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Ukraine Recovery Conference

Volume 734: debated on Thursday 22 June 2023

With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to update the House on the Ukraine recovery conference, which the UK is proud to be co-hosting with Ukraine in London.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister opened the conference, together with President Zelensky live from Kyiv, and the conference will conclude this afternoon. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, the conference is planting the seeds of Ukraine’s future. From the speeches from Ukraine’s international partners to conversations with business leaders and civil society representatives, the message that echoes from the conference is one of hope and belief in the tremendous potential of Ukraine’s economy.

Before this terrible war, Ukraine’s economy was becoming a huge investment opportunity. Ukraine was the breadbasket of Europe, a top five exporter of iron ore and steel, a leader in energy and a start-up nation with a thriving tech sector. That opportunity is still there today. The international community has come together to support Ukraine’s recovery and economic future—one that is modern, open, green and resilient. By helping Ukraine’s recovery and economic transformation, we will unlock the potential of the country and its people, help defeat Russia’s aggression, and benefit global security, prosperity and the rule of law.

Putin’s unjustified and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has caused untold misery. Thousands of Ukrainians have been killed, and millions have been displaced, including children. Schools, hospitals and critical infrastructure have suffered damage in Russia’s indiscriminate airstrikes. Ukraine must and will succeed as a free, independent, sovereign and democratic state within its internationally recognised borders. That is essential for the people of Ukraine and the Euro-Atlantic region, and for global peace and prosperity. We remain committed to a just and lasting peace based on respect for the UN charter and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The conference has delivered funding to meet Ukraine’s immediate recovery needs, help it to stay in the fight and lay the foundations for future growth. Ukraine’s partners announced continued support for Ukraine’s budgetary needs for the years ahead, including a new €50 billion EU facility dedicated to supporting Ukraine’s recovery, reconstruction and modernisation. The UK is playing its part. The Prime Minister announced yesterday that, over the next three years, we will provide loan guarantees worth $3 billion.

Nearly 500 businesses globally from 42 countries, worth more than $5.2 trillion, pledged to back Ukraine’s recovery and reconstruction in the wake of Russia’s illegal invasion. Big businesses that can work with Ukraine to deliver a more modern, open economy have pledged their support. Virgin, Sanofi, Philips, Hyundai Engineering and Citi are among the companies involved.

Development finance institutions announced mechanisms to provide the seed capital to support private sector-led growth. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development announced its intention to raise between €3 billion and €5 billion of new capital from shareholders. This could provide at least four times the amount in new investment in Ukraine for years to come, including in critical infrastructure. G7 and European development finance institutions launched a new Ukraine investment platform that will promote co-financing to maximise the impact of their support.

The Government of Ukraine and their partners responded to businesses’ demand to extend commercial insurance coverage in Ukraine. The conference launched the London conference war risk insurance framework, which will be backed by G7 members. The framework outlines support for immediate de-risking measures to increase investor confidence, and it will guide efforts in working with the commercial insurance markets to unlock private investment to meet Ukraine’s long-term reconstruction needs. The UK is already delivering on the framework by releasing up to £20 million of funding for the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency to provide guarantees and insurance for reconstruction projects now, while the conflict is ongoing.

As the Prime Minister made clear in his speech yesterday, Russia must pay for the destruction that it has inflicted, so we are working with allies to explore lawful routes to use frozen and immobilised Russian assets to fund Ukrainian reconstruction. On Monday, we laid new legislation to enable us to keep sanctions in place until Russia pays to repair the country it has so recklessly attacked. After the sacrifices and suffering of the war, Ukrainians are hoping for a better future. It is in the interests of Europe and the world that the country they rebuild should be stronger than ever, integrated into western markets and self-reliant. The Government announced a major commitment of up to £250 million of new capital for the UK’s development finance institution, British International Investment.

