'Now is the time to do everything we can': North East MPs push for support for Ukrainian refugees

A historic moment in parliament as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy makes a speech to MP's via videolink from his homeland. Credit: PA images

The war in Ukraine continues to dominate the political agenda. 

On Tuesday President Zelenskyy delivered a historic speech to parliament via videolink, invoking Winston Churchill, calling for stronger sanctions against Russia and appearing to ask for a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

That prospect remains some way off.

MPs have mainly been focused on how the UK needs to do better for Ukrainian refugees. Earlier on Tuesday, York Outer MP Julian Sturdy was notably critical of "Home Office bureaucracy".

He said: "Now is the time to do everything we can. No more excuses, we have to move the process forward and we have to speed it up."

The following day, fellow Conservative Julian Smith (Skipton & Ripon) called for a "more humane approach" during Prime Minister's Questions.

On Thursday, South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck relayed how a constituent's wife was turned away from the UK visa office in Warsaw, found the website not working, and eventually was given an appointment, but not until a week later.

Labour colleague Rachael Maskell (York Central) spoke of how a Ukrainian who went to get a visa "was told to go back to a city called Kyiv, in the middle of a war zone."

Their remarks came shortly after 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.

Elsewhere, North West Durham MP Richard Holden secured a brief debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening, in which he spoke out against plans for an incinerator in Consett.

He said local constituents overwhelmingly opposed it, the council had already rejected it, and the developer should drop any appeal.

The developer has previously said the facility will reduce the amount of rubbish being buried in landfill sites, and generate energy cheaply.

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey will give his speech to the party's spring conference from York on Sunday, though most members will be watching it online.

The party still have no MPs in our region, though will be looking to make in-roads in the local elections.

On Monday, a replacement for Nick Forbes as Newcastle Labour group leader will be chosen.

Cllr Forbes has led the city council since 2011 but will be standing down in May, after being deselected by members in his ward.

Labour councillors will vote on three candidates. The winner is very likely to become the council leader after a third of seats go up for election in May.