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Volume 709: debated on Wednesday 2 March 2022

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.