The speech made by Roger Gale, the Conservative MP for North Thanet, in the House of Commons on 2 March 2022.
I thank my friend the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) for both his collegiate tone and the content of his speech. I wish I had the time to touch on a lot of it. However, in the time available to me let me say that I share entirely his view of the stunning bravery of the Ukrainian people under incredible duress. Equally, I share his desire to see Putin and all his commanders in court in The Hague as soon as possible.
This is a European city, a European country, a member state of the Council of Europe that is under siege and under attack. While men are staying to fight, women and children are fleeing across the border. I want to pick up on two points made by the right hon. Gentleman. The first is that the receiving countries, particularly Poland at the moment, need our help with humanitarian aid and all the strength we can afford in support of them. I had a call today from a little town called Zamość, with 15,000 people, 100 km from the border with Ukraine. That town is receiving trainloads of refugees at 800 per train. It is becoming overwhelmed. The people there simply cannot handle the volume of refugees flowing through their villages. We have to get help to them fast.
Secondly, we have to get the refugees we are prepared to take into the United Kingdom. Again, the sooner and more efficiently we can do that, the better. In 1956, we took refugees from Hungary in this country. In 1968, we took refugees from Czechoslovakia. In 1972, West Malling airfield in Kent played host to 28,000 Ugandan Asians fleeing Idi Amin. We have done it before and we can do it again. I have spoken with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), and with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, both of whom are now on a fast footing to co-ordinate this relief effort. The British people want to help, and we can.
Manston airport in my constituency is mothballed, but the owners have told me that they are prepared to make it available. The runway can be swept and cleared within half a day. The military hardware that my hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces wishes to see sent to Ukraine can be flown from Manston almost immediately. We have the warehouse capacity and the runway capacity to fly it out. With the back-up of Kent fire brigade, Manston can then be used to fly in refugees from Ukraine and from Poland.
Next door to Manston is a Home Office facility that is capable of processing 1,000 people a day. It also has food facilities and accommodation. I urge those on the Front Bench to take on board the fact that those facilities are available. We do not have the time to wait; the people we are trying to assist do not have the time to wait. We can do this now. We can cut the red tape, and we must do it.