New Forest East



[Several hon. Members rose –

Mrs Pauline Latham (in the Chair): Order. Although some of the Members not on the list who wish to speak were late, I will call them if they are very brief.]

Sir Julian Lewis: That is extremely kind of you, Mrs Latham.

I wish to make a single point, which I urge the Minister to take away. After the invasion of Ukraine, the Home Office set up a special unit on the parliamentary estate in Portcullis House staffed by knowledgeable and sympathetic Home Office civil servants, and it was possible for MPs to engage directly with them in support of particular cases of outstanding humanitarian worth. Why should we not reinstate that hub, which would make it easy for those of us who know of cases exactly like those just described by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) to feed them into the system, and would mean that there is no chance of them being delayed or ignored, and that there could be no prevarication? When we engage with the relevant officials directly, as we did over Ukraine, we get results. Why should we not help those people in Afghanistan, to whom we have a particular obligation, given that we were prepared to do that for those from Ukraine, towards whom we had fewer obligations but understandable sympathy?

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[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (David Rutley): Points have been made on how we can support particular cases. I am with the FCDO, not the Home Office, and it would not be appropriate for us to comment on individual cases. However, we are working hard to encourage and support people to come into the United Kingdom. To date, 24,500 people have been brought to safety, and since April 2021 more than 9,000 people have been granted settled status under pathway 1 of ACRS. Since 2022, the first people have arrived in the UK through pathway 2 of ACRS, and, in the first stage of pathway 3, the Government are considering eligible or at-risk British Council contractors, GardaWorld contractors and Chevening alumni for resettlement.]

Sir Julian Lewis: I am very grateful to the Minister, who is a very decent man and I am sure very sympathetic to the plight of the Afghan women. Will he please take the message back to the Home Office that if it wants to claim credit, rightfully, for those schemes, it needs to create the machinery to enable right hon. and hon. Members to engage with its officials in the way that we did when we successfully engaged over Ukraine? We need that hub back. Please will he raise that point with his Home Office counterparts?

[David Rutley: I noted the point that my right hon. Friend made in his short but important contribution, which he has just reiterated. I will take that away and follow it up with the Home Office. ...]