That is fantastic news. I particularly thank my hon. Friend for his contribution to that effort.
Madam Deputy Speaker, you normally have the peroration at the end of the speech, so I am sorry for starting with it, but this is the final point of my opening remarks. Tens of thousands of people have already signed up to our Homes for Ukraine scheme. I am delighted to say that 7,000 of them have come from Scotland—these are not official figures, but the ones that I managed to squeeze out of the Department earlier.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North East also said that the Government needed a pat on the head when they feel that they are being generous. This is not the generosity of the Government—this is not our money. This is the generosity of the British people. This is the generosity of Scottish households. Seven thousand of them have come forward to open up their homes, and we should welcome and embrace that idea.
The hon. Lady also said, as did several other Scottish contributors, that the Government needed to be dragged kicking and screaming to this, and that it is against our better judgment, which is kind of weird when we have introduced an uncapped scheme. We are not putting any limits on the number of people who are coming here despite what Members might think from what they have heard from the SNP Benches so far.
I will now get back to my actual speech. I start by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has gathered and contributed to the debate today. The contributions, which I will come on to, possibly in detail—time allowing—later, show the strength of feeling that exists in this House and the importance that we all place on getting this right and doing the right thing by Ukrainian refugees.
As we meet today, thousands of Ukrainians are at the border of their country, trying to escape the horrors of war. They are overwhelmingly women, children, and the elderly—mothers, daughters, wives, and grandmothers. They are people left with no choice but to leave the country that they love. They are exhausted, distraught and desperate. Some have queued in traffic jams for 20 miles—the hon. Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson) referred to a case of someone who queued for 40 miles. Others have boarded trains that are packed to the rafters. Many have watched in horror as their homes and cities have been destroyed by Putin’s bloody invasion. This unprovoked invasion is bringing about a humanitarian crisis on a scale that we have not seen in Europe since the end of world war two, with the United Nations estimating that some 4 million people could end up fleeing their country.
Members across this House are determined that we, as a country, should open our arms to these people, and this determination has been on full display today. The scenes of devastation and human misery inflicted by President Putin’s barbarous assault on what he calls “Russia’s cousins” in Ukraine have unleashed a tidal wave of solidarity and generosity across the country. British people always step forward and step up in these moments, and since the first tanks rolled into Ukraine, they have come forward in droves with offers of help: community centres have been flooded with critical supplies; the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain has received millions in donations; and charities such as the Red Cross have been overwhelmed with people giving whatever they can. The outpouring of public support has been nothing short of remarkable.
While this Government, and this whole House, have risen to the occasion with our offer of support to Ukrainians fleeing war, our lethal aid and our stranglehold on economic sanctions on Russia have clearly shown that we will keep upping the ante to ensure that Putin fails. As Members have argued today, it has been abundantly clear in recent days that we can and must do more. It is exactly right, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities set out on Monday the new and uncapped sponsorship scheme, Homes for Ukraine. It is a scheme to allow Ukrainians with no family ties to the UK to be sponsored by individuals or organisations that can offer them a home. It is a scheme that draws not only on the exceptional good will and generosity of the British people, but one that gives them the opportunity to help make a difference.
As Members across the House have recognised today, the answer to that call has been truly emphatic. It sparked a Glastonbury-style rush to register to help, which did, temporarily, crash the website. Since Monday, more than 130,000 have stepped forward to offer an empty room or an empty home.
I appreciate that people are gathering for the statement, but I just want to briefly touch on the comments of some Members. My hon. Friends the Members for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) talked about support for local councils. Obviously we will provide £10,500 per person, plus additional funding for education. Clearly, there are roundtable discussions ongoing with local councils and local resilience forums to ensure that they are well prepared for the arrival of these people. They will be responsible for going out and checking that the accommodation is of an appropriate standard and helping with those vital safeguarding concerns.
The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) would clearly like to see visas scrapped, but, in the meantime, they will be delighted to know that the Government have stepped up efforts to provide extra support to ensure that we can handle 13,000 appointments per week, which will dramatically surge the number of people that we are processing, as the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove), mentioned.
The right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) asked us to work with the devolved Assemblies. Now, I mentioned the figure for Scotland, but I also understand that the number of applications from Wales for the Homes for Ukraine scheme is 9,000 so far, so we need to ensure that the system works and that those people can serve the purpose for which they have signed up. We will be working closely with charities to ensure that the support is provided right across the country.
Finally, one Member also raised concerns about those people who are coming with disabilities. As the disability champion for our Department, this is clearly something that I am particularly concerned about. We will work with local councils to ensure that the provision that is necessary—the support that needs to be provided for those people with disabilities—is available when they come to this country.
I wish to conclude, in this dark time, on a very optimistic note. At a time when the British public were needed to come forward and to open their hearts and their homes, they have done so emphatically—more than 130,000 homes have been offered so far. These are exciting times in terms of the contribution that we can make as a country to support the people of Ukraine at their time of greatest need. Slava Ukraini.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House once more condemns President Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the war crimes being perpetrated by the Russian state there; reiterates the House’s solidarity with Ukrainians in their resistance to Russia’s invasion of their sovereign state; recognises that Europe is now seeing the largest movement of refugees since the second world war, for whom the UK shares responsibility; warmly welcomes the significant and widespread offers of support for those fleeing the invasion from people and organisations across the UK; supports expansion of the family visa scheme and Homes for Ukraine scheme; and calls on the Government to go further and faster in its response, including waiving requirements for Ukrainians to apply for visas in advance of their arrival in the UK so as to facilitate speedy access to international protection here, working with international partners to ensure vulnerable people can be resettled here and providing full and sustained funding and safeguarding to support people to rebuild their lives.