Ipswich is pulling together to support those fleeing Ukraine

Ukrainian refugees walk along vehicles lining-up to cross the border from Ukraine into Moldova

Ukrainian refugees walk along vehicles lining-up to cross the border from Ukraine into Moldova - Credit: AP

This week I led a Westminster Hall debate on “Effect of remediation works on residents in high rise buildings”.

The bulk of my speech was devoted to the experience of St Francis Tower residents, but I was pleased that colleagues from both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party were able to illustrate other examples in their own constituencies where those living in high rise buildings have had to put up with unacceptable living conditions whilst remediation work is carried out.

I will come back to this important issue in the coming weeks and will cover what I think need to be the next steps. However, this week, like last week, I think it would be inappropriate for me to write about anything other than the escalating and deeply disturbing events in Ukraine.

Yesterday I signed a book of solidarity that MPs have been signing and leaving messages in that will shortly be sent to Ruslan Stefanchuk, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament equivalent) in Ukraine. My message stated: “To the people of Ukraine, you are in the prayers of both myself and my constituents. The courage you have shown in standing against tyranny is without parallel in my lifetime."

People across Suffolk are donating money and supplies to Ukraine

People across Suffolk are donating money and supplies to Ukraine - Credit: Timothy Bradford

This Wednesday at Prime Minister's Questions the usual combative atmosphere was replaced by one of unity. We were privileged to be joined by the Ukrainian Ambassador and in unison, we all stood up and applauded him. In doing so we were applauding and showing our appreciation to the people of Ukraine and acknowledging the great courage they have shown.

I agree that practical support is the most important thing we can provide, which is why I welcome the military equipment the Government is providing and the toughening sanctions we continue to place on the Russian regime. However, I do also believe that sometimes in life gestures do matter. We’re emotional beings and sending a clear and unequivocal message to the Ukrainian people that they are not alone and we’re with them during this time of great sorrow is of importance.

Sadly, many Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes, with refugees heading towards safety in Poland. I know Ukrainians want nothing other than to live in peace and security in their homeland – something we often take for granted. I am pleased that locally, in Ipswich, we can offer support to those fleeing Ukraine.

Tom Hunt said he supported the Lords amendment in principle, but could not vote for it because of th

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt - Credit: House of Commons

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Ipswich resident, Magda Chambers, has set up a fundraiser to help the efforts of her home village in Poland in taking Ukrainian refugees. We have a strong Polish community in Ipswich who contribute hugely to our town, and I have been active in supporting the group, especially recently. So it is particularly warming to see the efforts of our local Polish community in aiding Ukrainian refugees, who have been forced to leave their homes and seek safety in Poland. There is a strong historical connection between Ukraine and Poland; the countries are not just geographical neighbours, but have shared experience of Russian aggression.

This local campaign has raised nearly £7,000 so far and is taking donations of physical goods to send, too, and I am pleased to be supporting her very worthy cause. The Prime Minister spoke this week on the special humanitarian pathway which will allow Ukrainian refugees to seek safety in the UK, while maintaining necessary and reasonable checks on entry for those escaping the theatre of war.

But we are also sending much more, on a national level: military and financial aid is pouring into Ukraine. The UK was the first to provide military equipment to Ukraine, and is also providing humanitarian aid, with the Prime Minister announcing a further £40million towards this effort. The Prime Minister has also led the way for Russia’s key banking institutions to be removed from the SWIFT system. The UK is the first country to have ports block Russian ships.

The UK is also bringing sanctions against Belarus’ senior defence and military figures; army chiefs will feel the force of UK sanctions and will not be allowed to facilitate Russia’s invasion with no repercussions. I think it is absolutely right that we sanction Putin’s allies in Belarus, who rely on Russia economically and have so readily facilitated his attacks on Ukraine from their very own borders.

As well as the decisive action which has been taken so far, I think we need to intensify sanctions and measures against Putin’s cronies and do whatever we can to bring his regime to its knees through crippling economic means. The Russian people are already queuing at cashpoints as the economy slips into crisis, causing panic among the population.

I was personally shocked last week when a post about the Ukraine crisis was published to social media post by a Conservative councillor in Ipswich. Many of you will have read about the comments in the local media. I completely reject the comments that were made. They were wrong-headed and ignorant comments displaying a total lack of understanding when it comes to the matters at hand. I’m pleased that the posts have been deleted, the councillor in question has been suspended and an apology has been issued. This is a matter for the Ipswich Conservative Association but understandably many of my constituents will be keen to know what I think on the matter.

Both myself and the local Conservative Party stand full square behind the people of Ukraine. I will not seek to get drawn into a squabble with the local Party Labour Party about who is the most anti-Putin. As far as possible during moments like this, I think we should be putting politics to one side and showing a united front.

However, when the leader of borough council refers to the comments of this one councillor leaving a “stain on the Conservative Party’s name” I would remind him that it was his party that actively sought to install one of the most prominent apologists for Putin going as our Prime Minister (Jeremy Corbyn). I would also politely point out that to this day some members of the Labour Parliamentary Party harbour anti-NATO sentiment. Some members of the Labour Parliamentary Party have even been called ‘Putin apologists’ as a result of the Stop the War Coalition statement backed by numerous Labour Party MPs.

Therefore, I will be taking no lessons from councillor David Ellesmere or the Labour Party when it comes to standing up to Putin.