The true legacy of this terrible war will be a Ukraine that is more modern, innovative, resilient and green. To support this, G7 Governments committed to develop a new clean energy partnership with Ukraine to accelerate the transition to a green energy system that is secure, sustainable, resilient and integrated with Europe, and the conference launched the InnovateUkraine green energy challenge fund to accelerate low-carbon, affordable energy innovation. Ukraine’s partners announced a new tech partnership to help realise the amazing potential of Ukraine’s burgeoning tech ecosystem. With Ukraine we announced a new tech bridge to facilitate investment and support talent between the British and Ukrainian tech sectors. In the interest of encouraging private sector investment, President Zelensky reaffirmed his commitment to the reform path and towards EU membership, which was welcomed by Ukraine’s partners at the conference.

The Government of Ukraine are committed to work in partnership with Ukrainian and international businesses, local government, civil society and the international community to deliver long-term sustainable recovery and development. The multi-agency donor co-ordination platform for Ukraine, whose steering committee met in London yesterday, will continue to help deliver prioritised, co-ordinated recovery efforts. We now hand over the conference to Germany, which will host the Ukraine recovery conference next year and build on the outcomes of Lugano and London.

This conference demonstrates that we and our allies are steadfast in our resolve to support Ukraine not just in the here and now, but for the long term. With Ukraine and international partners, we are planting the seeds of Ukraine’s future. Together with our allies, we will maintain support for Ukraine’s defence and for the counter-offensive, and we will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes as it continues to win this war. Putin cannot hope to outlast our resolve or the spirit of the Ukrainian people. I commend this statement to the House.

I draw attention to my declarations in my capacity as shadow Minister. I thank the Minister for his statement and advice sight of it, and for his constructive engagement with the Opposition throughout the course of the conference; it was a great honour to be able to attend. We have many disagreements in this House, but Vladimir Putin should be clear of one thing: there is absolute unity across this House on this matter, and our resolute support will continue.

This week has truly underscored that the strength of support for Ukraine—for its sovereignty and nationhood and for the values that we share—is unwavering. It has also demonstrated that our diplomatic alliance stretches across not only the public sector and our Governments but the private sector, and we will continue to stand foursquare behind Ukraine until it is victorious and the full scale of Russia’s barbarous destruction is reversed. I have seen that damage for myself, but I have also seen the resilience and rapid rebuilding the Ukrainians have been able to do even now. However, there are huge challenges ahead, for example in the removal of mines and unexploded ordnance and the huge damage to civilian infrastructure, and of course from disasters like the Kakhovka dam destruction.

For over a year and three months Ukraine has, at an unimaginable price, defended its territory but also the principles of an entire continent—liberty, democracy, self-determination and the international legal order. I thank the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the Ukraine-UK inter-parliamentary friendship group and colleagues across the House for their engagement with the parliamentary components of this conference. We had some very successful events in this place yesterday, and I thank the House and the IPU in particular for organising them.

The Prime Minister was right to say yesterday that prior to this barbarous invasion Ukraine was becoming a huge focal point for foreign investment and interest. Across agriculture, raw materials, start-ups, renewable energy and technology, to name just a few sectors, there was so much promise in Ukraine, and it is in the interests of all of us, and most importantly of the Ukrainian people, that Ukraine gets back on a solid economic footing and becomes that internationally competitive nation once again. So Labour welcomes the multi-year commitments made to Ukraine yesterday, including the loan guarantees and other measures that will be critical in shaping Ukraine’s future. Can the Minister provide more information on the timescale for those loan guarantees? How many deals are already in the pipeline as a result of them? Can he also say a bit more about the risk insurance framework, and what role London, as a leading international insurance market, will play?

We also welcome the announcement of $15 billion to Ukraine over four years from the International Monetary Fund, and the announcement of £250 million of extra funding for British International Investment, formerly CDC. However, the Minister will be aware that BII and its predecessor have not worked in Ukraine or that part of the world for a long time. Can he say a little bit more about how it is going to scale up and ensure that that money is used quickly and effectively?

Moving on, as the Minister referred to, the Prime Minister rightly stated that Russia must pay for the damage it has inflicted, saying that

“we’re working with allies to explore lawful routes to use Russian assets”.

