The varied impacts the war in Ukraine may have in our region

Credit: AP

The government has come under sustained pressure this week to provide more help for Ukrainian refugees.

On Tuesday, Westmorland & Lonsdale Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said in the House of Commons: "This may be down to Home Office incompetence, or this may be being done for political reasons, and, if it is, may I tell the minister that he has misread the country?"

Lord Dubs, a Labour peer who came to Britain as a refugee during the Second World War, and lives in the Lake District told us: "We can deal with this in a better, more sensitive way."

Penrith & The Border MP Neil Hudson was among the Conservatives speaking out. He told us: "I've been very disappointed with the response of the government so far to the refugee crisis.

On Thursday, the Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that refugees with passports will be able to apply for UK visas online

On Monday, Communities Secretary Michael Gove is due to set out how families will be able to register to offer accommodation to Ukrainian refugees.

The war in Ukraine has already caused petrol prices, in particular, to spike.

The government said this week that the UK will phase out imports of Russian oil by the end of the year.

And could the severing of ties with Vladimir Putin's regime influence the controversy over plans for a new coal mine in Whitehaven?

Cumbria's last deep coal mine, Haig Colliery, closed in 2016

On Wednesday, the elected mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie (Conservative) said he'd written to ministers, urging them to fast-track approval. 

He said the UK imported 1.6 million metric tonnes of coal from Russia in 2020, "the need for this mine and the demand for the coking coal... has increased dramatically with the events in Russia and Ukraine."

Copeland Conservative MP Trudy Harrison backed him up, telling us: "right now we are importing coking coal from countries we do not want to do business with."

Constituency neighbour Tim Farron put across the other side of the argument, telling us the war "doesn't change the fact that we also face a climate catastrophe."

In the Commons, Workington Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson didn't mention the mine specifically, but suggested "the benefits of domestic supply chain resilience and security should also encompass other critical minerals, such as coking coal", which supporters of the project argue is needed for the steel industry.

Responding to a similar point from Lee Anderson (Ashfield, Conservative), Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "we clearly want to move away from Russian hydrocarbons", but also that "the specific issue relating to the Cumbrian coking mine is under judicial review."

This is actually incorrect. In fact the mine has been called in by the government, triggering a quasi-judicial process that ministers often say they can't comment on.

Officially though, nothing has changed on the mine this week.

After the public inquiry last autumn, the planning inspector is still compiling his report and recommendation on whether it should go ahead. Communities Secretary Michael Gove is then due to make the final decision.

Carlisle city centre

Finally, there were some concerns that Carlisle could lose its status as a city, under the reorganisation of Cumbria's councils. Carlisle City Council is one of the authorities being abolished, as the county gets two new unitary authorities. Former Carlisle MP Eric Martlew and former Workington MP Sue (now Baroness) Hayman were among those raising fears that a gap in the legislation would put city status at risk.

But on Wednesday evening, Communities Minister Lord Greenhalgh told peers on the House of Lords Grand Committee: "I put on the record, categorically, for the avoidance of any scintilla of doubt, that...the city status of Carlisle will be preserved."

He said past precedent would be followed, using councillors called charter trustees.

Not having to dig down into exactly how that works in the weeks and months ahead should signify it has worked with a minimum of fuss.