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Ukraine Recovery Conference

Volume 830: debated on Monday 15 May 2023


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what their priorities are for the Ukraine Recovery Conference taking place in London in June to support Ukraine’s economic and social stabilisation and recovery from the effects of war, and how they intend to ensure that it is a success.

My Lords, the United Kingdom is proud to co-host the Ukraine Recovery Conference with the Government of Ukraine. Preparations for the conference are in collaboration with our Ukrainian colleagues, and the event will focus on the role of the private sector in supporting recovery and reconstruction. It will provide a platform for the Government of Ukraine to set out their reform efforts, particularly in relation to the business environment, and for international partners to signal their ongoing support and commitment to Ukraine.

I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for that update, and commend the Government on co-hosting this conference and on all they are doing to support Ukraine. A significant amount of further support can come from the proceeds of the sale of Chelsea Football Club, some £2.3 billion, due to be given to a charitable foundation to help the victims of this conflict in Ukraine and elsewhere. I appreciate that this is a very complex process, but it has been around a year since the sale. Can my noble friend the Minister tell me whether the funds will be released in time for the recovery conference and confirm which Minister is responsible for making progress on getting this money to those who need it?

On my noble friend’s second question—and I thank her for her strong support of the Government’s position—ultimately His Majesty’s Treasury will lead on this issue. The proceeds from the sale of Chelsea FC are frozen in a UK bank account, as she said. Humanitarian experts outside government are responsible for the highly complex process of establishing a foundation to manage and distribute the proceeds. I take on board her suggestion about the importance of perhaps moving forward on this at the time of the conference. I cannot give a specific assurance at this time, but I will share her concerns and suggestions with my colleagues at the Treasury.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that we must not repeat the mistakes we made in the recovery and reconstruction phase in Iraq and that we must now, with the Ukrainians, focus on recovery and reconstruction as part of their war effort? As we heard in answer to an earlier question, it appears that Mr Putin, the President of Russia, is preparing for a long war; we must do the same. Does the Minister accept that the Ukrainian people’s sacrifice means that they deserve full attention to be given to recovery and reconstruction?

The insights provided by the noble and gallant Lord are most welcome. We need to capture and leverage the insights and experience of your Lordships’ House to ensure that our Ukrainian friends get a clear and unequivocal message: we stand with you in all sectors. The Ukraine Recovery Conference, which we are hosting in London, is an opportunity for not just government or parliamentarians but the private sector to ensure that the required money can help now to start rebuilding the lives of Ukrainians around the whole of Ukraine. There are things happening in parallel with this, but I assure the noble and gallant Lord that we are fully focused on this important priority as well.

My Lords, I very much welcome the efforts of the Government and the conference but, as my noble friend Lord Anderson said during the earlier Question, there is an opportunity here to ensure that the Russian state pays as well. We know that substantial Russian state assets have been seized. Will the Minister and the Government work in co-operation with our allies to ensure that this money can be used for the reconstruction of Ukraine?

My Lords, I have already alluded to the importance of accountability. The noble Lord will have seen the co-operation that we have had on the issue of justice for those who are ultimately accountable, and the strong relationship that we have with the International Criminal Court. All this underlines our primary view—in common with our partners—that Russia is ultimately accountable. On the specific issue raised by the noble Lord, and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, we are of course in discussion with our partners to ensure that those to be held accountable are fully versed with the fact that they will be held accountable for the recovery. Notwithstanding that, I am sure the noble Lord will agree with me that it is important that we also undertake initiatives such as the recovery conference to ensure that the private sector is ready now to meet our obligations in addressing the needs of the whole of Ukraine.

I thank the noble Baroness. Reconstruction in Ukraine, which counts as ODA, will clearly be vital, but is the Minister aware of current estimates that, in 2022, almost 30% of the UK’s aid budget was used to support Ukrainian refugees? Given the pressures of conflict, climate change, food crises and migration, will our aid budget increase, or will the Government—as the Australians do—count support for Ukraine as outside the aid budget?

My Lords, we stand very clearly in support of meeting whatever requirements Ukraine has; that guarantee has been given by successive Prime Ministers, including my right honourable friend Boris Johnson. The current Prime Minister has reiterated it in his meetings with President Zelensky. The Ukraine conference is ultimately about supporting reconstruction efforts but it will include our humanitarian efforts. I hear what the noble Baroness says on the importance of the use of ODA and financing. While I cannot speculate on what might happen in the future, we are very clear that we stand ready to support the humanitarian needs and requirements of Ukraine fully as well.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, on top of the onerous requirements for civilian reconstruction of Ukraine, there will be the serious matter of dealing with the most battle-hardened army in Europe? It is a matter that the British Armed Forces would be very accomplished in helping with. Will my noble friend raise this matter in preparation for the civilian reconstruction, so that we are able to deal with what will be a very serious security situation?

My noble friend shares a very valuable insight, and I assure him that I will do just that. We will work closely with all our key partners on the very points that he has raised. We fully support Ukraine in all aspects of its recovery, including its military capabilities.

My Lords, does the Minister realise that recovery is going to be a major task, almost equivalent to the Marshall plan after the Second World War, and that therefore a great deal of effort is going to have to be put into ensuring that? Does he see the fourth summit of the Council of Europe as an opportunity to discuss this further, as well as discussing further military support for Ukraine to get all 46 countries of the Council of Europe behind both the current military effort and the reconstruction effort? I thank him for ensuring that the United Kingdom will be represented at that fourth Council of Europe summit at the very highest level with the attendance of the Prime Minister.

My Lords, I record our thanks for the vital work done by Members of this House at the Council of Europe. The noble Lord is correct that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will attend the Council of Europe meeting tomorrow. He will participate directly on the issue of Ukraine, and we will work with our key partners. My attendance at the meeting with our Indo-Pacific partners as well as member states of the European Union also underlines the focus that we put on Ukraine. I will be taking over the baton, if I can put it that way, from the Prime Minister on Wednesday to ensure that the United Kingdom is represented at the Council of Europe fully and that our views are shared with our key partners.

My Lords, has the Minister seen the estimate that as much as £1 trillion will be required for the reconstruction of Ukraine, on the scale and size of something like the Marshall aid programme? To return to the Question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, has he also seen that the money that has been moved into secret trusts by oligarchs in this country, in one case alone, amounts to more than £3 billion? Will he support, and encourage his noble friends to support, the amendment that was considered in Committee on the economic crime Bill, which enjoyed all-party support and would ensure that that money could then be deployed for the reconstruction of Ukraine?

My Lords, I recognise the noble Lord’s valuable efforts on this issue and many more. I can share with him that we are looking at all ways, means and mechanisms to ensure that all money can be utilised, but we must ensure that we do so according to law, as I alluded to in the response I gave to my noble friend Lady Sugg. I recognise the importance attached by your Lordships’ House to ensuring that we can expedite some of these areas to ensure that the financing is in place. That is why I come back to the objective and sole purpose of the recovery conference, which is to include all parties, including, importantly, the private sector. We of course recognise the bill for recovery in Ukraine, and that is why we will host this conference side by side with the Ukrainians. We have wide attendance. We have been working through the G7, and that will be reflected in some of the outcomes of that important conference.