That is most welcome, given that we on the Opposition Benches have been calling for the Government to take serious action since last year. Although the UK has been leading in many areas when it comes to Ukraine, I am sorry to say that this is one where the UK is following, not leading. When we look at what has happened in Canada or the EU, or in the US with the new bipartisan Bill being put forward, there are innovative suggestions on how we might legally and quickly secure resources for Ukraine’s immediate reconstruction. We are still getting a lot of “wait and see” from this Government.

The Minister will have heard again and again at the conference yesterday about the desire for Russian state assets to be used. There is lots of expert advice out there publicly on how that might be achieved, so I ask him the same question we have been asking for almost a year now: what concrete steps will the Government take with our allies to ensure the urgent repurposing of Russian state assets, and when can we expect to hear announcements on that? We welcome the announcement about ensuring that existing sanctions will stay in place, which is crucial, but we need to go much, much further.

Briefly, on security guarantees, I was pleased to hear again this week that there is support for Ukraine’s path to join NATO, once it has prevailed in the war. Britain must play a crucial role in securing that, and Ukrainians are proving beyond any doubt that their country is the vanguard for European democracy and security. We must acknowledge that and act accordingly. Can the Minister provide the House with an assessment of support for that course of action across our NATO allies? How will the UK ensure that Ukraine’s voice and wishes continue to be heard?

Finally, I want to come to the important matter of Ukrainian democracy and reform, which the Minister raised and which was discussed in the conference and raised in the speeches of President Zelensky and Prime Minister Shmyhal. Ukraine’s resilience has been tested in ways that many of us would baulk at, and Ukrainians have shown that they will stand firm, but we need to ensure that transparency, accountability and the strength of institutions continue to improve over the years ahead. Otherwise we will likely see further attempts by Russia, or others seeking to profit from the aftermath of this war, to achieve greater influence without having Ukraine’s best interests at heart. President Zelensky said yesterday that

“we all have to realise that the more democracy we have, the greater its strength in our entire region. The more rule of law we have, the more law will work here on the eastern flank of Europe. And the more transparent Ukraine is, the uglier any corruption model will look in Russia.”

Can the Minister say a little more about how we and allies will continue to support the President’s agenda to strengthen and deepen Ukraine’s democracy and resilience?

In closing, I thank the Minister and the Government for their engagement with the Opposition and the House this week on this important conference. The UK is Ukraine’s most committed ally, and that strength of feeling and solidarity will not waver as the war endures, but we cannot take our foot off the pedal. We must use this week as a springboard to secure ever more lasting international support. This week’s demonstration of support will have been met with anguish in the Kremlin, as Russia is further frozen out of the global economy and the international community. Russia must be defeated not only on the battlefield of Ukraine, but in its economic warfare against the people of Ukraine. The focus is rightly now on the counter-offensive at the front and the bravery and courage of Ukrainian soldiers, but we across the public and private sector must show the same level of bravery and courage in our economic counter-offensive.

I thank the hon. Member sincerely for his questions and his support, which has been consistent and deeply appreciated. He is absolutely right in his analysis and judgment that the conference as a whole, as well as the discussions we have in the Chamber, show deep unity across British policies and among allies, which is noted in the Kremlin with some discomfort, so I am grateful for his support. He drew an interesting juxtaposition between the terrible damage inflicted upon Ukraine and the tremendous resilience and courageous spirit of the Ukrainians, on which I am sure the House would agree. It was on show yesterday at the conference, for which we are most grateful.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the timeframes for our underwriting of loans. Clearly we are in the primary stages of a lot of this fiscal support and underwriting, but these will be multi-year commitments. While we are in the primary stages, the abundance of opportunities means there is huge capacity to make significant impact, coupled with the work we have done on risk insurance. Again, it is probably too early to say, but the London capital markets and the London insurance market will be central to that effort to de-risk and to empower businesses to invest in Ukraine, and those two things together will leave the UK at the centre of the financial and structural reconstruction and resurrection of Ukraine.

