'Drain a pond before hosting Ukrainians!': Minister grilled on bureaucratic refugee scheme

7 April 2022, 08:45 | Updated: 7 April 2022, 09:19

By Emma Soteriou

Nick Ferrari has grilled Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng over the bureaucracy holding up the Homes for Ukraine scheme in the UK.

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It comes as over 150,000 families in the UK have come forward offering homes, tens of thousands of visas have been issued, but the number of Ukrainians that have actually made it into the country is "pitifully small".

Around a thousand Ukrainian refugees have made it to Britain, while Ireland has so far taken in 20,000, Nick said.

"You must have your head in your hands that this country [has shown] incredible warmth and generosity, yet it would appear we still have the 'computer says no' mentality in that we send inspectors around to see if we need to drain a pond before a Ukrainian family can be settled in a home," Nick said.

"I don't think we should be ashamed of the generosity we have shown," Mr Kwarteng said.

"Do you agree this is pettifogging?" Nick asked.

"I agree that lots of minor bureaucratic considerations can get in the way of a quick outcome - I've been in Government long enough to see that.

"All I would say is I think we are trying to fix this thing and sort it out and I'm very hopeful that we can do that quickly."

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It follows reports that British hosts have been rejected for the Homes for Ukraine scheme because they have plug sockets that are 'too low', or garden ponds.

Official guidelines for hosts say their homes must have "safe and working electrics" and they must have a gas safety certificate.

However, it is not specified that plugs must be out of children's reach and there is no mention of garden ponds.

Nick asked the minister why the process had become a "lamentable failure".

"I think we need a strong grip on the process," Mr Kwarteng said.

"I know that Priti Patel is working extremely hard with her officials to try and sort this out."

Nick hit back: "Respectfully, we hear this each week now. And I don't blame you, but my listeners have heard this for the thick end of 10 days.

"We aren't moving forward Mr Kwarteng, someone needs to bring forward business at the Home Office."

"I think the Home Office is trying to look at this. It's trying to make sure that we can get this done in an orderly process.

"You say it's not my area but constituents of mine have written to me making this very point and I've spoken to the Home Secretary about it and she's very focused on trying to deal with it."

The Homes for Ukraine scheme was unveiled by Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove in March, in a bid to help those forced to flee the country following Russia's invasion.

It was intended to allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses to bring people escaping the war to safety - even if they have no ties to the UK.