Palestinians: Visa Scheme — [Martin Vickers in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 7:26 pm ar 13 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Chair, Petitions Committee, Chair, Petitions Committee 7:26, 13 Mai 2024

When members of the public go on the website to start a petition, it can be quite an intimidating experience, because the thresholds are so high, at 10,000 to get a Government response and 100,000 to secure a debate in Parliament. These petitioners have met that relatively easily. That shows the strength of feeling within all our constituencies about the situation.

To be very direct to the Minister, I think the petitioners will be incredibly disappointed with his response. They were asking how it can be that Palestinians have no safe routes to the UK when they have family here. The Minister has said a lot of words, but frankly I think members of the public watching will be thinking that they made very little sense. In particular, his comments about good availability of appointments in Cairo will have left people shouting at the TV screens they are watching this on. People cannot get to Cairo from Gaza. They are trapped. That is why people have started a petition for a Palestinian Gaza-specific scheme, similar to the one for Ukraine.

I would like to thank all colleagues for taking part in this debate. It has been really comforting to witness cross-party consensus and how we all spoke with one voice in support of this scheme. I think it is incredibly disappointing that the Government Minister did not follow the mood in the room. The comments about orphaned children in particular will stay with me for a very, very long time. Those children have absolutely nobody in this world. They might have a distant relative—an aunt or an uncle—here in the UK, but they do not qualify for any UK visa scheme.

I thank my right hon. Friend John McDonnell for the points he made about the children who have been injured very severely, and I urge the Minister to keep his word and follow up with him on that issue. Although it is does not relate specifically to the visa scheme, it is something the UK could do to try to foster more positive relations with the Palestinians, who will be looking right now at what this Government Minister has said and feeling incredibly let down and disappointed.

I thank everyone for taking part in this debate, which has been possibly the best-attended petitions debate I have had the privilege of introducing. I know that three hours is a lot of time to commit as a Member of Parliament, but I am sure that those who have taken part did so because of the passion that we all feel, as do the more than 100,000 people who signed this petition.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House
has considered e-petition 648577 relating to a visa scheme for Palestinians.

Sitting adjourned.