The hon. Gentleman asked a pertinent question about Russian assets. The Prime Minister is on record as stating that, quite rightly, we are looking at all legal routes to ensure that the perpetrator of these appalling crimes and destruction pays. That work is being done at pace, in concert with allies. I cannot announce any more progress today. If it was easy, we would have already done it, but we are looking at that and hope to make progress soon.

The hon. Gentleman made some entirely relevant and interesting comments about NATO, which were relevant given that the Vilnius summit is coming soon. We are an energetic supporter of Ukraine’s path towards that defensive alliance. I cannot pre-empt any discussions or announcements at Vilnius, but the inevitability is that although Putin calculated that he would somehow deter NATO through his outrageous invasion of Ukraine, the NATO alliance has been strengthened as we show our unity towards our near ally.

The hon. Gentleman made good points about the reform journey. What was palpable during the conference yesterday, especially in the remarks of President Zelensky, was the clear appetite of the Ukrainian political leadership and society to take a path of reform right across their society and economy. They know that ultimately prosperity depends upon transparency and a good investor climate. They will be very forward in showing their progress.

I welcome the success of the Ukraine rebuilding conference. It is what we do best in the UK: convening our global partners and bringing them together to support an ally. In particular, I welcome the fact that we have announced that no sanctions will be lifted until Russia pays compensation, but can I push the Government to go one step further and say that no funds will be unfrozen until Russia pays compensation?

In my discussions this week with global private sector leaders, they are making three clear requests as we plan for peace. One is to create that regulatory framework and the environment that allows them to go and do what they want to do to support Ukraine. The second is the importance of judicial reform to give global private sector leaders the confidence that the rule of law will underpin their investments in Ukraine. Finally, they see a transition to a cashless society as pivotal to Ukraine reaching all the opportunities available to it.

I urge my hon. Friend that, in order to help us bring peace sooner, we need to develop and establish an economic Ramstein, whether it be on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in September, the G20 or the G7. That is the way we make sure that we are supporting the military effort and strangling Putin’s financial foothold that is allowing him to continue to wage war.

I am grateful to the Chair of the Select Committee not only for her sustained interest and personal experience, but for her involvement in this conference and her questions today. She is absolutely right about the convening power of our country, which was on show at its absolute best yesterday, but we must deliver on the commitments made at the conference, and we will.

My hon. Friend made a pertinent suggestion about a similar approach to frozen assets, and we will take that away. She rightly outlined that the clear requirement and pre-condition for Ukrainian economic reinvention and renaissance is the improvement of the regulatory environment, the development of a truly independent judiciary and, ideally, the transition to a cashless economy. There is huge appetite across the Ukrainian Government—because they are forward-looking and tech savvy—for those sorts of developments and modernisations, which will allow investment to flow. We entirely support that kind of institutional development. The conditionality of a lot of private capital that now flows to Ukraine as a result of this conference will usefully have those conditions attached, and I entirely agree with her analysis.

My hon. Friend made a pertinent point about the notion of an economic Ramstein, as it were. Yesterday and today show that, in terms of matching our military effort, there is global will—especially among G7 major developed nations—to have a similar economic effort that can be leveraged and mobilised to ensure that while we are giving lethal aid we are also driving economic improvement, because that is what will make victory not just inevitable, but sustainable.

I am grateful to the Minister for advance sight of his statement, and I welcome its contents. The SNP wholeheartedly welcomes the Prime Minister’s pledge at the beginning of the recovery conference to provide the $3 billion World Bank loan guarantees. My colleagues and I, and indeed the whole House, stand in unwavering solidarity with the people of Ukraine. We have always condemned, and will continue to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, Putin’s unprovoked invasion of a peaceful, democratic neighbour.

