Boris Johnson faces a grilling by Keir Starmer at this week’s PMQs after it emerged that the government’s new route for Ukrainian refugees amounts to only small adjustments to visa rules, which will benefit certain family members of British citizens.
The Labour leader could also use the Commons session, beginning at midday, to put pressure on the PM to enforce harsher and more restrictions on Russia. During last week’s meeting, Sir Keir made clear that he supported the government’s decision to punish Moscow – but that he and his party wanted the Tories to go further.
It comes after Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, warned earlier that Russian president Vladimir Putin “doesn’t really care” about the sanctions being imposed on him by the West, because he believes Russian people “could suffer greater” than others. “There’s a sense of pride that in Russia suffering equals leadership,” he told Sky News.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has, in the last hour, sent a public message of thanks to Mr Johnson for his “continued significant assistance in combating aggression” from Russia.
Hoyle welcomes Prystaiko to Commons, before MPs give standing ovation
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, speaker of the House of Commons, kicks things off by welcoming Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to UK, to the Commons.
He says he expects MPs to “behave in front of our guests”.
In a rare show of admiration, the House are giving him a standing ovation. It goes on for around 45 seconds, and is a really emotional moment.
Ukrainian ambassador to UK in Commons for PMQs
As reported by the Mirror’s Pippa Crerar:
Tories continuing to take money from Russia-linked backer
Just before PMQs starts, let’s look at this. Conservative donations rose to £4.9m at the end of last year, new figures show, as the party comes under huge pressure to hand back money from Russia-linked supporters.
Electoral Commission figures show Boris Johnson’s party continues to accept money from Lubov Chernukhin – wife of a former minister in Vladimir Putin’s government. She gave another £80,000 in donations in the final months of 2021.
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly recently defended donations by Ms Chernukhin – a British citizen – saying: “She has every right to donate to us or any other political party.”
Adam Forrest has more:
Watch live as Boris Johnson faces Keir Starmer at PMQs
Here’s our livestream link into the House of Commons, so you can watch PMQs:
Labour MP commits to giving pay rise to refugee charities
As Adam Forrest reports:
The Labour MP Zarah Sultana has said she’ll donate 100 per cent of her pay rise to foodbank and refugee charities.
It comes after the watchdog governing MPs’ pay decided to increase the salary of MPs by £2,200 – from £81,932 to £84,144.
The rise of 2.7 per cent follows a two year freeze due to the pandemic but was opposed by the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer.
Posting on social media, Ms Sultana said: “I believe MPs getting a £2,200 pay rise is wrong and have pledged to donate mine to good causes in Coventry. I will give 50 per cent of it to Coventry Foodbank.
Order paper for PMQs
Here is a list of the MPs set to ask questions in today’s PMQs, held in the House of Commons:
While we’re at it, here’s a reminder on the anger over Ukrainian refugee treatment
Ministers were accused on Tuesday of being “heartless and mean-spirited” after it emerged that a new humanitarian route for Ukrainian refugees amounts to only small adjustments to visa rules which will benefit only certain family members of British citizens.
It came after home secretary Priti Patel told MPs the day before that the government had introduced a “bespoke humanitarian route” for people fleeing the Russian invasion in Ukraine, saying it would allow an additional 100,000 Ukrainians to seek sanctuary in the UK.
However, it later emerged that this does not go beyond the easing of rules for a limited pool of family members of UK residents, which was already announced over the weekend.
May Bulman, our social affairs correspondent, and Samuel Lovett, our science correspondent, have more:
Reminder on sanctions before PMQs
Before PMQs gets underway, it might be useful to remind yourself what the current situation is with sanctions already placed on Russia by the West.
Here’s everything Russians can no longer do as a result of the measures imposed by the UK, EU, US and some Asian nations, as reported by Alisha Rahaman Sarkar:
And here’s how sanctions actually work, along with a brief history of them being used by the UK:
PMQs at 12pm
There is less than half an hour to go until Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer meet in the House of Commons for Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).
It is thought the Labour leader will demand further sanctions should be taken against Moscow, and could go as far as scrutinising the UK’s route for Ukraine’s refugees to gain entry to the nation, which critics have called “heartless and mean-spirited”.
There is also the possibility Boris Johnson will announce further measures without needing to be prompted.
Stay tuned and we’ll bring you live updates from Westminster.
Johnson and Zelensky agree more sanctions needed – No 10
Following my last post, a Downing Street spokeswoman released a statement to say Boris Johnson had spoken to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky this morning.
“The prime minister spoke to President Zelensky this morning to condemn the abhorrent attacks on Ukraine in the recent hours and days.
“[He] told President Zelensky that the UK was rallying UN General Assembly members today, to ensure the strongest possible condemnation of Russia at this afternoon’s UN meeting in New York. Sharing his disgust at the attacks on Ukraine, the prime minister said the UK was doing everything possible to support the Ukrainian people and their resistance.
“President Zelensky thanked the prime minister for the UK’s support and leadership in ensuring defensive aid reached Ukraine and said it had been vital in holding back Russian forces.
“Both leaders agreed on the need for sanctions to go further to exert maximum pressure on President Putin in the coming days.
“The prime minister said his thoughts and prayers, and those of the UK, were with the Ukrainian people.”