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South Holland and the Deepings MP backs visa scheme for Ukrainian refugees as Sir Edward Leigh comes under fire

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South Holland and the Deepings MP Sir John Hayes says he supports the Home Secretary's stance on the need for a visa process for those coming from Ukraine.

Priti Patel has faced pressure to follow in the footsteps of other European countries and offer visa-free access to those fleeing the war - but has rejected the idea.

Yesterday in Parliament, however, she received support from Sir Edward Leigh - the Gainsborough MP.

Sir Edward Leigh (centre) with Sir John Hayes and other members of the local Conservative association in Spalding in 2014.
Sir Edward Leigh (centre) with Sir John Hayes and other members of the local Conservative association in Spalding in 2014.

His comments, which have sparked criticism from local councillors, included the plea to 'listen to the voices of people in Lincolnshire, who feel we’ve done our bit in terms of migration from eastern Europe'.

Sir John said that he had not seen Sir Edward's comments, but agrees with him that the Home Secretary is right over the need for a visa application process.

He said: "You can't say that when you have a crisis you abandon your standards, otherwise in every crisis you have to do the same in the interests of fairness."

MP Sir John Hayes (54487772)
MP Sir John Hayes (54487772)

He said it was right that the UK should have a humanitarian approach - and that the Government should be 'reasonable' about letting family members come to the country, something agreed by Priti Patel.

However, he believes waiving rules completely would be unfair to people who have already applied to come to the country through that process.

Sir John added: “You can't compromise on having a proper process.

"I support the Home Secretary's idea of visa.

"I think it’s really important that we are as generous as we can be but without compromising the principle that we have an equitable, fair and robust system.”

He said it's important not to confuse temporarily asylum with longer term residency, adding: "Those things sit along side each other but they overlap as well.

"In the public perception it's about numbers of people and the pressures that creates."

South Holland District Council leader Gary Porter has pledged support for the Ukranian refugees who are escaping the wartorn country.

He posted on Twitter: “I have asked our Chief Executive to get our teams ready to do what we can to help when it is needed and to write to the Government to make sure they know that the people of South Holland are ready and willing to stand up with our European neighbours to offer sanctuary.

“We must remember this isn’t Russia’s war, this is Putin’s. He has already robbed 5,000 Russian families of their sons and fathers as a result of it. The international community must show them and him how deep the hole is, but we must also find a way to swap his shovel for a ladder.”

Coun Peter Coupland, finance portfolio holder, added: “We will take them and look after them.

“I hope that they stop the killing so that these displaced people can get back to their homes.”

Coun Porter also stressed that Sir Edward does not speak for people in our area.

He tweeted: "Our people are open and welcoming and all of our communities stand ready to help.

"Our staff were asked to start working on this at the weekend and we have written to the three secretaries of state to confirm this."

He also pledged to 'disassociate' the area with Sir Edward's comments when meeting the Ukrainian ambassador this afternoon.

Opposition county councillors have also condemned Sir Edward's comments.

They also said his assertion that 'we are under extreme pressure in terms of jobs' is untrue - with 22,000 vacancies in the county.

The county's shadow executive said that to equate people fleeing the war in Ukraine to seek safe haven with the many EU migrants from Eastern Europe who used to come to Lincolnshire to work 'shows both ignorance and a lack of compassion'.

Shadow executive member Coun Richard Cleaver said: “He doesn't speak for Lincolnshire. Lincolnshire is welcoming, caring, and is struggling to fill thousands of job vacancies.

"Only yesterday the recruitment manager of a major food company in South Lincolnshire told me they have 1300 vacancies to fill.

"There is no reason why the UK should not show the same generosity to Ukrainians as is being shown by EU countries in the context of the largest crisis in Europe since WW2.”

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