Our Ukrainian allies are to be commended for never giving up in their fight for territorial integrity and self-determination. Ukraine is fighting not only for the respect and sanctity of its own borders, but for the very principles of world order and the international rule of law. Ukrainian officials and forces must know that until Russian troops withdraw from all occupied Ukrainian land, we will not stop calling for increased and continuing support, both military and non-military.

That brings me to my questions. The Government have yet to detail how they will introduce legislation to move from freezing Russian assets to seizing Russian assets. Will the UK Government follow the lead of the Dutch Parliament, for example, by setting up a trust fund based on seized money from Russia and Russian oligarchs to fund the Prime Minister’s proposed plan to help rebuild Ukraine? How do the UK and its partners plan to bring onboard other Governments who have perhaps been less forthright in supporting Ukraine to date, and how do we plan to rally increased financial support around the world for Ukraine?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his questions, his supportive comments, and his welcome of the $3 billion-worth of loan guarantees, which we think will make a significant difference. He asked a pertinent question about legislation to make provision for freezing versus seizing. We are still looking at that. We are looking at a robust legal path, and of course in our considerations we will look at the courses of action of other nations. He also asked what efforts we are making to support other countries. Clearly we are very energetic in the provision of lethal aid and our diplomacy therein, but yesterday and today at the conference showed that our ability to convene and to mobilise global capital —the City of London being a major global financial centre—is hugely important. That effort to inject capital to rebuild the Ukrainian economy will be equally as important as our resolute support for its military effort.

The Ukraine recovery conference is yet another example of how the UK has led international efforts to support Ukraine. The battles may not be over, but that should not stop us preparing for the peace. We are now all aware, however, of just how important grain exports are. The Minister reminded us that Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe. Those grain ships are critical not just to Ukraine’s own economy; the denial of them getting out has a knock-on impact on our own economy, with food inflation here running at 18%. Only one fifth of those exports are able to get out. I invite the Minister to see whether the UK, as a P5 member of the United Nations Security Council, could take the lead in upgrading the current UN deal, which may require a UN-led maritime escort force, so that all of Ukraine’s grain can get out. Having visited Odesa a couple of times to investigate that, will he now meet with me to discuss the proposal further?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for those remarks, and for his sustained interest and personal experience of Ukraine. He makes a very relevant point: Ukrainian grain exports are hugely important to global supply. They drive all sorts of consequences, from global inflation to terrible deprivation, poverty and attendant conflict in the African continent, so these are hugely important issues. We have put a huge amount of diplomatic energy into the UN Black sea deal, which we think is a good platform, but of course I would be very pleased to meet him to discuss what more we might do in that area.

I am grateful to the Minister for his statement, but we have an expression in Yorkshire: “Warm words butter no parsnips.” This is the most dreadful war in our European history for many years, and this House will not be sitting for some weeks. How will this House be kept informed about whether the promises and commitments will be delivered on, and about our defence? How will we keep alive the flame and spirit of morale in Ukraine when we are not sitting? Can we not do some symbolic things and tighten the restrictions on Russians living here? Lord Lebedev, appointed to the House of Lords by a former Prime Minister, calls himself Lord Lebedev of Richmond and Siberia. Why has that not been looked into? Why are we not looking at all the Russians coming in and out of Harrods? Why are we not stopping Russians coming in on private jets and helicopters? Let us tighten the sanctions and show that we mean business in supporting the brave people of Ukraine.

I think the last two days, and our actions over the last couple of years, show that we do not just speak warm words; we provide lethal aid and global capital. That effort will continue despite the fact that the House will not be sitting, as will our global presence in diplomacy and military support, but of course we will keep Members updated.

I congratulate everybody involved in the conference. It was an honour to meet many of the delegates last night, and the Minister is absolutely right about the great atmosphere of hope. As I have said a number of times in this place, it is vital that Russia, as the perpetrator, pays for the damage it has caused. It is really good news that the Prime Minister has confirmed that is the UK’s intention. The work to use the frozen assets should be happening at great pace, but in the meantime, for the record, will the Minister make it crystal clear that not a single penny of frozen Russian assets in this country will be defrosted until Russia pays?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct: the last two days have embodied hope of a brighter Ukrainian future, based on their tremendous courage and human capacity. When it comes to Russian assets, as the Prime Minister made clear, we are looking at lawful routes. That work will continue at pace, and I am grateful for her sustained interest.

