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14 March 2022

Health Secretary says it would be ‘hard to offer the time’ to host a Ukrainian family while Grant Shapps says he wants to

14 March 2022

Sajid Javid said it would be difficult for him to “offer the time” to host Ukrainian refugees in his home as he urged those considering signing up to help to be sure they can “fulfil the obligations” of the scheme.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove will set out on later the details of a new programme through which people in the UK can offer to host Ukrainian refugees in their homes.

Families will receive a thank you payment of £350 a month and be expected to commit to a minimum of six months of housing an individual or a group.

But the Health Secretary said if help cannot be provided this way, there are other methods of offering support.

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove said he is exploring what he can do to help (Jeff Overs/PA) (PA Media)

Mr Javid was asked on BBC Breakfast whether he would consider hosting refugees in his home.

“I’m starting to have a conversation with my wife on that and I think many households – as you say, and I’m pleased you brought this up – are probably thinking about this across the country,” he said.

“It’s important that anyone that becomes a host, that they can fulfil the obligations of a host, that they can spend time with these families and help, but there are many ways that we can all help and whatever I do at a personal level, I will most certainly be helping.”

Mr Javid told LBC that he has donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Ukraine.

And he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I do think, for me personally, it will be hard to offer the time that I think a host would reasonably (be) expected to have available to help the family that’s arriving, to help to integrate them into British society.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, however, said he would apply to join the hosting scheme.

In a tweet he said: “We’ve spent the past few weeks as a family discussing the devastating situation in Ukraine, and so we intend to apply today to join other UK households in offering our home to provide refuge to Ukrainians until it is safe for them to return to their country.”

On Sunday, Mr Gove, was asked if he would take in a Ukrainian refugee.

He told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “I’m exploring what I can do, I know that there are others who have. Without going into my personal circumstances, there are a couple of things I need to sort out – but yes.”

He said there are potentially “hundreds of thousands of people” in the UK willing to take Ukrainians into their homes through the Government’s new sponsorship scheme, which he is due to outline on Monday.

Mr Javid was asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain whether, instead of Britons offering up space, it would be better if the mansions of sanctioned Russian oligarchs were the first place considered.

He said: “Not the first place – I don’t think it would be practical to make them the first place – but I do know that that is something that my friend Michael Gove is looking at.

“I think there’ll be some legal hurdles to try and do that, but it’s right that he looks broadly to see how we can house more and more Ukrainian refugees.”

Mr Javid said it is a “sensible approach” to allow Britons to offer refugees places to stay.

“This is an unprecedented situation,” he said. “There are, as we’ve seen across Europe, many millions of refugees and it’s right that Britain plays its role and that we have a scheme that allows British families to play their part and to offer sanctuary.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said it would be a form of “poetic justice” to repurpose the mansions.

He told Times Radio: “I, for some time, with others, have been complaining about those Russian oligarchs close to (Vladimir) Putin, using our city to launder money by buying homes or businesses. And what’s doubly heart-breaking about the homes they buy is they’re left empty for years. They’re not homes, they’re gold bricks used to launder money.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the UK homes of Russian oligarchs should be used to house Ukrainian refugees (Liam McBurney/PA) (PA Wire)

“I think the Government should be seizing them, and before selling them – because they’ll take some time – they should be using them to house those Ukrainians who are fleeing Ukraine, who we’ll be offering a safe haven in London.

“It’s a form of poetic justice, but also it’s a good use of these many, many empty properties sitting across London simply with dust being gathered inside rather than them being used to house people who need homes.”

Asked if he would be willing to host a refugee, Mr Khan told Good Morning Britain: “Personally we won’t be able to because of space and other security issues, but I admire the generosity of those Londoners, and we know our city is a very generous city.”

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