heritage, and never more so than over the past week, when this plucky nation—the nation of my family—has stood up to the jackboot of Putin’s army. I know that the world is watching the PM and our country. Will the Prime Minister give me his assurances that he will continue to look at every single possible option to ensure that Putin feels the toughest range of punitive sanctions—through financial measures, but also focusing on his inner circle?

Yes, and that is why we have begun with him and also with Sergey Lavrov, but there is no limit to what we can do on his regime, and we will continue to do that. Can I just echo what my hon. Friend said about our bond with and our debt to the Ukrainian people? Never forget that when we stood side by side with Russia in the 1940s against fascism, the Ukrainian contribution to that army was 10 million people, and they were absolutely invaluable in freedom as well.

Q14. Scotland stands ready to welcome any fleeing Ukrainians. However, this Government have failed to follow the example of the European Union of a red tape and visa-free approach. Will this Prime Minister commit to an unconditional rapid, safe and legal approach to settlement for Ukrainians fleeing this invasion? Why is he failing to do so? (905810)

As I have explained to the House already several times, the EU has a border-free Schengen zone, and it is not appropriate for it to have checks of any kind. We have a different system, and it is sensible— given the situation we have, and given the large numbers of people leaving that warzone—to have checks and to make sure we know who is coming in, but what we will not do is impede Ukrainians coming in fear of their lives. This country, as I have said several times today, has a proud, proud record of taking people in. Look at what we have already done. Look at the record just under my premiership. Look at what we have done to help people from Afghanistan. Look at what we have done to help the Hong Kong Chinese. The hon. Member should be proud of what the UK is doing.

Order. That ends Prime Minister’s questions. I will just let the Chamber settle down before points of order.