Ukraine’s extensive grain fields provide food not just for Ukraine, but for people living in countries many miles away. The task of recovery from landmines and devastating floods is immense. What in particular are the Government doing to prepare to assist that recovery, and what further steps will they take to encourage a broader range of countries to contribute to that work?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that very relevant point. The impact of the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam was appalling. We have injected an additional £16 million-worth of humanitarian assistance to enable aid partners to help some 32,000 people affected by it. That is on the back of more than £200 million of humanitarian aid last year. I think that our example has encouraged others. The global flow of humanitarian aid to Ukraine in order to deal with the impact of the dam, or to cover anti-mining, is hugely impressive.

Yesterday, I was privileged to meet several Ukrainian MPs who came to Parliament on the sidelines of the Ukraine recovery conference for a series of meetings organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), commented on that in his remarks. That cross-party support sends a crucial message to our friends in Ukraine—a message that those in the Kremlin would do well to think about. Does my hon. Friend agree that part of the reconstruction of Ukraine will involve sharing experiences and ideas between Parliaments to help to ensure that Ukrainians continue to enjoy a strong democracy, which has lasted throughout this terrible period, for many years to come?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Democracy is and will be central to a flourishing Ukrainian society. I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet Ukrainian counterparts at the IPU event yesterday. Their role bringing accountability to the system is hugely important to the long-term development and stability of society and the viability of the economy, in which external investors will want to invest. President Zelensky himself referred to the central importance of democracy and the Ukrainian democratic tradition as a pillar of its recovery. We entirely agree and we look forward to a flourishing Ukrainian democracy in the future.

I was interested to hear the Minister talk about the war risk work. If we are to support Ukrainian reconstruction, global public money will have to be spent, as a catalyst to leveraging private sector investment. London’s unique role as an insurance and reinsurance market should put us at the heart of that international effort. Could the Minister expand further on how the House will be kept informed of that effort? Importantly, how can the insurance and reinsurance markets be used not only to de-risk private sector investment in Ukraine but to make it harder for our international partners and those people around the world who are still trading with Russia to do business with Russian businesses on a global scale? There is a real opportunity here, because of London’s unique role at the heart of that global finance sector, and I would be grateful if the Minister could explain how the House will be kept informed. It is a great initiative, but I worry that we will not have the scrutiny of it.

The Department will keep colleagues informed through oral and written statements. The hon. Gentleman is correct that public capital is a small component; we are trying to create an environment where global private capital can flow into Ukraine to drive development and long-term sustainable growth. The de-risking of that is a key condition in which the London insurance market will be central.

Our Government deserve great credit for the military and non-military support—£470 million has been given. The World Bank estimated in March that the total rebuilding of Ukraine was likely to cost in excess of £411 billion—that was before the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. Did my hon. Friend detect at yesterday’s conference a willingness among the world’s wealthier nations that for one reason or another have not felt able to participate in the military effort to participate generously in the efforts to rebuild Ukraine?

That is a relevant question. I think that there is that appetite. The sheer scale of the economic and financial heft of G7 and non-G7 nations there left us full of confidence that our resolute military effort across allied nations will be matched by global capital.

I welcome the success of the conference. I have just returned from the Council of Europe in Strasbourg this week, where there was genuine and palpable hope about its actions. We all know that what we need to do with Russian assets is seize, not just freeze. Given that London remains one of the money laundering capitals of the world, what more will the Government do to stop the flow of dirty Russian money through the City of London and fully implement and embrace the Magnitsky principles?

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s comments about the Council of Europe and our participation in that important forum. We are working at pace to look at the legal route for seizing, not just freezing, assets to inject that money into the reconstruction effort. We will keep the House updated.

