Times journalists asks whether Welsh MP was ‘speaking Welsh or Ukrainski’
A Times journalist has had a dig at a Welsh MP, asking whether she was speaking Welsh or Ukrainian during a debate on sponsoring refugees fleeing the war-torn country.
Liz Saville Roberts said ‘Diolch yn fawr Llywydd’ (thank you very much Speaker) as she rose to ask Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove a question on housing refugees in Gwynedd.
But in an article about the debate, Times journalist Quentin Letts included the aside: “Liz Saville-Roberts (Plaid, Dwyfor Meirionnydd) began by speaking Welsh. I think. Unless she is already practising her Ukrainski.”
The article which describes Welsh MPs as “snipers” also included separate digs at Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter, “Winter is seldom sunny,” and MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi who “blurts out these formulaic diatribes at such speed, whole syllables are lost overboard”.
Liz Saville Roberts had stood in the House of Commons to describe the UK Government’s sponsorship scheme for Ukrainian refugees as “delayed and patchy”, and criticised Ministers for keeping Welsh local authorities “in the dark”.
She said that her local authority, Gwynedd Council, had not been given a regional contact from the UK Government in relation to the scheme. She urged the UK Government to improve communication and for guarantees that “there are no brakes” on Wales’s ambition to be a ‘super sponsor’.
“My local authority, Cyngor Gwynedd, has been inundated with warm-hearted offers of accommodation and support,” she said. “They are concerned, however, that they are still being left in the dark.
“For instance, despite the announcement of a hotline for the public, Gwynedd council have not even been given a regional contact from this government.
“What will the Secretary of State do to fix his scheme’s weakness in communications, and what will he do to ensure that that there are no brakes from here in Westminster on Wales’s ambition to be a super sponsor as a Nation of Sanctuary for Ukrainian refugees?”
Michael Gove replied that the Welsh Government were “anxious” about co-ordinating with local government in Wales.
“On the right honourable Lady’s point about the Welsh Government being a super-sponsor, I discussed exactly what can be done with Minister Jane Hutt alongside the First Minister of Scotland,” he said.
“If Gwynedd Council and its councillors require more information, my Department will endeavour to provide that. If she faces any challenges, I hope that she will contact me direct to ensure that her constituents are aware of how to help.”
Speaking after the session, Ms Saville Roberts added that what the UK Government was offering was nowhere near the level of support being offered by other countries.
“Visa sponsorship inevitably locks out the most vulnerable refugees, which is an unacceptable response to a humanitarian crisis. We should be waiving visa requirements as EU countries did weeks ago,” she said.
“If the UK Government insists on maintaining visa restrictions, then they should at the very least allow Wales to be given ‘super sponsor’ status so that we can welcome in refugees without delay.
“Wales has shown in the past that it can offer a welcome embrace to refugees, as was the case with families fleeing Afghanistan. This was only possible with the full engagement of councils, the Welsh Government and charities such as the Urdd. It remains to be seen that this new scheme will learn the lessons of this success.
“Today’s announcement leaves a list of unanswered questions, including what roles councils will have, what the funding and safeguarding arrangements will be and how the scheme will work with housing, welfare and other support services. I will be seeking answers from the UK Government on these matters.
“This delayed and patchy sponsorship scheme is not in keeping with our ambition in Wales to be a Nation of Sanctuary. We must reimagine our entire approach, and create a new compassionate asylum system that supports all those who need our help.”
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