Ukraine: Havant's council leader orders Conservatives to vote against plan to ask the government to make it easier for war refugees to reach Britain

A council leader whipped a Conservative group to vote against an amendment calling for the government to ‘improve the visa situation’ for Ukrainian refugees.

By Toby Paine
Friday, 18th March 2022, 1:09 pm

A motion brought to Havant Borough Council’s meeting outlined the actions the council can take to address the war in Ukraine.

Labour councillor Beryl Francis put forward an amendment, stating the council should lobby central government to improve the visa scheme so refugees can enter the UK ‘with minimal formality and delay, after their traumatic experiences’.

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Cllr Alex Rennie

Cllr Alex Rennie, leader of the council used the Conservative group whip to force a vote against the amendment stating: ‘I’m sure this the above amendment is an attempt by the Havant Labour Party to point score ahead of the election.’

At the meeting, Cllr Francis said: ‘Can you imagine you’ve fled your home, you’ve perhaps had to leave some of your family behind, you’ve had a traumatic journey.

‘You have a relation in this country who is wanting you to be there and you get on your way and you’re suddenly told that you have to have a visa and the visa is a very complicated business.

‘You can’t get to the people who want to love and look after you and that is why I was asking the government to do what the governments in Europe have done and to make life much easier.’

Conservative Cllr Tony Denton responded: ‘On February 16 I was in Ukraine, I was bringing family home and it’s hard, we have friends that are in Brussels and we are caring for them.

‘The one thing I can’t do no matter how much it hurts is endorse Cllr Francis, and the reason I can’t do it is because Europe stands with the Schengen system, we through Brexit have left.

‘That Schengen system has enabled a sharing of information because what possibly isn’t known is the number of Russian insurgents operating in Ukraine with Ukrainian passports.

Cllr Alex Rennie added: ‘The Ukraine motion we introduced was non-political and focused on the actions that we as a council can take to distance ourselves from the Russian regime and to provide humanitarian support.

‘It is a shame the Labour Party attempted to use this motion for political gain by introducing an amendment critical of government.’