On Tuesday I had the privilege of discussing with Ukrainian telecommunications operator Kyivstar the challenges it faces. As a telecoms network engineer, I want to put on record my absolute admiration for what it is doing to change network design, investing in new technologies to maintain service and coverage in the midst of Putin’s illegal war. Given that it is Putin’s illegal war, should the frozen Russian assets not pay for investment in critical national infrastructure? Will the Minister set out when that money will start to flow?

The hon. Lady makes a good point, and I acknowledge her expertise. The heroes involved in supporting the telecoms industry in Ukraine should be lauded, as should all heroes involved in keeping the electricity grid and public services running over the past year, during a winter of terrible hardship and outrageous Russian bombardments. We salute the infrastructure heroes of Ukraine, who have shown amazing technological agility. We will keep the House updated as we develop a lawful route towards deploying frozen Russian assets.

One has only to go out to Ukraine and see the damage caused to realise the scale of the rebuild challenge once the war concludes. However, the reconstruction is already under way; many key pieces of infrastructure are already being rebuilt. Companies in the UK wish to get involved in that, but the travel advice has a prohibitive impact on insurance, particularly for medium or smaller companies that could offer specialist skills in the rebuilding efforts. What work can the Department do to create a framework of advice that reflects the fact that, although some parts of the country are in conflict, given its vast scale, companies could operate relatively safely and appropriately in other parts to help support rebuilding efforts?

I acknowledge my hon. Friend’s personal interest in Ukraine. He is right that the rebuilding effort must be concurrent to the military effort. That is already the case. British businesses play an important role, and I am pleased to confirm that as part of the conference, the Department for Business and Trade convened hundreds of businesses of all sizes that are energetically seeking the many opportunities that await them in Ukraine.

I want to return to the environmental, humanitarian and agricultural disaster following the explosion at the Kakhovka dam. Mine is the only party calling for a reinstatement of the commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on helping countries deal with that type of disaster. Will the Minister consider revisiting that commitment? Could he update the House on the release of the £2.35 billion proceeds of the sale of Chelsea football club, which we understand are to be used for humanitarian purposes in Ukraine and are needed now more than ever?

On our efforts around the dam, we have committed a significant amount of resources—£60 million of additional humanitarian assistance, with an impact on 32,000 people around the dam. We are confident that our approach has been generous and effective. The hon. Lady asked a pertinent question about the proceeds of the sale of Chelsea football club, which are now in a non-governmental structure. Work is being done at pace to ensure that the proceeds can be deployed in Ukraine as soon as possible.

I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I echo other Members’ steadfast support and commend the success of the conference in bringing so many together to support Ukraine’s long-term recovery. I met many Ukrainian MPs at cross-party meetings and talked about the economic counter-offensive that we can join. I echo the comments made by other Members about not just freezing but seizing assets. Some $300 billion of Russian state central bank assets have been frozen by western Governments. The EU, Canada and the US are moving forward with legislation on that, so what steps is the Minister taking within the Group of Seven to use those funds to rebuild Ukraine? Russia must pay for the damage and destruction it is causing.

I thank the hon. Lady for her supportive words. She is absolutely right. The economic counter-offensive is hugely important in tandem with our tremendous military efforts to support our Ukrainian friends. On seizing and deploying frozen assets, clearly we pay attention to and co-ordinate with allied nations in their approaches. We will consider their approaches as we forge our own lawful path towards deploying this capital.

I thank the Minister very much for his very positive statement and for the Government’s clear long-term commitment, which we all welcome across the House. I am very supportive of the idea hinted at today by several news outlets that Ukraine may be given NATO membership under the same terms as those given to Sweden and Finland earlier this year. With that will come an obligation that means more support, defensively, for Ukraine. Is the Minister able to outline whether that was discussed and at what stage that process is?

Of course, I would not pre-empt the outcome of and discussions at the Vilnius summit in July, which will be the major NATO summit to deal with those issues. What is clear is that the security relationship between Ukraine and NATO is increasingly close.