Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Will Home Office offer hope for Chernobyl Children?

In the bear pit that is Prime Minister's Questions, there was a brief moment of respite from the usual mutual slanging and pantomime atmosphere today when Dunfermlne and West Fife MP Willie Rennie asked for a meeting with Gordon Brown to discuss the problems in obtaining visas for children from the north of Ukraine to come to Britain for recuperative holidays. The full exchange is printed below:

"Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and West Fife) (LD): Will the Prime Minister join me in commending the work of the Chernobyl children’s charities, which bring thousands of children over from Belarus every year for recuperative holidays? Will he also explain why the Home Office has decided not to give free visas to the Chernobyl children from the north of Ukraine, who are suffering worse conditions than those from Belarus, and will he meet me and a delegation of the charities to discuss this important issue?

The Prime Minister: I know that the hon. Gentleman has raised this matter on many occasions and has taken a deep interest in it. I also know that he has held an Adjournment debate on it. He is asking about the Home Office and what it can do to help. I suggest that he ask for a meeting with the Home Secretary, and I am sure the Home Secretary will be happy to meet his delegation."

Willie has done a great deal of work on this issue and it's something very close to his heart. He knows the benefits of these holidays, in clean, fresh air, can have for the children. It was good to see the Prime Minister acknowledge the contribution he has made. I hope that the Home Office can be persuaded to lift the visa fee, which runs to several hundred pounds per child for a visit for a few weeks. It should be emphasised that this is not just for enjoyment - but so that these children can spend some time in the clean, fresh air that you and I take for granted.

It was heartening to see a glimpse of humanity and seriousness on both sides today - something that we should really see more often in the House. Politics, and public confidence in politicans, would be a lot better for it.

You can find more information about these holidays here

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